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Cambodia And Geckos


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Audrye Malcom



When it comes to the vibrant and diverse country of Cambodia, many people are familiar with its rich history, stunning temples, and delicious cuisine. However, Cambodia is also home to a fascinating array of wildlife, including the often overlooked but highly intriguing geckos. These small reptiles have captured the attention of scientists, nature enthusiasts, and even the local Cambodian population for their unique characteristics and important role in the ecosystem.


Geckos are a type of lizard that belong to the Gekkonidae family. They are characterized by their distinctive ability to climb walls and ceilings with ease, thanks to their specialized toe pads covered in tiny hair-like structures called setae. These structures allow geckos to adhere to surfaces, utilizing a phenomenon known as van der Waals forces. With their remarkable adaptation, geckos have become renowned for their agility and acrobatic abilities.


In Cambodia, geckos are a common sight, particularly in rural areas and even urban environments. Their small size, typically ranging from a few centimeters to a few inches in length, allows them to find refuge in crevices, trees, and houses. You may come across them basking in the sun, or silently perched on a wall, blending seamlessly with their surroundings.


Despite their small stature, geckos play a significant role in Cambodia’s ecosystem. They are nocturnal predators, feeding on insects, spiders, and other small invertebrates. By controlling their populations, geckos help to maintain a delicate balance in the ecosystem and prevent pest outbreaks. In fact, the presence of geckos in homes and buildings is often welcomed by locals as a natural and effective form of pest control.


But geckos in Cambodia are not just intriguing creatures from a biological perspective. They also hold cultural significance for the Cambodian people. Geckos are often associated with good luck and protection, with many Cambodians believing that the presence of a gecko in their home brings blessings and wards off evil spirits. It is not uncommon to see images of geckos incorporated into traditional art, crafts, and even clothing.


Unfortunately, geckos in Cambodia, like many other wildlife species, face various threats to their survival. Habitat loss, due to deforestation and urbanization, poses a significant challenge for these reptiles. Additionally, the illegal wildlife trade puts them at risk, with demand for geckos driven by their use in traditional medicine and as exotic pets.


In response to these threats, conservation efforts are underway to protect geckos and their habitats in Cambodia. Organizations and individuals are working towards raising awareness about the importance of geckos in the ecosystem, advocating for stronger laws and regulations against wildlife trafficking, and promoting sustainable practices to minimize habitat destruction.


In this article, we will dive deeper into the world of geckos in Cambodia. We will explore the different species found in the country, their habitat and distribution, their role in the ecosystem, and the cultural significance they hold. We will also discuss the challenges they face and the ongoing efforts to ensure their conservation. So, let’s embark on a journey to discover the captivating world of geckos in Cambodia!


Geckos in Cambodia

Geckos are a common sight in Cambodia, thriving in the country’s diverse landscapes. From the bustling cities to the remote rural areas, geckos have adapted to a variety of environments and have become well-adapted to both natural and man-made habitats.


These reptiles are predominantly nocturnal, remaining hidden during the day and emerging at night to hunt for food. Their keen senses and remarkable climbing abilities make them highly efficient hunters. Geckos primarily feed on insects, spiders, and other small invertebrates, playing a crucial role in maintaining the ecological balance.


One of the most fascinating aspects of geckos is their ability to vocalize. Unlike many other reptiles, geckos can produce different sounds, ranging from chirping and clicking to grunting and barking. These vocalizations serve various purposes, including territorial defense and attracting mates.


In Cambodia, the most commonly encountered gecko species is the Asian house gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus). This gecko is small in size, measuring around 10-15 centimeters in length. It is easily identifiable by its pale to dark brown coloration with lighter bands or spots, as well as its distinctive adhesive toe pads.


The Asian house gecko is not only a regular visitor to households in Cambodia but also a beneficial presence. This species is known for its appetite for mosquitoes and other household pests, making it a natural ally against disease-carrying insects.


In addition to the Asian house gecko, Cambodia is also home to various other gecko species. Some of the notable ones include the Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko), which is renowned for its striking blue and orange markings; the Siamese leaf-toed gecko (Dixonius siamensis), a master of camouflage; and the Bent-toed gecko (Cyrtodactylus phnomchiensis), an endemic species found in the Phnom Chi Mountain Range.


These gecko species all possess unique characteristics and contribute to the rich biodiversity of Cambodia. Their presence adds to the fascination and charm of the country’s natural habitats, captivating both locals and visitors alike.


