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thorrshamri
02-28-2007, 10:47 PM
Captive care and breeding of the Mossy Leaf-Tail Gecko :

-Uroplatus sikorae sikorae ,BOETTGER 1913
-Uroplatus sikorae sameiti ,BOHME & IBISCH 1990

By Hervé Saint Dizier ,Caen ,France

http://img237.imageshack.us/img237/7489/femelleuroplatussikoraeyw7.jpg (http://imageshack.us)

Above:one of my females

Taxonomy :

Class :Reptilia ,Order :Squamata ,Sub-order :Sauria ,Infra –Order :Gekkonomorpha ,Micro-order :Gekkota ,Family :Gekkonidae ,Tribus :Gekkonini ,Genus :Uroplatus

Introducing both subspecies and their biotope :

The genus Uroplatus is endemic to Madagascar and the coastal islands .The nominal subspecies inhabits the remaining patches of the Eastern rainforest at an average altitude of 3,000 feet .These luxuriant primary rainforests have a very damp climate with rather cool temperatures (average 70°F ,mean range 35-80°F) .There is an alternance of a “dry and cool” season and of a “rainy and warm” one (November-March) ,mating taking place during the first weeks of the latter .The subspecies sameiti ,dwelling on the coastal island of Nosy Bohara ,is exposed to a constantly damp climate (hygrometry above 80%)and to slightly higher temperatures ,in the low 80s .It is thus a little more tolerant to heat peaks in the vivarium .These geckoes rest on tree trunks during the day ,their legs stretched alongside the body and their heads generally oriented downwards .Their dermal flaps all along the body and legs give them a perfect and shadeless camouflage ,along with their basic brown-grey colour enhanced by lichen- or moss-like patches with various hues of green ,grey ;even yellow ,orange or red on some individuals .Their patterns are unique and there is no individual perfectly similar to the other .Furthermore ,The colour and pattern of the young seem totally independant from those of the parents (F.CAVY ,pers.comm.).Their mimicry with rough bark is absolutely stunning ,males tend to be more bark-like than females .They are active at night ,jumping on moving prey in a quite spectacular manner .

Uroplatus sikorae is a mid-size uroplatus (average SVL 4 to 5 inches ,total length up to 8 inches for the sameiti subspecies ).It has a broad mouth enabling it to swallow large prey items ,a long ,rounded snout ,big protudent eyes with a yellowish mottled iris pattern and a vertical cat-like pupil .The eyes are often lined with a bright yellow circle .Endolymphatic calcium sacs are commonly seen in captive individuals .The tail is flat ,leaf-like ,made of dermal tissue and counting for about 40% TL .They can throw off the tail completely ,always the entire tail but never a part of it as some other geckoes do ,in order to escape some threat ,but it never regrows as the original .The belly is often spoted with black tiny points and brick red hues are not uncommon .The body has a “triangular” section being dorsoventrally flattened ,legs are stout enough to enable it to jump quite far and fingers end up with rounded “adhesive” structures made of microscopic hair called setae .

Sexing the adults is unproblematic,as the males display huge hemipenal bulges .There are no femoral pores on this species .

U.sikorae sikorae and U.sikorae sameiti can be distinguished by the colour of their buccal mucous membrane :it is black in the nominal subspecies and pink for U.s.sameiti .It is said (SVATEK and VAN DUIN ,2001) that some individuals in the area of Montagne d’Ambre (Northern Madagascar )reach lengths of 9 inches ,thus building up a “giant morph” .

Longevity in good captive conditions may reach 7 years .

Acclimatation

Uroplatus sikorae is a very delicate species ,especially as regards humidity and temperature .It simply does not stand high temperatures ,and a fast death can be expected if exposed to more than 80°F for only a few hours .Wild-caught specimens are also heavily loaded with a broad variety of parasites .Amoebas are treated with metronidazole ,coccidia with sulfamides ,intestinal worms with Vitaminthe for puppies and kittens .A fecal sample should be taken to the closest vet laboratory on the first day of arrival ,to identify the nature of the parasites and the appropriate treatment .

Each newly bought specimen should be individually quarantined for a month at least and rehydrated with frequent spraying of the vivarium .Bio-Mist (T-Rex )spray may also help .

These animals are particularly subject to stress ,and handling them is definitely not a good idea .They are good display lizards but handling should be strictly limited to necessary operations like a veterinarian treatment .Too much stress unavoidably kills them on the short term .

Although cohabitation with other species does not sound a good idea ,small tree frogs in the vivaria like Mantella sp (a Madagascan genus).can be helpful to eat wandering crickets which have been ignored by the Uroplatus .I have experienced this with Hyla cinerea ,with no health problem for both ,they avoided also the accumulation of dead rotting crickets in hidden spots of the tropical vivarium .

