Red-eyed crocodile skinks have recently become a very popular option as pets. They are found in dense tropical forests and like to lead a secluded life. This is why even as a pet they are best suited to be kept as a ‘for display only’ option. You cannot play with them or pet them like other animals.
Still, there are many questions surrounding them and their maintenance. In this article, we will aim to address all those questions and help you decide whether or not they will make a good pet for your house. So, let’s get started!
Why the name?
Firstly, if you are new to the pet world, we are not talking about actual crocodiles. We are talking about skinks. Commonly they are known as bush crocodiles. If you have ever chanced across one, you would have surely noticed the rough scaly exterior that these reptiles have. This rough hide is what that led them to be called red-eyed crocodile skink.
Apart from sporting this rough exterior, they also have a ring around their eyes which can be bright red or orange, hence the name ‘red-eyed’. There is also a fascination that can be attributed to them looking like dragon hatchlings that has caused a rise in their popularity. Riding on the back of a popular fictional TV series, many people are queuing up at stores to get one for their own.
Their natural habitat is in dense tropical forests where there is an abundance of low climbing bushes. And yes, they do resemble crocodiles (rough scales and spine down the body).
Their size also differs. Some of the small ones can be as tiny as 2.5 inches while the big ones might even reach a length of 10 inches. A considerable part of their length is attributed to their tail, which is also a major part of their defence system.
Are they good pets?
Perfect for beginners: These skinks can be the perfect pets for beginners. It is because of their simple nature. There is not much that goes into the housing of a skink. When you buy one, all that you have to provide it with is good housing and good nutrition. Make sure that you clean its house once in a while. It is easy to feed them, too. You have to feed them once every 2 or 3 days. They come out easily to the sight of food.
The only drawback is that they do not like heat and are very shy, so they may not live up to the standard of people expecting a social pet. Children are advised not to pet them as they are hard to hold on to. As mentioned above, they might do anything from biting to dropping their tails to get away from the person holding them.
They belong to the reptile class and thus can only be regarded as display pets. That is to say that they do not like to be handled, and if done they may vocalize or even play dead to try and escape. Some have also been known to drop tails and try to bite. Although this should not be a major concern for any owner as these reptiles do not generally bite.
They are creatures of the wild but have their own time to come out of their nest. The skinks bred in captivity will come out if there is food nearby. The best time to observe these reptiles is during dusk and dawn. It is when they emerge from their hiding place.
Diet: They thrive on a natural diet. Insects are the best form of nutrition for these reptiles. Placing an earthwork near its nest is one of the best tricks you can use to lure it out, too. Other than that, you can use crickets, worms or grubs to feed it.
Nesting: Try to keep your pet skink in a place that does not have moulds. In other words, it should provide for active evaporation. Also, it would be preferable if you have some live plants near it. These reptiles like to borrow in deep under the roots and make their nest.
Temperature: There should not be major fluctuations in the temperature of their nest. The range of 73 to 81 degrees is best for them to thrive. Apart from that, the humidity needs to be around 70 to 90 percent. Daylight basking is something that is not necessary for their breeding but is still advisable.
Long life span: One of the biggest advantages to having these skinks as a pet is their long life span. The longest living skink is said to have lived for up to 12 years in captivity. Other than that, there is not much to go on about their lifestyle. An average pet red-eyed crocodile skink will easily accompany its owner for around 10 years. They are shy in nature and mostly come out at night. The reason behind this has been debated upon. Some say that it is on account of the low number of visitors while others lean more towards the favourable temperature setting during the night.
Low-cost pets: There are some pets that demand a very high rate of expenditure from their owners. But thankfully, these exotic lizards do not fall into the same category. If you have made up your mind to own one of these, then you will be glad to know that you don’t have to shell out too much. It will be a one time expenditure that you will be required to make at the time of purchase. From buying its house to procuring its food, nothing is too costly. Overall, they are easy on the pocket to possess.
Exotic pets: There is a very limited category of pets that can fall under this category. The primary reason for this is that most of them are listed on the endangered list and hence illegal to obtain. But when it comes to these lizards, they are exotic but not on the endangered list of animals. Bush crocodile skinks are beautiful to look at and have dragon-like texture running down their back. Thus, you can add value without having to worry about legal matters.
