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leopard gecko Eublepharis macularious from Pakistan

  • Talim ul Islam College, Rabwah, Pakistan
Natural history and biology of hobbyist choice leopard gecko
Eublepharis macularius
Muhammad Sharif Khan
Herpetological Laboratory,
Rabwah 35460, PAKISTAN
Address for communication:
Apt # A17,
151-South Bishop Ave.,
Email: typhlops99@
Present address: 306 N. Morton Avenue, Morton, PA 19070, USA
Pages 16, Figures 13.
Of the forty one species and subspecies of geckos known from Pakistan ( K
2004) the leopard gecko Eublepharis macularius is the largest (snout vent length 120-158
mm, tail 89-93 mm), most robust and hardy species. It is a unique gecko with moveable
eyelids, straight non dilated digits without scansors, and tuberculated body. It is placed
in a family of its own Eublepharidae. Eight species of which are recognized in
southwest Asia (S
, 1996).
The three species of southwestern group are distinguished from each other by
following key (modified from S
1. Subdigital lamellae smooth………………..…E. angramainyu
(western foothills of Zagros: Iran and Iraq)
- Subdigital lamellae tuberculated…………………..3
2. Tubercles on subdigital feebly keeled, eight or
fewer precloacal pores……………………E. turcmenicus
(Turkmenistan and Iran)
-Tubercles on subdigital strongly keeled, eight or
more precloacal pores……….……………E. macularius
(Eastern Afghanistan, Pakistan, western India)
Eublepharis macularius is widely distributed in Pakistan (Fig. 13), from plains to the
sub Himalayan foot hills and Balochistan tableland up to 2500 m elevation. There have
been several attempts to distinguish Eublepharis macularius population in Indo-Pakistan
subcontinent is several species and subspecies: Eublepharis fasciolatus G
from Hyderabad, Sindh, Pakistan; B
(1974, 1976, 1981) described several species
and subspecies: Eublepharis gracilis from an unknown locality, Eublepharis afghanicus
from Kabul-Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Eublepharis macularius fuscus from Bombay, India,
Eublepharis macularius smithi, from Delhi, India and Eublepharis macularius montanus
from Karachi, and Eublepharis macularius fasciolatus from Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. All
these forms have been found to be different color morphs of the wide ranging
Eublepharis macularius (S
Notes on morphology, ecology, diet and reproduction of Eublepharis macularius in
Pakistan are presented in present paper.
Taxonomic notes
Eublepharis macularius
Common name: Fat-tail gecko; Spotted fat-tailed gecko; Leopard gecko;
Local name: Kkhan-kkhain; Korrh kirly; Bis cobra.
Taxonomic history: E
, a British herpetologist, described Eublepharis
macularius as Cyrtodactylus macularius, from the Salt Rage, Punjab, Pakistan in 1854.
Its subsequent taxonomic information is summarized as follows:
Class: Reptilia
Order : Squamata
Suborder: Sauria
Family: Gekkonidae
Subfamily: Eublepharinae
Genus: Eublepharis
Species: macularius B
, 1855
Subspecies: Eublepharis macularius fasciolatus G
, 1864
Eublepharis macularius afghanicus B
, 1976
Eublepharis macularius gracilis B
, 1974
Eublepharis macularius montanus B
, 1976
Eublepharis macularius madarensis S
, 1980
Eublepharis macularius fuscus B
, 1981
Eublepharis macularius smithi B
, 1981
Diagnosis: Head flat, broadest at temples, slopes strongly in front the eyes to obtusely
pointed snout. Neck rather round, as long as head. Body robust, subcylindrical, longer
and broader than head and neck. Limbs rather short, thin, with short, straight, cylindrical
digits, a single row of subdigital lamellae, no adhesive subdigital pads, digits end in a
single sharp curved claw, tubercles on subdigital lamellae strongly keeled. Eyelids well
developed and movable, shutting eyes. Body, limbs, and tail are covered with small
granular scales interspersed with large rounded tubercles. About half of the normal
unregenerated tail cylindrical, gradually attenuated to its tip. Tail surface with narrow
rings, separated by narrow grooves, rings are tuberculated (Fig. 6), subcaudals small in
several rows. While the regenerated tail is plump, bulbous, gets distinctly broader than
body is not ringed, suddenly ends at tip (Fig. 3, 4). Male is larger than female, with 9-14
precloacal pores arranged in a slight arch, interrupted or not by one to two scales, pineal
sacs at the sides of the cloacal aperture. Snout-vent length 120-160 mm, tail 89-90 mm.
