Cool Pets! Reptiles… the Fascinating World of Lizards, Snakes, and Turtles
The sighting of a reptile captures everyone’s attention! These are the most bizarre and curious of all the land dwelling creatures, and also some of the most adorable of the aquatic creatures. Like other terrestrial animals they evolved from creatures of the sea, but these animals are certainly some of the most provocative.
Reptiles, just like their aquatic ancestors, are cold-blooded animals. But unlike the familiar warm-blooded pets such as dogs, cats and other mammals, reptiles lack any sort of furry cover. Rather they are sheathed in scales, or bony plating known as scutes. Although reptiles lack that cozy, huggable appeal of a fuzzy soft covering they are fascinating to look at and intriguing in habit. They are exceptional animals and make very cool pets!
Cool Animals Known as Reptiles
Incredibly, there are over 8,000 reptile species in the world! These are extremely ancient creatures, and have been a part of many culture’s folklore throughout history. This large group is divided into four classified orders.
- Turtles, of the order Chelonia, are the most aquatic and are also the oldest living reptiles, existing nearly unchanged since the Triassic period.
- Lizards and Snakes are placed in the large Squamata order, and all are terrestrial.
- The very large, carnivorous reptiles found in tropical and subtropical swamps are placed in the order Crocodilia that includes alligators, caimans, crocodiles, and gavials. The ‘ruling reptiles’ of the great reptilian subclass Archosauria is also part of the Crocodilia order, and includes the popular, but extinct dinosaurs.
- The tuataras from New Zealand are in the order Sphenodontia with just 2 species.
Reptiles have a vital role in the natural world. They are an important part of the food chain both as predator and as prey. Predatory reptiles eat various species of rodents and insects, yet in turn, some mammals as well as birds of prey will eat some reptiles. Both sides of the equation help to keep animal populations in balance.
Cool People that Love Reptiles
All pet lovers tend to be very passionate about animals, and that’s equally true for reptile lovers. Reptile lovers repeatedly prove to be ardent enthusiasts for these unusual creatures. Also as is true to all animal lovers, these people also understand and care about the passions of their fellow reptile keepers. The dedication these fascinating creatures inspire is best illustrated by an amazing story that unfolded just a couple weeks ago.
At the recent Reptile Super Show, held on November 2nd and 3rd in San Diego, California, the herptile community came together to help an aspiring 13-year-old boy named Zayd Sheck realized his dream of owning a beautiful boa constrictor.
The United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) reported that Zayd “…came to the USARK booth to hand over a rosy boa he found in the lobby (misplaced in container by an attendee after purchase). After speaking with Zayd’s mother, we found out that Zayd has been to many reptile shows this year following one certain boa constrictor bred by SoCal Constrictors and had been saving his money to buy the boa. He had saved enough for the snake but not enough to buy a cage, so he bought two raffle tickets for a snake kit at our booth and would be able to take the snake home if he won the kit.”
Well Zayd did not win the snake kit in the raffle, so a wonderful USARK volunteer spoke with the breeders of the snake, relaying Zayd’s story. Together they devised a plan “…to guarantee Zayd had an incredible day!” After the raffle USARK paged Zayd, asking him to come to their booth. When he arrived they presented with the boa from SoCal Constrictors that he had been eyeing for months, along with a ReptiHabitat Snake Kit from Zoo Med. The herptile community extended a great gift to this aspiring reptile keeper. Zayd and his mother were overwhelmed with appreciation, “… Zayd’s mom had tears in her eyes and hugged nearly everyone in the room”!
Benefits of Reptile Keeping
For enthusiastic reptile lovers, learning about these animals and keeping them as pets is an exciting adventure in and of itself. But reptile keepers, as is true of all pet lovers, are passionate people with a profound respect for animals. Their strong compassion lends a deep concern when any Animal Cause comes up.
The ultimate reward for both the animal world and humanity is people equipped with knowledge and the ability to help maintain and even breed these wonderful animals. Reptile lovers make it possible to save many endangered species from extinction.
Find the Best Reptile Pets
It’s exciting to learn what great pets reptiles make. They come in a variety of shapes, patterns, colors, and habits. Keeping them as pets is a fascinating hobby, and they have many advantages over other types of pets. They are generally quiet, clean, odorless, and non-demanding. Many require very little space, are low maintenance, and yet are fascinating to observe.
