Keeping Reptiles

Reptiles are cold-blooded creatures that have scales rather than fur or feathers.  Snakes, lizards and tortoises fall into this category.  There are many different and unusual types of reptile that can be kept as exotic pets.  Before you buy any reptile, it’s essential you find out about how to care for it and make sure you have the right supplies and equipment.  You will need to try to replicate your pet’s natural environment within the confines of it tank and feed it a balanced diet to keep it well and stress-free.  Here is some general information about keeping reptiles as pets.

Habitat

Unless you buy a fully-grown reptile, your pet is going to grow larger and you must bear this in mind when choosing its enclosure.  You should leave at least one third of the floor clear to give your pet space to move around.  You may need to upgrade to a larger tank as your pet grows.

In the wild, reptiles use external temperatures to regulate their body temperature and metabolism, which is key for healthy bodily functions such as digesting food.  For instance, snakes can be seen basking in the sun to warm themselves.  When reptiles are kept as pets, they will need thermal gradients in their tanks to offer them a range of temperatures.  This can be achieved by placing a heat source in part of the tank, using heating pads or overhead lamps.  You can create a hot spot for your pet to bask by hanging an incandescent lamp at one end of the enclosure, over a suitable area such as a pile of rocks.

It’s also essential to provide the right lighting in your pet’s tank, with a cycle of light and dark to simulate night and day.  Certain reptiles, including most lizards, tortoises and turtles, require an artificial source of UV light in order to stay healthy.  This is needed to stimulate the production of vitamin D3, which would be acquired from sunlight in a natural environment and is essential for the proper absorption of calcium.  Supplements can be given, but are not as effective as a UV light, which can be purchased from exotic pet shops or online.

You will need to maintain the right level of humidity for your pet, but spraying the tank regularly with water.  Another way to manage humidity is to place a plastic container with a hole cut out for access in the tank and put some sphagnum moss inside.  Another advantage of doing this is you will provide somewhere for your pet when they are shedding their skin.

You will need to find out before you buy your pet what type of substrate you should use in the enclosure.  Astroturf or reptile bark are commonly used and can be found in exotic pet stores.  It is possible to add pieces of bark or leaves from the garden, but it is essential to make sure they are clean and sterilised first.  You should also offer your pet some hiding places, which you can create yourself with bits of wood or card, or you can buy a purpose built reptile cave.  To give your pet an interesting environment, you can add things like stones and branches to climb on, just make sure they are sterile and secure and won’t fall on your pet.  Some pet owners like to put plants in the tank, mainly because they look nice.  Artificial plants can be used and are an easier option than live plants.  Real plants are likely to be damaged by reptiles and it’s important they aren’t toxic as your pet may eat them.

Feeding

Like other exotic pets, in order to thrive, reptiles need to eat food similar to the prey they would naturally live on in the wild, rather than commercial pet food.  In their natural habitat, reptiles will eat a variety of mammals, birds, insects or fish.  You will need to find out what is the best food for feeding your particular type of reptile.  You need to make sure you don’t feed your pet something that is to large, which could cause them serious injury or even kill them.  As a general guide, you shouldn’t feed a snake anything wide than the widest part of it body and with a lizard, its prey should be smaller than two thirds of its head.

The colour of the food may be an issue with certain species too.  For instance, some reptiles prefer rodents that are the same colour as those they would eat in the wild and some will eat green insects out of preference.

You will need to research the natural feeding habits of your pet in the wild, such as what time of day or night they would eat and how often.  The frequency of feeing will depend on different factors, including age, size and diet.

Feeding an exotic pet live foods in captivity can be an issue.  Some prey such as rodents  will put up a fight and could scratch or bite your pet when it’s killing them.  If your pet isn’t hungry, if live prey is left in their tank, the prey could cause problems.  For example, rats might try to eat a snake’s skin.

Generally it’s easier for most reptile owners to use frozen, pre-killed prey, which can be stored in a freezer and defrosted when needed.  Many people have a special freezer just for keeping their pet’s food, such as dead mice, rats and day old chicks.

A Naturalist’s Diary: 14

A curious phenomenon yesterday. I was walking back to my quarters in the afternoon when I heard a loud splash at our waterbody. I investigated as I assumed a Rhesus Macaque had fallen from one of the overhanging branches of a mango tree, into the water. Sure enough I spotted a young macaque swimming strongly and confidently. It reached one of the islands and clambered out, bedraggled, but otherwise unscathed.

But when I was returning from my quarters it happened again! And I could hear several splashes. The macaques were deliberately jumping into the water.

I watched them for about a half-hour today and there were three young macaques who kept repeating this! At one point I thought that one came up with something and ate it, but I am not certain. Yesterday was a warm day, today completely sodden and wet. I just spoke to the Resort Manager and he says that this is a regular phenomenon.

It rained the entire day today. By 10 am the river had risen by about four feet and the waters were fast and turbulent. I found three river crabs on the steps leading down to the spa, a good fifteen feet above the river.

To Ramnagar in the evening. A tree had fallen towards Mohan and blocked the road. So hundreds of people walking through the forest towards town. When the boundaries of the park were drawn up, how did they not extend it to the river?

B. striatus fished avidly all through the rain, but moved to the resort bank. By six-ish the rain had let up and the waters had already receded by a foot. When I checked the spa steps I could not find any of the crabs. Jolly Uncle tells me that that today’s rain is not a ‘real’ rain since it is not raining in the hills.