Color: Juvenile dark brown to black on dorsal side, with two to three yellow cross bands
across body, a white band on nape extends to lips; tail dark brown with yellow to white 3
to four cross bands, narrower than spaces between them. Belly white or yellowish.
In adult body is straw yellow to pinkish, juvenile bands are scattered as dark spots,
some times form a reticulutm. Head white or brown, spotted with dark brown.
Natural history notes: Natural habitat of the fat tail gecko is stony countryside with
scrubby vegetation, in the northern and western foot hills. The gecko specifically inhabits
holes and crevices in gravel mixed stony terrain in the Salt Range, Punjab, Pakistan.
Where it extends into the adjacent mudflats where it hunts insects and caterpillars in
sparse grass and bushes, in mesic to xeric sub mountain conditions. It avoids deserts, and
prefers humid places. Being gregarious, they colonize crevices and holes in stone walls
(Fig. 1, 2), demarcating boundaries of fields and houses, in stony country side in Potohar
Plateau, in the Salt Range.. Several lizards may live in loose colonies in holes in ground,
under stones, and crevices among rocks. A leopard gecko may climb several feet to reach
its permanent selected resting place, which it shares with several individuals of different
ages. Almost all geckos at the site come out as soon as sun sets, and are scattered to
forage individually around, returning to the site one by one just before dawn. However, in
forested places of their habitat, they become semi-arboreal and hide under loose tree
In urban areas leopard gecko readily colonizes and invades man-made structures in its
habitat, like holes and crevices in dikes, road railway bridges, house walls. On of the
favourite urban habitat are the spaces around under ground water pipes, where leeks
provide moisture in the soil to keep humidity, while gaps in fillings around pipes provide
resting and hideout places.
Summer temperature in the Potohar Plateau ranges from 22-24 °C in March to 40-45°
C in June-July, Humidity varies from 30-40 %. Until monsoon rains start, temperature
drops to 28-33 °C and humidity increases 70-80 % which drive the leopard geckos out in
large numbers during hot humid nights. During March-June, humidity in the resting
spaces remain 40-56 % which is ideal for the gecko, while outside it is 23-32 %. These
climatological changes affect activity pattern of the gecko: dry, cool, and windy weather
inhabits its activities and the gecko mostly stays at home. While hot, humid nights in
rainy season, drive it out at sunset. In north leopard gecko hibernates from September to
March, while in warmer southern Pakistan, hibernation may be delayed to November, or
the gecko may never hibernate.
Food: Leopard gecko is primarily insectivorous so that its diet list includes several insect
groups: beetles, grasshoppers, spiders, scorpions, centipedes etc. As it grows old it
becomes opportunist predator preying on sympatric geckos , blind snake and thread
snakes, new born mice, bird nestlings and caterpillars. The prey is slowly stalked or
ambushed, and is captured by a final sudden lunge. The pray is held in the jaws until
immobile and is engulfed.
Mostly the juvenile leopards fall prey to the adults. An inanimate or dead prey is
disregarded, prey movements provoke the gecko to attack.
Social life: The composition of an eublepharine colony differs throughout the activity
period of the gecko: a pre-breeding colony mostly consists of several subadults and
adults, soon fights among males ensue to scatter them, leaving a dominant male with
several females constituting a breeding colony, while a post breeding colony is
dominated by juveniles.
The dominant male, in the breeding colony, reacts to the presence of a rival male, by
intimidating him by raising body on stiffened legs; smearing ground with waxy
secretion from precloacal glands by lowering its hind quarters; licking the secretion and
smearing it all over its body; rubbing smeared body against stones and other objects to
mark its territory. It defends territory by lunging, snarling and hissing, arching body and
lashing tail. If the rival is still not intimidated, it is run down and bitten and lashed with
the tail, the bitten rival sheds its tail, pieces of skin are torn from its body vice versa, the
weakened party runs away, leaving behind writhing and wriggling tail and torn off
pieces of its skin to the wining adversary as a treat.
