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Party Geckos!

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.”

Paroedura lohatsara
Paroedura lohatsara

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. 

Paroedura lohatsara
Paroedura lohatsara

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.

Paroedura lohatsara
Paroedura lohatsara

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 roachesI 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.

What do you think?

Written by Kasi Krauss

Kasi has been working with reptiles for approximately 20 years now, starting at six years of age when she convinced her younger brother that they should pool their allowances to save up the $5 to purchase an Anole (her parents stepped in and bought her a Leopard Gecko instead). By age nine she was performing educational shows for her elementary school, working at the local reptile store, and her herp collection had grown to include several species of gecko, frogs, a Corn Snake (her mom was still terrified), and her pride and joy- a Savannah Monitor named Gryphon. At 11 she was breeding her Leos and received recognition for her science fair project investigating their learning and memory capacities. This pace kept up until leaving for college; by her third year she had set up an arrangement to travel home weekly in order to rebuild and care for her collection. She continues to perform educational visits and various breeding projects, and has most recently taken on the care and conservation of Paroedura Lohatsara, aka "Party Geckos".

13 Comments

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  1. Great article Kasi. The whole genus of Paroedura is vastly underrated in the hobby. Good luck with this species and I hope you can send some to other hobbyists in the near future.
    Thank you for sharing,
    Wally

  2. Kasi! This was such an awesome article! I loved hearing about them. It’s interesting how they came to have their common name! Wonderful, really. They are truly a little party gecko 😉

  3. It saddens me deeply that you feel the need to name these rare geckos after yourself. You did not discover them or describe them. You weren’t even the first one in the US to have them. A highly egotistical move – to say the very least.

    Why do they even need a common name? Common names only add confusion and disorder to the hobby. If there were to be a common name associated with these then why not use the actual name they were give? “Loha” in Malagasy means head and “tsara” loosely translates to good or beautiful. Using the name that the scientists that described them as a starting point, their common name would best be “beautiful-headed Malagasy ground gecko.”

    Not trying to be insulting in any way, but “Party” is not a description for them in any way and to take it upon yourself to name them, not to mention after yourself, is simply absurd. Any validity of your article is trumped by this, in my opinion.

  4. Kevin – I totally understand where you’re coming from; when I made the choice to begin calling them such, I was aware that it may be an unpopular choice. So far, it’s been about 75% pro and 25% con.

    That said, researchers, scientists, and serious hobbyists are not my target audience. My experience is that on that front, common names are very rarely used and completely unnecessary. In my more ‘academic’ articles, I avoid using any common name whatsoever for them.

    I am championing these animals on a conservation front, and to conserve a species there are two things that need to happen – awareness by the general public being the first. The vast majority of the populous does not know an iguana from a chameleon, and dislikes any sort of scaly creature to begin with. To generate any sort of empathy, these animals need to overcome prejudice and bias, as well as be memorable enough to be distinguishable.

    You are more than welcome to your opinion, and, now perhaps you’ll at least see where the name is coming from.

  5. I have to fully agree with Mr. Cantrell. Your attempt to make some sort of legacy for yourself is based in either ego and/or profit. This point is further proven by you putting your name in the wiki listing for this animal! Wiki is not supposed to be used for advertising for your business! When have you EVER seen a wiki entry for species that gives a list of breeders working with the species? Find some other way to leave a historical legacy and/or reputation in the herp hobby…like earning it. I’d also be interested in your source for the claim that there’s only 20 of these animals in the US? How can you have any idea if that number is anywhere near being right or wrong? My guess is that it’s just a random number that, like the term “Party Gecko”, you just took upon yourself to put out as fact.

  6. I also agree with the fact that Party Gecko is a completely ridiculous choice of name. I believe naming it something “fun” will not raise any awareness in the general public. A reptile is a reptile to them. I see it as a business move, searching Party Gecko on google brings up your business and this article. Nothing more on the species, that’s not a coincidence in my eyes. Was “Party Gecko” literally the ONLY name you could come up with?

  7. I wanted to say “way to go girl”! If you were writing something for a scientific article I could see the concern for a proper name but you are talking to fellow hobbyist.Not all of us can remember long scientific names,I have started keeping small notes on an index card and using my nook to keep track of my info better.You not only provided an easy to remember name but made it fun so it could be easily remembered. I must say the object of this article is to bring awareness of an endangered species that may one day only be available in private collections if some of us do not take up the reigns and breed these so they do not become lost like the crested gecko was once thought to be. I congratulate you on your determination and ability to respond in a positive way to some of the comments posted. I don’t know that I would have handled it so well.

  8. Kasi,

    You have no grounds on earth to rename a gecko. you can do every bit of work with them but it DOES NOT give you any right to name. you want to name something after yourself instead of finding a gecko that already has a common name but a used scientific name why do what everyone else with a named animal does and describe it or hatch the morph. you have done neither.

    The Wikipedia edit log shows that you deliberately added party gecko as their common name. you did so repeatedly despite it being against Wikipedia’s policy. Your conflict of interest was brought up and you were party gecko account was FROZEN. You then made changes to the article unregistered, good thing your IP was logged. You also chose to merge the existing article on Paroedura lohatsara with your own. that included in the title “party gecko” You referring to Paroedura lohatsaraas as “party geckos” is a deliberate ploy to make yourself known and try to generate business.

    You say you are doing this for conservation, I have to disagree. This species has been in captivity for the last two decades and the importation has been limited to the very very limited number that might have been illegally imported. At this point your blood lines do not represent the genetic variance a wild population has no matter how hard you may try to make it so. This species is common on the gecko forum’s and has a dedicated following. They will not be going anywhere. In addition to that i have to ask if you have talked to anyone at the IUCN regarding your program? in particular the SCC division I work with some newts also on the IUCN and guess what not only did i notify them of my project I sent them pictures and to this day have helped efforts in Laos to breed them in a “farm” type manner by providing support and monetary aid. In addition to that i have been giving the hatchlings I’ve produced away to other US-based keepers i know are experienced with Caudata conservation so that there will never be a time when the species is not for sale here and wild animals have to be caught. That is how you try and help save a species. You say “researchers, scientists, and serious hobbyists are not (your) target audience” in your comment above. I have to ask if you are not targeting “researchers, scientists and serious hobbyists how do you ever expect this species to survive?

    You will likely post on Facebook about being attacked by those people who are “not your target audience” and then beg the people who are your target audience, the people buying their first gecko from you, to give you good reviews. Us “serious breeders” kinda mind when nobodys in the industry think their hotshot superstars and name an entire species after themselves without earning it at all.

  9. Fritz-
    At this point, the article is outdated and no longer reflects the work that I have done with the species. If you are interested in the pieces I have done with ‘serious’ herpers and researchers in mind, you’re welcome to check in Herp Digest or contact me personally. You will see that there is no ‘common name’ being used in these pieces.

    If you are interested in the conservation bit, you are also welcome to contact me and we can discuss the contact I have had with the Republic of Malagasy regarding the preservation of the reserve these are found on and the species themselves. You can also look at my piece in Herp House Magazine which discusses how this controversy is beneficial toward the preservation of the species.

    If you look into myself personally, you will find that I have no monetary stake in this. I do not have these animals for sale, and I have been an established breeder of other species far before I lucked into them. I have nothing to gain from this but flack, and the knowledge that regardless of whether they agree with me or not, people will now remember these lizards.

  10. Edit: Additionally, there was no wiki article on P. lohatsara prior to my generating one, which includes multiple references to IUCN articles and outside pieces.

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