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What Is a Berber Skink?

Angie Bates
Angie Bates

Also called Schneider's skink or a dotted skink, a berber skink is a type of heavy-bodied lizard that is native to northwestern Africa. Berber skinks have more well-developed legs than many other skink species, so their tendency to look like legged snakes instead of lizards is diminished. The scientific name of the berber skink is Eumeces schneideri.

Usually glossy, the average berber skink measures 14-16 inches (30-42 cm) long. These animals have thick bodies, smooth scales and short but substantial legs. Berber skinks have patterns of small yellowish spots along their backs. Their base color usually is a shade of gray or brown with lighter bellies, but they might change to a nearly white color when temperatures drop below 30 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-1 degree Celsius). These lizards can live for as long as 20 years.

Crickets are a diet staple for berber skinks in captivity.
Crickets are a diet staple for berber skinks in captivity.

Berber skinks burrow into the sand to make homes. They have scales over their ears, resembling combs, that help keep stray sand from clogging the ears when the skinks burrow. Generally found in sandy areas or scrub lands, these lizards also can be found in grassy or agricultural lands. As omnivores, they eat both plants and insects.

The males are particularly aggressive, often attacking each other and sometimes female skinks as well. They are most aggressive during mating season, fighting over the females. A little more than a month after breeding, the female berber skink lays three to 20 eggs, which she curls around to incubate for about five or six weeks before they hatch.

Although they are not popular pets, berber skinks are part of the pet trade. The majority of these lizards are wild-caught and are most often imported from Egypt, but captive-bred skinks are always preferable when shopping for a pet. Wild-caught skinks diminish the native populations and usually have unwanted parasites.

Pet berber skinks should be kept in a 30- to 50-gallon (about 113- to 190-liter) tank. Sand normally is used as a substrate, or ground cover, but peat moss works as well. Branches for climbing and hiding places should be provided in the tank, as well as a flat rock or log for basking. The lizards need full spectrum lighting, which should be on a 12-hour cycle. The tank's temperature should be maintained at 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit (24-26.6 degrees Celsius), with a basking area that has a temperature of 85-100 degrees Fahrenheit (29.4-37.8 degrees Celsius).

Captive berber skinks eat crickets primarily. They might also consume other insects, meal worms, vegetables, fruits and pinkie mice. These lizards can even be fed beef and cat food.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Berber Skink?

A Berber Skink, scientifically known as Eumeces algeriensis, is a species of lizard native to North Africa. It is a part of the Scincidae family, known for their smooth, shiny scales and burrowing habits. These skinks are adaptable to various environments but prefer arid and semi-arid regions where they can bask in the sun and hide under rocks or in burrows.

What does a Berber Skink typically eat?

Berber Skinks are omnivorous, meaning they have a varied diet that includes both plant and animal matter. In the wild, they consume insects, fruits, and vegetables. In captivity, their diet can consist of commercially available insect prey like crickets and mealworms, along with leafy greens and occasional fruit to ensure a balanced nutrition.

How do you care for a Berber Skink in captivity?

Caring for a Berber Skink involves providing a spacious terrarium with a temperature gradient, using heat lamps or heating pads to mimic their natural warm habitat. Substrate for burrowing, hiding spots, and a shallow water dish are essential. Regular feeding, cleaning, and monitoring for health issues are also crucial for their well-being in captivity.

How long do Berber Skinks live?

Berber Skinks have a lifespan that can reach up to 20 years in captivity with proper care. Their longevity is influenced by factors such as diet, habitat conditions, and overall health management. Regular veterinary check-ups can help in early detection of health issues and contribute to a longer, healthier life for these reptiles.

Are Berber Skinks good pets for beginners?

Berber Skinks can be suitable pets for beginners due to their hardy nature and relatively easy care requirements. However, potential owners should educate themselves on the specific needs of these lizards, such as their environmental, dietary, and behavioral needs, to ensure they can commit to providing a proper and enriching life for their pet skink.

Can Berber Skinks be handled by humans?

Berber Skinks can be handled by humans, but it should be done gently and infrequently to minimize stress. They are not typically aggressive but may become defensive if they feel threatened. It's important to allow them time to acclimate to their new environment and to human presence before attempting regular handling.

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    • Crickets are a diet staple for berber skinks in captivity.
      By: viter
      Crickets are a diet staple for berber skinks in captivity.