Long-legged geckos of Vietnam

(No.11, Vol.4,Dec 2014 Vietnam Heritage Magazine)

Most of the Goniurosaurus geckos of Vietnam live in deep caves in the limestone mountains of Vietnam. They are nocturnal animals, with very large eye apertures, capturing as much light as possible in order to see their predators and prey.
Vietnamese herpetologists differentiate them from ordinary geckos by their distinctly bulging eyelids. Their popular name in English is leopard geckos, because their skin has colourful spots like those of leopards.
Apart from their long legs, these geckos are also blessed with a stylish ornamental coat, beautiful in every detail. Their original tail only swells a little at the base, but as new a tail grows to replace a lost one, it swells more than usual. These regenerated tails are a very interesting feature peculiar to this group of reptiles. They regenerate not only the bones, muscles and blood vessels but also the nerve subsystem.Because of their proud glamour, these beauty queens are victims of illegal poaching, captured to be sold to China as pets. There are five main varieties.

1.Huu Lien geckos
(Goniurosaurus huulienensis)

Photo: Phung My Trung

These geckos are found at about 300-400m above sea level, in the lime stone mountains of Lang Son Province. The Huu Lien gecko’s body is 108-117 mm long, with a dark brown back, a cream or orange stripe at the nape of the neck, three stripes between front and back limbs, one stripe right behind the back limbs and three to four stripes on the tail, and the tip of the tail is sometimes creamy or white. This is the second kind of gecko discovered in Vietnam in 2008, after the Goniurosaurus catbaensis that were announced recently.

2.Cat Ba geckos
(Goniurosaurus catbaensis)

Photo: Phung My Trung

Their thin body is 84-111mm long. The brown back has grey stripes and a multitude of dense yellow spots along the sides; the scales are of grainy type. These geckos live in rock slits and caves of the cliffs in Cat Ba biosphere near Hai Phong. They were discovered and announced in May 2008. To date, they are known to be found only in Cat Ba Island and believed to exist only in Vietnam.

3.Luii geckos (Goniurosaurus luii)

Photo: Phung My Trung

Their bright body is a mix of chocolate brown with black and orange stripes. The tail is black and white. They live in rock slits and caves on the lime stone cliffs of Trung Khanh, Cao Bang Province. They have been confirmed to exist in Vietnam and were announced in November 2005.

4.Lichtenfel geckos
(Goniurosaurus lichtenfelderi)

Photo: Phung My Trung

Their dark violet body and tail have five white or yellow stripes of equal width that extend only to the stomach. Blood red eyes lined with palpebras of almost the same colour make them stand out. These geckos live not in lime stone mountains of Northern Vietnam, but on low earthen hills.

5.Viet geckos (Goniurosaurus araneus)

With a dirt yellow body and six brown stripes on their back, these geckos are a signature of Cao Bang Province of Vietnam. In their Latin name, ‘aranea’ means spider, because their skinny form and long limbs make them look like spiders. The eyes are red brown. Goniurosaurus araneus are recognized among geckos by a thin line of scales on their back. They live mostly in rocky caves.

Text by Phung My Trung

Text by Phung My Trung
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