Interview with the Lizard Whisperer

Lily Capehart, the Lizard Whisperer (photo from http://lilycapehart.com/site/)

We all remember five years ago when ten-year-old Lily Capehart took the nation by storm, appearing on the David Letterman And Ellen DeGeneres shows, where she hypnotized anoles and dressed them up in little costumes (see her website here).

But what’s happened to the Lizard Whisperer since then? A recent Anole Annals post about playing dead behavior brought Lily to mind, and a quick Google revealed that Lily has a new website, is in high school, and has become an award-winning nature photographer.  Anole Annals decided to catch up with Lily and find out what her future plans are and, most importantly, whether anoles have a part in them, and Lily graciously agreed to be interviewed.   

Anole Annals: Lily, the anole world has been delighted with your fun photos and the attention you have brought to anoles.  Has your life changed much since you became famous five years ago? Do you still love and work with lizards?

Lily: My life has changed a lot since I first started to become “famous.” I do still love lizards, but I do not work with them as often, I’m keeping busy with film and high school. Anoles will always have a special place in my heart.

AA: Can you tell us how you first learned that you could hypnotize lizards?

Lily: It wasn’t really something I had learned, it just came to me; being relaxed makes the anole relaxed as well.  After seeing the woman hypnotize the alligator, I thought it would work since they are related.

AA: Where do you get the ideas for the scenes you create?

Lily: Almost anything inspires me to do the scenes we set the lizards up in; many were ideas requested by fans.   I was also inspired by the miniatures my mom and I found in stores that we would shop in.

AA: You use mostly the Cuban brown anole, A. sagrei. Have you worked much with the green anole, A. carolinensis?  If so, have you found that there are any differences between the species in how you hypnotize them?

Lily: I find there is a great difference between the Cuban brown anole and the green anole. The brown anoles are much more willing to be relaxed, while the green anoles are more feisty, most likely from their social status compared to the much more dominant brown anole. I have mainly used brown anoles because they are the most common in my area and are by far the easiest to relax. It’s also convenient that they fit into the majority of the miniatures.

AA: You have used curly-tailed lizards and iguanas in some of your scenes.  Any other species? And Florida has many other introduced species of anoles. Have you captured any of them? Ever thought of using them?

Lily:  I’ve captured quite a few lizards in my time, but have never really thought of changing my preferred species to work with.

AA: How do you catch your lizards?

Lily: I catch all lizards by hand, of course being careful while doing so. Practice does make perfect, but to distract the lizard will really help in trying to catch it. 

AA: Are you still creating new images? If so, how has your lizard art changed through the years?

Lily: Currently we are not creating anything new. However,  I understand that the pictures are gaining international attention.   Last year I was invited to show/teach local schoolkids about my pet bearded dragon “Spike.”  It was a part of a series on different animal stories and now showing on National Geographic.

AA: Congratulations on your award-winning photography! Do you intend to make a career of photography? If so, will anoles be involved?  If not, what are your thoughts for your future?

Lily: Thank you, I am intending to involve photography into my career, I would really enjoy to work for National Geographic, photographing animals in the wild which would include anoles. 

AA: What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you while working with lizards?

The funniest/most unexpected thing that has happened while working with a lizard is probably while I was getting interviewed, a lizard jumped on the interviewer’s lap. 

AA: What about the most surprising or unexpected?

Lily:  One of the most surprising things that happened was when my parents took me to Tanzania Africa 3 years ago.  On a safari, we happened to come across some junior leopards on a boulder, trying to catch some lizards!  After 20 mins, they left without catching any.

AA: When you were on the Letterman Show, you brought brown anoles, but when you were on Ellen, you had green anoles.  Any particular reason?

Lily: Actually the reason for the green anoles on the Ellen show was because to ship the brown anoles to California, where her studio is, would be too far for the lizards to comfortably arrive. The crew of the Ellen show had to go to the local pet store and buy the green anoles since they didn’t sell any brown anoles. 

AA: Did anything interesting lizard-wise happen when you were on those shows that didn’t appear on air?

Lily: I would have to say that the green anoles were more feisty in Ellen’s show, which I think was due to the air conditioning.  They were more sensitive to cold than the brown

About Jonathan Losos

Author and Professor at Harvard University
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2 Responses to Interview with the Lizard Whisperer

  1. Dale Hoyt says:

    This is weird. About 50-60 yrs. ago my family visited Ross Allen’s Reptile Institute in Florida. One of the alligator wrestlers there “hypnotized” an alligator by stroking its belly. A few years later on a vacation my brother and I caught a horned lizard. I vaguely remembered the technique used on the alligators, but thought it was the head that was rubbed. I gave the dorsal surface of the head a few stokes with my finger, right on the pineal eye and the lizard was out. I presented it to my brother who was suitably impressed. Fast forward 50 yrs. and I’m in Costa Rica at a local tienda. Some Ticos were hanging out and one had a pet juvenile iguana. I asked if I could hold it and they handed it over but told me to be careful — it bit and scratched. I proceeded to stroke its head over the pineal eye and the frisky iguana was out like a light. Jaws dropped all around. But I didn’t dress the lizard up.

  2. Pingback: Happy Half Birthday, Anole Annals |

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