Tarentola (Geckonia) chazalia
One of my favorite gecko species is actually one which I no longer work with, but still get numerous inquiries about… the helmeted gecko. I worked with a small group of these geckos for about 6 or 7 years, hatching out approximately 20 - 30 offspring in that time. I enjoyed the bold attitude and angry looking appearance of this species. A few individuals actually had an attitude to match their appearance, but most were quite calm and quickly came to realize that my appearance in the gecko room meant food was coming. I eventually made the difficult decision to phase these out of my collection to make room for new projects, but they remain one of the most engaging species I have worked with, and I hope to eventually work with them again some day.
Most printed references still refer to this gecko species as Geckonia chazalia, but in the ever changing world of taxonomy, many are now referring to this species as Tarentola chazalia. Call it what you will, this small gecko has a unique and captivating look that makes it stand out from most others, as well as an engaging personality that makes it a perfect display animal. The prominent ridge of pointed scales extending from the back of the head gives this species its common name - helmeted gecko. They are a small, but sturdily built gecko with an adult length of 3” - 4” snout to tail. Hatchlings are small, but robust, and once past their initial shed, were usually quite easy to rear to adulthood. These geckos range from patternless tan to highly patterned with a nice contrast of brown, grey, and tan. Some individuals even have a stripe down the back. For someone looking for a selective breeding project, there is enough variability to open up some interesting possibilities.
Although the native habitat of this species in Northern Africa is harsh, dry desert, the microclimate of this species is subjected to regular dense fogs which create a surprisingly humid environment. When I first began working with this species I was told to keep them more humid than one would expect for a desert species. I lightly misted them most days, although I made sure that their environment had a chance to dry out between mistings.
While I found this species easy and enjoyable to keep, and I probably had as much success with them as anyone did during the time I was keeping them, I found them challenging to reproduce on a consistent basis, and never felt like I had them 100% figured out. My hatch rate was probably around 50%. In my best breeding season I probably produced about a dozen babies. In some years I produced none. Of the 20 - 30 babies hatched here at Ridge and Valley Reptiles over the years, there was a pretty high percentage of males produced. Others who are working with this species also report a lack of females in the hobby. Once in a while, some WC animals come into the country. If that happens again in the future, and I happen to have some cage space available at the time, I may just have to give these little blockheads another go.
Gary Hamann - Ridge and Valley Reptiles
all photos by the author