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Cousin Island Special Reserve, Seychelles
Kevin the ketchup licker and friends

Over the years, and during many months living on research bases throughout the world, I have learned that roommates come in all shapes and sizes. Big ones, small ones, messy ones, clean ones, friendly ones, rude ones, and I am sure we have all had the occasional strange one before. I certainly have. But none so strange as the roommates I have found myself living with on Cousin Island.

The first roommate I met during an evening trip to the toilet my first night on the island. You can imagine my surprise when I sat down only to find him scurrying out from underneath the toilet seat, staring up at me with beady bronze eyes, waving his sticky, gravity-defying front foot. It was certainly one way to become quickly acquainted with Toilet Seat Tommy, our loo-loving gecko. We had a bit of a stare down as I apologized for disturbing him and he warned me to watch where I sit next time. The gaze was broken when he spotted a fly and deftly secured dinner with his agile tongue. Feeling a bit sheepish for making such a bad first impression, I returned to the house wondering what other strange roommates I might find.

It took a few more days to meet the next, and this one was a bit more demanding, “sharing” our food without asking. As you can imagine from the name, Kevin the Ketchup Licker has an affinity for condiments quite unnatural to his insect-eating relatives. Kevin first appeared one night after a dinner.We had dribbled some ketchup down the lid of the bottle, and Kevin, with an impressive tongue, generally employed more in trapping bugs than savoring ketchup, cleaned our messy bottle. We have become fast friends as he particularly enjoys the extra spicy chili sauce I brought from home.

Now, after nearly two months, I am only just discovering a third roommate, who unlike Kevin has a more natural appetite. You see, we have a bit of a cockroach problem, as may be expected in this environment. It is generally bearable with our mutual agreement that they can stay if they keep to the kitchen and only come out at night; if they stray into our bedrooms before lights out, they risk the occasional book, magazine, shoe, or bottle hurled in their direction. I had killed the occasional cockroach that breached this agreement, but it wasn’t until a record breaking night recently that I finally discovered our third roommate, Cora the Cockroach Fairy. It was a rainy evening and all of the cockroaches on the island were trying to take shelter in my room. My mosquito net was holding off attacks from all sides.

Finally, realizing that my net wouldn’t stand much longer, I emerged from the protective cover armed with a hefty book. What ensued was a battle of epic proportions and by the end of the evening the floor was littered with cockroaches. Tired from the exertions, I fell into bed planning to clean up in the morning light. Imagine my surprise when I awoke to find the floor empty and all traces of the massacre gone. If it wasn’t for a few cockroach wings left behind, I might think I had dreamt the whole thing. Instead I spent the day puzzled at the mystery of the disappearing cockroaches. Over the next several nights, I killed a few more cockroaches and took note of their disappearance in the morning. A bit more detective work and a late night with a head torch introduced me to the interesting roommate I never knew existed. This lovely cockroach fairy, who arrives in the midnight hours and secrets away our bug bodies, keeping our house tidy and our geckos happy.

Liz Martin