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Prehensile-tailed skink

Scientific name:Corucia zebrata

Country: Solomon Islands

Continent: Asia

Diet: Leaves and fruit. In the Zoo, they eat a variety of leaves and vegetation including dandelions, soft thistles and plantains. They also relish the leaves of the Swiss cheese plant (Monstera genus). They get a twice weekly treat of chopped fruit and mixed peppers. All food is supplemented with extra vitamins and minerals.

Food & feeding: Herbivore

Habitats: Tropical rainforest

Conservation status: Not Threatened

Relatives: Blue-tongued skink

Description: The prehensile-tailed skink is a large lizard (the largest belonging to the family Scincidae), growing up to 80 cm in length. As the name suggests, it possesses a prehensile (grasping) tail and four sturdy limbs equipped with very sharp claws. It is olive green is colour.

Lifestyle: It is a powerful climber and spends most of its life in the treetops eating leaves, flowers and fruit - particularly the leaves of a creeper Epipremnum pinnatum (known as the centipede tongavine) which is very unusual for a skink. It is primarily nocturnal; spending the day curled up in a hollow tree trunk or hidden in dense foliage.

Family & friends: Little is known about the social behaviour of this species.

Growing up: Breeding takes place in spring and a single youngster (or more rarely twins) is born seven or eight months later. The youngster is relatively large at birth: up to 25 cm in length and weighing over 100 g. The mother will guard her offspring for several weeks or months and will challenge any intruders. Young skinks mature and breed in around 3 years and live for around 25 years.

Conservation news: In the wild they are under pressure due to habitat loss and rarely do well in the new forest growth that takes over when the primary forest is felled. They need large trees draped in the centipede tongavine in order to survive.

Bristol Zoo Gardens has successfully bred this species for many years and sent animals to other zoos all over Europe. A UK studbook has now been compiled and a photographic database has been initiated.

The centipede tongavine that this species of skink feeds on is toxic to most animals. In some parts of the world (Florida for example), the vine is an invasive species.