Fish Fertilize Trees
By Maya C. Lemaire
First documented breeding of Lepidothyris
Fernandi in Thailand
N a t u r a l h i s t o r y
Lepidothyris Fernandi (the true African fire skink) is a species of skink
endemic to West Africa inhabiting forests, it can also be found in human
plantations alongside forest edges (Alkani et al. 2009). Very little is
known about this skink species due to it’s origins.This skittish species of
skink is active in early mornings and late evenings when temperatures
drop, when not out foraging they hide in their burrows. The natural diet
of this species consist of multiple species of Isopoda (isopods) as well
as a large variety of Coleoptera (beetles) and a few species of diurnal
geckos. This species of skink is relatively new to the pet trade and has
just recently started to be exported from Togo for the pet trade in
accordance to CITES.
S p e c i e s h i s t o r y i n T h a i l a n d
The fire skink was first imported into Thailand two years ago and I
was lucky enough to get a hold of a 1.2 group. Fire skinks are
known to be hard to acclimate in captivity due to dehydration and
parasitic overload from shipping. I was lucky enough to have
contacts in the US helping me through the acclimation process
of this species, this required me to do fecal exams and give
oral Metronidazole and Panacur. These drugs helped kill parasitic
and bacterial population within the gut of the skinks as these
pathogens can easily kill a skink due to the weakened immune
system from transportation stress. Having contacts all over social
media as well as being parts of numerous Thai online reptile
groups, keeping contact with the reptile curator of Dusit zoo and
knowing many important figures of the Thai reptile community.
I was told that no other person was able to breed or has bred
Lepidothyris Fernandi in Thailand. It is very possible that another
Thai reptile enthusiast may have bred this species but has failed
to document it.
C a p t i v e h u s b a n d r y
I mainly attribute my success with this species to the naturalistic keeping of this species. The enclosure is extremely important, these skinks being of a shy nature need deep substrate. I have provided with a bioactive 2 feet deep substrate that allows for plant growth and maintains isopod Enclosure given to the Fire skinks. Photo taken by Gabriel Mattei populations. The leaf litter in the enclosure provides proper humidity as well as visual barriers. The diet being another important part of their natural world is composed of many different species of insects, I feed different species of roaches such as Dubia roaches, a variety of different species of crickets, natural isopod populations that sustain themselves in the enclosure as well as occasional geckos and beetles. Diet is extremely important as proper vitamin and mineral contents are needed for egg production and overall health. Daily misting is done with a automatic misting system which stimulates drinking and overall hydration.
B r e e d i n g o f F i r e s k i n k s
I was very fortunate to be able to breed and hatch
Lepidothyr is Fernandi in captivity, this success must be
accredited to the help from overseas breeders and
countless hours of research. Once the acclimation process
was over the skinks adapted a natural lifestyle and were
often seen hunting for food which indicated optimal health.
About four months af ter the acquisition of my fire skinks,
I was planting a few pothos vines as I was digging in the
soil to my surprise I spot three fairly small eggs. How long
they were in the enclosure for is unknown. They were
collected on the 21st of April and kept on moist vermiculite
in an incubator at 28 degrees for the fist two weeks and the
temperature slowly increased to 30 degrees over the
course of a month to create natural temperature cycles.
All three eggs hatched on the30th of May close to one
month after being collected. Normal incubation periods
are around 50 days so these eggs must have been laid two
weeks prior to collection.
C o n s e r v a t i o n
In recent times we have seen high numbers of fire skinks being exported from Togo, an estimate of around 2,000 specimens are being legally exported every year since 2016. CITES claims that Lepidothyris Fernandi are of a Least Concern yet no population data has been collected. Many reptile breeders and myself have been trying to educate people on how to properly care and breed these animals in captivity to release pressures on the collection of wild populations. With my help and advice given to many Thai reptile enthusiasts and breeders we have been able to see a large number of captive born fire skinks available therefore offering healthier specimens for sale.
R e f e r e n c e s
-Reptile magazine, The Fire Skink.
-Checklist of the lizards of Togo (West Africa),
with comments on systematics, distribution,
ecology, and conservation by Gabriel Hoinsoude Segniagbeto
- That Reptile Blog The Natural History and Captive Care of the Fire
(Year 12 student at Bangkok Patana School)
Female fire skink. Photo taken by Gabriel Mattei
Enclosure given to the Fire skinks. Photo taken by Gabriel Mattei
Fire skink eggs collected on April 21st. Photo taken by Gabriel Mattei
Hatchling fire skink emerging from egg. Photos taken by Gabriel Mattei.