Our Mysterious Tokay Gecko

Living here in Samar Island in the Philippines, I have come to know that I should expect strange things, and if I do, strange things will happen. Recently we discovered that we have a special guest living in our midst. On several occasions, I have caught the youngest of our three cats (Gadget) sitting near the back corner of our patio, starring in the direction of the back side of our large metal storage cabinet. So, one day I decided to calmly walked over and take a peek around the cabinet’s side…and there it was!  A large Tokay gecko…or least a large Tokay head protruding out from behind the cabinet. He is rather big and I’m guessing he is at least 12 inches long. I have heard him many times, announcing his presence with his loud “tik-iiit” (I have since been advised that it is “Tuuukoo”) noise, but I have never seen him…or it, until now. Nor did I realize that he took up permanent residence with us. He must like hanging out in our covered patio area where there is a plethora of other small lizards, mosquitos, and bugs. Maybe he, or it, feels like this is a Tokay heaven of sorts, because after several months he is still here.

And then just a few days ago, I was again surprised when I peered around the side of the metal cabinet to see yet another Tokay head peering out at our cat. Actually I seen both heads peering out at the cat, and the newest resident is somewhat smaller. So maybe the larger one is not a “he”, but a “she?” and the little guy is a baby?  There is apparently obvious male and female differences in the tokay gecko where the male is more brightly colored than the female and generally the male grows slightly larger than the female. From what I can tell, both of our residents are probably female as they look the same in color and markings.

Our "smaller" guest

Our “smaller” guest

My brother-in-law says that a 1 kilo Tokay can fetch a million pesos, and while I questioned such a crazy notion just for a gecko, he assured me that the Chinese will pay because the gecko is thought to have curative powers. So I took the time to do a little digging and found out that there actually is some (although limited) truth to this. The hunting of Tokay Geckos (Tuko in the Filipino language) had become a craze in the Philippines (back around 2010), mainly because of reports that online traders have been buying these lizards for large amounts of money. The hunting of these lizards began when it was rumored that Tukoy geckos can help cure asthma and HIV/AIDS. I could however not find anything stating the large amounts or even close to a million pesos that my brother-in-law claimed. I also learned that nobody actually knows of anyone who has been paid such a ridiculous amount for a gecko. Maybe it has happened, but not around these parts.

And upon further digging, I learned that the entire craze actually arose out of a scam. The Philippine Dept. of Health has previously stated “The folkloric practice of using geckos as cure for AIDS and asthma persists to this day and is of serious concern to the Department of Health (DOH). There is no basis that this practice cures ailments like AIDS or brings relief from symptoms of asthma. Thus, we do not recommend it as cure for any ailment.”

The "Gadget"

The “Gadget”

While I would never think of interfering with the occupancy of these special guests, I do have some concerns. A Tokay’s territory is generally guarded by males but is occasionally watched by the female. These geckoes can inflict severe bites if they are sufficiently threatened. So my real concern is for our youngest cat (Gadget) who is still working on developing his common sense inventory. I’m hoping that the poor taste of his recent smaller gecko victims will deter him from pouncing on this larger species. I mean, if the small ones aren’t tasty enough to eat, why would it be any different for the big ones. Most cats learn early on about bees and how bad toads can taste, why would a gecko be any different?

Although they are nocturnal creatures, they do make themselves available periodically for daytime viewings. Recently one evening just after sunset, Gadget caught sight of one traversing a patio rafter and the Tokay paused and waited patiently for me to fetch my camera. After the flash, he looked at me for a bit (probably thought to himself “strange creature”) and slowly made his way up the rafter and out of sight. Pictured above is the smaller of our two patio residents and this guy is about 8 inches in length.

 

We are honored to have such special guests hanging out with us on our patio and hopefully the cats and the Tokay will learn to get along in their quest to kill off bugs and other unwanted critters and guests. And I’m not going to be sticking my hands or fingers in places I cannot see. For now though, it seems Gadget is perfectly content with trying to figure out the likes of our visiting Hermit Crabs. And maybe I should consider giving these guys some names to make them feel part of the family.

For more information on the Tokay gecko [su_button url=”http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/ReptilesAmphibians/Facts/FactSheets/Tokaygecko.cfm” target=”blank” background=”#ef2d64″ color=”#465a4a” size=”4″ wide=”no” icon=”icon: eye”]Visit Here[/su_button]