The leopard gecko is rather docile, sluggish in movements, has deliberate slow
walking style. It allows manipulation, needs repeated provocation to intimidate it. When
threatened the gecko does not try to escape, rather it stands and faces the threat by raising
and arching out its body, curls up tail, flicking and twisting it sideways. Snarls and hisses
and threatens with wide opened mouth, staring right into the eyes of the adversary.
Gecko has a weak bite, just like a moderate pinch as its teeth are small. When gecko is
handled it mostly defecates and voids fowl smelling liquid.
During demolition of an old stone wall that was colonised by leopard lizards, I
chanced to observe and trace the extent of the retreat chambers between stones inside the
wall (Fig. 1, 2). Several openings (Fig. 1) leads by narrow vertical and horizontal
passages leading into expanded chambers running across the 1.5 feet thickness of the wall
(Fig. 2). The lizards apparently had done nothing in the setting of the site, the spaces are
due to the masonry style mostly used in construction of stone walls: larger stones are
fixed along the surfaces of the wall with clay-mud mixed with minced straw or cement.
Space between large stones is filled with smaller stones. As time passes, the mud or
cement that holds stones is washed away, leaving holes and crevices at wall’s surface
leading into the loose core of smaller stones, creating a pattern of passages and spaces in
the stone wall (Fig. 2). The leopard lizards stay clinging to walls or sleep at the stony
base. A special pocket at the base is reserved as defecation site into which their faeces
fell to collect.
Several local animals colonize such old stone walls, some of which that I recorded are
common sparrow, black-bird, local agamids, scincid lizards, salt range gecko, and
common toad etc.
Reproduction: The leopard gecko breeds from March to July. Male is larger than
female, has precloacal pores and pineal-sac thickening on side of the cloacal aperture.
The male follows the receptive female, who ultimately comes to stay in a corner. He
approaches her, bites at the side of her neck and rides her. The female lifts her tail, male
entwines his tail under her’s to approximate his cloaca with her’s, a shiver of female’s
body indicates successful intromission. The pair may stay in this position 5-10 minutes,
when they separate, both bend down to lick their cloacae.
Gestation lasts from 10 to 20 days. A pair of oval egg is laid 2-3 times a year. The
female keeps stored sperms from single mating. The eggs are large with smooth pliable
parchment covering, measuring 31-35 x 13-16 mm. Female chooses the egg laying site
which is preferably a dark, humid recess, with no chances of being soaked by with
dripping rain water. Eggs take almost a month to hatch. The hatchling has an egg-tooth
which helps it to shear the pliable egg covering, which soon drops. At birth the hatchings
measures 3.25 - 3.5 inches in total length. They increases rapidly in size so that by next
year or so attain the adult size. There is no record of gecko’s longevity in wild, however,
hobbyist reports indicate 20-30 years in captivity, which is impossible in the wild where
there are so many enemies around.
Geckos are known to lay more than one batch of a pair of egg during breeding season
1986). However, K
(1991) reported three gravid
Cyrtopodion kohsulaimanai females with three oviducal eggs in each, similarly three
oviducal eggs are reported in a female leopard gecko Eublepharis macularius (M
Persecution: Among locals the leopard gecko is considered to be venomous as it is
believed to be related to the common black cobra snake and is known as bis cobra
(young cobra). The bite of the gecko is believed to liquefy body of the victim, causing
instantaneous death. A local will kill the lizard on sight, and will flung the stick for away
with which he killed the lizard, as the stick is believe to absorbed poison from the lizard.
I well remember, back in 1996, while on a collection tour in the Salt Range,
north-western Punjab, Pakistan, I caught several leopard geckos with bare hands. A local
man kept me warning not to touch the lizards. Later he shunned to touch me for several
days. He was amazed to find that nothing had happened to me. Later he asked me if I had
a dam (magic against venom of the lizard), and requested me several times to teach him
the dam.
The leopard gecko falls prey to several wild animals like foxes, jackals, mongoose,
owls, kites, varanids, garden lizards and most of the local snakes like Ptyas mucosus,
Spalerosophis diadema, and Naja naja etc.
Distribution: (Fig. 13)The leopard gecko is reported from Rajputana and Khandesh
Districts of India. In Pakistan it has been recorded from Azad Kashmir, North Western
Frontier Province, Punjab, Balochistan, and Sindh. It has been reported from parts of
Iran and Afghanistan bordering Pakistan.