The trick when picking out your pet is to match the reptile that best fits into your lifestyle and home environment. See pictures and find great information for all sorts of Reptiles on Animal-World. A broad selection of Snakes, Lizards, turtles and tortoises will make good pets.
Join the Herp Community
You can follow in the footsteps of Zayd and attend multiple reptile shows, expos, and special reptile events. There are so many dedicated people in the herptile community that it’s easy to get involved. All across the country there are numerous clubs and organizations too.
One of my personal favorite organizations is the United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK). In their own words, they are dedicated to the “…science, education and conservation” of these fascinating creatures. Join their mailing list and you will receive details about many upcoming events. Another great online resource for shows and expos is the Reptile Shows & Events on Reptile Channel. Just be warned, once you start getting involved you may very well get hooked, and be a reptile lover for life!
Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The Veiled Chameleon!
Chameleons are famous for their camouflage capabilities! They have the perfect body shape and are able to somewhat change colors in order to mimic their surroundings! The Veiled Chameleon Chamaeleo calyptratus has evolved to be particularly good at blending in with leaves! There are several different types of chameleons, with the Veiled Chameleon being one of the easier types to keep as a pet. Other Chameleon types include the Jackson’s Chameleon, the Panther Chameleon and the Graceful Chameleon. Other names the Veiled Chameleon goes by are the Yemen Chameleon and the Cone-head Chameleon.
The coolest thing about these creatures is the way their bodies can change. They are flat and arched (to match the way leaves look) and are primarily green with other markings depending on if they are male or female. They can easily change color to match whatever their environment is. Not only do they change color in response to their surroundings – they also change color in response to the temperature, their mood, whether they are in breeding mode, and to changes in their health! Another interesting physical feature is that their eyes can rotate all around and focus independently of each other! Chameleons are fairly large lizards. When full grown some males can reach 2 feet long!
Chameleons have a reputation for being difficult to keep as pets. This is definitely true, but the Veiled Chameleon often proves to be one of the somewhat easier types to care for. The reasons for this are that they can tolerate a little larger temperature range, they are omnivores (eating both plants and insects) and they can reproduce fairly easily. Most people who keep them simply love their unique attributes and love to watch and interact with them!
The Veiled Chameleon is native to Saudi Arabia and Yemen. They have only recently been widely kept as pets, with the first ones being imported into the United States in 1990. They are on the IUCN Red List for Endangered Species. However they are listed only as a Least Concern (LC). And they have adapted to many environments and are kept in captivity fairly easily.
As I mentioned earlier, these guys are omnivores and can eat a large variety of both insects and plants. In captivity they do well being fed crickets and mealworms that are coated with a vitamin powder. Adult chameleons need less calcium than younger ones and may not need their insects coated. Give them plant materials such as acacia fruit and ficus and pothos leaves as well. These chameleons should be provided with a large enclosure. An adult male should have a minimum space of 30” W x 60” L x 45” H. Large terrariums work well. They are aggressive and should be kept alone once they reach adulthood. Provide them with a mixed substrate containing both sand and peat moss. Place several vines with leaves and perches around for them to climb on. Mist both the chameleon and the leaves at least twice a day (with de-chlorinated water). These lizards drink from the leaves and so this is a must in order for them to stay hydrated.
The temperature of their environment should be kept in the 80’s during the day, but keep one area around 90 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (with a heat lamp) for a basking area. At night the enclosure should be in the 70’s. Humidity should be between 60 and 70% (less than what other chameleons need). Keep their environment very clean and disinfected to keep them as healthy as possible. Their cage should be cleaned at least weekly.
These chameleons are one of the easier ones bred in captivity, as well. If you want to know more detailed information on breeding these lizards, here is the specific Veiled Chameleon Reproduction area of the page.
To make sure your chameleon is healthy, clean and disinfect their cage on a weekly basis, provide them with the correct food and lighting, mist them twice a day, and provide a heat lamp. The most common disease found in captive lizards is called Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). This is caused by too little calcium. To avoid this, coat their insects with calcium powder at least once a week prior to feeding them. To ensure they also get enough Vitamin D3 by providing UVB-emitting light bulbs.
To read more on keeping these amazing lizards, here is a good run-down of everything you need to know on Veiled Chameleons.
Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.