Tokay Gecko

Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko), a nocturnal gecko.

The Tokay Gecko is indigenous to Asia, parts of India, Indonesia, and the Philippines, they have also been introduced to Hawaii, Florida, and some Caribbean Islands.

Their native habitat is rainforest trees and cliffs, and they also frequently adapt to human habitations, roaming walls and ceilings at night in search of insect prey. We have a couple of Tokay Geckoes roaming around our restaurant, and some appear in our rooms from time to time.

The typical lifespan is 7–10 years.

Baby Tokay
Baby Tokay

Tokays are the second largest gecko species, attaining lengths of about 30-40cm (males), 20-30cm (females) and weights of 150-300g. They are distinctive in appearance, with a blueish or grayish body sporting orange or red spots.

Baby Tokay
Baby Tokay

Tokay geckoes are aggressive carnivores which will eat a variety of insects and even small mice. Their aggressive behaviour can lead to attacks on other male Tokays, other gecko species, and also human handlers.
They are renowned for their aggressive disposition and (unusually for lizards) their loud vocalizations. Their mating call, a loud croak, is variously described as sounding like tokeh or gekk-gekk, whence both the common and the scientific name (deriving from onomatopoeic names in Malay, Sundanese or Javanese), as well as the family name Gekkonidae and the generic term gecko.

Tokay Gecko adult
Tokay Gecko adult

Luckily the Tokay Geckoes we encounter, appear to be incredibly timid animals towards humans. However, they do hunt their pray aggressively which occasionally results in them dropping of ceilings.
Personally, we have not heard of anyone having seriously been bitten by a Tokay Gecko, but according to Tokay Gecko owners the bite of a large Tokay Gecko is painful and can draw blood. Once having bitten, it will not readily let go. Tokay Gecko owners claim that the only effective way to get these animals to release in to submerge them in water.

Thank you Jo Sueker, Minnesota Herpetological Society, for supplying the additional information below:

“… Hot air is a faster release technique, and safer for all, if done correctly. I use a HAIR DRYER (set on lowest temp, lowest speed) and hold it no closer than 8cm/3in while aiming the hot air “along the smile”.

Move air in a slow arc from one cheek, under throat, to the other cheek, and back.

Avoid hot air on the eyes; geckos have no eyelids to protect their eyeballs.

The gecko (and most other lizards, amphibians, and snakes) should let go quickly. Once it lets go, it will likely start defensive head swings (with that wide open, black-throated mouth) to find a second target to bite, so pull whatever/whoever the gecko was biting quickly away.

If you looked closely during the bite, you should have seen two sharp folds at a right angle right behind each eye because the gecko had clamped its jaw into a locked position that is almost impossible to release. Trying to pry the jaw usually does not work, the gecko will lose teeth and bleed, and the bitten object usually becomes further damaged. My experience is that, the more you try to pull the bitten object away, the more you see the gecko “blink down” its eyes, resetting the jaw clamp. Bottom line is that fighting against the bite will most likely harm the gecko (including breaking its jaw) and the bitten object.

Another method that should be faster than plain water is using grain alcohol (rum, whiskey, etc). I have not used this method, yet snake handlers in our society attest to it. (Seems that, for the men, it is more likely they will have alcohol nearby than a hair dryer.) Start by slowly pouring the alcohol into a crack on the mouth or on the gecko’s snout and face. Again, if the gecko does release, pull back quickly so it doesn’t just clamp down in a new bite. If preferred and possible, pour the alcohol into a container just large enough to hold the gecko and bitten object and submerge the two.

When the gecko is a “pet”, have someone (preferably a competent animal handler) grab the gecko in a safe “shoulder clamp”, with forefinger and thumb circling firmly around shoulder/under jaws and all legs within the closed hand. Letting the neck have freedom often results in more defensive head swinging and more stress on the gecko. Try to move to a darker place or in shade/shadow. Tokays are nocturnal and bright light add stress. I have good results talking with a quiet, soothing voice to help the gecko calm down. I gently stroke my geckos slowly with a finger from between their eyes to nose tip while crooning “gentle” just as slowly with each stroke.

We have had great success “taming” our geckos, but they may still try to bite in defense when surprised, when a stranger moves their hand too close, when a cat hasn’t learned to stay back, etc. I am often asked if any of my animals bite and I always answer, “Anything that has a mouth can bite. You won’t bite my ____, will you?”

Thank you for including positive references to Tokay geckos on your site. They are beautiful, great insect eaters, and, for us, lovely companions. I hope this helps!

Jo Sueker
Crystal, Minnesota, USA
Minnesota Herpetological Society
Science Student
Normandale Community College”

Healthy Tokays tend to have large appetites. They feed on larger insects like moths, crickets, grasshoppers, locusts and cockroaches.

Tokay Gecko baby
Tokay Gecko baby

Females will lay their eggs in clutches of two, usually on solid vertical surfaces.
Eggs hatch in anything from 60 to 200 days but with most hatching at around 90 to 100 days. Lower temperatures will lead to longer incubation time. These geckos’ sex is temperature dependent, with higher temperatures leading to male hatchlings.

In some countries Tokays are considered food and they are also used in some Chinese medicinal preparations.