Facts about leopard gecko’s way of life
1. The leopard geckos have no maternal care for its eggs or hatchlings.
2. Leopards lay a pair of eggs at a time, 3-4 times a year.
3. It does not excavate pit in ground to lay eggs into it.
4. The eggs are laid in a secure place: usually in the depth of a crevice in a stony corner,
under a stone, where there is dark, no direct exposure to sun, moderate humidity, no
danger of being soaked by the rain.
5. Eggs are left at the mercy of environments.
6. An egg laying site may be used year after year by the same female or by several
females in the colony. It is in a secure resting place regularly used by the geckos.
7. Hatchlings are not cared for by parents, rather they are always under constant threat of
being preyed upon by adults.
8. Primarily leopard is insectivorous, however, becomes opportunistic carnivorous as it
grows old. The menu includes own hatchlings, hatchlings and adults of sympatric geckos,
lizards, scorpions, millipedes, baby mice, caterpillars, thread and blind snakes, etc, etc.
9. Geckos as rule does not eat inanimate (dead) food in nature, they are rather attracted
to the living food by its movements. A hand-fed gecko is attracted by the movements
of the hand that feeds it, to which it is subsequently habituated.
10. Reptiles and amphibians are abhorred in Indo-Pakistani culture. People are
superstitious about these animals. Right from childhood children learn to fear and not to
touch them as they are believed to be poisonous and causing diseases. Children rarely
read in their school books natural history and information about these animals.
11. There are several low cast tribes of snake charmers known as Sanyasies or Gagras in
Pakistan. They roam about in wilderness, catching and supplying animals to the pet
dealers and scientific laboratories. Animals are caught according to market demand.
They hold road-side displays to earn their living, and are the main source of spreading
fallacies about snakes and lizards (K
2000, 2002).
12. Children in Pakistan culture are not encouraged to keep a reptile as pet. Though
turtles are maintained in water tanks close to temples, with stories of their relation with
some saints related to the temple.
13. Near famous Mangu Pir shrine (Karachi, Pakistan), several marsh crocodiles are
maintained in a pit. They are venerated as lice of the saint. Referring to ‘high’stature of
the saint, whose lice were of the size of a crocodile! These crocs are regularly fed by the
believers and wildlife people.
14. In Pakistan the lizards, especially the geckos, are killed because they are believed to
had conspired with the enemies and tore the water filled goat-skin empty, which was
being carried for dying grand son of the Holy Prophet in Karbla desert, Iraq.
15. Geckos are believed to carry poison in their skin, if one is dropped in cooking food, it
may poison it.
16. Geckos live in holes, crevices and under stones loose bark of trees. They remain
clinging to the sides of their resting places, not needing any special substrate to lie upon.
17. Desert geckos of genus Crossobamon, Teratolepis, and Teratoscincus burrow in
sand, otherwise mostly gecko are building-attracted. They prefer to retreat among rocks
rather than a sandy place. Sand is not an appropriate substratum, it may cause difficulty
in movements and feeding etc.
18. Hatchlings are not helped by the parents to come out of the shell, rather the
movements of the embryo in the egg may provoke parents to attack and eat the embryo
before it is hatched!
19. The embryo develops a hard egg-tooth at the tip of its snout before hatching, which
helps in tearing the parchment like shell and hatch. The hatchlings as soon are able to
walk sneak into crevices to hide from their elders. The reports of leopards eating their
eggs pertain mostly when the embryo is struggling to hatch.
20. When an egg is laid, it is covered by a pliable soft covering egg, which soon hardens
in a shell. It does not need to be kept specifically at a humid place, rather it need a dark,
secure place. However, the pliability of the covering of the leopard’s egg remains so and
it never hardens. So the egg needs to be kept at a dark humid place, exposure to dry air
may kill the embryo with it
Legends to the figures
Fig. 1. Holes and crevices in a stone wall.
Fig. 2. Leopard gecko’s resting spaces in a stone wall.
Fig. 3. A subadult Eublepharis macularius with regenerated tail.
Fig. 4. Leopard gecko: intimidation stance.
Fig. 5. Leopard gecko: intimidation attack.
