Tokay Gecko



The Tokay

The tokay gecko appeares everywhere all over Southeast Asia. Originally living in the tropical rainforests, he adapted well to half-urbanized areas and feels comfortable in many buildings and houses.

The tokay is nocturnal and the males get as big as 40 or more centimeters. Despite his size the tokay is still able to climb walls and ceilings. He intones a remarkable sound, one might hear the sound "ge-koh" in it, and it's pretty noisy.

Tokay Gecko by Asienreisender

A tokay on a glass door in Kampot, Cambodia. Length over all about 35cm. Image by Asienreisender, 8/2013

The tokay gecko nestles in many simple places in Southeast Asia, especially in remoter places surrounded by much green. In general there are no problems in sharing a room with a tokay. They are not aggressive and mean no harm. They would only defend themselves when being attacked and unable to escape. But the tokay gecko has a strong bite and a long row of pointed teeth. When once biting, he doesn't let go for a while or longer. Dropping them into water or treating him with vinegar might help then to get rid of the little crocodile. So it's better not to come too close to the lizard.

One evening on Ko Chang, when I left my bungalow after sunset, suddenly something bigger dropped from the ceiling of the veranda on my left shoulder. I first didn't realize what it was, looked like a toad. I shook my shoulder and the thing slipped on my upper arm - another shake and it landed on the floor. There I saw it was a tokay. No harm done and it proves that the beasts are not that bad, aggressive or dangerous.

Tokay Gecko by Asienreisender

Another tokay. Image by Asienreisender, Ko Chang in Ranong Province, Thailand, 9/2010

It's just seems that they are sometimes freaked. I noticed, that sometimes, when entering for example a bathroom, a gecko falls from the ceiling onto the floor. It's just that he got a fright then. I guess it was the same with the tokay in the example above.

I have heared somebody in a rural communities mentioning the presence of a tokay in a house could attract snakes who hunt them. Having shared many rooms with tokays, I never had a snake there.

Sometimes people ask how to get rid of a tokay. Personally I had a lot of tokays staying in the same places as I did in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Sometimes they sat above the bed at nighttime. I never cared for them and never anything happened. I don't see a reason to get rid of them; on the contrary do they hunt other animals in the room, bigger spiders for example, cockroaches and other lizards. Though, if I would try to get a tokay out of a house I would try it with preparing the places the tokay sits potentially with vinegar. Besides I found cat's hunting (and eating) them.

Tokay Gecko Baby by Asienreisender

I suppose this to be a baby tokay gecko. It dropped into a pepper bowl in the kitchen and couldn't escape by it's own. The piece of white 'film' at it's neck is kind of a skin what covered before also his tail but was dropped then. Seems, he slipped just recently out of his egg. Length about 1cm without tail. Image by Asienreisender, 1/2014, Kampot, Cambodia



Simon de la Loubere mentioned the tokay gecko in his 'Depiction of the Kingdom of Siam'. It's about a Siamese myth concerning the lizard. The Siamese believed that the tokay utters his noises due to a swollen liver which he were suffering. The tokay was named for the noise he does. The Siamese explained the scream that the tokay would call for an insect to help him; this insect now would crawl through the tokays mouth into his body, to eat away the superfluous part of the liver. After it finished it's meal, it would leave the tokay again.

Asienreisender - Tokay Gecko

Tokay gecko, probably female, which detached part of it's tail in a fight. Image by Asienreisender, 8/2011, Chiang Khong, Thailand

Loubere mentioned that because it's a lively example for the blooming phantasy of the Siamese. They have a strong tendency to the miraculous. That's still so, as with many other things which Loubere mentioned. Sometimes I hear Thai People telling the strangest stories and can barely believe, that the one who is telling it is really serious about it.

There is also much speculation about tokays who dropped down and fell on peoples shoulders. Dropping on the right shoulder indicates good luck, left shoulder means bad luck. Moreover the sounds and particular behaviour of the dropped tokay gecko is seen as meaningful for future predictions.

The tokay gecko is also used for purposes of traditional medicines. Namely Chinese believe in the healing or aphrodisiac powers of tokay ingredients. This is not only false but also live threatening for whole tokay populations. Chinese demand forces a whole industry who pays and hunts the lizards in grand style. Particularly on the Philippines the extinction of tokay populations in whole areas has been the consequence.

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Published on October 16th, 2011

Tokay Gecko

Last update on May 18th, 2017