Order: Squamata (Sauria) - Lizards
Phylum: Chordata - Vertebrates
Red List status: Not listed
Tokay gecko. Sakaerat Biosphere Reserve, Nakhon Ratchasima Province, Thailand
Snout-vent length: 180 mm
Total length: 350 mm
Native throughout South and Southeast Asia, as far east as Timor. Introduced to Hawaii, Florida and several islands in the Caribbean, including Martinique and several offshore cayes in Belize.
The tokay is an unmistakable gecko, and among the world's largest. Base body colouration is khaki to brown, with spots or wide bands of pale blue-grey extending down the length of both body and tail. Most distinctive, however, is the dense red spotting over the head and body and the large, strikingly yellow irises. The body scales are large, rounded tubercles; those along the flanks and sides of the tail are strongly spinose. The head is large and rounded.
Call: Very loud, commonly-heard explosive two-syllable call variously described as "toh-kay" (from which the species' common name in English and local languages is derived) or "Gek-ko" (the origin of both the genus and family names for this group of lizards). The two-syllable call will often be preceded by a "chuk-chuk-chuck", sounding somewhat like the winding of a clockwork mechanism.
Naturally an arboreal species of rainforests, where it is most often encountered on the trunks of trees. More often encountered in urban settings and disturbed rural environments, either on trees or in buildings.
The species is nocturnal, and animals shelter in crevices by day. Strongly territorial tokays are typically solitary, but for part of the year may form family groups with an adult pair and immature offspring. Tokay geckos are famously aggressive, and if cornered may exhibit a warning gape display that exposes their black throat and red tongue.
Diet: An aggressive predator, this species is frequently encountered ambushing or actively foraging for insect prey, commonly large moths. Beetles, termites, locusts and occasional small vertebrates may also form prey items.
Breeding biology: All geckos lay a single pair of eggs in a breeding episode. Unusually, rare clutches of three eggs have been reported for this species (Cox et al, 1998). Gekko gecko is a 'plasterer', physically affixing eggs to solid surfaces rather than laying on the ground or wedging them into a crevice in the substrate.
As a widespread, adaptable and often abundant species the Tokay is not regarded as a species of conservation concern. Nevertheless, the species is reportedly absent or present only in low abundance in heavily-altered regions of Vietnam (D. Emmett, personal communication), and may also be uncommon in southern China and some parts of Thailand. The Tokay is one of the most common species in the international pet trade, and many specimens are wild-caught. Harvesting for use in Chinese medicine may also threaten some populations.
Cox, M.J., van Djik, P.P., Nabhitabhata, J. and Thirakhupt, K. 1998 Snakes and other reptiles of Thailand and South-east Asia, Asia Books, New Holland (UK)
Tokay gecko BBC Science & Nature: Wildfacts
Gekko gecko. Kep National Park, Cambodia. Note the regrown tail.