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Leaf-tailed geckos are Animals of the Month

By Ben Rodgers

SUAMICO – Don’t let the name fool you, the newest animals at the NEW Zoo, satanic leaf-tailed geckos, offer more than meets the eye.

“There’s no real description as to why they are satanic,” said Brent Koerner, zookeeper. “For me it’s that look on their faces, they have that mysterious look to them.”

The geckos, this month’s Animals of the Month, will only get as big as 10 grams and they fit comfortably in the palm of your hand.

But with thin necks, large eyes and a tail that belongs in the trees, they do look slightly unsettling.

“Not a lot of zoos have these guys, either,” Koerner said. “So it’s pretty cool we got a species you can’t find in a lot of zoos.”

The four satanic leaf-tailed geckos came to the NEW Zoo from Omaha, Nebraska, but in the wild are found only on the island of Madagascar.

“They face the same threats a lot of species do, habitat loss, illegal pet trade, things like that,” Koerner said.

But in the wild, the satanic leaf-tailed gecko is a master at staying unseen.

As the name implies, their tails look just like leaves on a tree and the geckos come in different colors, for different types of foliage.

“I think they’re pretty cool,” Koerner said. “Just the mysterious vibe you get from them. They can be right in front of your face and you wouldn’t know it because they camouflage so well.”

They also have sticky feet, which help the nocturnal reptiles climb trees.

That’s a benefit, because in the wild they would make a tasty snack for snakes, birds and other mammals that could find them.

The way to tell the difference between male and female satanic leaf-tailed geckos is the tail.

“Their tails are shaped like leaves and they are sexually dimorphic,” Koerner said. “Males have dead leaf tails and the females, their tails are perfect, without any chips in them.”

Their eyes are also big on their heads, and they have no eyelids, so when the gecko licks his eye with his tongue, he is really clearing out any debris that has gotten caught.

They also don’t prefer the blistering tropical weather other reptiles thrive in.

“They actually don’t prefer the warm weather,” Koerner said. “There ideal temperature is 75 to 80 degrees. They like things a little cooler, so that separates them from other reptiles, too.”

At the NEW Zoo, the geckos are fed a mix of bugs, including small crickets, roaches and mealworms.

Because there are only males at the NEW Zoo, there is no need to feed them snails, which Koerner said helps when they are breeding.

Although the four geckos came out of a month-long quarantine on Wednesday, July 24, so far they have been a hit with visitors.

In the future, Koerner hopes to use them in educational programming with some of the other creepy crawlers he takes care of at the zoo.

“You never know until you see them,” he said. “Until you see them you can’t make an opinion without seeing them. You just got to give them a chance.”

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