Lygodactylus williamsi is Micro-Endemic and inhabits less than 4 square kilometers of the Kimboza Forest and nearby smaller areas. Notably the Ruvu Forest Reserve (Doggart et al., 2001) and Mbagalala Muhalama (Weinheim et al., 2010).
Males of Lygodactylus williamsi reach a total length of 8.5 centimeters, females remain slightly smaller. Lygodactylus williamsi is the finest Lygodactylus in the genus. Both sexes have a black band from the snout on ward through the eye and to the neck. On the head a second V-shaped line runs parallel to the first. Dorsally over the front legs is several points which are stained brown. The base coloring of the male is a bright blue, which extends over the entire body to the tail. Anteriorly they are colored orange and have a black throat. Between the hind legs in the males are 7 pre-anal pores which are met by a thickened tail. The females are colored either golden, green or blue-green. The belly is colored a golden yellow met by blue-green coloring towards the sides. Anteriorly the throat is a light yellow followed by a faded green dark pattern. In young animals it is always hard to see which ones will be females, but is quite easy to recognize the pre-anal pores of males early on. Like all species of the genus Lygodactylus, Lygodactylus williamsi has fins on the underside of the toes and tail tip.
The Kimboza Forest is primarily a natural lowland rain forest with a canopy of 20 meters with some trees emerging from the canopy up to 40 meters. Epiphytes in the form of large ferns such as Platycerium spp. Davallia spp. and Asplenium nidus are often found. Orchids of the genera Aerangis, Angraecum and Bulbophyllum are also readily seen. The climate is oceanic (low day/night variations). The temperatures in December reach an average of 28°C (82°F), while the period between May and August is low, with an average in July of 23.5°C (74°F). The annual rainfall is 1683 millimeters, which is quite high. The dry season is observed between June and August.
The animals are found exclusively on Pandanus rabaiensis trees, which cover 17.6% area of the Kimboza forest, only 52% of these trees are suitable as a habitat for Lygodactylus williamsi (Weinheim et al., 2010). An estimated population was originally calculated between 93,000-467,000 animals. Within the last 4.5 years out of the original population between 8 and 40% of these animals were caught by one (!) group of poachers to be sold! There are more groups, but their success rates are unknown. All of the known distribution areas are in reserves, where the catching of wild animals is prohibited, therefore all animals are collected illegally!
Husbandry and Breeding:
Due to its small size a pair can easily be kept in a terrarium measuring 25x40x40 centimeters. In larger terrariums it is possible to house more than one female per enclosure, but more than one male should never be attempted.
The side and rear walls of the enclosure should be decorated with cork plates. The substrate should be a sand-soil mixture. Climbing branches such as bamboo, cork branches or Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) and cork should be positioned around the terrarium. These will also provide females with egg laying sites. Plants such as Orchids (Bulbophyllum, Angraecum and Aerangis) and Sanserveria help mimic Lygodactylus williamsi's natural surroundings. A small shallow water dish, with a pebble placed inside to prevent drowning of the young and a bowl of crushed up cuttlefish bone helps complete the terrarium decoration.
Lighting is very important for the well being of Lygodactylus williamsi. To start a good UVB lamp providing 5% or more should be used. Further lighting may be provided by halogen puck lights and T5 tubes rated for daylight. The lighting should be sufficient enough to keep the day temperatures around 26°C (79°F). In areas where basking lamps are used, temperatures may safely reach 32-34°C (90-93°F). At night the temperatures can reach as low as 22°C (72°F) without worry. Daily spraying helps maintain the humidity between 70-80%. Following the natural conditions of Lygodactylus williamsi, a cooler drier season should be provided between May and August. Should summer temperatures not allow this, you can try to maintain this during normal winter periods instead.
Lygodactylus williamsi should be offered food 2 to 3 times per week. All food should be dusted with the approriate supplements at every feeding! A treat of Fruit pulp may also be provided from time to time.
During the breeding months females glue a single or double clutch approximately every 2-4 weeks. Where possible, the eggs should be transferred to an incubator for better control. At a constant incubation temperature of 27°C (81°F) the young emerge after 61-68 days with a total length of 2.6 to 2.9 centimeters. It has been shown that at this temperature mainly males will be produced. While a temperature of 24°C (75°F) has shown more females tend to emerge instead. The young can be raised together in small tanks, which are setup like the adults enclosure. The young can be fed with micro crickets, isopods, small wax moth larvae and firebrats of the approriate size. Like with the adults, all food should be dusted with the appropriate supplements at every feeding! Illumination of the young should be for 12 hours daily with a UVB lamp 5% or greater. At an age of 4-5 months it is often possible to determine the sex of the young. Sexual maturity is reached at around 10 to 12 months.
Lygodactylus williamsi is an easy to care for animal that is very tame in captivity. Because of their extremely small natural range and high export figures the most responsible choice is to only purchase captive bred animals. Lygodactylus williamsi is bred regularly in captivity, so it is possible to purchase non wild-caught animals! Lygodactylus williamsi will sadly be eradicated in a few years from the wild if nothing is done for their protection! For this reason only experienced gecko keepers should attempt to keep this beauty.
Doggart, N., Lovett, J., Mhoro, B., Kiure, J. & Burgess, N.D. (2001) Biodiversity Surveys in Eleven Forest Reserves in the Vicinity of the Uluguru Mountains. Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania, Morogoro.
WEINSHEIMER, F., M. FLECKS, W. BÖHME and D. RÖDDER. 2010. Projektvorstellung – Die Herpetofauna des Kimboza Forest in Tansania unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Türkisen Zwerggeckos Lygodactylus williamsi: Populationsabschätzung und Verbreitungsstudie eines bedrohten Endemits. Elaphe 1: 17-20.
Text and Photos: Dennis Hluschi, Leipzig
Translation: Maureen Winter, Münster