I undeline that males are not aggressive towards others of their gender ,thus they can be housed together with females without any risk of aggression .

http://img291.imageshack.us/img291/7029/sikoraecoupleto0.jpg (http://imageshack.us)

Vivarium

Glass tanks taller than they are long are perfectly suited for Uroplatus .I kept a trio in a 32x16x32 terrarium .Ventilations should be sufficient to prevent dampness stagnation and the apparition of mould and rot ,but care should be taken not to allow the vivarium to dry up too much during the day .

The substrate is made of a bottom layer of small clay balls or vermiculite to retain humidity and drain excess water at the same time .Expansed coconut fibers ,or sterilized peat ,makes up the second layer .On the top of the substrate ,dead leaves and rainforest moss with different colours are arranged and flattened so as to prevent crickets from hiding under them .Chestnut tree dead leaves make an excellent optical effect .As uroplatus vividly dive on prey ,no stone ,nor hard or sharp item should be present in the enclosure .

Decoration must include several rough cork bark pieces arranged vertically ,climbing branches about an inch diameter ,preferably with mosses and lichens on them .

Plants like bromeliads ,orchids ,live moss ,small ficus species should also be used to retain humidity and to provide the animals with suitable egg-laying sites .Grey lichens (Usnea sp.)which hang from tree branches found in the SE of United States forests are an excellent visual complement .

A small fountain with a pump ,the sort of which can be found in a decoration shop,is a good idea .I never leave a cup of stagnant water in the vivarium nor do I use misting units which give off a warmed mist .A cold misting device can nevertheless be used ,and it is both pleasant for the animals and ofr the optical pleasure of the keeper .

A neon tube with 5% UVB is ,in my opinion ,useful at least for the plants and I am convinced that the animals receive a non-negligible UV dose while resting on tree trunks at daytime in the wild .So it seems accurate to provide them with UV light in captivity too .It will also create a very localised “basking spot”,appreciated by gravid females for instance .Day-and night rythm should be 13 hours of lighting and 11 hours of darkness in he “hot and wet” season ,the reverse during the resting “dry” period .

Heating devices are perfectly useless if the vivarium is kept inside a house or a flat ,they are on top of that dangerous for the animals .If the reptile room is very cold ,8 to 15W heating carpets arranged vertically outside the reptiles environment can be used .The whole installation should also be kept away from everything that dries up the atmosphere like radiators .Above 80°F ,the Uroplatus face a thermic stress ,deadly temperatures begin at about 85°F .The ideal day range is 69-73°F and 60-67°F at night during most of the year ,and 78°F is fine in summer .

An Uroplatus exposed to high temperatures is unavoidably condemned to death .

If the reptile room is too hot in summer ,computer 6 volts fans can be arranged on the outside part of the ventilations .They can be coupled to a thermostat starting the fans at about 76°F .The fans can be found in computer shops for a low cost and they need to be coupled with 110 or 220V->6V transformers .For U.s.sameiti ,temperatures should range from 76-82°F during the day and in the low 70s at night .This can be reached by night “black light” low wattage bulbs with a fine mesh protection or a heating mat arranged in the outside of the back pannel .

The vivarium should be sprayed twice daily ,in the early hours of the morning and in the evening as lights are switched off .Spraying must be abundant but it is not a good idea to turn the substrate into a swamp .The ground should never be soaked .Animals only drink in this way and can be directly sprayed with a hand sprayer as used for house plants .Hygrometry should slowly go down during the day and coming to a peak again at night .Uroplatus with insufficient humidity soon dehydrate and meet severe shedding troubles :it is much better to avoid this than risking the death of the animals by stress after a bath to remove the exuvia or starvation because they cannot hunt any longer .

Food and Feeding

Uroplatus sikorae are mainly insect-eaters .Dead prey will never be accepted ,as far as my experience goes .For lean animals or gravid females ,a living pink mice a month is benefic .They also love small snails and can thus absorb the calcium from snail shells ,which is good for pregnant females or just after egg-laying .As I live in France ,it is not difficult to ask a snake breeder for a few juveniles ,but care should be taken if the snails are collected in an environment sprayed with pesticides .The best size for snails is around ½ inch (shell diameter) .

All food insects are properly gut-loaded and given every two days .I don’t use a feeding dish ,I prefer leaving the insects wandering in the vivarium or giving them with tweezers .They are generously coated with Miner-All I on every feeding and every fornight I add extra vitamins in a small amount .Young ****roaches (Gromphadorrhina portentosa ) are among the natural preys in the wild and are helpful if the geckoes are reluctant to eat during the first weeks (P.Gerard ,1999 ).The basic “meal” is 2-4 adult crickets per individual .Bimaculatus ,grasshoppers ,****roaches ,waxmoths larvae ,morios are equally accepted and i tend to vary the type of insects as much as possible in order to avoid the animals to become weary of their cricket diet .Uroplatus are voracious eaters once acclimated and should be somehow restricted if they happen to grow too fat .

