Ptenopus kochi, Koch's (Namibian) barking geckoMUG

The systematics of the Ptenopus genus is still to be studied carefully, beyond the three existing species, as there are noticeable differences inside the same species, some individuals being parthenogenic, some others having males which do not vocalize (Jon Boone, pers. comm.). This is a rare species, endemic to the deserts of Namibia, often found in colonies of several tens of individuals, each gecko occupying an individual, deep (up to 10 ft) burrow.  They often use burrows made by small rodents, but have powerful, muscled rear legs particularly adapted to burrowing.

There are watchers in the colony, vocalizing at the slightest alert, and all other barking geckos will instantly go baptenopus kochi2ck to the depths of their burrows.  They are mostly nocturnal, but are also active at dawn and dusk, and may sometimes b e found foraging for prey during daytime. In the wild, they are often gathered near dry riverbeds or near termite mounds, where a relative humidity can be found.  They are the largest of Ptenopus, adults are about 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 inches full length. Males have orange-yellow throats and do vocalize very loudly.

Females lay single eggs. They are not easy to sex until they reach their full size, and some parthenogenic females were recorded. They have short snouts with nostrils on top, rounded and plump bodies, but no bulges, an adaptation to their sand dune biotope.  They have eyelids, though they are not taxonomically considered as "eyelid geckos".  They have powerful jaws and eat a variety of prey in the wild.  Their cousins P. garrulus do pose major issues to keepers as for feeding, they would tend to ignore crickets after a while as their diet is mostly based on termites in the wild.  P. kochi do not pose such problems and will readily accept any fast-moving insect.  One interesting fact when they forage for prey is that they can run as fast forwards than backwards! 

In captivity, I do not recommend handling them at all, they seem to be particularly prone to handling stress. They are ptenopus kochivery hardy though, and voracious eaters.  A common mistake is to house them in numbers.  House them in pairs, this will avoid mutual aggressions.  PVC tubes can be used as artificial burrows, and it is not only useless but also more complicated when it comes to egg-spotting to offer them a too deep layer of sand.  A one inch thick layer is absolutely fine.  UVB lights are not necessary, but cannot harm.  They do need small drinking vessels, a light spraying every 4 to 6 days at night will be enough to keep them properly hydrated. 

Feed juveniles every day, adults 2 to 3 times weekly.  They are best kept in PVC containers without any light, to simulate the conditions in their burrows they need CONSTANT temps from 82 to 88°F with little variation and no night time cooling. Total darkness is also one of the keys, along with a THIN (1 inch) layer of sand.  Do not keep them too hot, this is another common mistake.   Make the decoration of their enclosures as simple as possible; plants will not last long as these geckos will unearth their roots.  Along with PVC tubes, you can use flat rocks as shelters, or pieces of cork bark oak -the latter are safer because they will not crush the geckos shelteting under them.  Ptenopus kochi are not shy, and will readily come out at feeding time. 

They are a pleasant species to watch.  They are still quite expensive and rare, but they do deserve advanced keepers to acquire a small breeding group so as to make the species more accessible.


Hervé Saint-Dizier



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