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An Accomplished Lizard Vocalist – the Tokay Gecko, Gekko gecko

Tokay GeckoAlthough many lizards are quite vocal, perhaps none is so capable and well known as the Tokay gecko.  In fact, the species draws its common name from the loud cries of “Tokay! Tokay!, given (most often in the wee hours of the morning) by the extremely territorial males.  Ranging throughout much of south and Southeast Asia, and introduced to Hawaii, Florida and Martinique, the Tokay does not mind human company.  It is often more common in homes and other buildings than in more natural settings, even within such bustling cities as Hong Kong and Miami.

Rentable Geckos?
Tokay geckos are aggressive, 12 inch long predators, and do not hesitate to tackle small snakes, treefrogs, other lizards, nestling birds and mammals.  Roaches are, however, particularly favored – a dietary preference that often endears them to their human hosts, despite their noisy ways.  Some years ago a pet store in New York City began renting them to customers for just that reason.  However, the geckos’ propensity to proclaim their territory via “song”, most often at 4 AM, and their willingness to bite (and unwillingness to release their hold!) doomed the scheme to failure.

Early Morning Singers
I once released a group of Tokay geckoes into a large zoo exhibit as a roach control measure (well, to be honest, mainly because I liked to watch them go about their business at night – few lizards can keep up with roach reproduction!).  In those days I was often at the zoo until all hours of the night, dealing with emergencies and satisfying my curiosity about the nocturnal goings on there.  As has been reported by sleepless gecko hosts worldwide, the males did indeed call most frequently (and vigorously) between the hours of 2 and 4 AM.

You can read more about the natural history of Tokay geckos and related species at:


  1. avatar

    We found one! Thanks for identifing him for us.

    • avatar

      Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the feedback…please let me know if you need anything further.

      Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  2. avatar

    Hi there’
    I’m from the uk and I had two tokay gecko’s for 8 years’ I had them as a rescue. I loved them and I found them a pleasure to have in my home 🙂 yes I has a few bites that lasted far to long. One of them has a habit of jumping on friends heads’ that was amusing. I miss the noise’s and you are right about the times too ! I must say that always puzzled me. I would love to have more but I don’t have the time to look after them as its the uk it’s not warm enough for them ect.,
    Tokay geckos are underrated I believe!
    I’m off to Hawaii in eight weeks what is the likelihood of me seeing a tokay?
    Many thanks. Happysnax

    • avatar

      Hello Happysnak

      Thanks for your interest. Indeed they are under-rated; I enjoy them so much that I introduced groups to several large exhibits at the Bronx Zoo (non-reptile keepers were “terrified”, for a time”)!

      Check out this video when you have a moment, really something.

      I’ve found them in Miami, Fla, USA but, unfortunately, I’m not familiar with their local range on Hawaii. Your best source of info would be Sean McKeown’s Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians in the Hawaiian Islands.

      Enjoy, and please check in again and also let me know if you find them.

      Please let me know if you need any further information.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar

    Back when I lived in the Philippines these guys were pretty common, especially in the older parts like where my grandparents lived. They get pretty loud when calling in numbers, and it gets pretty creepy in the jungle-like setting.

    • avatar

      Hi Alex,

      Thanks for your note…I can imagine how they must sound in that setting. The group I mentioned were in a 1/2 acre SE Asian forest exhibit; a poor substitute for the real thing, but quite impressive after closing, as darkness set in.

      Best, Frank

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About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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