The tokay gecko (Gekko gecko) is a nocturnal arboreal gecko, ranging from northeast India, to Nepal and 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. In the late 1980s and early 1990s it was introduced into Hawaii, Florida, Texas, Belize, and several Caribbean islands, where it can be considered an invasive species.
The Tokay Gecko is the second largest Gecko species, attaining lengths of about 11–20 inches (28–51 cm) for males, and 7–19 inches (18–48 cm) for females, with weights of only 150–400g. 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. They are solitary and only meet during the mating season. Females lay clutches of one or two hard shelled eggs which are guarded until they hatch. Tokay Geckos feed on insects and small vertebrates. They have developed such a strong bite for a lizard their size due to specializing in preying on beetles. They are able to crack the beetle shell easily due to this.
The typical lifespan is 7–10 years, however in captivity some Tokays have been known to live over 18 years.
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).
Mating call of a male Tokay gecko
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When the Tokay bites, they often won't let go for a few minutes or even up to an hour or more, and it is very difficult to remove without causing harm to the gecko. For this reason, it is considered to be best as an ornamental animal for experienced reptile owners.
The tokay gecko is quickly becoming a threatened species in The Philippines, where it is locally known as tuko, because of indiscriminate hunting. Collecting, transporting and trading geckos without a license can be punishable by up to twelve years in jail and a fine of up to 1,000,000 pesos 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, reportedly because of their alleged medicinal value or as commodities in the illegal wildlife trade. The Philippine government has issued a warning against using geckos to treat AIDS and impotence, saying the folkloric practice in parts of Asia may put patients at risk.
Two subspecies are currently recognized.