P.E.I. gecko breeder scaling up due to COVID-19

·3 min read

Business boomed in 2020 for several unexpected products and services: sweatpants, pajamas, anything to do with gardening and plants, lumber, dogs, and geckos.

Geckos?

Mike Richard of Wellington, P.E.I., markets and ships geckos across the country through his business, Maritime Geckos, and says when COVID-19 hit, business spiked.

"It's been really busy since March," Richard said. "Our sales are up about 600 per cent from last year."

Richard bought his first gecko 10 years ago. Since then, the gecko population on his property has grown.

He spent five years studying the species of small lizards, and in 2015 he launched the business from his backyard in Wellington.

"Currently I am working with 11 different species of geckos and there are five different species of other reptiles in the shop," he said.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

Richard has been shipping out the reptiles every week since the pandemic began.

"It's ranged anywhere from one to 10 to 15 geckos a week," he said.

He thinks part of the reason business is booming is the fact people are home more due to the pandemic.

"They have more time on their hands," he said. "Shopping, they are looking for different things to venture in."

No travel restrictions for geckos

His geckos have made the trip all the way to British Columbia.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

The reptiles are shipped overnight using a company called Reptile Express, which helps set up delivery with couriers such as UPS and FedEx.

"We ship in an insulated box with, in the winter heat packs, in the summer possibly cold packs depending on temperatures. And the success rate is pretty close to 100 per cent," he said.

Geckos at his shop start at a price of $100. While he has several species of gecko, Richard said, his favourite is the leopard gecko — his biggest seller.

"It will always be my main focus. That's what I started with and that's what I'll end with," he said.

To see my clients when they get this animal and they are so happy with it and the feedback is positive, it makes me come back to work the next day. —Mike Richard

A leopard gecko can grow to be about 25 cm from the top of its head to the tip of its tail.

"The variation of the colours, there are so many morphs. You can do so much with those leopard geckos. Mixing the genes different colours and you make new genes new colours… it's unbelievable," Richard said.

Leopard geckos are a good "starter pet" for people wanting to get into owning reptiles, Richard said.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

For an initial setup to house a gecko, owners should start with a 10-gallon tank — equal to about 38 litres — and a heat pad with a thermostat to control it, he said. He said geckos can live 10-20 years.

He said it is the passion people have for the animals that keeps him interested. Customers will often send him videos of their geckos.

"To see my clients when they get this animal and they are so happy with it and the feedback is positive, it makes me come back to work the next day," Richard said.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

Most of the geckos and reptiles at Richard's shop eat mealworms, but he said some are "vegetarians" and eat things such as small salads, he said.

"I come in every morning and feed my geckos that need to be fed," he said. "Then I come back at night as well."

On average he spends an hour or two a day with the geckos making sure they are fed and are in the proper temperature. However, once a week when the enclosures need to be cleaned he spends the entire day.

He advises anyone who thinks they want a gecko or other reptile to do some research and also get to know the business you are buying from before making a purchase, Richard said.

More from CBC P.E.I.