Fig. 6. Leopard adult voiding, had unregenerated natural tail.
Fig. 7. Leopard gecko: walking style.
Fig. 8. Leopard gecko: natural habitat, Islamabad, Pakistan.
Fig.9. Leopard gecko: natural habitat, Kirana Hills, Sargodha, Punjab, Pakistan.
Fig. 10. Leopard gecko: natural habitat, Salt Range, Punjab, Pakistan.
Fig. 11. A foraging site, Salt Range, Punjab, Pakistan.
Fig. 12. A scorpion, a favorite dietary item, Salt Range, Punjab, Pakistan.
Fig. 13. Range of Eublepharis macularius in Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and India.
Literature cited
, A-R. 1974. Ein nuer Lidgecko der Gattung Eublepharis G
, 1827. Mis. Art.
Saurologica 4:5-14.
A-R. 1976. Second Contribution to the systematics of the southwest Asian
lizards of the geckonid genus Eublepharis G
, 1827: Materials from the Indian
subcontinent. Saurologica 2:1-15.
A-R. 1981. Third contribution to the systematics of the southwest Asia lizards
of the geckonid genus Eublepharis G
, 1827: Further materials from the Indian
Subcontinent. Saurologica 3:1-7.
, H. S. Reproductive cycles in lizards and snakes. Univ. Kansas Misc. Publ. No. 52:
, A. G. 1967. Higher taxonomic categories of gekkonid lizards and their evolution.
Bull. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist. 135:5-59.
, M. S. 1991. A new Tenuidactylus gecko from the Sulaiman Range, Punjab,
Pakistan. Journal of Herpetology, 25:199-204.
, M. S. 2000. Sar Zameen-a-Pakistan kay maindak aur Khazinday (Frogs and
lizards of Pakistan). In Urdu. Publication # 366. Urdu Science Board, 299 Upper Mall,
Lahore, Pakistan.
, M. S. 2002. A guide to the snakes of Pakistan. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt
am Main, pp. 265.
S. 2004. Annotated Checklist of amphibians and reptiles of Pakistan.
Asiatic Herpetological Research, 10: 191-201.
, S. A. 1966. A contribution to the herpetology of West Pakistan. Bull. Amer.
Mus. Nat. Hist. 134(2):31-184.
A. 1935. The Fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma.
Reptilia and amphibia. Vol. II: Sauria. Taylor and Francis Ltd. London.
M. L. 1996. Gecko fauna of the USSR and contiguous
regions. English translation. Society for the Study of Amphibian and Reptiles, Itheca,
NY: 1-233.
, L. J. 1972. Reproductive tactics of sympatric gekkonid lizards with a comment on
the evolutionary and ecological consequences of invariant clutch size. Copeia 1986:773-
Fig. 3. A subadult Eublepharis macularis with regenerated tail.
Fig. 4. Leopard gecko: intimidation stance.
Fig. 5. Leopard gecko: intimidation attack.
Fig. 6. Leopard adult voiding, with unregenerated natural tail.
Fig. 7. Lepard gecko: walking style.
Fig. 8. Leopard gecko: natural habitat, Islamabad, Pakistan.
Fig.9. Leopard gecko: natural habitat, Kirana Hills, Sargodha, Punjab, Pakistan.
Fig. 10. Leopard gecko: natural habitat, Salt Range, Punjab, Pakistan.
Fig. 11. A foraging site, Salt Range, Punjab, Pakistan.
12. A scorpion, a favourite dietary item, Salt Range, Punjab, Pakistan.
Fig. 13. Range of Eublepharis macularius ().in Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and
Complex visual signaling through various combinations of colors and patterns has been well documented in a number of diurnal reptiles. However, there are many nocturnal species with highly sensitive vision, being able to discriminate colors in night conditions, as was shown in geckos. Because of their sensitivity to chromatic signals, including UV (ultraviolet), they may have potential hidden features in their coloration, which may play role in intraspecific communication (e.g. mate choice) or interspecific signals (e.g. antipredatory function). We explored this hypothesis in nocturnal Leopard geckos (Eublepharis macularius), a species using visual signals in both antipredation defense and courtship, having ontogenetic color change accompanied by a shift in behavior. We used UV photography and visual modelling in order to compare various aspects of their coloration (luminance, contrast, color proportions) between sexes, age groups and populations. We found that Leopard geckos have considerable UV reflectance in white patches on their tails (and on the head in juveniles). Though, no prominent differences were detected in their coloration between various groups. We hypothesize that the limitation of UV reflectance to the head and tail, which are both actively displayed during defense, especially in juveniles, might potentially boost the effect of antipredation signaling.
