i have a gecko who's getting old and when he passes i'd like to keep his bones as a sort of memorial…i don't know shit about vulture culture except that it's cool as fuck. is it even legal to keep a gecko's bones? where do i even start? what do i need? you don't have to write me a guide or anything, but could you direct me to a website or something that would know?
I’m so sorry to hear about your gecko, Anon!
Generally if an animal is sold as a pet then it is fine to keep its remains. As for where to start check out my Bone Collecting for Beginners post and the Bone Cleaning tag here on my blog. Lots of info in both of those places that’ll help get you started!
For cleaning something like the bones of a small specimen like your gecko the optimal option is really dermestid beetles. I’ve used them for lots of small specimens and they can’t be beat, especially if you want to do something like a ligament articulation. The beetles eat all of the tissue except for the ligaments that hold the bones together (provided you remove the specimen from their enclosure before they eat the ligaments of course) leaving you with a lovely little skeleton.
Your other options would be to make a small cage or box out of very fine wire mesh, find an active ant hill, and let them clean the bones for you. Gotta be careful with this method though because it’s very possible that the ants might carry off some of the bones or if the cage/box isn’t secured in place then a passing scavenger might carry the whole thing off. Sans any active ant colonies you can still use this method for “nature cleaning” and let any other passing insects clean the carcass. So long as the specimen is kept slightly damp and the temperature outside is warm (heat and humidity are ideal conditions for the bacteria responsible for decomp) then something that small will likely be down to bones or close to it in a week or two.
You can also macerate the specimen which is done by putting the whole thing in a container of warm water (around 85 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal) and letting the tissue rot off that way. This method is highly and very offensively aromatic so keep that in mind. The skeleton and possibly the skull will very likely fall apart during this process and require some reassembling which can be done with super glue or plain white Elmer’s glue.
Once you have bones that are free of any remaining tissue then I’d give them a quick soak in hydrogen peroxide to sanitize and whiten them. You could also put the peroxide in a spray bottle and spritz the bones with that a few times until they are as white as you want them to be. Keeping them out in direct sunlight during this process helps get them whiter too.
Hope that helps! Best of luck and again, my condolences about your little friend!