How to tame a Tokay Gecko
Gekko Gecko - The "Pit Bull" of the lizard world
The fierce reputation of the "Pit Bull" of lizards is well earned. They will not hesitate to bite the hand that feeds them, often grabbing on and refusing to let go despite all of your best efforts. Tokay's however are quite readily tamed to the point of being able to handle them free of gloves. I was first introduced to this notion while taking a tour of NERD where I saw owner and Kevin McCurley transform into the Tokay Whisperer. I almost couldn't believe my eyes when I watched him reach calmly into one of the lizard's cages, and pick up a beautiful morph without gloves and it hardly even barked at him, let alone tried to bite! Kevin spoke a little bit about how they are tamable it just takes patience and time.
A few weeks later I bought a tokay and committed to taming him down to the point of being able to handle him without having to use gloves. I learned a few things along the way.
- It will be 1 step forward and 4 steps back. Just when you think you've made progress you will get bit.
- Their bite is truly worse than their bark. If you're going to hand tame a tokay you'll get bit at some point. While it's not horribly painful it hurts.
- Murphy's law is in full effect when it comes to dealing with a tokay gecko and avoiding getting bit.
- Slow and deliberate movements are essential for your fingers to escape unscathed.
- They are faster than they look and not at all opposed to taking a flying leap.
- Don't try to handle them inside when you first start. You'll get bit, they'll run and then you get to spend a few hours trying to dig them out.
- Gloves are your best friend to start with.
- They are never truly trained. Yesterday mine was perched comfortably on my shoulder and when I turned my head he latched onto my ear. About 15 minutes later he decided he was ready to let go.
You read all that and wonder why anyone would want a Tokay gecko. They are great animals, with lots of personality not to mention beautiful. They are well worth the time it takes to tame them down, but you must remember they will never be "puppy dog" tame as that is not their nature.
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How to tame the Tokay
I mentioned before two things - slow deliberate movements and gloves. When you get ready to tame your Tokay these are essential. I'm not sure which is more important, but you'll need both to get very far.
Picking up the Tokay Gecko
When you pick up your gecko grab it just behind the front legs. Use a firm not crushing grip. It will squirm and try to get turned around to bite your hand. If you're not used to picking them up gloves are a good idea because you'll probably misjudge how determined they are to bite you.
Avoid grabbing the lizard by the tail. Like many of their cousins the Tokay has a special defense mechanism in which they drop their tail as a last ditched effort to escape the clutches of a predator.
Freedom to run
After you pick your lizard up hold very still and let it do what it wants. Chances are it will just hang there, terrified, from your glove (or arm) for a good 15 to 20 minutes and then suddenly let go. If you are inside it will let go and be off to the races climbing into or under something that is virtually impossible to get it out of. If you're outside (on the lawn preferably) you should be able to chase it down and pick it up before it get away. Once you pick it up again return it to it's cage for the day.
Skip a day
I handle my Tokay every other day. Even now when he can be free handed I find he is less jumpy if I take a break between handling him. But don't skip more than a day if you can help it. They revert back to their natural instincts of biting and be scared to death of you in very short order
Be patient and be consistent
Don't expect to have it tamed in one sitting. Some take longer than others but in general 8 to 12 days is an appropriate amount of time for it to take. Like I said before if you skip to many days working with the animal you'll lose a lot of progress you've made.
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