Tails From The Zoo

Solomon Islands Skink February 7, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized,Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 3:52 pm

Solomon Island skink

Recently on Zoo Knew, heard every Sunday at 7:15 am on the Weekend Wake-Up Show on CJOB 68 AM, Chris Reid and I discussed skinks!

Corucia zebrata – Also called: prehensile-tailed skink, monkey-tailed skink.


At the Assiniboine Park Zoo:

We have 1.1.4 (one male, one female, and four unknown gender)

  • This consists of four adults plus two babies
  • All four adults came from the Honolulu zoo in November of 2007.
  • The babies were born Oct 20, 2009

Fast Facts:

  • It is the largest of all the skinks.
  • It is olive green with darker vertical stripes on the back.
  • Their colouring is an adaptation that camouflages them in the dense canopies of these forests to protect them against predation.
  • It has a grasping (prehensile) tail


A Bit of Biology and Ecology

This skink is only found in the rain forests on the Solomon Islands.

Length: Approximately 32 inches

  • Body: 40 cm (16 in.)
  • Tail: 40 cm (16 in.)
  • 6-9 inches at birth

Weight: Approximately 500 to 850 grams (1.1 lbs to 1.9 lbs)

  • Approx 100 grams at birth


  • Gives birth to only one or two extremely large offspring, which may be up to one-half the size of the mother.
  • Incubation is 6 to 7 months.
  • These lizards show a degree of parental care not observed in other lizards. The parents will actually protect the young in a group called a circulus.
  • Corucia zebrata reproduce by viviparous matrotrophy.

Life Span:

  • May exceed 15 to 20 years
  • Are sexually mature by three years age


Ecology and Conservation

  • As with many tropical species, the extensive loss of forests is severely affecting Solomon Islands skinks. These skinks rely entirely upon the trees for food and shelter. Rarely do well in the new forest growth that takes over when the primary forest is felled. They need large mature trees draped in the leaves of a creeper Epipremnum pinnatum (known as the centipede tongavine) in order to survive.
  • Because of their low reproductive rates, this species is at risk due to the pet trade and losses caused by predation by introduced  (invasive) species.
  • The Solomon Islands government has regulated trade on these and other reptiles to help avoid endangerment.

Life History

  • Unlike other skinks these animals are arboreal, spending little time on the ground.
  • Prehensile-tailed skinks are usually found in the oldest trees in the primary forest.
  • Solomon Island skinks are primarily folivorous, eating the leaves of many varieties of plants. They also eat fruit, relying on scent to find food.
  • These skinks are one of the few that are not able to cast off their tail in defence and later regenerate a new one.
  • This skink is able to make a sharp hissing noise and can deliver a savage bite.
  • It is nocturnal, spending the day curled up in a hollow tree trunk or hidden in dense foliage..


Compiled by Scott Gray and Jenna Harrison, Zoological Society of Manitoba

References: Bristol Zoo, Sea World, Lincoln Park Zoo, Leeway Corucia Research Center (LCRC)

(Revised March 15, 2010)


Solomon Islands skink

Photos copyright by Darlene Stack, Assiniboine Park Zoo


African Dwarf Crocodiles February 1, 2010

Filed under: Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 8:19 pm

African dwarf crocodiles were recently discussed on Zoo Knew (heard Sundays at 7:15 am on CJOB 68 AM). Here’s a recap:


African Dwarf Crocodiles

Osteolaemus tetraspis

At The Zoo:

  • We have 2.0 African dwarf crocodiles at the Assiniboine Park Zoo
  • Dirk and Dagger were both born in 1994, making them 16 years old this year
  • Dirk is the smaller of the two
  • They are near their maximum length (5 feet long (1.5 meters)), and weigh around 50 pounds.

General Information about African Dwarf Crocodiles:


  • They are listed as vulnerable but the IUCN. This is due to habitat destruction and over hunting (they are used as food and killed for their hides).

Distribution and Habitat:

  • Live in swamps and slow-moving streams in tropical rainforest and savannah of west-central Africa.
  • Dwarf crocodiles range across tropical lowland regions of sub-Saharan West Africa and West Central Africa (from Senegal and Central African Republic south to Uganda and Angola).

Natural Diet:

  • Mainly fish, but will also eat frogs, crabs and other small aquatic animals.
  • During the dry season dwarf crocodiles will switch to eating crustaceans.

Zoo Diet:

  • Their zoo diet is mainly fish offered every Sunday at 2:00pm, but they also enjoy mice and rats as a treat.


African dwarf crocodiles are the smallest crocodiles.

  • Maximum male weight: 80kg (176lbs)
  • Maximum female weight: 20kg (44lbs)
  • Length does not exceed 2 meters (6.5 ft) although they rarely reach 1.6m (5ft)

By contrast, the saltwater crocodile is the largest crocodilian and the largest living reptile, reaching weights up to 2,000 pounds and lengths up to 20 feet.

Zoo Notes:

  • There are 23 species of “crocodilians”. These include crocodiles, gavials, alligators and caimans.
  • It is one of the most-heavily armoured of crocodiles, with bony plates throughout the skin, even the eyelid.
  • The snout is short and rather blunt. The 4th tooth on the bottom jaw is exposed on the crocodile, but hidden in alligators.
  • Juveniles have light brown banding on the body and tail and yellowish patterns on the head.
  • Emerging to feed at night in the water and on land, it spends the day hidden in a burrow.
  • African dwarf crocs are generally solitary. Mating pairs come together during the rainy season.
  • An average of 10 eggs (laid in a mound of vegetation) take about 100 days to hatch.
  • The mother not only builds a nest for her offspring, she remains close by after they hatch to defend the young from predators. She will even escort them from the nest to the water’s edge.
  • The young measure 28 cm in length when hatched. Young crocodiles tend to feed on aquatic insects, crustaceans and small fish and begin to feed on more vertebrates as they grow.
  • Life span in zoo may exceed 60 years.



A group of crocodiles is called a float. Crocodiles are ambush predators that often float just below the water’s surface, waiting for fish and other prey to come close enough to catch.

Here’s a fun (pretend) recipe for a Crocodile Float from “Didyano?“, by Timothy D. Thomas. In a large bowl add:

  • 2 large scoops of vanilla ice cream
  • 2 large scoops of mint chocolate ice cream
  • ginger ale
  • chocolate syrup topping
  • 2 crocodiles
  • a cherry to top it off


References: Arkive, IUCN, Zoo Reference Library

Compiled by Scott Gray, Jenna Harrison and Jesse Kindzierski / Revised February 1, 2010