Thai National Parks

Reptiles of Thailand

Species of Thailand

Common tokay gecko

Thai: ตุ๊กแกบ้าน, took gaeh baan

Binomial name: Gekko gecko, Carolus Linnaeus, 1758

The tokay gecko (Gekko gecko) is a nocturnal arboreal gecko, ranging from northeast India, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, throughout Southeast Asia, Philippines to Indonesia and western New Guinea. Its native habitat is rainforest trees and cliffs, and it also frequently adapts to rural human habitations, roaming walls and ceilings at night in search of insect prey. Increasing urbanization is reducing its range.

The tokay gecko is known as a hokkeng in Chakma, takshak in Bengali, hankkok in Manipuri, tuko in the Philippines, tokkae in Malaysia, tokek in Indonesian/Javanese, tắc kè in Vietnamese, kokkek in Zomi and ตุ๊กแก {{IPA|in Thai, Sawk-khe in HMAR and awke in Mizo for its characteristic vocalizations.

Physical characteristics and behaviour

The Tokay Gecko is the second largest Gecko species, attaining lengths of about 11 - 20 cm for males, and 7 - 19 cm for females, with weights of only 150 – 400 g. They are distinctive in appearance, with a bluish or grayish body, sporting spots ranging from light yellow to bright red. The male is more brightly colored than the female. They have large eyes with a vertical slit pupil. Eyes are brown to greenish brown and can be orange or yellow.

Males are very territorial, and will attack other male Tokays as well as other Gecko species, as well as anything else in their territory. Females lay clutches of one or two hard shelled eggs which are guarded until they hatch. Tokay Geckos feed on insects and small vertebrates. Their strong bite is needed to crack the shell of hard cockroaches that live in the rainforests. They are also extremely strong climbers and their foot pads can support their entire weight on a vertical surface for a long amount of time without any effort. Compared to other gecko species, the Tokay has a robust build, with a semi-prehensile tail, a large head and muscular jaws; though common in the pet trade, Tokays are reputed to be capable of inflicting a painful bite, making them ill-suited for inexperienced keepers.

Call

Their mating call, a loud croak, is variously described as sounding like token, gekk-gekk or poo-kay where both the common and the scientific name (deriving from onomatopoeic names in Malay, Sundanese, Tagalog, Thai, or Javanese), as well as the family name Gekkonidae and the generic term gecko come from. The call is similar to the call made by Gekko smithii (Large Forest Gecko).

The gecko's call is also responsible for a slang name given to it by U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War: the fuck-you lizard.

Conservation

Tokay geckos are culturally significant in many East Asian countries. Regional folklore has attributed supernatural powers to the gecko. Examples of such myths are the belief that they are harbingers of good luck, that they can see into the future, and that they are the descendants of dragons.

The Tokay gecko is also an ingredient in Traditional Chinese medicine known as Ge Jie (蛤蚧). Tokay geckos are in high demand herb believed to tonify kidney (yang energy), nourish kidney essence, tonify lung, and relieve cough and dyspnea. These beliefs are not substantiated by medical science. They remain highly sought after in in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and other parts of Asia with Chinese communities, to the point where unscrupulous merchants have taken to modifying monitor lizards with prosthetics to pass them off as colossal Tokay gecko specimens.

The tokay gecko is quickly becoming a threatened species in the Philippines due to indiscriminate hunting. Collecting, transporting and trading in geckos without a license can be punishable by up to twelve years in jail and a fine of up to Php 1, 000, 000.00 under Republic Act 9147 in addition to other applicable international laws. However, the trade runs unchecked due to the sheer number of illegal traders and reports of lucrative deals. Chinese buyers and other foreign nationals are rumored to pay thousands of dollars for large specimens, because of their alleged medicinal value or as commodities in the illegal wildlife trade.

Tokay geckos are frequently traded for medicinal purposes in Vietnam and China.

Tokay geckos are naturalized with breeding populations in South Florida.

Subspecies

Two subspecies are currently recognized.

  • G. g. gecko (Linnaeus, 1758): tropical Asia from northeastern India to eastern Indonesia.
  • G. g. azhari Mertens, 1955: found only in Bangladesh.

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Scientific classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Reptilia
Order
Squamata
Suborder
Lacertilia
Family
Gekkonidae
Genus
Gekko
Species
Gekko gecko

Common names

  • German: Tokeh
  • English:
    • Common tokay gecko
    • Tokay gecko
    • Tuctoo
  • Thai:
    • ตุ๊กแกบ้าน, took gaeh baan
    • ตุ๊กแก, took gaeh

Subspecies

  • Gekko gecko azhari, Robert Mertens, 1955

  • Gekko gecko gecko, Carolus Linnaeus, 1758

Synonyms

  • Gekko df. gecko, Daniel Jastrzębski et al. (2013)
  • Gekko gecko azhari, Stephen Mahony et al. (2009)
  • Gekko gecko, Thomas Ziegler (2002)
  • Gekko gecko, Merel J. Cox et al. (1998)
  • Gekko gecko, Ulrich Manthey & Wolfgang Grossmann (1997)
  • Gekko gecko, Herbert Rösler (1995)
  • Gekko gecko, Arnold Girard Kluge (1993)
  • Gekko gecko, Edward Harrison Taylor (1963)
  • Gekko gecko azhari, Robert Mertens (1955)
  • Gecko verticillatus, Nelly de Rooij (1915)
  • Gekko gecko, Thomas Barbour (1912)
  • Gecko verticillatus sic, George Albert Boulenger (1894)
  • Gecko verticillatus sic, George Albert Boulenger (1885)
  • Gecko guttatus, Ferdinand Stoliczka (1870)
  • Gekko indicus, Charles Frédéric Girard (1858)
  • Gekko tenuis, Edward Hallowell (1857)
  • Gymnodactylus tenuis, Edward Hallowell (1856)
  • Platydactylus guttatus, André Marie Constant Duméril & Gabriel Bibron (1836)
  • Gekko verus, Blasius Merrem (1820)
  • Gekko annulatus, Heinrich Kuhl (1820)
  • Gekko guttatus, François Marie Daudin (1802)
  • Gekko aculeatus, Maarten Houttuyn (1782)
  • Gekko perlatus, Maarten Houttuyn (1782)
  • Gekko verticillatus, Josephus Nicolaus Laurenti (1768)
  • Gekko teres, Josephus Nicolaus Laurenti (1768)
  • Lacerta gecko, Carolus Linnaeus (1758)

Conservation status

Near Threatened

Near Threatened

Distribution map of Common tokay gecko, Gekko gecko in Thailand

Range map of Gekko gecko in Thailand

Important note; our range maps are based on limited data we have collected. The data is not necessarily accurate or complete.

Special thanks to Ton Smits, Parinya Pawangkhanant, Ian Dugdale and many others for their contribution for range data.

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