Studies on thermoregulation in nocturnal lizards have shown that their thermal regimes are similar to those of diurnal lizards, even though they hide during the daytime and are active mostly at night, when heat sources are very scarce. As a result, nocturnal lizards display an active thermoregulatory behavior consisting of seeking warm shelters to hide during the daytime, using accumulated heat for the nocturnal activity. Based on this information, we hypothesize that when leopard geckos (Eublepharis macularius, Blyth 1954) are presented with the choice of safety in cool shelters or vulnerability in heated open areas, suitable temperature will prevail in importance, i.e. they will trade the advantages provided by the shelter for an exposed, but physiologically necessary heat source. Data on the time juvenile E. macularius spent in shelters, and in open areas along a thermal gradient and under a 12/12 hr photo period, from eight individuals confirmed our hypothesis. We found that, not only did they select heat sources over shelters, but, along with the light/dark cycle, temperature may also represent a cue for activity. Additionally we found that substrate moisture plays an important role in shelter preference.
Full-text available
A series of Tenuidactylus geckos were collected from the foothills of the Sulaiman Range, northwestern Dera Ghazi Khan District, Punjab, Pakistan. The gecko is a new species belonging to the caspius group of species. It is described and compared with all known geckos from Pakistan. A key for its identification from its congeners in the caspius group is presented. Observations on its reproduction, ecology and geographical distribution are recorded.
Full-text available
From recent herpetological collections several new amphibian and reptilian taxa have been added to the herpetofauna of Pakistan. Thus raising the number of species from Minton's 144 and Mertens' 178 to 225.
Four sympatric species of gekkonid lizards were studied simultaneously in northeastern Brazil for 12 months. Lygodactylus klugei was the smallest species and Phyllopezus pollicaris was the largest with Gymnodactylus geckoides and Hemidactylus mabouia intermediate in size. Lygodactylus is diurnal whereas Hemidactylus and Phyllopezus are primarily nocturnal. Gymnodactylus may be partially nocturnal and partially diurnal but is usually active in dark microhabitats. Females are larger than males in two species and sexes were similar in the other two. In L. klugei, the only diurnal species, male head size increased with SVL more rapidly than in females. This sexual dimorphism is most likely a consequence of sexual selection. Sexually dimorphic characters may differ in visually-oriented lizards compared to auditory-oriented species. Reproduction is continuous in all four species and egg size among species is correlated with female size. Egg size is not correlated with female size within a species. A summary of data on offspring size of additional gekkonids reveals a tight correlation between female size and offspring size. It is suggested that selection for optimal offspring size may be a partial determinant of female body size in species with invariable clutch size. A comparison with sympatric species studied during the same time period adds to the diversity of reproductive strategies exhibited by lizards occurring at the same place. Nearly every known lizard reproductive strategy is represented by at least one species occurring in the semi-arid caatinga of northeast Brazil.
Ein nuer Lidgecko der Gattung Eublepharis GRAY, 1827
  • A-R Börner
BÖRNER, A-R. 1974. Ein nuer Lidgecko der Gattung Eublepharis GRAY, 1827. Mis. Art. Saurologica 4:5-14.
Second Contribution to the systematics of the southwest Asian lizards of the geckonid genus Eublepharis GRAY, 1827: Materials from the Indian subcontinent
  • A-R Börner
BÖRNER, A-R. 1976. Second Contribution to the systematics of the southwest Asian lizards of the geckonid genus Eublepharis GRAY, 1827: Materials from the Indian subcontinent. Saurologica 2:1-15.
Sar Zameen-a-Pakistan kay maindak aur Khazinday (Frogs and lizards of Pakistan)
  • M S Khan
KHAN, M. S. 2000. Sar Zameen-a-Pakistan kay maindak aur Khazinday (Frogs and lizards of Pakistan). In Urdu. Publication # 366. Urdu Science Board, 299 Upper Mall, Lahore, Pakistan.