Blue Tongue Species

 UPDATED: MAR 2021

There are 8 species of Blue Tongue Skinks, also known as Blue Tongue Lizards, with several subspecies. I have broken them down based on their geographical locations which is commonly how they are referred to within the private reptile community. 

Australian Species/Subspecies

  • Common Blue Tongue Skink (Tiliqua scincoides)

    • Eastern Blue Tongue Skink (Tiliqua scincoides scincoides)

    • Northern Blue Tongue Skink (Tiliqua scincoides intermedia)

  • Blotched Blue Tongue Skink (Tiliqua nigrolutea)

  • Western Blue Tongue Skink (Tiliqua occipitialis)

  • Centralian Blue Tongue Skink (Tiliqua mulitfasciata)

  • Pygmy Blue Tongue Skink (Tiliqua adelaidensis)

  • Shingleback Skink (Tiliqua rugosa)

    • Eastern Shingleback (Tiliqua rugosa aspera)​

    • Western Shingleback (Tiliqua rugosa rugosa)

    • Rottnest Island Shingleback (Tiliqua rugosa konowi)

    • Shark Bay Shingleback (Tiliqua rugosa palarra)

Indo-Papuan (aka Indonesian) Species/Subspecies

  • Indonesian Blue Tongue Skink (Tiliqua gigas)

    • Indonesian Blue Tongue Skink (Tiliqua gigas gigas)

    • Merauke Blue Tongue Skink (Tiliqua gigas evanescens)

    • Kei Island Blue Tongue Skink (Tiliqua gigas keyiensis)

  • Common Blue Tongue Skink (Tiliqua scincoides)

    • Tanimbar Island Blue Tongue Skink (Tiliqua scincoides chimaera

  • Irian Jaya Blue Tongue Skink (Tiliqua sp.) - Undescribed

Australian Blue Tongue Skinks under Private Captive Management 

Australia's Wildlife Protection Act of 1982 has strictly prohibited the exportation of Australian Wildlife from their country for any private ventures. Today it is only under extremely strict regulation that select animals are exported for educational research and zoological display at properly licensed zoological parks. Therefore, the Australian wildlife (and offspring) that were exported prior to1982 are the ONLY legal Aussie reptiles to reside in private collections outside of Australia. And so, new animals from Australia are not legally obtainable and thus forcing the need for breeding programs if captive populations are to exists outside of the Land Down Under. Ergo, all Australian species in the US and outside of Australia should be captive bred from a long line of captive bred animals.

In some cases there have been animals smuggled into the US and other countries that were confiscated by law enforcement and later allowed to remain in the private sector. Some of those animals have been bred and have offspring in the community today. I have a few animals with traceable lineage to those confiscated founders. 

Excluding the animals with lineage tracing back to before 1982 and those confiscated animals allowed to remain in the private sector any Australian animals in the United States that don't have documents directly from Australia should be considered illegally smuggled or laundered regardless of importation paperwork from third party countries (this includes many of the morphs we see popping up around the world). Link

Proper captive management of a population and consistent reproduction is not only important but also a very good thing for responsible and sustainable reptile keeping. Private reptile keepers have been diligently working to keep Australian reptiles available in the community for decades now. Their hard work is directly why we as a community have the wonderful animals we have today. That is also why Australian species are highly cherished by enthusiasts around the world and in part influences their prices to be higher than their counterparts from other regions that might be more abundant or accessible. 

In the US community the most commonly available Australian Blue Tongue is the Northern followed by the Eastern. Blotched and Westerns are bred annually in very few numbers making them very rare and expensive. Centralians and Shinglebacks are even more rare and very few are offered publicly. Pygmy Blue Tongues are endangered and are not legally in the private market anywhere. 

Below are some examples of Australian Blue Tongue Skink Species/Subspecies.

Indo-Papuan Blue Tongue Skinks under Private Captive Management 

Historically the Indonesian and West Papuan governments have been considerably less restrictive with their wildlife laws regarding exportation. This means that there hasn't been much if any limitations placed on the wild collection, exportation, or sale of Indo-Papuan Blue Tongue Skink species overall. 

Because of the lack of restrictions there have been thousands of Indo-Papuan Blue Tongues and other species imported to the United States and other countries worldwide. The vast majority of the specimens are wild collected or sometimes categorized as farm-bred/ farm-raised. From an ethical standpoint there is little argument by reptile keepers that founding breeding stock is essential for any self sustaining captive management program. Therefore, the wild collection of animals to serve as founding stock and sometimes (not often) as supplemental genetic diversification is appropriate. However, massive commercial collection/harvesting of animals for pet only purposes (never to be bred or used for education) is a significant ethical and sometimes ecological problem. 

 

Sadly the commercial collection of Indo-Papuan Blue Tongues is very much in full operation today. There are hundreds if not thousands of Blue Tongues taken from the wild each year and sold in pet shops across the US. These animals are often riddled with parasites, stressed, and end up in homes never to be bred or used for education. Their need for higher humidity levels makes them slightly more challenging for a new pet owner. Despite these issues, with quality care they can make a great pet. Ideally, individuals interested in an Indo-Pacific species would seek captive bred specimens to reduce the impact to the wild population.  

Thankfully, there are a few dedicated breeders who focus or include these species in their programs. There are Merauke, Tanimbar, Irian Jaya, and even Kei Island Blue Tongues captive bred in the United States most seasons. They are not as commonly captive bred as Northerns but are certainly available for the prudent enthusiast. Unfortunately, the Indonesian Blue Tongue (Tiliqua gigas gigas) has only been bred in its "classic" form a few times and as of 2021 there has never been a Halmahera type Indonesian produced in captivity in the United States. 

 

Below are some examples of Indo-Papuan Blue Tongue Skink Species/Subspecies

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