My Favorite Insects

I thought it might be fun to introduce you to the weird world of my favorite insects.

These insects really give me an appreciation of our beautiful Earth and really create a sense of wonder in me and that drives me to keep on doing my job. Working hard to rehabilitate and rescue animals.

Luna Moth

Luna Moth.
This moth lives in North America. They are usually found in forested areas. Southern Canada has seen some. These are large green moths with long tails. They have eye spots on both the fore and hind wings. You could plant broad leaf host plants if you wish to try and attract these beauties to your yard. White birch is a good host in the north and most lunas like walnut in the south. They can make clicking noises with their mandibles to ward of predators.

Puss Caterpillar

Puss Caterpillar.
This caterpillar got its name because of its furry hairdo. It’s like a furry kitten but you don’t want to pet it because it’s toxic. These are found in southeastern United States. The venomous tubes on it are hollow with the base equipped with the venom gland. The bigger the caterpillar, the worse the sting. The sting can look like red bumps just like the caterpillar. Florida has actually sent out warnings to citizens to watch out for this toxic caterpillar.

Orchid Mantis

Orchid Mantis.
Of course this mantis looks like an orchid. They are ruthless killers. They wait for prey, looking like a pretty flower petal and then strike. Their habitat is in the Asian rain forest. They can turn brown if their environment requires it. These mantis help attract pollinators to the flower also.

Walking sticks

Walking sticks.
These of course look like walking sticks. I met these amazing creatures in my youth. Every time I encountered one when I was younger, I got so excited. I loved these majestic creatures crawling on me. Species are found all over the world, except Antarctica and Patagonia. They rock back and forth swaying like branches of the trees.

 

Check out my favorite insects.

There’s many more beauties to explore and I encourage you to do so.

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Amazon Microbes

There is more biodiversity of microbes in a handful of soil of the amazon then there is in the animal community.

microbes

Have you heard this?

Its common knowledge in my field.

Leonardo Da Vinci said 500 years ago, which still holds true, “We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot.”

Leonardo Da Vinci

There can be 10,000 to 50,000 species of microbes in a single teaspoon of soil. In the same teaspoon there are more microbes then there are people on Earth. You may hear of all the animals disappearing in the Amazon due to deforestation, but the microbes are disappearing as well.

Scientists believe that microbes that could help our human health could already be extinct. Our bodies have around three pounds of microbes on them. They help us in many ways, just like the microbes help the plant world.

Our gut microbes help us digest food.

Without these microbes we develop autoimmune diseases. Bacteria and fungi serve at the “stomachs” of plants.

Through this symbolic relationship, they provide nutrients of the cells of the plants roots.

Researchers believe that some of these microbes can help us with our digestion.

Also studying these microbes could help us in our own gardens.

We could get healthier more productive plants in a more natural way. These microbes not only help with our and a plants digestion but also our immune systems.

Microbes can produce chemicals that can ward off pests. They can act as an early warning system to the plant, letting it know there are predators around and the plant can use its natural defense mechanisms too.

A study showed that diseased tomato plants use their underground network of mycorrhizal filaments to warn other healthy tomato plants and they can activate their defenses before being attacked.

mycorrhizalmycorrhizal

As Micheal Pollan said, “Some researchers believe that the alarming increase in autoimmune diseases in the West may own to a disruption in the ancient relationship between our bodies and their ‘old friends’—the microbial symbiotic with whom we co-evolved.”

Micheal Pollan

I hope I’ve peaked your interest in our microbial friends of the Amazon.

All creatures big and microscopic deserve our respect and their rightful place in our ecosystem.

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Changing Our Everyday Lives For Wildlife

I’ve always loved animals and rescuing them and rehabilitating them.

As I grew older and got more into the field, I realized how my everyday choices impacted these very animals I was helping.

Throughout this blog I’m going to talk about some common rescues that come into us and what I’ve changed about my everyday life to help the animals.

I’ve switched over to glass straws or no straws at all.

Recently there was a sea turtle that came in and had a straw stuck in its nose. A terrible ordeal, which impacted me greatly. I felt this turtle’s pain. There’s roughly 8 million metric tons of plastic and trash in our oceans. I’ve started taking no to straws. I also found some really great glass straws. I like having them for my smoothies.

The coldness bothers my teeth so the glass straws are a perfect alternative.

Our Bald Eagles are dying from being poisoned by lead.

This lead comes from bullets from hunters. The eagles are ingesting fragments of these bullets in animals not yet found by the hunters or from the leftover insides from field dressing. I don’t personally hunt but have many family members that do.

For them it’s a way of life.

They respect nature and animals and hunt responsibly and use every piece of the animal. At a recent family gathering, I told them of the eagle problem and encouraged them to not use lead bullets and bury their field dressings. Taking these two steps will help our eagles from being poisoned.

The easiest change I’ve made to help the animals that I see coming in is changing to cloth reusable bags.

Plastic bags make it to our oceans and animals are ingesting it thinking its jellyfish or other food. The plastic bags are obstructing their digestive tracts and essentially starving the animal. I’ve sewn cloth bags out of my old tee-shirts and bought bags at the grocery store.

I keep them in my car so I never forget them.

These are just three simple ways to help save the animals.

Its really costing our wildlife so much. It’s costing us too.

We need these animals for a healthy ecosystem, which we are a part of.

Will you try one of these today?