Ten Terrific Tokay Facts

Anyone who has lived in, visited or even just passed through Southeast Asia will have seen at least one gecko during their stay. At night, geckos will scuttle across walls and roofs near lights taking advantage of the bounty of flying insects that the lights attract.

There are more than 70 species of gecko in Thailand and their colouration size and shape vary greatly but out of all of them my favourite has to be the beautiful gargantuan Tokay geckos.

So, lets take a look at ten terrific Tokay Facts:

1. Tokay Geckos (Gekko gecko) are the largest gecko species in South-East Asia and the 2nd largest species of gecko in the world. They can reach up to lengths of over 40cm!tok32. Tokay Geckos are quite a widespread species and can be found in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and throughout Southeast Asia (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Philipines, and Indonesia)

3. Tokay geckos, like many gecko species don’t have eyelids, so how do they keep their eyes clean you may ask.  Although they lack an eyelid their eyes are not totally unprotected, they have a clear covering over their eyes called a brille. The brille helps to keep their eyes protected and free of dust, and as an extra measure they are able to lick their eyes to help keep them really clean.

tok14. Tokays, like many other lizard species are capable of jettisoning their tail if they feel threatened, but this isn’t their only line of defense. If you get too close to a Tokay it will turn to face you, gape its mouth and begin to make a series of barks and squawks. If their bizzare vocal performance doesn’t scare you away they will can give a nasty bite and once they bite…………….they hold on (like, really hold on!).

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5.Their common name is derived from their distinctive call which resembles a tok tok tok tok dtock-ayy. To do the sound justice you’ll have to listen to it for yourself.

6.Tokays can climb up almost any surface; even glass!  They can also support their body weight with only a single toe. The secret to their amazing climbing feet is not that they’re sticky but that they have millions of microscopic hairs that bond with whatever surface they are climbing up.

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7. Every country that is home to these huge geckos seems to have numerous beliefs and superstitions surrounding them. Here are a few from Thailand:

  • If you hear a tokay behind you as you are about to leave the house you shouldnt go out as it is a warning that something bad will happen to you. If it is infront  of you you can leave the house confidently.
  • Tokays are usually nocturnal, so if you hear ones call during the day,  it’s considered a warning of bad events.
  • If a tokay falls on you, they will stick to you and can only be removed by the sound of thunder. (Thais have a strange relationship with these little guys!)

8. Despite being seen as revolting and repellent creatures by some in Thailand Tokays and other gecko species play an important role in their ecosystem. Geckos help to control insect populations including those of locusts, mosquitos and cockroaches.

9. The sad news; tokays are collected for their meat and for use as traditional medicine in China and other Asian countries. Products made with Tokays have been claimed to increase strength and vitality and in the trade in Peninsular Malaysia there were even claims that they can even cure HIV/AIDS. The trade in Tokay geckos has caused a drastic decline in some of their populations. To give you an idea below is one of many traditional medicine shops in Vientianne, Laos that has shelves full of Tokay gecko products.

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10. Tokays have flaps of loose skin on their sides which they can flatten against what ever surface they are resting on. This prevents them from casting a shadow which helps them to blend in with their environment more convincingly. (notice the loose skin around the head and torso)phone-pics-192

Living in Thailand means that they’re are plenty of opportunities to see these magnificent lizards and all of the photos above are my own. The close ups are as a result of having to catch and relocate geckos that had come into our house. Having a gecko in your hand, or wrapped in a tea towel (to avoid painful bites) presents some unique opportunites to get up close and personal with them and I never get bored of looking at these stunning creatures.

I hope you enjoyed reading  this post. If there are any other animals from Thailand you would like to see a facts list for please let me know and I’ll do my best to do another list.

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5 thoughts on “Ten Terrific Tokay Facts

  1. There is a persistent belief in Thailand that there is a symbiotic relationship between the gecko and a common green snake. Many Thais claim the snake eats an organ in the geckos throat that grows too large and with the geckos cooperation helps the geckos survival. I don’t buy it, but wondered if you’ve heard about this?

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    • I have heard some similar stories and one that claims that their liver problems are the source of their call and also Thai mothers telling children if you don’t behave the Tokays will eat your liver

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  2. I’m so glad you found me, these are great tokay facts 🙂

    NASA is also apparently studying them (geckos in general, I think) in an attempt to mimic their amazing abiity to stick to any surface.

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