Overall, geckos hold a special place in Cambodian culture and ecosystems. Their adaptability, hunting skills, and intriguing vocalizations make them captivating creatures to observe. By understanding and appreciating the diverse gecko species found in Cambodia, we can foster a greater appreciation for the country’s unique biodiversity and work towards their conservation.


Species of Geckos Found in Cambodia

Cambodia is a haven for gecko enthusiasts, boasting a wide variety of gecko species that call the country’s diverse habitats their home. From the common Asian house gecko to the lesser-known and endemic species, Cambodia offers a unique opportunity to encounter these fascinating reptiles.


1. Asian House Gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus): This is the most commonly seen gecko in Cambodia. It is small in size, usually measuring around 10-15 centimeters in length. The Asian house gecko has a slender body, adhesive toe pads, and a variety of colorations ranging from pale to dark brown. It is frequently found in homes, buildings, and outdoor spaces, where it plays a beneficial role in controlling insect populations.


2. Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko): Named after its distinctive vocalization, resembling the sound “to-kay,” this large gecko species is a striking sight. It can grow up to 30 centimeters in length and is easily recognizable by its vibrant blue-gray body, bright orange spots, and large adhesive toe pads. The Tokay gecko is known for its powerful bite and territorial nature.


3. Siamese Leaf-toed Gecko (Dixonius siamensis): This gecko species is a master of camouflage, blending seamlessly into its environment. It has a flattened body, slender limbs, and a leaf-like appearance. Its coloration ranges from brown to green, enabling it to easily hide among leaves and vegetation. The Siamese leaf-toed gecko is primarily found in the forests and agricultural areas of Cambodia.


4. Bent-toed Gecko (Cyrtodactylus phnomchiensis): This gecko is a native of the Phnom Chi Mountain Range in Cambodia, making it an endemic species. It is characterized by its unique bent toes, which allow it to grasp onto various surfaces. The Bent-toed gecko has a brownish-gray body and distinct small scales along its back. Due to its limited distribution, it is considered one of the more rare and elusive geckos in Cambodia.


5. Gold-dust Day Gecko (Phelsuma laticauda): With its vibrant colors and striking patterns, the Gold-dust day gecko is a visual delight. It has a bright green body adorned with yellow spots and a red-orange head. This diurnal gecko is active during the day, basking in the sun and feeding on insects. It can be found in forested areas and around human settlements.


These are just a few examples of the gecko species found in Cambodia. The country’s diverse ecosystems, ranging from dense forests to urban areas, provide a habitat for a rich variety of geckos. Each species has its own unique adaptations and characteristics, adding to the biodiversity and allure of Cambodia’s wildlife.


It is important to note that some gecko species in Cambodia, such as the Tokay gecko, are protected under national and international laws due to their popularity in the illegal wildlife trade. It is crucial to support conservation efforts and discourage the illegal trading of geckos to ensure their continued existence in their natural habitats.


Habitat and Distribution

Cambodia’s diverse landscapes provide a range of habitats for geckos to thrive in. From dense forests and agricultural areas to urban environments and human settlements, geckos have adapted to various ecological niches throughout the country.


In forested areas, geckos can be found in the canopy, among the leaves, and in tree hollows. They take advantage of the abundance of prey and shelter provided by the dense vegetation. Some species, such as the Siamese leaf-toed gecko, have evolved to blend seamlessly with their surroundings, making them difficult to spot.


Geckos are also well-adapted to human-altered habitats. The Asian house gecko, for instance, is commonly found in residential areas, buildings, and outdoor spaces. The abundance of insects attracted to human settlements provides a steady food supply for these geckos. Their adaptability to urban environments has made them a familiar sight in cities and towns across Cambodia.


While geckos are distributed throughout Cambodia, their presence may vary depending on the specific species and environmental factors. Some gecko species have a wider distribution, while others are limited to specific regions or habitats.


The Asian house gecko, being highly adaptable, can be found throughout the country. It has successfully colonized various urban and rural areas, making use of man-made structures as its habitat. This widespread distribution is a testament to its ability to tolerate a range of climates and environments.


On the other hand, the Tokay gecko has a more localized distribution, primarily in forested areas and rural landscapes. It prefers habitats with ample vegetation and tree hollows for shelter. The Tokay gecko is found in the Cardamom Mountains, the southern coastal regions, and other suitable habitats across Cambodia.


The Siamese leaf-toed gecko is typically found in Cambodia’s forests and agricultural areas, where it can camouflage among the vegetation. It prefers habitats with a mix of open space and dense cover, allowing it to hunt for prey while remaining hidden from predators.


