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Eastern Blue-tongued Skink (Tiliqua scincoides) Fact Sheet: Managed Care

History of Managed Care

Pet ownership

Zoos, general

  • Mid to late 1800s (Shea 2004b)
    • First exhibited in zoos in Australia and Europe
    • Imported to Europe for pet trade
      • Tiliqua species very popular for being placid and low maintenance (Werning 2004)
  • 1884: Johann von Fischer described five species of blue-tongue skinks for use in terraria (Werning 2004)
  • 1929: successfully bred and raised at Aquarium of the Zoological Gardens in Halle, Germany (Werning 2004)
  • Early 1900s: early accounts of hatchings at the Melbourne Zoo (Le Souëf 1918)
  • Today: common in zoos in Australia and North America (ZIMS 2018)

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park

  • 1958: blue-tongued skinks arrived at San Diego Zoo as part of a large shipment of birds, mammals, and reptiles from Australia (Lint 1958)
  • 1977: female in collection gives birth to 21 young (Schafer 1987)
  • 1999: litter born at San Diego Zoo (ZIMS 2018)
  • Blue-tongued skink used today as animal ambassador (ZIMS 2018)

Husbandry

General

  • Calm, docile temperament (Jennifer Hardell, personal communication, 2018)
    • May be timid or defensive when first introduced to handling, but quickly acclimate to periodic handling (Weigel 1988)
  • Inquisitive (Samantha Price-Rees, personal communication, 2018)
  • Easy to handle and transport (Jennifer Hardell, personal communication, 2018)
  • Used by zoos as an “ambassador animal” for educating public audiences about reptiles (Jennifer Hardell, personal communication, 2018)

Shelters and enclosures

  • Need areas of sun and shade (Weigel 1988)
    • At least 8 hours of sun each day
  • During winter, grasses and leaves should be provided for hibernation (Weigel 1988)
  • Within native range, can be kept indoors or outdoors (Weigel 1988)

Social interactions

  • Territorial (Weigel 1988; Jennifer Hardell, personal communication, 2018)
  • Usually housed singly (Unverzagt 2004)
    • If housed with other lizards, including same species, may bite or chase them

Diet in managed care

  • Snails and slugs (Weigel 1988; Unverzagt 2004)
    • Do not feed ones potentially exposed to poisonous traps, baits, or plants
  • Insects (e.g., crickets, worms) (Schafer 1987; Unverzagt 2004)
  • Fruit and vegetables (Schafer 1987; Weigel 1988; Mancera et al. 2014)
  • Flowers (Schafer 1987)
  • Ground meat (Schafer 1987)
  • Diet of young is similar to adults (Weigel 1988)
    • Begin eating on second or third day of life (Unverzagt 2004)
    • Littermates may compete for food (Unverzagt 2004)

Breeding

  • Breed well in captivity (Unverzagt 2004)
  • Males and females introduced after hibernation (Unverzagt 2004)
    • Non-aggressive towards one another for a few days following mating
    • After a few days have passed, female chases male away
  • Females tend to bask and eat more during pregnancy (Unverzagt 2004)
  • Young independent from birth (Unverzagt 2004)
    • Grow quickly
  • Young and adults should be housed separately (Weigel 1988)

Enrichment and training

(Jennifer Hardell, personal communication, 2018)

  • Supervised sunbathing and outdoor walks
  • Provision of novel substrates for digging and burying
  • Leaves for digging
  • Pools or dishes of water for bathing
  • Scents
  • Hanging flowers for eating
  • Puzzle feeders or balls containing crickets or meal worms
  • Can be trained for health exams and public education (e.g., to touch a target with tongue)

Zoo Ambassador

Blue-tongued skink at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park uses blue-tongued skinks to teach people about Australian wildlife.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

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