Rescue / shelter organization,
Worked with pet (didn’t own)
Pennsylvania, United States
Posted Jul 03, 2013
I had my own, I had one through a reptile rescue, and I kept one at an accredited zoo. They're really amazing lizards, but their mass importation led to their endangerment and now they are listed on CITES Appendix II, restricting their trade. Unless acquired from a captive-bred source (this means mated and birthed in captivity, not born in captivity to a wild-caught gravid female) they were likely smuggled out of their native country, the Solomon Islands. It is best not to support this trade.
I acquired my first prehensile-tailed skink as a teenager, before I understood the implications of the wild reptile trade. She is pictured here, the San Isabel Island "giant" subspecies.
Another I worked with was a rescue animal donated by a pet shop that couldn't stand seeing her languish away under their care. She had infections from her capture technique (they are typically tied with cord around their tails, which cuts in and causes infection) and was badly loaded with parasites, dehydrated, and malnourished. Although she regained her health, she didn't life more than a few months after she began looking good.
The third skink I kept was at an accredited zoo, where she was a part of the education department collection. When using her for classes and shows, we allowed her to cling to a stout tree branch, or put her on a cut tree trunk with branches that was mounted in a pot of cement, where she spent the day climbing around.
These skinks are slow-moving, largely herbivorous, and not typically aggressive. They tolerate handling to some extent. Their strength, very sharp, stout claws, and occasional propensity to bite make them a challenge to handle sometimes. The claws should not be trimmed to make them easier to handle, because this takes away their climbing ability.
I fed my skinks a diet of leafy greens including endive, escarole, swiss chard, and spinach. I also offered them hibiscus leaves and flowers, which they readily ate. Also some tropical vine species are suitable for them (Devil's ivy, Epipremnum aureum is great for them). Some berry-type fruit is also good, as is kiwi. A large, sturdy water bowl they can get into to soak is essential. Daily light mistings seem to be well-accepted.
Keep ambient temperature for the skinks high -- heat rocks and pads don't really do the trick. A basking lamp is ok, but they tend to shun strong light -- a heat emitter is better. Also be sure the enclosure is 65-85% humidity, but don't allow it to become damp. The enclosure needs to be big -- these are big skinks -- and they are active at night. No less than a 55 gallon aquarium is suitable; a custom-built tall cabinet-type exhibit terrarium with climbing branches is better.
Please do not support the illegal wildlife trade -- living in a developing tropical country, I have seen firsthand the effects of the reptile export industry and it is having a severe impact on wild populations of reptiles around the world. Find a breeder -- a captive bred animal will thrive better, and you'll know how old it is and that it is healthy.