The geographical distribution of geckos in Cambodia reflects the country’s diverse ecosystems, from pristine rainforests to bustling cities. Their adaptability to different habitats and their ability to coexist with humans make geckos an integral part of Cambodia’s wildlife.


Understanding the habitat preferences and distribution patterns of geckos is essential for their conservation. By protecting and preserving their natural habitats, we can ensure the continued existence of these remarkable reptiles in Cambodia.


Role of Geckos in the Ecosystem

Geckos play a vital role in the ecosystem of Cambodia, contributing to both the ecological balance and the well-being of local communities. As nocturnal hunters, these small reptiles have a significant impact on controlling populations of insects and other small invertebrates.


One of the primary prey items for geckos is insects, including mosquitoes, flies, cockroaches, and ants. By feeding on these pests, geckos help to regulate their populations and prevent outbreaks. This natural form of pest control is particularly valuable in agricultural areas, as it reduces the need for chemical pesticides, which can have detrimental effects on the environment and human health.


Geckos also contribute to the control of disease-carrying insects, such as mosquitoes. In a country like Cambodia, where mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever are a concern, the presence of geckos can help reduce the transmission of these diseases by keeping mosquito populations in check.


Furthermore, geckos serve as an important link in the food chain. They are preyed upon by various predators, including snakes, birds, and larger reptiles. By providing a source of food for these predators, geckos help to maintain the balance of the ecosystem and support the overall biodiversity of Cambodia.


Not only do geckos play a crucial ecological role, but they also have cultural significance for the Cambodian people. They are often considered symbols of good luck and protection. Many Cambodians believe that the presence of geckos in their homes brings blessings and wards off evil spirits. This cultural reverence for geckos speaks to the interconnectedness between humans and the natural world.


However, geckos in Cambodia, like many other wildlife species, face threats to their populations. Habitat loss due to deforestation, urbanization, and the illegal wildlife trade are significant challenges. Conservation efforts are vital to ensuring the long-term survival of geckos and their contributions to the ecosystem.


By protecting and preserving their habitats, promoting awareness about their ecological importance, and combating illegal wildlife trade, we can safeguard geckos and their essential role in maintaining the delicate balance of Cambodia’s ecosystems. Recognizing the value of geckos in the larger web of life also highlights the interconnectedness of all species and underscores the importance of biodiversity conservation.


Appreciating the role of geckos as natural pest controllers, ecosystem contributors, and cultural symbols enriches our understanding of the intricate relationships that exist within Cambodia’s environment. It reminds us that every creature, no matter how small, has a purpose and a place in the grand tapestry of life.


Cultural Significance of Geckos in Cambodia

In Cambodia, geckos hold cultural significance and are intertwined with the beliefs and traditions of the Cambodian people. They are often considered as symbols of good luck, protection, and spiritual connection.


Many Cambodians believe that having geckos in their homes brings blessings and wards off evil spirits. It is not uncommon for Cambodian households to welcome geckos and even create spaces for them to reside. Geckos are seen as guardians, protecting the household from negative energies and bringing prosperity to the occupants.


The belief in the protective abilities of geckos is deeply rooted in Cambodian folklore and superstition. It is believed that geckos possess supernatural powers and can alert individuals to the presence of malevolent entities or impending danger. The vocalizations of geckos are often interpreted as warnings or messages from the spirit world.


Geckos and their symbolism are also present in traditional Cambodian art, crafts, and mythology. Images of geckos can be found on various forms of artistic expression, from paintings and sculptures to textiles and jewelry. They are intricately woven into the cultural fabric of Cambodia, connecting the people to their natural surroundings and heritage.


Geckos are also associated with good fortune and prosperity in Cambodian folklore. The belief that the presence of geckos brings wealth is deeply ingrained in the culture, particularly in rural communities where agriculture is a crucial part of livelihood. Cultivating a harmonious relationship with geckos is seen as a way to attract abundance and success.


Interestingly, gecko body parts are sometimes used in traditional medicine practices in Cambodia. While this practice is not supported or endorsed, it does reflect the cultural significance and belief in the healing powers of geckos. It is important, however, to emphasize the conservation of geckos and discourage the use of their body parts, as it contributes to their decline in the wild.


The cultural significance of geckos in Cambodia underscores the deep connection between humans and the natural world. It exemplifies the respect and reverence that the Cambodian people have for their environment and the creatures that inhabit it. Geckos serve as a reminder of the close relationship between humans and nature, and the interplay of the spiritual and physical realms.


