The Tokay gecko gets its onomatopoeic name from its "To-kay!" barking call.
Tokay Gecko Scientific Classification
- Scientific Name
- Gekko gecko
Tokay Gecko Conservation Status
Tokay Gecko Locations
Tokay Gecko Facts
- Insects, small invertebrates, small mice and rodents
- Main Prey
- Group Behavior
- Fun Fact
- The Tokay gecko gets its onomatopoeic name from its "To-kay!" barking call.
- Biggest Threat
- Habitat loss via urbanization
- Distinctive Feature
- Barking call and bright bluish skin with orange, red, or brown spots
- Territorial, feisty, excitable
Tokay Gecko Summary
The Tokay gecko gets its onomatopoeic name from its distinctive “To-kay!” barking call.
Easily recognized by its bright blue skin with orange, red, or brown spots, the Tokay gecko is one of the largest geckos alive today. This bulky nocturnal gecko is arboreal in nature. This means it is mainly awake at night and spends most of its time climbing trees using the sticky pads on its feet. It mainly feeds on insects and small invertebrates and is highly territorial and often aggressive in nature.
Tokay Gecko Facts
- The Tokay gecko has a loud, chirping or barking call from which its name is derived. Southeast Asian natives note the call sounds like “To-kay!”
- The Tokay gecko is one of the largest gecko species alive today. The only gecko species larger than it are the New Caledonian gecko and the giant leaf-tail gecko.
- Tokay geckos are sexually dimorphic, with males having brighter, more bluish skin than females.
- The skin of a tokay gecko can change slightly in color depending on its environment.
- Despite its large, bulky size, the sticky pads on its feet allow the Tokay gecko to expertly climb trees and other surfaces.
Tokay Gecko Scientific Name
The Tokay gecko’s scientific name is Gekko gecko. It is a member of the Gekko genus, better known collectively as true or calling geckos. Notably, it is one of the largest members of the Gekko genus, a group that consists of more than 80 unique species.
There are currently two unique subspecies of the Tokay gecko: Gekko gecko gecko, whose native range consists of most of southeastern Asia, and Gekko gecko azhari, whose native range is limited to Bangladesh only.
Tokay Gecko Appearance
The most distinctive trait of the Tokay gecko’s overall appearance is its bright grayish-blue skin. It is marked by many small reddish, orange, or brown spots, which vary depending on the gecko’s sex. Male Tokay geckos have brighter, more blue-toned skin than females of the species.
As a fairly large gecko species, the Tokay averages 10 to 12 inches long. However, specimens as large as 16 inches in length have also been recorded. It is also quite bulky in weight overall, ranging from around 5 to 14 ounces. Its body is roughly cylindrical in shape, with a long and bulky tail that it can use to grab or hang onto branches while climbing.
The Tokay gecko’s skin is soft and smooth with small, slightly raised circular, bumpy scales. Notably, it can change the color of its skin slightly to better blend in with its environment. Its feet are large and wide, with strong, sticky foot pads to assist it with climbing vertically up trees and other surfaces. These foot pads are strong enough to support its entire weight while climbing.
The eyes of the Tokay gecko are large, protruding, and bulbous, with yellowish to orange irises and dark, vertical pupils. The size of its pupils vary depending on its surrounding lighting conditions, widening to take in more light or narrowing to limit light absorption.
Tokay Gecko Behavior
Tokay geckos are notoriously territorial, excitable, and often aggressive towards humans. If it feels threatened, it will open its mouth wide and emit its loud, distinctive barking “To-kay!” call. Due to its large, sharp teeth, it is able to inflict painful bites upon its aggressors. However, it is non-venomous, and bites that break the skin can usually be treated with minimal medical intervention.
Male Tokay geckos also use their distinctive barking call to attract female mates. After mating, the female Tokay gecko will lay one to two eggs with soft, leathery, flexible shells. These eggs take 2 to 6 months to hatch. Baby Tokay geckos are around 2 to 3 inches long upon birth. Notably, baby Tokay geckos are often especially aggressive, with some adults “mellowing out” with age, particularly in captivity.
