A skink is a type of lizard that can be found all over the world except in polar or subarctic climates. Although they belong to the lizard family Scincidae, they differ from most lizard types as they have no pronounced neck and smaller legs. In fact, several types of skink have no legs at all!Other types like the Neoseps have much-reduced limbs and no forelegs. They also have fewer than five toes on each foot. Animals like these move very much like snakes and as a general rule is that the longer the digits, the more likely the skink is to be a tree-dweller.Most species have a long tail that can be shed easily if it’s grabbed by a predator and the tail will generally grow back, although it won’t grow back to match the original version. The smallest varieties of skink can measure just 7.5cm, while the largest types can grow up to 35cm.
The good news is that skinks make great pets – especially for reptile beginners and children. They are quite docile and easy to tame and are therefore relatively easy to handle, and they can also be very playful and seem to delight in the company of their keepers. The two most popular types to be kept as pets are the blue-tongued and the Berber or Schneider skink.Blue tongued skinks can grow quite large and therefore will benefit from a large tank – about 50 gallons will be large enough for the blue-tongued skink. It’s also worth considering giving them an additional enclosure in which to roam, as in the wild they will have a large territory that they will travel around regularly. If allowed this extra space, the skink will cope much better with life in captivity.The tank and enclosure should be lined with dust-free substrate such as pine shavings or mulch. A damp area or humidity box should be provided that contains some damp moss or even a moist towel. It’s important that a humidity retreat is provided as it will be used by the animal during shedding. Blue tongues are very agile creatures and will enjoy climbing and clambering about so providing plenty of branches at varying levels and logs to explore will keep him entertained. You must remember to place a secure lid on the tank or you might find his explorations extend to the rest of the house!Like all reptiles, the skink requires an additional source of heat to help him regulate his temperature and the heat source should be accompanied by a basking area where he can rest and soak up some rays. A UV lamp should also be provided.
As omnivores the blue-tongued skink requires a diet containing a variety of foods. A ratio of 60% plant and 40% animal matter is a good basis to work from. The plant matter in the diet could include a mixed salad containing squash, parsnip, beans and some leafy greens. Carrots and sweetcorn should be avoided as they contain a lot of sugar, while brassicas like cauliflower and broccoli can damage the function of the thyroid.Low-fat tinned dog food can make up the meat ration of the diet and can be accompanied by mealworms, crickets and even mice. Skinks can be fed three or four times a week and will certainly let you know when they’re hungry – pouncing on anything that enters the tank and keeping their mouth open for extended periods. Fresh water should be available at all times. Many lizards are in the habit of soiling in their water dish and skinks are no different, so water should be checked and replaced every day.Feeding is a good time to give the tank a good once over to ensure it’s clean. Good hygiene is absolutely critical so droppings and any leftover food should be removed quickly. Cleaning the enclosure once a week will be enough to keep any illnesses at bay.
Like most lizards the skink is quite a hardy creature for its size, and providing its basic needs are met and the tank and enclosure is kept clean, they can live up to 15 years, so this should be considered before you purchase a reptilian friend.Prior to purchase any animal should be checked for any signs that may indicate illness. Any mucus around the mouth or nose should be taken as a sign that all is not well, as should any lumps, bumps, wounds or scratches. Missing scales - particularly if there is a patch of bare skin – may indicate a fungal infection or skin disease. Swelling anywhere on the body may be the result of breaks or other underlying serious injury. Respiratory difficulty is also something to be wary of, as is malformation or paralysis of any of the limbs or tail. Any lethargy or loss of interest in food or its surroundings could also suggest illness or disease.
Many skinks are still imported after being captured in the wild, but there are breeders that can provide you with a captive-bred animal which is, of course, much better for wild populations. You can often find skink breeders and owners on our skinks for sale page.Before purchasing a skink it’s essential that you read all you can about keeping reptiles and speak to vets and breeders in order to gain a full understanding of what is required. As already mentioned, skinks can be long-lived and their housing needs can require some financial investment. As well as financial resources, any keeper must also be prepared to put time and effort into fulfilling the skink’s basic needs and should be confident that they have people around them who can look after the skink if they are ill or if they decide to have a holiday. They require specialist diets, hygienic enclosures, plenty of room to climb and a very specific housing set-up, but if you’re prepared to put the work in they can make excellent pets.