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Terri the Lizard Lady

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The scientific name of these geckos is Rhacodactylus. Rhacodactylus comes from the Greek Rhakos, meaning “spine”, and Dactylus, meaning “finger”. The specific name of Crested (Now classified as: Correlophus ciliatus) geckos, for example, is R. ciliatus and is Latin: Cilia means “fringe” or “eyelash” and refers to the crest of skin over the animal’s eyes which runs down either side of their spine to their tail.

The scientific genus name of these geckos was, for a long time, Rhacodactylus. Pretty much all of the New Caladonian geckos were lumped together under this classification until a study done recently (Bauer, A.M., Jackman, T.A., Sadlier, R.A., Whitaker, A.H. (2012) "Revision of the giant geckos of New Caledonia (Reptilia: Diplodactylidae: Rhacodactylus)". Zootaxa 3404: 1 - 52. untangled things a bit. Now that a number of different genus have been identified, the specific name of crested geckos for example, has gone from Rhacodactylus ciliatus to Correlophus ciliatus. Ciliatus is Latin: Cilia means "fringe" or "eyelash" and refers to the crest of skin over the animal's eyes which runs down either side of their spine to the base of their tail. C. ciliatus are probably the most commonly kept pet New Caladonian geckos with other formerly mis-identified geckos following closely behind. Another Correlophus gecko is the sarasinorum. C. sarasinorum are commonly found in shades of dull tan to brilliant mahogany-red and some have white collars and/or white spots and other patterns.

The New Caladonian geckos commonly kept as pets are C. ciliatus (crested), C. sarasinorum, Mniarogekko chahoua - Pine Island (mossy prehensile-tailed), M. chahoua - Mainland, Rhacodactylus (Rhacodactylus comes from the Greek rhakos, meaning "spine", and dactylus, meaning "finger" leachianus (giant geckos), R. auriculatus (gargoyle), R. trachyrhynchus trachyrhynchus (greater rough-snouted) and R.trachyrhynchus trachycephalus (lesser rough-snouted). Both the R.trachyrhynchus subspecies are live-bearers, bearing 2 youngsters per year, not laying eggs like most lizards. These geckos come from New Caledonia, a group of islands North of New Zealand, which itself is East of Australia. Interestingly, New Caledonia is not volcanic like its neighbors but is instead a fragment of an ancient continent that separated from its mainland and drifted off some 250 million years ago. In its isolation its flora and fauna (plants and wildlife, respectively) evolved into extremely unique plants and animals that were found nowhere else. New Caledonia contains a wonderful variety of landscapes from white sand beaches and rain forests to spectacular mountain vistas. It is surrounded by a thousand-mile coral reef and claims the world's largest lagoon. The weather in New Caledonia is warm and subtropical. Since it is in the Southern hemisphere, their winter corresponds to our summer. Temperatures vary from a low of 60F (16 Celcius) in winter to a high of 86F (30 Celcius) in summer. Humidity ranges between 66% and 74% all year round. The rainy season is from January through June.

Of the New Caladonian geckos, Crested geckos were first discovered in 1866, one hundred years after Europeans first discovered New Caledonia. New Caledonia has been a French colony since 1853, and became a French Overseas Territory in 1946. For over 100 years after they were first discovered, Crested geckos were thought to be extinct since no representatives were spotted again, but in 1994 an expedition found them up in the treetops where they spend most of their time. This is how Crested geckos came to be here and in Europe. Once the geckos were rediscovered, the scientists' joy was tempered with their realization that the gecko population was threatened and they could indeed become extinct. By the time that the geckos were rediscovered in 1994, the natives of New Caledonia had inadvertently introduced rats and fire ants to the islands which were the geckos' homes. Both the rats and fire ants have decimated the populations of these specialized native geckos. It was seen to be an important conservation effort to remove some number of geckos from their homes for their own protection and propagation. It remains a hope that if the rats and fire ants could ever be eliminated, geckos might be re-introduced. Here is an overview of the care and keeping of these amazing creatures as pets.

New Caladonian geckos are great pets for a variety of reasons. They are nocturnal. They generally wake up and start moving around before sunset. They are quiet. While they possess a variety of vocalizations, for the most part I find mine extremely easy roommates. They are kept in screened or glass enclosures. One cannot let them run loose since they are difficult if not impossible to housebreak, they hide in any small crack or crevice they can find and can then be impossible to relocate and they might become dehydrated and die, since being rain forest creatures, they require a high humidity. I keep mine in naturalistic terrariums or aquariums decorated with cork bark and plastic vines. Each has a water dish and a place to put their food. They have slow metabolisms. In summer, they only need to be fed every other night and in winter, every third night. Their diet is a meal replacement powder, MRP, marketed by Repashy ( who developed and perfected this diet, which is mixed with water to form a paste which they lick up. It smells fruity, since in the rain forest they would eat decaying fruit. They can also be fed crickets or tiny roaches as supplemental protein source, since in the rainforest they consume a variety of small invertebrates. Some people feed mealworms which I discourage because of their tough exoskeleton which could cause impaction, or waxworms, which are too high in fat to be a frequent dietary addition. Geckos' excrement consists mainly of dry, odorless pellets (R. leachianus being a notable exception) which are easy to remove from their enclosures every week or so. They do not require heat lamps. What is room temperature for us is ideal temperature for them. They tolerate cool better than hot indoor temperatures. They must be kept away from direct sunlight which can overheat a small enclosure very quickly or burn them. They must be kept from windows or air conditioning/heating vents so that they do not experience drafts. They have personalities, idiosyncrasies and moods like dogs, cats and we do. I have some geckos that are very flighty and prone to speedy get-aways. I have other geckos that will sit complacently on my hand for long periods of time. I have geckos that start out nervous, but quickly realize that it's just me, and nothing bad will happen so they chill. One requirement that they do have is a light misting at least once per day, twice per day in winter, to maintain high humidity.

In conclusion, New Caladonian Geckos come from a unique and beautiful place. They have had an interesting history and we are lucky that they didn't go extinct before we were able to export some to keep safe. They are very easy-to-care-for pets with simple needs and interesting personalities.

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