Preserving the cultural significance of geckos in Cambodia is as important as conserving their populations in the wild. By valuing and respecting these beliefs and traditions, we can foster a greater understanding and appreciation for the intricate web of cultural and natural heritage that exists in the country.


Threats and Conservation Efforts

Geckos in Cambodia, like many other wildlife species, face various threats to their survival. Understanding and addressing these threats are crucial for their long-term conservation.


One of the primary threats to geckos in Cambodia is habitat loss. Deforestation, driven by logging, agriculture, and infrastructure development, has resulted in the destruction and fragmentation of their natural habitats. As their preferred habitats shrink, geckos face challenges in finding suitable shelter and food sources.


The illegal wildlife trade is another significant threat to geckos. Some species, such as the Tokay gecko, are in high demand in the black market, often driven by their use in traditional medicine and as exotic pets. The illegal trade puts pressure on gecko populations, leading to overharvesting and the depletion of their numbers in the wild.


To address these threats and protect geckos in Cambodia, several conservation efforts are underway:


1. Awareness and Education: Raising awareness about the importance of geckos and their conservation is essential. Educational campaigns, community workshops, and school programs play a crucial role in promoting understanding and appreciation for these reptiles, fostering a sense of stewardship among the local communities.


2. Legislation and Enforcement: Strengthening and enforcing laws and regulations against wildlife trafficking is a vital step in combating the illegal trade of geckos. The government and relevant authorities are working towards stricter controls and penalties to deter poaching and illicit wildlife activities.


3. Habitat Conservation: Protecting and restoring natural habitats is crucial for the survival of geckos. This involves initiatives such as creating protected areas, establishing wildlife corridors, and promoting sustainable land-use practices that minimize habitat destruction and fragmentation.


4. Community Engagement: Engaging local communities in conservation efforts is key to long-term success. Community-led initiatives, such as establishing community-managed conservation areas and promoting sustainable livelihoods, encourage active participation and ownership in protecting geckos and their habitats.


5. Research and Monitoring: Conducting scientific research and monitoring programs helps gather crucial data on gecko populations, habitat trends, and the impacts of conservation efforts. This information guides conservation strategies and provides insights into the effectiveness of conservation measures.


By adopting a holistic approach that combines these conservation efforts, it is possible to ensure the long-term survival and well-being of geckos in Cambodia. The collective commitment of government agencies, non-governmental organizations, local communities, and individuals is essential in safeguarding the rich biodiversity and cultural heritage that geckos represent.


Preserving geckos not only protects their inherent value and ecological contributions, but it also contributes to the overall health and resilience of Cambodia’s ecosystems. By conserving geckos, we are preserving a piece of the country’s natural and cultural heritage for future generations to appreciate and cherish.



Geckos in Cambodia are more than just fascinating reptiles; they are integral components of the country’s natural ecosystems and cultural heritage. From their agility and acrobatic abilities to their role as natural pest controllers, geckos contribute invaluably to the delicate balance of Cambodia’s environment.


Through their unique adaptations, geckos have adapted to various habitats in Cambodia, from dense forests to urban areas. They play a crucial role in controlling insect populations, including disease-carrying mosquitoes. Their ability to climb walls and ceilings with ease adds to their charm and intrigue.


Cambodian culture holds geckos in high regard, attributing them with qualities such as good luck, protection, and spiritual connection. The presence of geckos in homes and buildings is seen as a positive sign, bringing blessings and guarding against evil spirits. Geckos are intricately woven into the cultural fabric, represented in art, folklore, and even traditional medicine practices.


However, geckos face significant threats to their survival, including habitat loss due to deforestation and urbanization, as well as the illegal wildlife trade. To protect geckos and their habitats, conservation efforts are underway, encompassing awareness campaigns, legislation and enforcement, habitat conservation, community engagement, and research and monitoring.


Preserving geckos in Cambodia is not just about preserving a species; it is about safeguarding the interconnected web of life that they are a part of. By protecting geckos, we are ensuring the health of ecosystems, promoting sustainable practices, and preserving cultural traditions.


As we appreciate the vital role geckos play in the ecosystem and the cultural significance they hold, it is our responsibility to support conservation efforts and advocate for their protection. By valuing and respecting geckos and their habitats, we are contributing to the preservation of Cambodia’s rich biodiversity, ensuring a future where these remarkable reptiles continue to thrive.


Let us celebrate the enchanting world of geckos in Cambodia and work together to create a harmonious balance between human activities and the natural environment they inhabit. Through collective efforts, we can ensure that geckos and their invaluable contributions remain a part of Cambodia’s beauty and cultural legacy for generations to come.