Naultinus geckos are a genus of gecko that I was always fascinated with but never thought that I would have the opportunity to work with. What made these secretive geckos so interesting to me was their beautiful colors and appearance, their diurnal and arboreal nature, and that they are live-bearing geckos that come from a completely different environment than most other geckos out there. I was always curious as to why these geckos could withstand prolonged periods of cold and thrive while most other gecko species needed a relatively warm climate. How did evolution play a part in this genus and how could they have survived for this long by producing a maximum of two offspring per season? Being that these geckos are such low producing animals, they will never be readily available to the consumer, and therefore they will also have a relatively high price tag. These traits make Naultinus a gecko for gecko lovers, not for those looking for an “investment animal”. With this being said there will always be a demand and a lot of hype surrounding these mystical creatures.
The Naultinus grayii comes from the Northern section of the North island of New Zealand where it is typically found in bushes of the tea tree plant. This species lives the majority of its life off of the ground, and its green and white pattern provides it excellent camouflage. At times an animal will be right in front of my eyes on a bush and it takes me a minute to see it, and then I almost feel dumb for not having seen it right away. The grayii is a very patient predator. They do not stalk their prey like other geckos, instead they wait for an insect to come within striking distance and then they make their move on it. This must help the gecko preserve its strength since in the cold climate they live in they can’t afford to waste any energy.
Housing Naultinus grayii
I keep a pair of adult naultinus grayii in an 18” x 18” x 36” zoo med screen cage. I furnish the enclosure with dense hanging brush, cork flats, and as ground cover I use a cork tube as a hide. I also offer them vines and other pieces of wood to climb on, and I observe them using these occasionally to relocate themselves to another part of the enclosure, or to bask on. I have this pair setup in as naturalistic a setup as possible attempting to replicate their indigenous natural climate and landscape as much as possible. Although they are mostly in the hanging brush they will occasionally go into a moist hide on the ground of this enclosure to shed or to retreat. I use a layered substrate of eucalyptus leaves, eucalyptus mulch, wood chips, and New Zealand sphagnum moss in this order from bottom to top layer. I use this mixed ground cover because the eucalyptus has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties while the top layer of moss and wood chips holds water while helping to keep the ambient humidity up. I spray the foliage and the inside of the moist hide every morning and never let the temperature in the screen cube rise above 80F in the summer. In the winter I cool these geckos to temperatures as cold as 40F. In all seasons I provide these geckos with ample UV light. I use three 18” 5.0 UVB fluorescent strip lights on top of the cage and one additional exo-terra fluorescent 5.0 bulb which sits directly above a bush where the geckos can bask. I provide basking spots from as close as 1 inch from these lights to ensure proper UVB exposure which is essential to this geckos’ well-being.
Care and Breeding
I feed my naultinus as much variety as I can. Staple insects include but are not limited to roaches (dubia, banana, and Madagascar hissing), gut-loaded crickets, blue bottle flies, waxworms and waxmoths, silkworms, hornworms, and on occasion they will get a superworm or a mealworm. I rotate the gutload of the feeders constantly and I cycle the brands of vitamins and minerals that I dust prey items with. This extensive feeding regimen seems to contribute to the good overall health of this gecko, no question.
Naultinus grayii require a lengthy brumation period of very low temperatures to successfully conceive and produce offspring. These animals will breed in the early springtime and give birth anywhere from late summer to the end of fall having either one or two live born neonates per season. Once the juveniles are birthed they can fend for themselves and can be housed either separately which is best or with their litter mate or another grayii of similar age.
Difficulties in Obtaining Naultinus
Aside from the limited amount of offspring a single female can produce, these geckos are very difficult to obtain due to the laws surrounding them and their transport. They are marked on Appendice III of CITES (the convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora), which makes their export or import tricky, as several requirements need to be met in order for permission to be granted by this organization. Since New Zealand doesn’t allow any of their wildlife to be exported it is impossible to acquire wild caught animals, or even captive bred animals from within New Zealand. Because of this, as well as the high dollar amount being paid for Naultinus, in recent times it has become quite common for individuals to attempt to smuggle these geckos; this has put added pressure on natural animal populations. To obtain legal documentation for export of Naultinus from Europe to the U.S., for example, one must prove that the animal was not obtained illegally. This is done by showing that the animal has been produced in captivity from legally acquired parents which doesn’t sound too bad, but many of the animals out there are not documented with legal paperwork even though the animals themselves are captive bred animals.
I feel that these geckos are one of Earth’s precious jewels and I am grateful to have the opportunity to be working with them. They truly are a rewarding species to work with. I have high hopes for my pair this season and time will tell whether they will produce young, but at this time in the summer all signs point to the female being gravid. Good times…