The geckos in the genus Rhacodactylus are nocturnal, arboreal, mostly frugivorous lizards from New Caledonia.
I have entitled this post Rhacodactylus although not all the lizards mentioned here are currently placed in that genus — even taxonomists need to justify their existence somehow.
These beautiful lizards are often kept as pets. Most Rhacodactylus geckos in the pet trade are captive bred, many of them are fancy color morphs not found in the wild.
The largest of these lizards is Rhacodactylus leachianus which can reach 14 inches in length and it is proportionally bulky.
The next noteworthy species is the gargoyle gecko Rhacodactylus auriculatus which is about half the length of a Rhacodactylus leachianus. Gargoyle geckos have a prehensile tail but it is not very well attached to the rest of the animal and it tends to break off. The gargoyle gecko is capable of growing a replacement tail after tail loss.
The crested gecko is probably the most common of these in the pet trade, but it is currently not classified as Rhacodactylus. A crested gecko looks a lot like the gargoyle gecko except for its crest.
Crested geckos are incapable to grow a new tail so once they loose their tails if is gone for good. Tail loss in crested geckos is so common that tailless adults are considered to be almost normal.
Probably the most beautiful species (although it might be just my personal opinion) is the mossy prehensile-tailed gecko currently under the scientific name Mniarogekko chahoua which looks probably the most velvety of them all. As the name suggests the mossy prehensile-tailed gecko uses is tail as an extra limb when climbing, it usually does not loose its tail.
These geckos do have a velvety look and what is more surprising is that they do feel exactly as velvety to the touch as they look. Humans seem to love to pet them. Oddly enough Rhacodactylus geckos tolerate, even seem to enjoy being petted, which is somewhat unusual for a reptile, although many species do like the the warmth of the human touch.
I do not believe reptiles experience petting the same way as mammals such as your cat or dog does, but some do seem to get something positive out of such interaction.
Nevertheless handling should be introduced gently and slowly after the animal had a chance to get used to their living environment. Babies of these species don’t normally like to be handled at all and may bite you if you try to pick them up. Once they get used to being picked up they might even learn to like being handled by humans.
The smaller species such as the crested gecko probably cannot inflict a serious bite. Larger specimens of Rhacodactylus leachianus however can administer a painful bite as they have strong enough jaws to actually hurt a human, thus it is not advisable to start petting a strange ‘leachy’ unless you are sure it is tame.
Rhacodactylus geckos have many captive bred color morphs to choose from, and they are good choice as pets for people who would like to have a reptile as a pet, yet cannot stand the thought of dealing with live prey animals.
Rhacodactylus geckos mainly eat fruit with an occasional insect, but their nutritional needs are understood well enough that they can be kept on a powdered formula specifically designed for them. The powdered gecko food just needs to be mixed with water and fed to the geckos from a bowl.
In captivity they require an arboreal setup with vertical climbing space and a warm, moist environment with daily misting.
Rhacodactylus leachianus on Wikipedia.
Gargoyle gecko on Wikipedia.
Crested gecko on Wikipedia.
Rhacodactylus chahoua on Wikipedia.
New Caledonian Giant Gecko Care Sheet on reptilesmagazine.com.
Gargoyle Gecko Care Sheet on reptilesmagazine.com.
Crested Gecko Care Sheet on reptilesmagazine.com.
Rhacodactylus Chahoua Care Sheet – Reptile Forums.