The San Diego Zoo’s first baby of the year looked quite innocent as it crawled on leaves and even one keeper’s finger yesterday afternoon. But because of the horns above its eyes, the reptile is known as a Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko. The San Diego Zoo is one of only seven zoos in the United States with this species in its collection and one of only two breeding them. This endangered gecko is native only to Madagascar. You can't make it out in these pictures, but the lizard's tail is wide and flat resembling a leaf.
“It’s wonderful to be able to highlight this rarely bred creature,” said San Diego Zoo Animal Care Manager John Kinkaid. “All of the leaf-tailed geckos are camouflage specialists. Some have beards, others have patterns that mimic tree bark or moss, while this one has a tail that looks like a dead leaf. The horns above its eyes break up the silhouette of its body and make it harder for predators to find. ”
The San Diego Zoo has two male, three female and three young satanic leaf-tailed geckos in its collection. Keepers do not yet know the sex of the younger geckos. The New Year’s Day gecko has a sibling that hatched on Dec. 26. The satanic leaf-tailed gecko is not currently on exhibit, but San Diego Zoo guests can see giant leaf-tailed geckos on Reptile Mesa and mossy leaf-tailed geckos in the Lost Forest zone. The Zoo’s satanic leaf-tailed geckos will go on exhibit when renovations of the Klauber Building are completed.
The satanic leaf-tailed gecko Uroplatus phantasticus is native to Madagascar. It has the smallest body of any of leaf-tailed gecko species. The satanic leaf-tailed gecko is also known as the eyelash leaf-tailed gecko or fantastic leaf-tailed gecko.
The 100-acre San Diego Zoo is dedicated to the conservation of endangered species and their habitats. The organization focuses on conservation and research work around the globe, educates millions of individuals a year about wildlife and maintains accredited horticultural, animal, library and photo collections. The Zoo also manages the 1,800-acre San Diego Zoo Safari Park (historically referred to as the Wild Animal Park), which includes a 900-acre native species reserve, and the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. The important conservation and science work of these entities is supported in part by The Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.