Tuko Lizards

Tuko 1


Living in Hawaii we were used to geckos living in the house with us. They were small, quiet and ate bugs. Kind of like kids, before they learn to talk. Not a problem. Right after I got to the Philippines we were sleeping one night and I heard this loud noise. I asked Melane what it was and she said it was a lizard. Of course I told her she was wrong – no lizard is that loud. Well, none that I had heard before. Yes, of course, I was wrong ha ha. The Tuko lizard starts off looking like a regular gecko, but they grow to about 1 foot long and have a loud mating cry. It sounds kind of like “tuuu-kooo tuko-tuko tuuu kooo”. The American GI’s in Vietnam called it the “fuck you lizard”. It kind of sounds like that too…   Here is a recording of it on Google: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/91/Mating_call_of_a_male_Tokay_gecko_%28Gekko_gecko%29.ogg

At our nipa house we had a couple big ones that lived in the house. One in particular lived behind my desk. He would come out at night and scare the crap out of me. It is kind of too large to move in your peripheral vision, without making you jump out of your skin! I have not seen any at our new apartment yet but do hear them at night. They may be up in the attic. We had no ceilings in the nipa house.

tuko 2
Much larger than the usual 1 foot!

There has been a market for selling them recently. According to internet rumors the tuko was the only thing to survive the blast at Hiroshima. And researchers will pay thousands of dollars for large ones.   It seems that, “they” say, the innards can cure everything from cancer to HIV because of some amazing enzyme. The white meat of the lizard is said to cure many other ailments.   Geckos are reportedly exported to Malaysia, China and South Korea, where they are used as aphrodisiacs and as traditional medicine for asthma, AIDS, cancer, tuberculosis and impotence. Environmental officials have also expressed alarm about the growing trade in the wall-climbing lizards in the Philippines. An 11-ounce (300-gram) gecko reportedly sells for at least p50,000 ($1,160 USD).There has yet to be a single credible medical study on the tuko lizard. But the sale of these lizards all over Asia has made them a threatened species in the Philippines.

All I know for sure is they eat bugs. We are pretty much 85 degrees and 85% humidity – bugs are a constant problem! There is no way I would you a tuko out of my house. I hope he invites some friends over for a party.   That infernal chirping wakes me up some nights, I hope they find the friends they are looking for, we have enough bugs to go around.

But it is not all bad news. They have been featured on stamps.

 tuko 3


Some have made it into TV. You may have seen this one?

 trek tuko


I may have to learn the mating call myself. I have recently found a picture of the female of the species.


25 thoughts on “Tuko Lizards

  1. Love your story and I know exactly what you are talking about on the sounds like fuck you !!!!! Hahahahha…I’m still looking for that female one. Dammit

  2. Thanks for post and comments. Now I know what made the noise in my garden from dusk to dawn and heard another amongst trees about 200 meters away, Have property on new golf course development outside Manila. Unlike nearby dogs it did not annoy me and wake me up and got used to noise that I found intriguing and at first thought it was a bird. Have a couple of smaller Chit Chats in house which I would never harm as beneficial and like them.

    Never saw it but from noise must have been very near in back garden and seemed to move about as sometimes at side of house.Looked for it with flashlight via windows on many occasions. Problem is If I go out into garden at night, next doors dog goes barking daft which in turn is beneficial as house has been empty much of previous years.

    When purchased property 7 years ago saw 2 Biowaks (Yellow Great Water Monitor Lizard and largest lizard after Komodo Dragon) at close proximity. 1st slowly strolled past me at Golf Club House swimming pool. It was well over 2 meters long. Unfortunately guard saw it and chased it and the lizard ran into pool toilets. Guard entered and came out holding it up at arms length at about 1/2 way up tail with head almost touching ground. Chef ran out and cut its throat. It did not seem dangerous but much larger than other species of monitor lizards I have seen if Sri Lanka and United Arab Emirates.

    Sadly it was taken into kitchen and as about the only customer was asked to remain if I wanted PIka Pika. Decided instead to finish my beer and leave. Overall I like reptiles and have previously had harmless snakes as pets. I was somewhat saddened by episode as it was a magnificent creature and showing no signs of aggression unless one is stupid enough to try and pick it up.

    At Hotel in Sri Lanka a monitor lizard about 1.7 meters used to stroll around the outside restaurant at poolside with some people throwing if scraps. It was actually quite an attraction with many guests. The staff however never even tried to chase it away though some guests were not happy with it as it used to walk between your legs if you were sitting – most accidental food scraps landed there.