No biting: Contrary to other pets, they do not bite. Even birds can peck, but these lizards are not known to bite their owners. The most they do is vocalize when in distress. This is an attempt to escape from the captor. This makes it one of the safest pets that you can have for your children in your home. It lives mainly in its own cage and is only for display purposes, so there is no chance of it being carried off by another animal.
Fighting: These lizards are known to fight over their territories and are fiercely protective about their homes. Thus, it is not advisable to keep more than a single male in a cage. Unless you have enough space, it is better that you keep only one gender. A male and a female will get along quite peacefully. But keeping two males or two females together will lead to a territorial dispute.
Maintenance: Though these lizards are long living creatures, they do have a certain need for maintenance. If you are not properly looking after your pet, then there is a major chance that they might die of neglect. From temperature regulation to proper diet, it is necessary that you do not neglect your pet. The leading cause of death in captivity is due to neglect.
Need for an organic surrounding: When providing them with nests, make sure that it is all organic. Though it is easier to put plastic trees in nests as they are easier to clean and maintain your skink will ultimately end up eating them. It may lead to complications in its health. If you have to put them in, make sure that they are non-toxic.
Anti-social creatures: Red-eyed crocodile skinks are one of the few lizards that can start to vocalize as a sign of distress. Even when in their homes, they will not come out for the major part of the day. They are antisocial and like to hide in their burrows. So, for anyone looking for a friendly companion, they will be disappointed.
Interesting Facts about the Bush Crocodile skinks
These lizards are excellent swimmers: This is something that they get from their crocodile relatives; they can easily swim across small water bodies. Though they are not habitual to living in wet surroundings, they have no difficulty in adapting to one. For this, you can also involve a small pool in the home that you build for this lizard. It will surely be a delight to see your pet in a number of surroundings.
Dragon-like appearance: As we mentioned right at the beginning of our article, they bear a resemblance to baby dragons. This is attributed to their skin which is rough and scaly. In light of the recent successful culmination of one of the most popular TV series, the demand for these pets has gone up. It is likely that you might come across a number of them in your neighbourhood.
Only lizard to vocalize: It is the only pet reptile that will vocalize to sound its distress. It comes as a great help when you have to provide for its daily needs. If it is in any kind of distress or fears a threat to its survival, it can vocalize and let you know about it. There are other lizards kept as pets too, but this feature is specific to only the red-eyed crocodile skinks.
Fiercely protective: Though these skinks are antisocial they will go to great lengths when it comes to their homes or eggs. They are known to get protective and aggressive when they sense a breach of their privacy. If they feel that there is some danger to their eggs, they will even fight with the other encroaching member. This is why it is not advisable to keep multiple males together if you do not have a large enough tank or nest.
Different vocalization for each gender: Male members will vocalize differently from their female counterparts. When it comes to voice, there is a distinct difference between the two. This has also led many researchers to believe that they use their vocalization not only when sounding distressed but also to attract mates during their mating season. The same can be said about the female members, too. They also use their voice to attract males for mating.
In the end, it is solely your decision that counts. If you have been looking for a pet, then this is an excellent option to consider. If you were looking for just some details on the skink then we hope you found everything. Owning a pet is not only about companionship but also about adding a member to your family. You have to provide for its needs just as you would provide for the needs of your own.
If you are looking for a friendly companion, then they might not be the best option for you. Skinks are valued primarily because of their aesthetic value. They are beautiful to look at and exotic to observe. The best compatibility can be found in a male and female as a pair. They do not fight for the right to territory and are equally protective about their nest.
If you are looking at them for breeding purposes, then you have made the right decision. A female can lay several eggs per week for a number of weeks during mating season.
They are easily available online and in local pet stores. You can compare prices and then go for the best deal that you get. Even though they are highly antisocial, they are worth keeping around.
References and further reading:
- Ben Team, 2018, Red Eye Crocodile Skinks as pets (Buy book)
- YouTube, AnimalWonders Montana, Setting Up A Bioactive Enclosure | Red Eyed Croc Skink
- CincinnatiZoo, Crocodile Skink