For most people, taking care of baby animals is a great thing to do. Generally speaking it is, but sometimes things can go horribly wrong. Not all newborn animals are completely healthy and some of them don´t survive. This almost happened to the baby Gargoyle gecko I´m following for the Development project at the moment. Fortunately, I can say ´almost’, because in the end I was able to save it.
Gecko from New Caledonia
The gargoyle gecko or Rhacodactylus auriculatus originates from New Caledonia and is an approx. 20cm long, mostly nocturnal gecko species. The breeder, Isabelle, helped me before with the series of the Crested and Leopard gecko and this gecko was another species on my wish list. When she sent me a message that this little one was born, I jumped in my car and drove to Chaam to pick him up. We did the first photo session at her house. When it was finished we could let the gecko come to rest before he had to travel, because there were a number of other animals we wanted to take pictures of as well. When the photo shoot was done, it was time for the drive home, which was quick and without any problems.
For the first week and a half, the little gecko was fine, but then he developed some shedding problems. There was still some old skin on his feet, so it looked like his toes were glued together. In the worst case scenario, he could lose some of his toes because they can die off, so I had to help with the shedding and fortunately I was able to get the old skin off. Two days later, things really started to go wrong. I already noticed that he stayed in one place and hardly moved. Sometimes they have a favorite spot they return to. That’s one of the downsides of a nocturnal animal; they can be very active, without you even noticing. When I cleaned his food bowl that night, I touched the leave he was sitting on and he just rolled off. This was really bad. I immediately picked him up to see what was wrong. Could it be that he was just scared and was playing dead? After a few minutes, he still wasn’t moving, so I decided to put him in a smaller container on some paper towels, so I could keep a better eye on him. I immediately noticed that his faeces didn’t look right. One of the most important things with animals is to make sure they don’t dehydrate, so in the next couple of hours, even at night, I tried very hard to get some food and fluids into the little gecko.
The next morning, he stopped eating and drinking and I was really worried. Isabelle recommended that I could try to rub his belly a bit, just in case something was wrong with his intestines. I also put the Fauna box he was in on a heath pad. Fortunately, I bought one a few months ago, because it was the weekend and all the reptile stores were closed. Monday morning, he was laying on his side and was barely breading. I realized that I had to start accepting that I’ve tried everything, but that it still wasn’t enough to save him. This was a very sad realization. And then, 15 minutes later, he suddenly started to move. At first very carefully, but he was quickly getting better. Because it seemed to help, I continued rubbing his belly a few times a day. At first, he let me do this, without putting up a fight, but now he started to resist a bit, rolling from laying on his back, over to laying on his tummy. On your back your are more vulnerable, so his instincts were started to kick back in. The next hours and days, he was improving more and more; he started to move around more, to eat and drink again and after a few day he even started to jump around a bit. Now, a few weeks later, the little gecko is completely healthy again. I have no idea what caused these problems. Maybe something wasn’t right in the development of his intestines. I’m very happy that he’s still with us and it has been a very valuable lesson never to give up on these little guys.