A few months ago, I found myself staring at a room full of reptiles to feed, cages to clean, and had to face the realization that I no longer had any interest in the bins full of scaly babies. Prep the meals, pull the tubs, open the tubs, pull paper, catch an escapee, replace in tub with a ‘stay’ warning, mist, place fresh food, close tubs, stack, reset. Where was I going with any of this?
I had some beautiful animals, top of the line, but really, what was I doing? Where did the enjoyment go? I sighed, glanced around, and considered my options. Life circumstances had triggered a pre-emptive downsize already; some of the species weren’t hardy enough for a prospective cross country move, and I didn’t want to end up doing a fire sale if it should come about sooner than expected. “Maybe I should just sell the entire collection,” I thought. “Nah. You’re just tired. Sleep on it, and see how you feel about the idea tomorrow.”
I flopped down on my couch to relax before bed, opened up my laptop, and what should appear but an ad for a species I’d never heard of before.
I stumbled onto this new (to me) species quite by accident, but the decision to purchase them was not an accident. My current juveniles are from Tom Wood of Secret Laboratory Geckos (who has been unbelievably helpful), and my adults are from Derek Dunlop. It probably wasn’t the most brilliant decision I’ve ever made – picking up a brand new species only days after considering getting out of the business – but for me, it brought new life to my passion for reptiles.
Party Geckos (Paroedura Lohatsara) are critically endangered in their native Madagascar, and they are at serious risk for extinction in the wild. It is estimated that there are currently fewer than 20 of these animals in captivity in the United States. The vast majority of people in the reptile industry have never even heard of them, which is where I’ve found a new sense of purpose: bringing these little guys to light.
In conserving a species, there are several different aspects to look at, the first being recognition. It’s difficult to care about something if you don’t even know that it exists. Conservation begins with spreading awareness and knowledge, which is exactly what I’ve taken on doing with this species. There is currently so little information available regarding these animals that they didn’t even have a common name – I couldn’t imagine referring to them as ‘Paroedura Lohatsara’ all the time, so I started calling them Party Geckos and what do you know, it stuck. Having an easy, fun, common name is a step in the right direction as well, considering that it really helps to personify the animals in a person’s mind, rather than give off the generally alienating feel of a Latin name.
Aside from having some name recognition for the species, there is the more technical issue: it is key that they reproduce in order to bolster their numbers, while at the same time it is also critical to maintain as much genetic diversity as possible. The animals that I have are from unrelated lines. This is important to keep track of given that there are very few currently in captivity, and knowing the history of an animal’s lineage helps to avoid line breeding.
The care information I was given with each set of animals was markedly different, and both have been successful, which has been awesome. It gives me a lot of hope to see that a species having such trouble with deforestation in the wild is at least moderately resilient and can be kept without too much difficulty in captivity. My own animals are currently being kept at a rough midway between the two: night time temperature drops into the low 70’s, daytime highs into the low 80’s with a basking spot that is slightly warmer. Individual unsexed juveniles (around 1” to 1.5” in length from snout to vent) can be housed in smaller containers – I suggest something between 8”L x 8” W x 8” H and 12” L x 12” W x 12” H. This allows the animal to have plenty of space while still allowing you to check food consumption, waste production, and so on. As adults, slightly larger caging is necessary – a 10 gallon tank works for one adult male (4”-6”), or two females. I converted my Party Geckos over from eating crickets to Dubia roaches. I provide a water dish, and I mist twice daily for additional hydration. As far as substrate, I line the bottom with paper towels. It isn’t the prettiest, but again, it allows for easy monitoring of bodily functions, high visibility if anything unusual comes up, and it prevents any accidental substrate ingestion which is always of concern to me (particularly in younger or smaller animals). Hides should be provided, as well as climbing options. While they are not necessarily arboreal, they do enjoy getting up on things and poking around. The younger animals that I have seem especially prone to exploring vertically, and I regularly walk in to find them up near the top of the tank, or walking along the glass. Be sure to check out the split-down-the-center design of their toe pads, it fascinates me to no end!
While I would never be able to pick a single favorite aspect of the animal (there’s just too much awesomeness between the renewed energy they’ve brought to my reptile keeping, those quirky little toe pads, and their highly animated tails), the behavior that I find most intriguing was one that I discovered quite by accident. It was time for photos, and being that they’re mostly left to themselves, the girls became rather displeased with me. I finally got ahold of Lilac, my shy girl, and her body went motionless and limp, completely unresponsive. I thought I was about to have a heart attack until I remembered seeing the same thing once when I had been working with Water Dragons. She was playing dead! When stressed, the animals fall into a torpid state until they calm down. I took a few photos, set her back in the tank and sure enough, a few moments later she was ‘normal’ again and scampered off happily.
What can I say? It wouldn’t be a Party (Gecko!) without some crazy antics.