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Regions > Indo-Malaya > Tokay gecko

Tokay gecko

Location at the Zoo: Indo-Malaya











Scientific Name:

Gekko gecko


: Geckos are lizards, and (due to the structure of their vertebrae) they are considered quite primitive on the evolutionary scale. Geckos are small animals with a flattened appearance. Tokay geckos are one of the larger species, measuring up to 40 cm in length. Tokay males are larger and more colourful than the females. They all have large eyes covered by transparent scales that act as protective lenses. A gecko seen licking its eyes after a meal of insects is actually cleaning these scales. Being a nocturnal species, they have slit pupils which, in dim light, expand to fill most of their eyes. All geckos have the ability to change colour, lighter by day and darker during the night. The tokay gecko does the reverse: the colour is dark grey with orange-red spots when in light surroundings, changing to light grey with bluish spots when they are in the dark.


: This gecko is native to south and south-eastern Asia, including Malaysia and the Philippines. They can also be found in the Indonesian archipelago. The tokay gecko has been introduced into Florida, Texas, Hawaii, some Caribbean islands and Belize, where it is becoming a threat to several of the local species.


: Geckos have adapted to a great variety of habitats, from deserts to rain forests. They generally live in forests, but they have become closely associated with human cultures. Now, they can often be found living inside houses and other buildings.


: Like most geckos, the tokay is basically an insectivore. However, its larger-than-average size and powerful bite allow it to prey upon such animals as medium-sized mice, small lizards, or even small birds. They sneak up on their prey; pounce suddenly; seize it with the mouth; strike it against the ground or wall with a violent movement of the head and then swallow it while making chewing motions.

Reproduction and Development

: The female lays two or three eggs several times a year. The eggs, when first laid, are soft shelled with a sticky surface. They adhere to one another as well as to the area where they were deposited. Gecko eggs can be found in cracks or holes in walls; under the eaves of houses; or under the bark of trees. The incubation period ranges from two to six months at 28-33º C. The hatchlings measure 5 to 7.5 cm. The eggs are guarded by both parents until they hatch. The tokay’s average lifespan is seven to ten years, but some captive individuals have lived over 18 years.


: Geckos have the ability to change colour. The skin of the tokay gecko feels soft and velvety. It’s covered with scales, but the edges are flush with one another and do not overlap as in other lizards and snakes. They moult at certain intervals breaking the skin at the head and stripping it off toward the tail. Geckos tend to eat their sheds. The gecko’s feet are specially constructed: the toes have ridges of specialized lamellae on the pads allowing them to walk on vertical surfaces or even ceilings. The pads are not “sticky” nor do they provide “suction”, but rather they are composed of countless microscopic, hooked cells - tiny, spatula-tipped, split hairs - which engage in the smallest irregularities of almost any surface, including glass. The tokay first bends the end of its toes upwards to withdraw the hooks from the surface. It then moves its foot ahead and presses the pads down again to re-engage the hooks - similar to the way a cat uses its claws when climbing a tree.

In contrast to other lizards, geckos are quite vocal, making sounds that range from quiet chirping to loud barking. The tokay’s call, a loud croak, sounds like to-keh or gekk-ko. Only the male gives voice; the female is mute except for a defensive hissing sound when threatened. Their barking appears to be seasonal, starting in December and reaching its peak from March to May. After that, the calls occur only occasionally. This could indicate that the sounds are related to territorial mating behaviour and are possibly dependent on the presence of sex hormones.

Gecko’s eyes only see in black and white. Because they are nocturnal, they have no need to distinguish colours. Tokay geckos are aggressive, solitary animals. Easily provoked, their powerful bite is a strong deterrent to other animals, including humans.

Threats to Survival

: Habitat destruction, medicinal use and the pet trade.


: IUCN: Not listed; CITES: Not listed

Zoo Diet

: Crickets twice a week.