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BION Events Henkel's leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus henkeli)

Henkel's leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus henkeli)

Keeping and breeding at BION Terrarium Center

DESCRIPTION, DISTRIBUTION AND BIOLOGY

Henkel’s leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus henkeli (Böhme, 1990) is one of the biggest species of the genus. Its SVL is 120–190 mm, TL is 70–100 (total length 260–290 mm). Juveniles have total length of about 85–90 mm. The overall build of these animals is rather flattened. Head is comparatively large and flattened and terminates in a long, pointed snout.

Uroplatus henkeli male and female. Main distinguishing features are shown.

Average number of supralabial scales is 28– 40 (Angel, 1942). Females are larger than males. Males are easy to sex thanks to their hemipenal bulges. (Svatek, van Duin, 2001). They have adapted very well to their natural surroundings and the secret lifestyle. A dermal fringe runs the length of their bodies alongside of their lowers jaws giving them what appears to be a “beard”. This “beard” masks the edge of the gecko’s body making it completely invisible while sitting silently on a tree trunk or a branch. They are highly variable in patterning and coloration. Even individuals from different locations can have a very different color and/or pattern. It is suggested that Ur. henkeli is a complex including various species (http://uroplatus.info/archives/54).

Uroplatus henkeli morphs. Regular, “piebald” and “color” morphs are shown.

However this suggestion is still discussable and U. henkeli is still monolithic species. The background color of the species is a light brown with a faint pattern of speckling. Animals can be seen with a lot more melanin or be very blotchy with all kinds of brown and yellowish shades to match the bark of the trees they hide on. There are also a lot of individuals with a lot of white or black speckles, especially on their head. Those specimens that demonstrate wide white crossbands along the body are called “piebalds” or “piebs”. A piebald or pied animal is one that has a pattern of unpigmented spots (white) on a pigmented background of hair, feathers or scales (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piebald). Animals of such piebald morph are of high value among  hobbyists and tend to be the most desirable individuals of the species in the international reptiles’ market. We call the morph with deep brown or orange speckles, spinal lines or chocolate spots – “color” morph. These geckos change their coloration depending on the part of the day. At daytime they imitate pieces of bark on tree trunks. But they show extremely contrast patterns at night. Even their eyes become orange or red in the dark.

They are nocturnal animals. They are the most active for the first 2-3 hours after sunset. They mate and forage during this time. During the day they attach themselves to a tree or branch often with their head down, relying on their supreme camouflage (https://www.supremegecko.com/uroplatus-henkeli-care-sheet).

Uroplatus henkeli night coloration.

Like other leaf-tailed geckos this species is endemic to Madagascar. Their natural range is very fragmented. U. henkeli stretches from the Montagne d’Ambre to Ankarafantsika and Bemaraha on the mainland. Their typical locality is situated in the Lokobe Forest (D’Cruze N. et al., 2008). They prefer lowland rainforest habitats where they will live on tree trunks, branches and fines often no more than 1.5 till 2 meters (4,9 – 6,5 ft) from the ground. Thin trunks have their preference that measure between 3 to 6 cm (1,2 – 3,4 in). Madagascar is a country with deforestation being a major problem for its biodiversity. This makes habitat loss a main problem for surviving of this species. As a consequence it is harder for the wild populations to migrate and mix genes (Böhme, 2014).

In captivity they are calm but can get stressed out easily when handled, so one should try to avoid any unnecessary contact or handling. When threatened they will use their broad flat tail as a distraction, pointing it upwards and wagging it side to side. When this does not help they will raise themselves upwards so they look a lot bigger and open the mouth in a treat display. If you do need to handle this species it is best to let them walk on a branch or hand and move them. Only grab them when it is absolutely needed (https://www.hetterrarium.com/en_GB/a-46451102/info-lizards/uroplatus-henkeli-info-care/).  

Due to mass deforestation and loss of their natural habitat as well as poaching they have IUCN Status indicated as “Vulnerable” (https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/178653/7589062), The species is also listed in CITES Ap. II. Therefore development of breeding methods and creation of ex situ populations is extremely important (Dubyna et al., 2019) for conservation of the species. 

KEEPING AT BION TERRARIUM CENTER

Keeping. We keep adults in pairs or separately at 75*70*45cm (29,5*27,5*17,7 in) terrariums. Babies are kept at terrariums or plastic lunch boxes of 25*25*25 cm (5,9*5,9*5,9 in). The decoration of the terrarium includes horizontal and vertical thin branches, lianas and living or artificial plants. Substrate - crushed small pieces of bark with layer of dry oak leaves. Paper towel with a box of wet coconut substrate as moist chamber is also an option. Water dish is obligatory.

Lighting. Zoo Med 5 UVB lamp is used during breeding season for 10-14 hours per day; during winter dormancy – for 4 - 6 hours per day.  

Temperature. Daytime temperature is +24 - +26 °C, at night – +19 – +21 °C. Heating with 40W incandescent lamp is used only during wintering months to maintain daytime temperature. During breeding season we use no heating source. UVB is important for successful breeding. 

Humidity. Humidity level is maintained at 75-90% with double spraying (morning and evening) during the day.

Diet. Diet for adults contains Turkestan cockroaches (Shelfordella tartara), and crickets (Jamaican field crickets (Gryllus assimilis) and Mediterranean field cricket (Gryllus bimaculatus). Locusts and soft-shelled snails are used as additional food and treats, which are given 1-2 times per month. We offer 2–3 insects per head 1–2 times per week. If the animal shows signs of obesity, the frequency of feeding is reduced to 1 time per 2 weeks.

