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The Day-geckos of Mauritius

Phelsuma cepediana[2]

Widespread species on the island, Phelsuma cepediana (c) G Sayer

I have already spoken of 2 species of endemic day-gecko on Mauritius, the ornate and Gunther’s geckos. I thought I would share my experiences of the other three day-gecko species. The blue-tailed day-gecko, Phelsuma cepediana, is a beautiful and thankfully widespread species. It is a favourite prey for the critically endangered Mauritius kestrel and can be found on many tree species, including the invasive Ravenala palms.

The upland day-gecko, Phelsuma rosagularis, is mainly found in upland areas and is confined to the Black River Gorges National Park. This species is easily distinguished by its deep green webbed markings and humorous pink lips, giving it a permanent smile. Although heavily impacted by loss of habitat, this species appears to be relatively secure for the time-being.

Phelsuma rosagularis[1]

Phelsuma rosagularis, is confined to the Black River Gorges National Park (c) G Sayer

The most endangered species of day-gecko in Mauritius is the lowland day-gecko, Phelsuma guimbeaui. This species has a startling bright green back with red blotches, and a blue tail-tip and neck. It is a fantastic sight to spot one of these elusive and shy reptiles. These are unfortunately severely threatened, surviving in only 30 small fragmented populations across the island, some in quite precarious locations.

These species all face threats; predation by rats, cats and mongoose has been a long-standing issue, but more recently other invasive species have caused severe impacts.

The introduced House Gecko, Hemydactylus frenatus and Stump-toed Gecko Gehyra mutilata compete with these species for habitat and food. The Madagascar Giant Day-Gecko Phelsuma grandis and indian wolf snake Lycodon aulicus predate them and completely exclude them from some areas.

Most Endangered Day Gecko on Mauritius, Phelsuma guimbeaui, (C) G Sayer

Most Endangered Day Gecko on Mauritius, Phelsuma guimbeaui, (C) G Sayer

Unfortunately as many people see species such as the Giant Day-Gecko (and increasingly now, the Gold-dust Day-Gecko Phelsuma laticauda) as great pets, they are still being brought in and sold in Mauritius. This is putting increasing pressure on all native day-geckos, and conservation leaders now face the difficult task of how to address this.