Tulsa Zoo Talks About Specific Care Plan For Giant Leaf-Tailed Gecko

On this Wild Wednesday, we learned about the giant leaf-tailed geckos.

Wednesday, February 21st 2024, 10:17 am

By: News On 6, Alyssa Miller


There are over 4,000 animals that call the Tulsa Zoo home. One many people may not notice is the giant leaf-tailed gecko.

That is because this reptile is a master of camouflage. "They are nocturnal so most of the time during the day they are just kind of sitting there trying to look like a tree as much as they can," said Zookeeper of Herps & Aquatics Jett Kroening.

The giant leaf-tailed gecko exhibit is inside the zoo's Conservation Center. The reptile is native to Madagascar and its zookeepers work hard to make sure their home reflects that.

"They like temperatures in between about 70 and 75 degrees, so the mid-70s are where we shoot for most of the time for them," said Kroening.

When it comes to their appearance the geckos can slightly change color based on their environment and have hair-like bristles on their feet to help them climb and stick to stuff. "They even have these little flaps kind of around their face that flatten when they flatten to branches, so they can blend in and not be seen," said Zookeeper of Herps & Aquatics Justice Mitchell.

Unlike humans, giant leaf-tailed geckos get water from their environment. "We want to make sure that there is always a mister going and really high humidity, so there is always water on those leaves to go up and get," said Kroening.

The Tulsa Zoo has two giant leaf-tailed geckos that recently started sharing the same enclosure to breed. "When we introduced the two we knew that we needed to have plenty of space so that they can kind of get away from each other," said Mitchell.

That is because these reptiles are nocturnal and there is no guarantee the male and female will hit it off. "We have to come in, make sure that they do not have any scratches on each other, make sure they are not fighting with each other, and that they are getting along okay."

Checking their weight is also an important step in monitoring the gecko's health. "It is important that they are holding weight because weight loss can be an indication of stress, maybe one is getting more food sources than the other," said Mitchell.

Other lizards eat plants, but not these ones. "We give crickets dusted with calcium," Kroening continued saying, "Calcium is important for all reptiles to help make sure their bones are strong but especially these guys right now while they are breeding and producing eggs. Eggs need to have good calcification just to make sure that they are viable later."

Once she lays an egg, the lady lizard will bury it as much as 3 inches beneath the soil. Mitchell said if zookeepers can find it, they will put the egg in an incubator for between 90 and 110 days.

Since these geckos are masters of camouflage, she said there is a chance they will never find the eggs until the baby is born. Mitchell adds that is what makes their job so important.

"Part of being a good zookeeper and this breeding program is creating an environment where they feel safe and can do their natural processes with less interference from us," she said.


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