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Last sync:2023-11-12 02:45
A surprise baby! A baby red eyed crocodile skink that is. Jessi shares the skinks' habitat set up and how to care for adults and a new hatchling.

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Hey guys.  I have something really exciting to share with you.  It was a surprise, I mean, it was a surprise to us and I'm still really excited about it.  It's in the reptile room, so let's head over there.


Okay, are you ready?  We're going to open this up real careful.  Ahh, so excited to show you!  Okay.  Hi buddy.  There he is.  Come here, you guys.  Look at this tiny little creature.  This is a baby red-eyed crocodile skink.  Isn't this the most amazing thing?  So tiny.  I don't know if it's a male or a female yet, so I'm calling them Terd.  I don't want to stress them out too much, so I'm going to put them away.  There you go, buddy.

Terd was born here at Animal Wonders.  I'm going to go ahead and put them back.  There you go.  We have Terd's parents and I'd like to talk to you about how we care for them and how Terd came to be.  Alright, where are you guys?  Hi.  I know, I know, I know, shhh, shhh, shhh, shhh, shh.  Shhh, shh, shh.  I know.  There you go.  Hey.  Awesome.  

So I'm looking to see who is who by looking at the little pores on their feet.  It's kinda hard to tell but it looks like, one more check, okay.  

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Looks like this is Smaug and this is Puff.  The males have higher pores on their back toes here and so that's really how we tell the difference.  We've had them for two and a half years and when we first got them, we were pretty sure, but not quite sure that Puff was female and Smaug was male.  Well, now of course, we know for sure.  

When we chose to get these guys, we made sure they were captive bred, because at the time, red-eyed crocodile skinks weren't very commonly bred and quite a few were wild caught.  It's getting more popular to breed them in captivity now, but there's still a big concern about how quickly they become an in-demand species and how that's affecting wild populations.

Red-eyed croc skinks are native to Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, and they're such a secretive animal that it's hard to determine how many there are in the wild.  Having a huge rush to capture wild individuals is worrying and it's not good for those individuals and it's not good for their ecosystems.  Having a stable breeding population in captivity is the easiest way to protect those in the wild, because as the demand for pets increases, the more the captive bred population can fill that demand, especially if everyone makes it a priority to buy only captive bred.

If you're interested in keeping reptiles, please make sure the individual you are getting has been captive bred.  If it's not listed specifically as captive bred, please ask directly.  Okay, that's my pitch.  Let's talk about what we did to provide a happy home for these guys when they came to us.  Disclaimer: this is not the only way to set up a red-eyed croc skink enclosure.  There are lots of different ways and it's fun to get creative, as long as you're following their basic needs.

The two most important things to remember are temperature and humidity.  Croc skinks like it just about 76 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 24 degrees Celsius and very humid, at about 85% humidity.  This can be achieved in different ways.  Here's how we do it.  The reptile room is kept between 74 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit at all times, so we don't have to provide the skinks any heat lamps or heat pads.  

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The room temperature is perfect for them.  We keep it moist and naturally humid by layering their substrate.  We started with these hydroballs.  Hydroballs are made of clay and are great for holding on to water and preventing immediate evaporation.  We then covered them with a layer of terrarium mesh to keep the substrate from getting into the hydroballs.  Then, we added our substrate.  We used a mixture of plantation soil, cypress mulch, and coconut fiber.  We layered it a couple inches thick so that they could burrow down into it like they would in the wild.  We gave them a nice big water dish because they do like to swim and lounge in water.  On top, we added sphagnum moss, some live and fake plants, cork bark and other furniture to create lots of places for them to hide, and we finished it all off with UV lighting.

While these guys are really awesome looking, they aren't big on showing themselves off much and they're not really chill enough to hang out with you like some other lizards like a leopard gecko or a bearded dragon.  Croc skinks are very shy and spend most of their time hiding.  If they don't have places they can hide, they'll get really stressed out and stress can cause them to not eat, become dehydrated, and most likely die, so when we first got these two, the information on their care was fairly difficult to find, but in the last year, as their popularity has picked up, so has the information out there.  I love browsing croc skink forums and seeing all the amazing habitat set-ups people have created.

So here's one adventure I had caring for this awesome species.  When I first researched their care, I read that bromeliads were a great live plant to give them, so I got two, planted them in this beautifully layered terrarium, and watched them slowly die, and then a few mushrooms popped up from their decaying roots and at first, I was pretty worried, but after some research, I learned that I had a nice, thriving microbiome going on, which turns out to be perfect for these guys.  I love having a living ecosystem for the croc skinks because they are natural burrowers and grub eaters, and they can snack on some of the critters in the soil.  Also, those itty bitty creaters do a great job of cleaning up the skinks' poops.  After establishing a healthy microbiome, all I've had to do is add some substrate on top as the soil settled and I recently added a live (?~6:06) plant and a second half-hidden water dish for wading, which they really seem to enjoy.

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And that's it.  I've pretty much left them alone since.  They're like me least handled animal at Animal Wonders.  In fact, since it had been over two years, I wasn't really waiting for or expecting them to breed, and really, I wasn't all that sure that the care we were providing them based on the information I had received previously was even good enough for them to be happy enough to breed, but here we are.  Success!  Last week, Turd was right there just sitting on his bark in plain sight like a boss and so so small.  

So surprise baby, which meant I needed to get back to researching, 'cause it had been a bit since I checked in with the red croc skink community and wow, did I find a whole lot more information.  What was surprising was how much new information there was on breeding and hatchling care.  It's like as soon as people started having sucess and they shared what they had done right, the captive breeding program exploded. 

That's what I love about certain animal communities.  They share their successes to the benefit of the animals.  It reminds me how far humans have come with animal welfare.  50, 60, 70 years ago, places like zoos were so guarded and greedy with their animal care programs that good husbandry practices weren't shared to the detriment of the species as a whole.  It makes me proud to be part of this new generation of animal caregivers that have the animals' well-being as our top priority, even if that animal isn't directly under our care.  I feel like we're all in this together, learning and growing.

On that note, let me show you what I have for Turd's nursery set up.  I took him out of the parents' enclosure because I really needed to keep a close eye on him, so I pulled out this little carrier and I started setting it up.  I needed to make sure that I could see exactly how much he was eating and when he was pooping and what the poop looked like, so I put a little paper towel down.  It's nice for grabbing humidity and keeping it right there present, and then I got this little water dish and I just grabbed a little tupperware lid.  

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It's--see how it's perfect for him to just lounge in it and he's not gonna drown but I have to refill that twice a day because it does evaporate pretty quickly.  I wanted a nice low dish here and also a low food dish to put these tiny little foods in and those are tiny mealworms and they're perfect for him.  I was a little worried 'cause he didn't eat for the first three days but after that he started munching on them and you can see, if I take this sphagnum moss out of there, he has a tiny little poop right there, but I can't just leave it like this.  I have to put the hides in here because these guys do stress out easily if they're not feeling secure, so I added these little fake plants on top so he can do his business undercover and feel nice and safe.

It's so exciting to have a surprise baby.  If you think these guys are really cool, please know that I wouldn't consider their care to be easy.  It's best to build your experience with another, more forgiving reptile species first so you know how to manage their temperatures and humidity levels in your location.  Thanks for letting me share my experience with you.  I think it's so important to share information so we can collectively gain knowlege and create a better, more understanding world.  

Red eyed croc skinks are amazing and so are all our Patrons on Patreon for helping us continue to make educational videos.  If you'd like to join our efforts, go to or click on the link in the description, and if you'd like to go on an adventure with us every week, subscribe to our YouTube channel, AnimalWondersMontana.  Thanks guys.