Breeding

Juvenile:

http://img237.imageshack.us/img237/8254/monbbsikoraemn4.png (http://imageshack.us)

As I previously said ,courtship begins shortly after the beginning of the rise of temperatues and humidity .A resting period in the winter month (for the North hemisphere ) is therefore necessary ,as well as for the welfare of the animals .Mating is gentle and I did not witness any biting from males .Tails are put under one another and the whole lasts about one or two hours ,always in the evening after the lights have been switched off .

There are 3 to 5 clutches a year ,and amphigonia retardata enable the females to be fertilized for several clutches .Eggs are either buried in the substrate ,or in the pots holding the plants ,and are rather soft-shelled ,about ¾ inch long ,and bright white .Female roll them between their hind feet to make earth particles adhere to their surface ,and they do not make a small mound to bury them .So the hand of the hobbyist should search regularly in the substrate for eggs .Clutches occur at a 4-6 weeks interval and females should be well-fed (snails ,pink mice )and supplemented with high doses of calcium afterwards .Eggs ,without being turned ,are transfered with care into an incubator as they are very fragile .Young females tend to lay a single egg but two is the common rule .The incubator is made of a plastic cricket box filled with small clay granulate (my favourite ) or vermiculite ,laid on a weak-powered heating device (carpet or cable ) ,15W is sufficient .Eggs are half-buried in the substrate which must be very wet .Heating is stopped at night for 10 hours and during the day the incubation temperature vary from 72 to 78°F and a constant hygrometry of 85%-90% .It is harmful for the eggs to receive drops from condensation,so a system inside the box with sloping plastic surfaces driving the condensation water in the bottom of the box is useful .Babies hatch after an average incubation duration of 75-90 days .Their basic requirements are the same as for adults but they are extremely fragile ,measuring around 2 inches (SVL ) and should be transfered in 8x8x12 inches individual terrariums for a better monitoring of their health and growth .They are not offered vitamins until 3 months old and their basic diet is made of small crickets coated with Miner-All I and sometimes tiny snails offered every evening .They are even more vulnerable to the lack of humidity and high temperatures than the adults ,so it is better to keep them under 75°F .They should not be sold in the hobbyist market before attaining 4 inches TL and being regular eaters .

Male :

http://img139.imageshack.us/img139/1773/sikoraemalehs8.jpg (http://imageshack.us)

Legal status

Since October 2004 ,all Uroplatus species are considered as endangered by the Washington Convention ,thus being classified as Annex II of the treaty .For all imports ,a CITES number is necessary ,except within the European Union countries .Captive-bred specimens should always be bought with a bill mentionning the name and address of the breeder .The European regulations also place it in Annex B of the UE 338/97 law and its statutory order 990/97 .

Résumé

Uroplatus sikorae’s both subspecies are attractive and popular among gecko hobbyists but one should keep in mind they are fragile and endangered animals ,so captive breeding must be a priority ,i.e. it does not make any sense buying a single animal .Beginners should avoid this species .The keys to a successful maintenance and breeding are :low temperatures ,a resting period ,high humidity ,removing parasites shortly after the purchase and a varied diet ,even though they are easily fed with a variety of preys .They should be offered an arboreal vivarium which can be a very esthetic piece in the reptile room .They are exceedingly suceptible to stress and shun handling at a high degree .A 1:2 or 2:3 breeding group will be a solid basis for the establishment of a long-term breeding project .High mortality in captivity should not turn away real passionnates of this outstanding gecko .

I would like to thank personally Kanopy ,an Uroplatus breeder who has become a kind friend and respected advisor for my animals ,Neil Meister and John Rudge from the GGA for their kind and precious help ,and Karine Delaby who shares my life and my passion for animals .

Bibliography :

-F.W.HENKEL and W.SCHMIDT ,Geckoes ,Krieger Publ .,Malabar ,FL ,USA ,1995
-H. SEUFER ,Geckos,TFH 1991
-S.SVATEK and S.VAN DUIN ,Leaf-tail Geckoes :the genus Uroplatus ,Brahmer Verlag ,Hildesheim, 2001
-P.GERARD , L’élevage des geckos diurnes et des Uroplatus ,Ed.Philippe Gérard ,Paris 1999

© By Hervé Saint Dizier/Thorrshamri 2005-06,all rights reserved,for my forum : http://dragonsdasgard.actifforum.com/index.forum