Tokay Gecko foot
Tokay Gecko foot

Tokays have been used extensively to study the selectively adhesive properties of gecko feet, and indeed most of our knowledge about these properties stems from studies of Tokays. These studies have shown that geckos can cling upside down to polished glass, and the method by which the Tokay Gecko accomplishes this is hidden in its feet.

The pads at the tip of a gecko’s foot are covered in microscopic hairs. Each of these hairs splits into hundreds of tips only 200 nanometers in diameter. By using these tiny hairs that can adhere to smooth surfaces, geckos are able to support their entire body weight with a single toe. The adhesive force created by these hairs, called setae (pronounced see’ tee), lining the gecko’s toes is estimated to be so strong that a single seta can lift the weight of an ant.

The strong adhesion is caused by an intermolecular force called Van der Waals force. This force is weak until it gets very close to a surface. When the surface it contacts is large, it can add up to a strong attraction. Van der Waals forces occur when unbalanced electrical charges around molecules attract each other. The charges are always fluctuating and can sometimes reverse direction, but the outcome is that they draw molecules together, such as molecules in a gecko’s foot and molecules on a smooth wall.
To release their feet (to break the intermolecular force) they curl their toes. When a toe is at an angle of 30 degrees the binding breaks.

Tokay Gecko adult
Tokay Gecko adult

It is considered lucky in Cambodia if a Tokay lets out 7 or more calls, and unlucky if there are fewer than 7 calls.

Sometimes a Tokay loses – part of – its tail during fights with other Tokays. Their tails will grow back. Spotting a two-tailed Tokay Gecko is considered good luck.

by Rikitikitavi


  1. margaret pymont said on 15 December, 2012

    i think i was bitten on the throat by a gecko
    i had two little holes close together verty red
    with a rash that lasted a week there was also swelling and very itchyit happened in my sleep.

    • Rikitikitavi

      Rikitikitavi said on 24 December, 2012

      Dear Margaret,
      I very much doubt you were bitten by a tokay gecko; they have loads of really tiny teeth. Their bite is powerful enough that they will draw blood. I also believe their jaws are not able to open wide enough for them to get a grip on a human’s throat – however I could be completely wrong on this, Khmer superstition is after all that a Tokay will attack your throat!

  2. Karie said on 16 December, 2012

    Awesome info guys. Fascinating about the feet. Thank you, Karie

  3. Sidharta Osimaluno said on 11 November, 2015

    i was in mi house and this little mf jumped on my back and bit on my neck
    i was like noo nooo get it off me and my mom hit it in the nose with a broom stick
    it jumped off me and hid under a big asss table we try to move to kill the bitch but it doesnt come out
    i want to know if i have rabies? i am new to america and i hear a lot about animals with rabies i hop i no have that

    • Rikitikitavi

      Rikitikitavi said on 11 November, 2015

      Dear Sidharta,

      Thank you for contacting us.
      I have no medical qualifications – we run a hotel and restaurant in Cambodia and honestly couldn’t tell you if you contracted rabies. If I were you, I would get yourself checked out at a local hospital to clean your wound and check for any infections.

      I have done some quick research online and found some comforting information in case you did come across a Tokay Gecko:
      Tokay Geckos only appear in the US states of Florida and Hawaii, I highly doubt you encountered a Tokay Gecko in Michigan, unless it is an escaped imported specimen.
      Human rabies cases in the United States are rare, with only 1 to 3 cases reported annually (data September 2015).

      Here in Cambodia we believe that a Tokay Gecko in your house brings good luck. A Tokay Gecko falling on you is a very rare occurrence, and promises even more good luck. Please don’t panic if this ever happens again, the animal is so freaked out that it landed on you, that it will jump off as soon as it can.

      If they do bite you (which is usually only when provoked) release it by either holding it under water until it releases itself, or follow the advise that Jo Sueker from Minnesota Herpetological Society kindly gave us (to release the Tokay by using a hair dryer: see above in the article for full details)

      Please do never hit or kill a Tokay – if you ever want to be a real life Spiderman, we need these amazing creatures to figure out how the Van der Waals Force works.

      I hope you have learnt a little more about this beautiful reptile, and most of all, I hope you are well!

  4. Denise said on 18 January, 2016

    Please, please, please do not ever submerge a tokay to get him to release his hold unless you don’t care anything for the health of the tokay. It grabs hold and clamps down because it’s frightened and the best way to get it to release is to put your hand in a position that will allow the tokay to let go and run. Any pulling you do to try to get him off will only damage you and the tokay more. Tokays do not carry rabies. At best you risk salmonella, but you are more likely to get that from raw chicken.

    • Rikitikitavi

      Rikitikitavi said on 31 January, 2016

      Hi Denise,

      Thank you so much for your comments!

      We have a small hotel and restaurant in Cambodia, and we have quite a few tokay geckoes sticking around. Thankfully we only had to handle one once. An employee at the time had workman gloves on, the gecko got firm hold of the workman glove and would not let go for at least 45 minutes – he would not let go even though it had the opportunity to let go and run as you mentioned.
      Because of this incident, I contacted a specialist, and she recommend the submerging the animal in water, apparently they let go pretty much instantly and little harm is done to the gecko.

      We are aware that tokays do not carry rabies – I see I phrased my response from 11 November 2015 rather clumsily – the couple of rabies cases in the US are not related to bites of a tokay gecko.

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