Protecting the Brilliant Psychedelic Rock Gecko

It’s got orange feet and an orange tail; a blue-grey body; and a lime green head. The psychedelic rock gecko, a small reptile native to only one island smalls off the coast of southern Vietnam, is endangered.

It was only described for the first time in scientific literature in 2010, but it has already made a splash in the pet trade. Online offers of live psychedelic rock geckoes and their eggs have driven these animals close to extinction. From 2013 to 2015, there were at least 21 different online ads for the colorful creature—mostly from Russia, but also a few from Germany, Spain, the Czech Republic, and the United States, according to a study earlier this year by Mark Auliya at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Germany. Auliya says he’s also seen young geckos being offered for sale as captive-bred, even though there are no known captive breeding facilities of these geckos.

To make matters worse, psychedelic rock geckos are really picky about where they live. They prefer granite outcrops surrounded by dense forest and a leaf-covered floor. But many of these granite formations are now being literally blasted away to make room for the construction of roads. Plus, they’re really slow to reproduce. All these factors combine to make them extra-sensitive to overcollection.

“The bright colors and endemicity of this species trigger international demand,” Auyliya says. “Any collecting must be considered detrimental to the long-term survival of the species.”

There are only about 500 to 700 left.

Today at the CITES conference, the geckos got some much needed help. It was added to CITES Appendix I, meaning that all international, commercial trade in the species is banned. The European Union and Vietnam put forward the proposal, which says, “ the discovery and description of the species could lead to its extinction due to potential over-collection for the international pet trade.” The proposal passed by a two-thirds majority and was approved by the plenary on Tuesday.

  • Merryeli

    One thing. You do not need facilities for breeding animals.

    This gecko has been breed in captivity by keepers.

    Saying that this species was “driven these animals close to extinction” is over the top. And not needed at all. This is the actual text from the proposal:

    The species may be affected by trade according to the definition in Annex 5 ii), and qualifies for inclusion in
    Appendix I by satisfying the following criteria of Annex 1 of Resolution Conf. 9.24 (Rev. CoP16):
    B. The wild population has a restricted area of distribution and is characterized by:
    i) fragmentation or occurrence at very few locations

    And then, if you read it, you would see that the main reason is because of lack of population assessment. Specially by the IUCN.

    Mind you, the geckos in captivity are really important, and they are breeding. And why are they important? You forgot to mention habitat degradation and an invasive species. And we know how hard those two issues are to fix.

    Maybe this gecko would be the next crested gecko! It is also hard to say if they were illegal takes as you could put a gecko under Cnemaspis spp. on the papers and it would be legal. Maybe not wanted by the country of origin, but a lot of countries have that issues.

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (dbraun@ngs.org)

Social Media