Tokay Gecko Habitat
The Tokay gecko is mainly native to southeastern Asia. This includes the countries of India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand, and Indonesia. One of its two subspecies, Gekko gecko azhari, is solely native to Bangladesh. Additionally, the species has been introduced to a few areas well outside of its native range, including the southern United States, particularly in Florida and Hawaii.
Tokay geckos prefer warm, humid conditions in dense rainforests. As an arboreal species, they spend most of their time climbing trees and rocky cliff sides. They are hardy and adaptable and also thrive well in manmade environments and often live alongside humans throughout southeast Asia. They are commonly highly regarded by humans, as they feed on many insect pests.
Tokay Gecko Diet
Tokay geckos are almost entirely insectivorous throughout the entirety of their lifespans. They primarily feed on small-to-medium-sized insects, including crickets, roaches, locusts, and worms. In captivity, they can be fed captive-bred feeder insects like mealworms. They also feed on other small invertebrates, as well as small rodents on occasion like mice. A baby Tokay gecko’s first meal is often its own shedding skin. After it sheds its skin, it moves on to feeding on small insects and invertebrates like its adult counterparts.
Tokay Gecko Predators and Threats
The Tokay gecko’s main predators are snakes, birds, and other, larger lizards. Another major threat to the Tokay is humans, as humans throughout Asia poach and capture them and use them in traditional medicinal recipes, as well as for food. In addition to being poached for traditional medicine and food, they are threatened by habitat loss via urbanization throughout their native range.
Tokay Gecko Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan
Upon reaching sexual maturity at around one year of age, male Tokay geckos use their distinctive barking call to attract female geckos. After mating, the female Tokay gecko will lay one to two soft-shelled eggs, usually sticking them to the side of a tree or underneath a leaf with a mucusy substance. After around 2 to 6 months, the eggs will hatch. Hatchling Tokay geckos are often even more aggressive and territorial than adults and can inflict painful bites with fully-formed teeth.
Although the average lifespan of wild Tokay geckos is currently unknown, they have become popular pets among reptile enthusiasts worldwide. In captivity, they can live for more than 10 years. Notably, some specimens have been recorded living well over 15 years in captivity.
Tokay Gecko Population
The Tokay gecko’s current numbers in the wild are largely unknown. However, the IUCN currently lists them under “Least Concern” status. It is worth noting, though, that its numbers are now on the decline throughout much of its native range due to poaching and habitat loss. In the near future, its conservation status may change, as it is already likely endangered in many areas in southeast Asia.
Outside of its native range, the Tokay gecko is considered invasive in many parts of the world. Most notably, this includes south Florida and the Hawaiian Islands. Here, they are considered pests, as they are destructive and affect native wildlife negatively by feeding on native species.
Tokay Geckos in the Zoo
Tokay geckos are common among reptile hobbyists and are popular in zoos worldwide. They are very hardy and fare well in captivity. They are popular zoo specimens due to their striking coloration and distinctive appearance, as well as their unique barking call. For example, the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Garden houses them as one of their popular attractions.
Tokay Gecko FAQ
Are Tokay geckos nocturnal?
Like most gecko species, the Tokay is also nocturnal. This means it is mainly active at night rather than during the day. Its large, bulbous eyes have vertical pupils, which can adjust in size to take in varying amounts of light depending on the time of day.
Are Tokay geckos aggressive?
Tokay geckos are notorious for their territorial and often aggressive temperaments. They are high-energy lizards that can be difficult for amateur reptile hobbyists to care for. However, for the experienced reptile keeper, they can be rewarding and fascinating pets. They generally do not tolerate handling well, but this can vary depending on the gecko and how well it has tolerated socialization.
Are Tokay geckos good pets?
As we touched on above, Tokay geckos are not ideal for beginner hobbyists. Though they are quite hardy, they require a lot of space and very specific humidity and temperature conditions to thrive. Additionally, their aggressive and high-energy temperaments make them problematic for handling and small children.
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