  3. Yes , we have here in our house, last two years it was two, one is older the voice is so old(husky voice) other one is younger , fine voice, but just recently we noticed in the house that there is only one voice, so one tuko lizard left, the younger, a lot of stories about this lizard, that some are looking for this and buy a huge price, i dont know how true is that. It seems that it is like a barber shop stories.But we have one here I could hear it the voice tuuuu…koo……

    1. I have never been close enough to one to get scratched. I would wash it and maybe put on some neosporin (if it is a bad scratch)? It would be like any other cut from an animal… keep an eye on it…

  4. Hi, thank you for your information about Tuko liz. We got 3 of them making noice every night. 2 of them living in our pump house shitting the whole place with dirt but because of that we like them it is okey.
    This is from Puerto Galera, Sabang Beach, Resort Dream Hill Condos.
    I am JAN. Resident since 2013.

  5. just read your blog and enjoyed it but not happy about this large lizard outside the house. good thing it was too big to enter under the door i think. it lives in the fern plants and so it is hidden till it came out this morning and i saw it for the first time — hopefully the last! i do hear it at night. so long as it stays outdoors i’ll leave it be. we do have one or two regular sized one indoors and i don’t like them specially their occasional droppings.

    1. No, they are not particularly dangerous. They just mostly eat bugs. The only danger is they will bite if you get too close. That is why they do not make very good pets. There are lots of myths around them so people are way more dangerous to the lizards than they are to us.

  6. I had many Geko (Tuko) lizards breeding in my house, they stuck their eggs on our cuboard in the bedroom, they sing and chase all the insects, especially at night, i think they are rather cool, i have never seen one around bigger than 12″ head to tail, unfortunately people are buying them to kill and use a certain part of the inside for medicinal use, Leave them alone, they are part of the country and amusing to watch
    Barry from Atabay – Hilongos – Leyte – Philippines

  7. Hello, Don from CDO here. We have dozens if not hundreds of the small ones here and one about 8 inches. At one time there were 2 that were about 12 inches. How long do they live? Will a big one eat small mice? Thanks for any info.

    1. The biggest I have seen around our house was probably 8 inches. They usually live 7-10 years in the wild, 10-20 in captivity, with proper care. Most don’t get big enough to eat mice. They will eat anything they can, depending on their size: grasshoppers, smaller reptiles, frogs, small mammals…

      I have thought about trying to raise one, just to see. Back in the US I had a prehensile tailed skink. It was very cool. One of the only vegetarian lizards (he loved frozen mixed veggies – thawed of course), and grapes (peeled). He was probably 22 inches long. We had him about 10 years and donated him to an environmental school when I moved.

      1. i had a buyer of that, i think its a legit one, they wanted 18 inches and up and weighing around 400 kilograms and up, per kilo they buy for 1 billion dollars or 1 billion peso if not exagerrated…if its still you have any just contact mewe have a sure buyer from WHO…

  8. Infernal chirping? At least bugs don’t make that equally infernal “tek-oww” (tuko) sound that gives…well, me…the feeling one might actually walk up while we’re sleeping and eat our eyes out. Nice blog by the way. I had to laugh at the picture that keeps showing up on the side bar of a big red bug beating a big yellow clown.

  9. why cant people let them be they are very good to have around the house they eat all the big insects and are more scared of us than we are of them they will stay out of your way and will not harm you I have had one in my house for about 4 years and I am planning to move into a new house soon so I will catch him and bring him with me because if I leave him here he will only be killed by the next owner of this house I would much prefer to have a tuko in my house instead of lots of spiders and cockroaches

    1. I got used to the small geckos in the house, while living in Hawaii. These are no problem for me. They eat bugs – so they are good friends. Just like the giant spiders. 🙂

  10. I had a fight with one of them today in my kitchen, I live alone so, I do not have someone to help me out of this freaky thing. I threw one slipper to it trying to make him run away from the place, it then fought back by returning its way towards me.. Oh God, I was so scared.I closed the screen door. He was hiding in the big basin, afterwards I couldn’t able to see where it was.. Now, I can’t even go out there to prepare my brunch, to have my laundry,, I was thinking he might just hide anywhere out of my sight and then will take his revenge to me for what I did to him. Hahahah I don’t think it is safe.

  11. Interesting post… I have heared these Tuko lizards outside our house in San Carlos, Negros Occidental but not seen one as yet, and yes they are loud at times. I too did not believe my wife when she said it was a lizard (ugly lizard is what she said), I thought it was some kind of night bird. Follow my experiences in the Philippines http://welshcowboy.com .

    1. can you take a peek of that lizard of yours? if that is 500 grams and above, we can make a deal, i will buy it, just name your price if its that big?

      1. Considering that the tuko is becoming a threatened species, from indiscriminate hunting, and they are illegal to sell without a license I would not consider it. I might keep one as a pet – I would never sell one.

  12. Interesting Tim, I’ve seen one of these lizards at night in Bacolod, didnt know what it was until now, it had amazing colour, and when I went to try to get closer to it, my wife and her family freaked out holding me back. I said it’s a lizard mostly not dangerous, they said I will be cursed if it touches me, Lol.

  13. I think I like the female species a lot better and certainly welcome lots of them. Nice blog and videos. My girl is in Cagayan De ORo on Mindenao but we are moving in May to Dumaguete or Valencia as it is safer for me.

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