Ray Roehner of Designer Geckos understands that there is more than one way to successfully care for leopard geckos. Presumably that’s why he calls his leopard gecko care book “The Leopard Gecko Advisor” rather than something like “Leopard Gecko Care”. He also realizes that novices need clear, step by step instructions for husbandry that will allow them to succeed immediately. “The Leopard Gecko Advisor” is such a book, and more.
The Leopard Gecko Advisor is the result, not only of Designer Geckos’ individual husbandry choices, but a product of extensive research into effective methods for keeping leopard geckos:
“While there are many care programs out there, and many knowledgeable breeders and collectors who use different methodologies that work well for them, we felt that our program offered something different and comprehensive that combined what was already in use and worked well, with our own ideas and procedures that we developed and had great success with. That synergy of ideas culminated in this book (p. 6)”
The book’s 17 chapters take the reader through the entire leopard gecko ownership process, from deciding if a leopard gecko is the proper pet, choosing a gecko, setup and basic care, health, breeding and training. Every aspect is explained clearly and concisely.
Since, as mentioned above, there are multiple variations of successful leopard gecko care, there are aspects of husbandry where Ray may differ from what others recommend. These include:
- intermittent provision of humid hides
- use of crickets as an occasional rather than a staple food
- mealworms as a staple food
- Calcium kept in the enclosure
- repti-carpet as a preferred substrate
- enclosure size for a single gecko (20 gallon or 18″x18″ recommended; very large enclosures not recommended)
The “Advisor” provides a clear rationale for each of these choices without stating or implying that they are the only reasonable choices to make. Consequently, as well as serving as basic information for the novice, it provides food for thought for the more advanced keeper who may have made different husbandry choices.
Above and Beyond
Ray’s book also covers topics that most leopard gecko care books don’t address, including the pros and cons of venturing into breeding geckos (where other care books just describe the breeding process), and details of how to ship and receive geckos. The extra sections, as well as the more standard chapters, seem to address nearly all of the questions asked by beginners in the online gecko forums I read regularly. During the few weeks between reading the book and writing the review, I’ve had numerous occasions to respond to questions in gecko forums with “read Ray Roeher’s new book” or some variation of that message.
One of the most interesting and potentially controversial chapters in the book is about “Acclimation, Socialization and Intelligence”. In this chapter, Ray maintains that leopard geckos can be trained to understand some words, come when called, and obey commands (such as “stay”) over time. He is careful to point out that not all leopard geckos necessarily have the intelligence to perform these feats, and that they require consistent training from the time they are juveniles. He backs up his assertions by providing anecdotes about specific geckos that he has trained. In all honesty, I would have still been skeptical about his claims had I not owned a gecko for nearly 10 years that demonstrated some of the same abilities.
All decent leopard gecko care books feature beautiful pictures of specific leopard gecko morphs, and this book is no exception. What makes it unusual is the combination of pictures of “anonymous” leopard gecko examples of specific morphs with pictures of specific, named pet leopard geckos. In the book you will meet “Violet”, a very intelligent banded lavender giant who “loves to go for rides in the car”, and “Zorro” the foundation gecko of the bold bandit line, among others. For those in pursuit of the “holy grail” of leopard geckos –the solid black gecko– pages 139 and 172 feature pictures of Designer Gecko’s “Black Night” line.
By implication, the book’s illustrations help us see how an individual can produce geckos as a business, and also own and spend time with individual geckos as beloved pets.
No product is without its flaws, but I’m pleased to say that the areas in which “The Leopard Gecko Advisor” misses the mark are quite minor. As a copy editor, I could have done with more careful editing of wording and grammar (e.g. “led” vs. “lead”, “often times” vs. “oftentimes”). It would be useful to have an index for the book, especially since there are lovely pictures of the same morph on different pages. Finally, while the author indicates that “proceeds from the sale of this book go to assist various reptile causes and reptile rescue operations around the world”, it would have been wonderful to include a list of some of the potential recipients, just as the book has a partial list of suppliers and manufacturers.
The Leopard Gecko Advisor is available online from Designer Geckos at www.designergeckos.com or www.theleopardgeckoadvisor.com for $24.95 plus $5.00 shipping in the U.S. and for $24.95 plus $20 shipping outside the U.S.