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 Emperor Scorpion!
Are you a spider lover? Are you fascinated by arachnids in general? If you want to keep a unique arthropod for a pet, the Emperor Scorpion might be just what you are looking for! I would say that keeping these types of pets is either a love it or hate it type of situation. People who love them often keep several different types and make a hard-core hobby out of it. People who are terrified of them often don’t even want to go in a house that they know has these critters in them!
The Emperor Scorpion Pandinus imperator is a great choice for people just being introduced to keeping arthropods. They can be quite tame and are easy to care for. Scorpions don’t make a lot of noise, have very little odor, and are resistant to illness and disease. Because of their calm nature they can usually be held without fear of being stung. If they do sting, it usually isn’t dangerous and only causes localized pain for a short period of time. For an arachnid, the Emperor Scorpion can live a fairly long lifespan of 8 years. This scorpion also goes by the names of the African Emperor Scorpion and the Black Emperor Scorpion. It is the best known scorpion in the world.
The natural habitat of this scorpion is in West Africa. They can be found in many of the African sovereign states, including the Ivory Coast, Guinea, Nigeria, the Congo, Ghana, Liberia, Togo, and several others. Most often they live in forests with a fair amount of moisture. In 1842 it was described by C.L. Koch. In 1876 it was put into its own genus by Tamerlan Thorell. Right now it is not considered to be endangered, however it is listed as threatened on the CITES II species list. This is mainly due to a decrease in the wild populations because of over collection.
Emperor Scorpions are quite impressive looking. Being all black and reaching up to 8 inches in length, they can appear formidable! This is probably why they have gained such appreciation and are used in movies as a scare tactic. But despite their appearance, they are not as scary as they first seem. They can be held, but this should be done carefully. If scared or stressed they may pince, which can be quite painful, especially from a large adult! It is often better to just look at and watch scorpions rather than make a habit out of holding them.
To properly prepare for a scorpion, you will want to acquire a terrarium. This can be anywhere from 2.5 to 15 gallons depending on how many scorpions you want to keep. Although most scorpions are solitary creatures, Emperor Scorpions can be kept in groups. You will want to make sure there are enough areas and hiding spaces so that each scorpion has a place it can call its own. In the wild they are burrowers and definitely appreciate deep, moist substrates such as peat moss, damp sand, and cypress mulch. Their environment should be kept humid to keep them in good health. A humidity level of 75 to 80% and a temperature of 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal.
Feeding Emperor Scorpions is easy and simple. As adults they primarily eat insects such as crickets and grasshoppers. Occasionally they might enjoy a mouse. Offer them live insects every day and a mouse a couple times a month. Make sure to remove any uneaten prey within a day. This is to keep them from decaying and attracting parasites or growing mold. Make sure to keep a large, shallow water dish in their terrarium as well.
Breeding these scorpions can be easy. If you keep their environment at a suitable temperature and humidity level, and they are healthy and feel comfortable, they will often breed on their own accord. After mating, the mother will gestate the young for about 7 months. The babies are born alive and immediately climb onto her back. The litters range anywhere from 15 to 40 young. The mother feeds them dead insects until they reach maturity, but the majority of them do not make it to maturity. If you want to succeed at breeding Emperor Scorpions, read more here on their Reproduction.
Emperor Scorpions rarely become ill if they are properly taken care of. One of the largest problems they run into is molting. Scorpions are covered by a hardened exoskeleton which they must shed every so often. Most scorpions molt 6 to 10 times in their lifetimes and these are by far the most dangerous times of their lives. Right before a molt, a scorpion often seems lazy and doesn’t move much. For a few days after a molt, a scorpion is especially vulnerable to injury until their new exoskeleton hardens. Molting takes quite a bit of energy. If it is very difficult, a scorpion may have deformed limbs or die.
If you are interested in an Emperor Scorpion, they are quite readily available. You should have no problems finding one. More information on scorpions can be read here on Keeping Arachnids and Other Arthropods as Pets.
Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.