Prehensile-Tailed Skink (Corucia zebrata), also know as Solomon Islands skink, monkey-tailed skink, giant skink, zebra skink, and monkey skink
Popularity: Not a good pet for beginners
Origin: The Solomon Islands
Native habitat: forest
Size: 2-3 feet
Lifespan: 25 years or more
Appearance: The Prehensile-Tailed Skink has a long, slim body; strong, short legs; and a triangular shaped head with small round eyes. The jaw is strong and designed for crushing, and the teeth are small and used for eating vegetation. Males have broader heads and more slender bodies than females. Another difference is that males have a V-shaped pattern of scales just behind the cloacal opening. They have scales that are dark green and often speckled with light brown or black. There are scales on the underside that range from light yellow to different shades of green. Their toes have thick, curved nails used for climbing and gripping tree limbs.
Diet: herbivorous; leaves, flowers, fruit, and growing shoots. They are known to eat toxic plants without getting sick. Juveniles will eat feces from adults to get the necessary microflora to digest their own food. Newborns have been known to consume their placental sac.
Activities: nocturnal, arboreal
Misc characteristics: This is the world’s largest species of extant skink, and one of the few species of reptile known to function within a social group. Males and females are territorial and hostile towards members not a part of their family group. It has a prehensile tail, meaning that they can grab things with it. This helps it easily maneuver from limb to limb. It acts as an extra leg when they are climbing, as a safety net to catch them if they fall, and as a repelling rope from which to hang. Skinks are infamous for their frequency of defecation and how bad their stool smells.
Skinks like to climb, so provide them with housing that is large and tall enough to allow for climbing. It should be no less than 5-feet tall, 3-feet wide and 3-feet long. It can be made of plate glass, Plexiglas, welded wire, or wood, but you have to ensure there is plenty of airflow. Furnish it with lots of sturdy branches for climbing and some places for the skink to hide, like cork tubes.
Keep the humidity at no less than 70 percent by misting. A large, stable water bowl will also help keep humidity high.
Good substrate is cypress and sphagnum moss to retain humidity and moisture. Bark chips, brown paper, newspaper, orchid compost, paper towels, and wood shavings are also good choices.
Temperature and Lighting
Daytime temperature should be 78 to 85 degrees F.; nighttime temperatures should be 70 to 75 degrees. There should also be a basking spot of 95 to 100 degrees. It is important to have a day/night cycle. Use full-spectrum UVB lighting for 12 hours in the daytime. You don’t want total darkness at night, so use a moon light.
Your skink will only eat plant matter, not insects. Feed it mostly dark green, leafy vegetables like collard, dandelion, mustard and turnip and greens, as well as escarole, kale, romaine lettuce, and spinach. Other good choices include carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, sweet potatoes, turnips and zucchini. Offer periodic treats in the form of flowers, fruit, and peas.