It is strictly recommended not to use wild caught insects. Sometimes if an animal is still hungry we can offer one or two additional feeding items. We offer soft-shelled snails for females during ovogenesis. All insects should be gut loaded and dusted with vitamin-mineral supplementation every other feeding. Sepia or cuttlefish “bone” powder works well as a source of calcium. Insects are dusted with it prior to the feeding session. We gutload the insects with fruit, greens and vegetables and sometimes bee pollen as an additional source of vitamins and bioactive elements.

Diet for babies is the same as for adults. We use insects of appropriate size. We offer 3 insects per head 2–3 times a week before age of 1.5 months; 3 insects per head 1–2 times a week after age of 1.5 months. We add mineral supplements "Repashy" with D3 with every second feeding. 

BREEDING AND RAISING AT BION TERRARIUM CENTER 

Winter dormancy is necessary for successful breeding. Animals are placed inside individual terrariums (females cannot be kept in groups – only separately) with paper as a substrate. After placing the animals in a special laboratory, the temperature, spraying intensity (from 2 to 1 session per day) and daylight hours (by 1.5-2 hours per week) decrease within 2 weeks. Temperatures during wintering are as follows: +19 - +21 °C at daytime and +18 - +19 °С at night. It is necessary to ensure that there are no signs of dehydration (twisted tail, clavicles visible, protruding hip bones).

 

We provide 4 lighting hours per day. Winter dormancy lasts for 2,5-3 months. We offer 1 low-fat insect per head, 1 time a week. Winter withdrawal algorithm is reverse to input and lasts for 2 weeks. After that we form pairs. One should keep an eye on the female since she might be aggressive towards the male. In such case the pair should be re-formed and another male should be placed with the female. Copulation lasts for up to 40 minutes. Males’ typical mating behavior includes head bobbing, tail waving, licking of female’s legs, tail and back. After every clutch females become receptive for mating again. They usually mate during the first 5-7 days after the making a clutch. Sometimes females lay infertile eggs or so-called “slugs”. They usually attach these eggs to the branches of walls of the terrarium. Sometimes these “slugs” are consumed by a female. Presence of “slugs” means that copulation took place too late and the fertilization of the eggs failed.

However at the same time it means that female’s  ovogenesis cycle is going in normal mode. If the pair is kept together, new copulation will take place soon after female lay 2 “slugs” and the next clutch will contain 2 perfect fertile eggs.

U. henkeli gain sexual maturity at the age of 24–30 months. Breeding season lasts from April to September. Females lay from 2 to 4 clutches per season (1–2 eggs in each). Females lay eggs in the substrate and cover them with dry foliage or substrate. After laying female usually holds each egg under the tail for several minutes and rolls it with her hind legs and tail. The aim of such behavior remains unclear.

Gestation period is from 30 to 40 days and depends on the female. The eggs are transferred to the incubator without changing polarity. A small recess is made in vermiculite and each egg is placed in such a recess individually at no more than 2/3 eggs’ height depth. The eggs are incubated on vermiculite or “Seramis” substrate at +21 - +22 °C at night and +22 - +26 °C at day. Humidity is 75-85%. Incubation period is 120 – 140 days. 

We keep juveniles separately. All keeping requirements are identical to those for adults. For the first 6 months plastic lunchboxes with ventilation, paper towel, water dish and thin branches work well. Hatchlings normally shed within a couple of days after hatching. If a baby cannot shed on its own, you can help it by tearing the linear peel on its face. But as a rule, most of these animals are weak and do not survive to reproductive age. Babies usually eat the shed skin. We believe that it is essential for appropriate functioning of digestive system. 

 

Literature

1.. Böhme W, Ibisch PL. 1990. Studien an Uroplatus. I. Der Uroplatus fimbriatus-Komplex. Salamandra 26 (4): 246–259.

2.. Sacha Svatek and Susanna van Duin. 2001. Leaf-tailed geckos – the Genus Uroplatus. Brahmer-Verlag, 161 p. Germany.

3.. Dubyna Anastasiia, Tkachev Dmitri, Neizhko Ivan, Nekrasova Oksana, Marushchak Oleksiі // Development of breeding techniques in herpetoculture as an approach to leaftailed geckos' (Gekkonidae, Uroplatus) conservation // Abstract book of 62nd International Conference for students of physics and natural sciences “Open Readings 2019” on March 19-22? Vilnius, Lithuania. – Vilnius. – 2019 – P. 467.

4.. D’Cruze, N.; Köhler, J.; Franzen, M and Glaw, F. 2008. A conservat ion assessment of the amphibians and reptiles of the Forêt d’Ambre Special Reserve, north Madagascar, Madagascar conservation & development, 44-54 pp.

5.. Bauer A. M. 2013. Geckos - The Animal Answer Guide. Johns Hopkins University Press, 159 pp.

6.. Böhme, Wolfgang 2014. Herpetology in Bonn. Mertensiella 21. vi + 256 pp.

7.. Angel, F. 1942. Les Lézards de Madagascar, Mem. Acad. Malagache: Tananarive XXXVI, 193 pp.

8.. https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/178653/7589062

9.. http://uroplatus.info/archives/54

10.. https://www.hetterrarium.com/en_GB/a-46451102/info-lizards/uroplatus-henkeli-info-care/

11.. https://www.supremegecko.com/uroplatus-henkeli-care-sheet