The PawsForWildlife team have recently re-homed a Crested Gecko (Correlophus ciliatus), which the younger members affectionately named Echo. Having never kept reptiles it is a learning curve, but crested geckos are extremely easy to look after. Once thought very rare within the pet trade, their willingness to breed and their simple needs have made them an extremely popular pet. Other names for the crested gecko include the New Caledonian Crested Gecko, Guichenot's Crested Gecko and the Eyelash Gecko.
HABITAT AND DISTRIBUTION
The crested gecko is endemic to a little island chain off the coast of Australia known as New Caledonia. The main island (Grand Terre) has two populations of this species, and one of the smaller islands known as the Isle of Pines has another. The preferred habitat is moist forest/rainforest .
Crested geckos can vary massively in colour and pattern. With a multitude of solid colours (brown, olive, grey, red, yellow), there are also many morphs being bred in captivity. The wild occurring forms include patternless, tiger (contrasting stripes) and the white-fringed (parts or all of the crest are very pale). The head is a rhomboid shape with soft, flexible crests that run from the eyes all the way down the back. The overall length can be up to 20cm (8 inches), and usually half of that length is the long, prehensile tail. The head has two large eyes, and large ear openings, it is flat in profile and houses a long pink tongue (which is long enough to help them lick and clean their eyeballs!) The long narrow legs have webbed feet with little claws. The back legs have extra skin joining from the body to the back of the hindfoot. Males have a large bulbous area at the base of their tail which is much less reduced in the female.
DIET, BEHAVIOUR AND REPRODUCTION
In the wild the crested geckos main diet consists of fruits (frugivorous) and insects (insectivorous), but will also eat nectar. It is important that they keep their calcium levels up as otherwise they can suffer from metabolic bone diseases. The crested gecko is able to store calcium in endolymphatic sacs in its mouth. The crested gecko is mainly arboreal (tree-dwelling) and spends its days hiding under leaves and vegetation, only to venture out among the canopy at night to hunt and feed (nocturnal), and are able to jump a small distance. Like most species of gecko, it can lose its tail if threatened (caudal autotomy). Once shed it can move for a few minutes, just long enough to confuse predators and allow the gecko to make its escape. Unlike other species, this tail will not grow back. Many captive crested geckos are tail-less, rough handling, trapping the tail in an enclosure or other stress may cause the gecko to shed.
Lifespan estimations range between a maximum of 14 and 20 years. Little is known of the reproduction habits in the wild, but in captivity the male will generally seek out a female, if the female does not resist or flee the male will mount her and bite the back of her neck as mating occurs. Males are known to fight for breeding rights, so in captivity females are generally kept with only one male. The female can lay up to 4 eggs per copulation, and are able to breed for up to 10 months of the year. The non-breeding 'cooling months' give the female chance to replace nutrients that she lost during the egg-laying process. The eggs can take 60 - 150 days to hatch.
OTHER NOTABLE INFORMATION
The crested gecko was once classified as Rhacodactylus ciliatus, but has since been reclassified. The word ciliatus refers to the soft spikes above the eyes from the latin 'cilia' meaning fringe. There are many morphs in captivity, come of these include the Buckskin morph (olive drab/brown solid colour - photos 1 and 2), Harlequin morph (dark broad dorsal stripe and side stripes - photo 4), Flame morph (similar to harlequin but the harlequin is more pronounced) and the Dalmatian morph (solid colour with spotting - photo 3). Crested geckos also have a variance in colour dependent on their mood, environment and situation. The 'fired down' colour is usually darker and more drab than usual, but when they are 'fired up' their colours appear more vivid and more defined. Echo 'fired up' and began exhibiting faint flame patterning when resting under his UVB lamp (ultra-violet light). And just to make it a little more confusing, each morph may have certain colours (i.e, orange flame, blonde flame, red flame).
The crested gecko was thought extinct until it reappeared after a tropical storm in 1994. Since then it has boomed in the pet trade, but the wild populations are currently being regarded for CITES protection. The IUCN has it listed as Vulnerable, due to threats from domestic animals and the introduced Little Fire Ant (Wassmania auropunctata).
The following video shows Echo cleaning and eating. The soundtrack (light rain and crickets) was supplied in its original form courtesy of Mike Koenig under the Attribution 3.0 License. I figured it made a nicer soundtrack than my 4 year old playing in the background!