Keeping Reptiles Newsletter
  Issue 5 May 2007
Giant geckos and global warming In this Issue

I was reading an article on the giant geckos found in New  Caledonia and the surrounding islands (rhacodactylus leachianus,  commonly called 'leachies'), the other day and reflecting on a  few things that occurred to me.

baby leachie

These geckos grow to about 14 inches (360mm), live for up to 20  years in captivity and are often considered to be the largest  geckos in the world. They feed on fruits and insects on the islands. They tend to have no natural predators on the islands, but the introduction of rats on many of these islands poses a danger to them. They are considered an example of island gigantism, much like the dodo and Galápagos giant tortoise. They are heavy bodied and the skin looks like it is loose on them. They are a really interesting animal and one I had not heard of before.

The locals call them 'the devil in the trees' as they live in holes within the trees and make a growling noise. While I was reading the article, which was concerned about their potential extinction from predators and human encroachment and what could be done to protect them, it occurred to me that there was another threat posed to them.

After recently watched 'An Inconvenient Truth' I was once again reminded of the fragility of eco-systems, even those as large as the planet. I have been watching the evidence on global warming for over 20 years now, since I was first introduced to it as a student, and my observation is that as the evidence has grown,  almost all of it has reinforced the original premise that there is a severe and very real threat to our lifestyles and environment due to increases in the average temperature of the earth's atmospheric temperature.

Actually Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius first proposed this back in 1896 while observing the industrial revolution but it was largely ignored at the time. I know there are skeptics but I find it difficult to ignore pumping over a trillion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and not expecting some sort of change, frivolous and solar luminosity, that is put forward  by some as a reason for climate changes should be dismissed as  it currently shows no upward or downward trends.

 Aside from issues such as peak oil, due to occur in about 20 years time or thereabouts, the melting and reduction of the large ice masses, such as Antarctica and Greenland will cause a rise in the world's oceans. Indeed, this is already causing problems in places like Tuvalu, which is only about 3 ft above sea level for most of the island, Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, Chesapeake Bay and Venice to name a few.

It occurred to me that this also poses a threat to animals such as leachianus, as they are also found on low lying islands around New Caledonia, many of them uninhabited and some as small as a football field. Clearly rising sea levels will severely impact on the size of these outlying islands and hence the amount of available food and the range of the animals, leading to potential extinction of some of the sub-species.

This is but one example of the impact of this potentially catastrophic change. There are probably hundreds more that we that we have not considered or are obscure and perhaps even  unknown.

It's not all doom and gloom as we can still do something to reverse our carbon and resource usage but there should be a sobering reality creeping in our lives to remind us about what we do on a daily basis. Little things that we each can do to reduce our impact and footprint on the planet should become part of our daily regimen.


  1. Giant geckos and global warming
  2. Looking after Flying Snakes
  3. In the News
  4. Tell Us What You Think
  5. Feedback and Updating


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Looking after Flying Snakes

I recently asked Michelle Nash, a regular contributor, how she cares for her flying snake.

These snakes are not commonly kept but I have had some requests about their care and I thought it would be useful to produce this article as it demonstrates how someone who is an experienced herp keeper looks after this interesting snake.

About the flying snake, well, let's see. I can tell you some things about how I care for mine (it's been a year now I think). She has a good size cage that offers nice vertical climbing branches & silk-plant foliage. (cage dimensions being 1.5 ft deep, 2.5 ft wide, and 4 ft tall - get out your metric converter, I'm feeling lazy ;) She has her mercury vapor
basking light up there and definitely makes use of it, even with the small undertank heat pad in one corner of the floor.

I leave the heat pad on 24/7 but only have the mercury vapor light on a timer for about 13-14 hours a day. She has a water dish of course, deep enough to immerse herself and small enough to feel snug in (about 4.5 inches diameter & 2 inches deep), a nice hide
log that she never uses LOL - my guess is it's probably too roomy for her liking because she used to hide in the little hide- cave I was using before, and it was a snug fit. When she's not hanging out in the upper basking spot after eating, she seems to prefer hiding in-between the layers of newspaper in the bottom of the cage.

The temp. at the closest spot under the basking lamp is 96° F, and similar in the corner of the floor with the under tank heat pad. Other areas range around 72° F. Like I said, it's a large cage so there's quite a temperature variation. The cage has offset ventilation screens to create air movement (one vent on a wall up higher, the other vent on the opposite wall set lower so that hot air rises and escapes thru the upper vent which creates a vacuum to draw in cooler air down low) She spends a lot of time between the newspapers in the cooler area.

I add humidity a couple times a week by either misting heavily or sometimes I'm lazy and I just dump a cup of water across the newspapers where they can absorb it and it evaporates more slowly than when you mist the cage. I only dump water on the
newspaper because I am very fastidious with the newspapers on the floor. If they were left soiled, I wouldn't advise doing the water dumping because it would promote excess bacterial growth in the cage. If the papers are soiled I pull out all layers of newspaper that have any soiling stains. When the papers get to just a few left, I pull them out and do a sanitizing of the laminate flooring before adding all new newspaper. I use a lot of newspaper so the sanitizing only takes place about once a month. Interestingly, she does not seem to soil much on the foliage I have around her climbing branches. If she does soil on the silk foliage, I just remove the individual leaves that are soiled, wash them up and stick 'em back on the plastic vine.

I occasionally (once every 4-6 weeks) will offer her live gut- loaded anole lizards or house geckos, which she hunts with zeal (she has amazing eye sight and uses it to do her hunting as much, if not more, than her sense of smell). In between, I offer her frozen/thawed weanling mice, not quite full size mice, though she did take one of these once. She takes them in private, never when being observed. I just stick 'em between
the layers of newspaper wherever she happens to be hiding then leave. When I come back, they're gone. Before, when I had her in a smaller cage, I would dangle them in front of her favorite hiding cave (a very snug little cave for her), and she'd grab them and eat them in the cave, without concern for my presence, generally. I offer the mice about every 7 days and she seems to be holding her weight with these.

Here is a page of links on flying snake info that I found:

In the News

The relentless march of invasive species...

Disgusting - take a look at the bear video on the second page....

Some successes...

Tax dollars at work...these were called "flushables" many years
ago but they're baaack...

Smuggling - big money, sad tales, death and invasions.
I don't get it bt enough people must buy these animals to make
it worthwhile....



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