AN exotic reptile from the deserts of Asia made a 500-year-old historic tower in York its home.

The animal in question – an eight-inch long leopard gecko – turned up at the Red Tower on York’s bar walls on Foss Islands in early January as council workers were preparing the tower to be opened to the public for the first time.

Chris Rainger, a volunteer with the Friends of Fishergate Tower, was in the Red Tower with council archaeologist John Oxley when they spotted the intriguing visitor.

He said: “We saw the gecko in the middle of the concrete floor. As it was quite cold it was sluggish and easy to catch.

“There had been building materials stored in the tower so I presume the gecko had been living in there.

“They eat spiders and insects, so there would have been plenty of food for it.”

Although the tower is not used often there are gaps under the door which mean the gecko could have got in at any time, he said.

Council workmen, who were busy preparing the tower to be opened for Residents’ Weekend on January 25-26, stepped in to help, scooped the gecko up and found a makeshift home for it in a baseball cap.

Since finding the gecko, Chris has done some research online and discovered the lizard is a leopard gecko, which is native to the deserts of Pakistan, Afghanistan and parts of India and is a popular pet in the UK.

The Red Tower, built in 1490, forms the only brick section of York’s famous city walls.

A council spokesman said: “The staff were at the tower doing a health and safety inspection ahead of Residents’ Weekend when they stumbled across the gecko, which gave them a bit of a shock.

“A member of our drainage team, who already has similar pets, is now looking after the gecko at his home and is going to give it the care it needs.”

They have no idea how old the gecko could be, or how long it could have been in the tower, but it appeared to be in good condition.

If someone comes forward and can prove they are the gecko’s rightful owner, the council would happily hand it back, he said.