IUCN Status: Not assessed
Monkey tail skinks are herbivores. They eat the flowers, leaves, shoots and fruit of several native plants in the canopy. Newborn skinks so as to acquire the necessary microflora in their gut eat their parents faecal droppings soon after they are born. In captivity they adore eating cheese plants that originate from Mexico. In captivity kale, green beans, and cooked sweet potato, supplemented with slices of peeled kiwi fruit, apple, and papaya and various herbs are given.
These skinks are viviparous (born alive after developing as an embryo within the females body) and also are born with a placental sac which is unique among reptiles. The baby skink eats this immediately after birth. A long gestation for six months occurs and the size of the baby is comparable to a human giving birth to a six year old child (about 30cms)! The baby will stay with its parents for up to a year of age.
We have a pair here at the zoo and one of their offspring born in May 2018 in one of our tropical house exhibits. Although no captive breeding program exists for this species in the wilds of the Solomon islands it is eaten locally and seriously threatened by the vast deforestation caused by logging companies. This we consider could be a reptile in neeed of proection in the near future.
Prehensile monkey tail skinks only occur on the Solomon island archipelago where at least two subspecies seperated by the sea around the idifferent islands are thought to exist! They dwell in the upper canopy of the rainforests or anywhere their main food plant the Fiscus or fig tree occurs.
This is the largest known surviving species of skink and can reach a length of 80cms or 32 inches in the wild! They give birth to a single live yong which is a miniature version of the adults which they protect as it grows.
The behaviour of this skink is unique as they live in what is called a "circulus". This is often a related group of adults that protect their territory and each other but not necessarily so. Also the female shows strong protective instincts towards her offspring which again is unique in reptiles! This can continue for up to six months.