The Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko) is a nocturnal arboreal gecko, ranging from northeast India 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 known as a Tuko or Toko in the Philippines for its characteristic vocalizations where people have mixed feelings about it ranging from terror of the mistaken belief that its feet can tear your skin off to great love and admiration for its entertaining vocalizations. In the Philippines most people respect it and value it because it eats dangerous pests such as scorpions and giant centipedes.
The Tokay Gecko is the second largest Gecko species, attaining lengths of about 30–40 cm (11–15 inches) for males, and 20–30 cm (7–11 inches) for females, with weights of 150–300g (5–10 oz). They are distinctive in appearance, with a bluish or greyish body, sporting spots ranging from light yellow to bright red. The male is more brightly coloured 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.
The typical lifespan is 7–10 years, however in captivity some Tokays have been known to live over 18 years.
Tokays are renowned for their loud vocalizations. Their mating call, a loud croak, is variously described as sounding like tokeh or gekk-gekk, where both the common and the scientific name (deriving from onomatopoeic names in Malay, Sundanese, Tagalog, 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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The Tokay is also considered the “pitbull” of the Gecko world due to the fact that when they bite, they often won’t let go for a few minutes and rarely up to an hour or more, and generally difficult to remove without causing harm to the Gecko. One way of getting a Tokay to release its hold is to submerge the animal in water or settle it down, which will encourage the lizard to let go, without causing it any harm or undue stress. A less stressful method is to simply put a drop of vinegar on the gecko’s nose. This is sometimes enough to get them to let go.