The bluetongue lizard or bluetongue skink is somewhat of an icon in Australia. They commonly thought of as a single species are in fact six species of bluetongue lizard namely the common or Eastern bluetongue lizard, the Northern blue-tongued skink, the Western blue-tongued skink, the central bluetongue skink, the blotched bluetongue, the shingle back, in the Pygmy bluetongue skink.

They are similar but not identical in appearance, all exhibit the customary skink body shape and the blue tongue which gives them their name. Males and females are similar in appearance to the males will have a proportionally bigger head, was the females are bigger overall.

They are omnivorous with a diet consisting of both plant and animal matter. They are slow-moving hunters so their praise consists of slower-moving animals such as beetles caterpillars some crickets at times small lizards they are especially partial to slugs and snails. Of course, even catching such low prey requires a level of effort whereas raiding your cat or dog food bowl can present easier rewards.

Bluetongue is generally a docile critter, and they make wonderful pets. Assuming they are not roughly handled or frightened but in generally be handled safely without fear of being bitten. Not that they especially enjoy being handled and patted – after all, they are reptiles, not cats.

When disturbed, frightened, angry or irritated expect your bluetongue to make his or her feelings known. Facing a threat they will open their mouth as wide as they can in a warning and hiss. This wide-open mouth exposing their pink mouth and bluetongue is designed to frighten off potential attackers. Your bluetongue also flattens its body in order to appear bigger and more fearsome.

Bluetongues are solitary creatures, only coming together to mate once a year so don’t consider getting to and keeping them in the same enclosure. And please do source your bluetongue lizard from a pet shop or herp breeder – it is illegal in Australia to catch and keep a wild bluetongue lizard.

Lizards can live quite a long time 20 or even 30 years in captivity. Keep this in mind if you are considering one is a pet – they are a long-time commitment and releasing them into the environment if you tire of them is not an option.

A lucky blue-tongued lizard can live for many years.
Lizards in captivity have lived for as long as 20 years, and some in the wild may live for up to 30 years.

If you have bluetongue lizards in your yard as many Australian households do you can look after their welfare by keeping any cats and dogs away from them, but also by embracing the snails in your garden rather than trying to rid yourself of them with snail bait. Snails eat the bait, bluetongue eats the snails, and the bluetongue then dies as well.