Pine Island vs. Mainland Chahoua Geckos
Understanding the history and identification between both locales
The Chahoua Chamber
April 13, 2022
Whether a chahoua is Pine Island, Mainland or "mixed" can quickly become one of the most controversial subjects for keepers of these geckos, and unfortunately, the answers are not particularly clear either.
Before I proceed, I want to be explicit in saying that what I share here is the most accurate account of chahoua geckos in the reptile hobby based on my knowledge and experience, but due to black market animal smuggling, poor record keeping and years of breeding in captive collections with a focus on specific traits instead of genetic preservation, much of the discussion around chahoua locales comes down to informed speculation.
A few definitions:
"Locale" = a place or locality especially when viewed in relation to a particular event or characteristic. In this context, the place from where a gecko or geckos where originally field collected, or to where their lineage traces back.
"Mainland" = Grand Terre, the mainland and largest island in New Caledonia. In Leachianus species and sometimes with chahoua, this is commonly referred to as "GT."
"Pine Island" = The lsle of Pines, a southern offshore island that is one of the islands that comprises New Caledonia. This is often abbreviated as "PI" or "P.I."
Common Stereotypes and Misconceptions: Pine Island vs. Mainland Chahoua
For many years, hobbyist discourse around chahoua locales has come down to two main points:
(1) Pine Island chahoua are superior because they are often larger in body size, have more attractive base color, exhibit white collars and pattern, and have more proportional head shapes. It is also believed that Pine Island chahoua cannot or will not regrow their tails if they are lost.
(2) Mainland chahoua are inferior because they are generally smaller in body size, brown or red in base color, do not typically have white pattern, and tend to have shorter snouts with bulging eyes. Underbites are more commonly associated with mainland chahoua as well. It is believe that mainland chahoua can and will regrow their tails if they drop them.
1980s - 1990s: Chahoua Geckos Enter the Reptile Hobby
Chahoua geckos first arrived in captive collections in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It is widely believed that these animals were exclusively from one part of Grand Terre, and as would be expected with a population of animals collected from only one area, they displayed many similar traits: brown or green base color, no white collar and larger eyes. At this time, these geckos were referred to only as "chahoua" with no locality distinction provided, which was not uncommon and reflects how many other species first entered the pet trade -- "leopard geckos" come to mind, and they now have many recognized locales after years of field work and identification. A large number of these early chahoua went into Tim Tytle's collection and they were raised by him for several years.
Being a new species entering the pet trade, not much was known about ideal keeping and husbandry practices for chahoua geckos, including diet requirements The animals were primarily fed baby food and believed to be primarily fruigivorous. As we know now, chahoua rely heavily on insect prey items as well as calcium supplementation for ideal health and while early keepers were learning about the species, neither was provided in adequate volume. This resulted in large numbers of the early chahoua in the pet trade displaying underbites. I suggest reading another piece I've written about the relationship between chahoua (specifically mainland animals) and underbites here if you are curious.
Here are some photos of an animal I owned who is representative of most "mainland chahoua" stereotypes: green and brown base color, no white collar or body pattern, large eyes, and an underbite. When I purchased this gecko, he was sold to me as mainland as well.
Left: A Troeger line mainland chahoua showing a shorter snout, bluging eyes, red coloration and no white collar.
Right: A Tremper line Pine Island chahoua showing a longer snout, more proportional eye size and white collar.