If you are interested in the Indonesian Blue-Tongued Skink, this quick guide will tell you what you need to know the most.
The Indonesian Blue-Tongued Skink is extremely common in the pet trade.
Unfortunately, it’s for all the wrong reasons.
The Indonesian skink goes by a number of different names:
- The New Guinean lizard
- The Moluccan lizard
- The Giant blue tongue
In fact, it has such a bold, striking appearance that the Malays of New Guinea referred to it as the “snake with four legs” and believed it to be extremely dangerous for quite a while.
There are also two different subspecies of the Indonesian skink, which are:
- The Merauke Blue-Tongued Skink
- The Kei Island Blue-Tongued Skink
Both of these subspecies are often sold as “Indonesian Blue-Tongues”, but that is an error caused by employees with untrained eyes. They are all (slightly) different.
The Indonesian BTS is native to the islands of Ambon, Ceram, Ternate, Halmahera, Ke and Aru in Indonesia, as well as New Guinea and a few other islands.
They are found in hot, humid rainforests scavenging for food underneath grasses, bushes, plants and other fauna. Unlike a lot of other skink species native to Australia, they require high humidity (40 to 45% minimum) to thrive.
The Indonesian Blue-Tongue is often mixed up or confused with its closely-related cousin, the Australian Blue-Tongue, especially the Northern subspecies.
However, these species have crucial, important differences and it is extremely important than any prospective owner of an Indonesian bluey be made aware of them.
For starters, Indonesian and Australian skinks have very different color patterns. Whereas the Australian varieties come in light shades of brown, yellows and oranges, Indonesians are usually much darker. They often have dark, large stripes.
They also have longer and larger tails than Australians, which grow to nearly the length of their entire body.
Here is how to identify and distinguish an Indonesian if you are in a pet store and are unsure:
- First, try to look at their tongue. The tongue of an Indonesian skink is usually a lighter shade of blue than the Australian. It also starts to turn pink about halfway down.
- Next, look at their legs. Are they are all black? If so, it’s a good chance it’s an Indonesian. The feet of an Indonesian will also be a bit bigger than those of an Australian, but it’s usually hard to distinguish this if the two species aren’t sitting side by side or you aren’t looking at a picture.
- Also, look at the scales on the top of their heads. Their scales should be outlined with dark lines and colors, Australians also usually don’t have this.
Why is it so important to be able to identify an Indonesian?
The reason is because Indonesians are often sold in pet-stores all over the world, marketed as Northerns. But that isn’t even half of it:
The most important reason is that virtually every Indonesian you find in a pet-store will be wild-caught, and not captive-bred. This makes them inherently more aggressive and less docile around humans.
Australia has quite strict export laws regarding their reptiles, which is why anytime you see an authentic Northern skink, it’s almost always going to be captive-bred. It is simply extremely difficult to smuggle illegal exotic animals out of Australia, and not worth the hassle
So, what a lot of animal smugglers do instead is catch wild Indonesian skinks and ship them overseas. Indonesia permits the export of wild-caught exotic animals, so it’s simply a lot easier. Combine that with the fact that Indonesians and Australians are very closely related and you’ve got a lot of Indonesian skinks posing as Australian skinks.
That being said, Indonesians are not necessarily bad animals to own. You should just be aware of what you are getting into beforehand.
Although wild-caught, Indonesians can still be great animals. They are skinks after all.
In their native rainforests, they are often found scavenging for food on the ground, hunting for arthropods, smaller lizards and rodents, vegetables and fruits, as well as flowers.
In less-developed regions that overlap with their native habitat, they can often be found scavenging in garbage piles. Interestingly, they are strangely attracted to coconut husks of all things.
Being a lizard that calls the rainforest home, you might think at first glance that they can be found climbing up trees and hanging out on branches, as a lot of other lizards do, but you’d be wrong. Indonesian Blue-Tongues, like all the others, are absolutely terrible climbers, who instead prefer the earth.
Like other skinks, they also exhibit something called tail autonomy, which is when they shed their tails, usually in very high-stress environments, such as if they are in the clutches of a predator.
Another interesting fact about these skinks is that, although they are quite prolific in pet-stores, not much is known about them in the wild, especially their reproductive habits.
All that we know is that they give birth to live young, in litters of 4 to 6, and have a gestation period of around 6 to 7 months. As skinks do, the young quickly become independent, going their own way after a few weeks.
Their predators include large birds of prey, larger reptiles and snakes, and humans, especially through habitat destruction, farming, razing, chemicals, etc.
In the wild they can live from 10 to 15 years, and the same is also true in captivity.
If you are interested in owning or purchasing an Indonesian, first check out any pet stores around your area that claim to have blue-tongues. If so, it is highly likely that they will have Indonesians.
If you are want an authentic Indonesian with a specific color pattern (their color patterns can differ quite wildly depending on what area of Indonesia they are from), then I would suggest checking out the following links:
Bear in mind that often times wild-caught Indonesians are not as used to contact with humans, and so they will take some time adjusting.