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Best pet lizards for handling


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There was a time, not so long ago, when very little was known about keeping reptiles in captivity. Only recently have we begun to understand their needs well enough to allow them to be kept as pets by the average hobbyist. As this revolution has occurred, said reptiles have gone from being mere captives (as the early literature referred to them) to being pets. For many people, categorizing reptiles with cockatiels and goldfish may be hard to accept. One only needs to spend a few minutes in a reptile store to see that the patrons really do derive great pleasure from their reptilian family members.

One of the main reasons for having pets is to gain a sense of companionship from the animal. When it comes to reptiles, the keeper already has the cards stacked against them in this department. Most reptiles have no way of expressing affection in the same way as a dog or cat. However, this does not mean that they do not learn to recognize individuals, and gain some sort of behavioral enrichment from regular handling.

If you own a reptile, chances are that you got the animal with handling in mind. As a reptile shop employee, I can attest that the vast majority of first time buyers are looking for a friendly, handleable pet more than anything else. Although there are some situations in which certain animals are purchased purely for breeding or as display animals, the goal of this article is to introduce the reader to the basics involved in handling reptiles that are maintained primarily as pets, for which the goal is to foram a keeper-pet relationship.

All Herps are Not Created Equal

Remember that reptiles, just like any other live animal, have individual personalities. Although there are, in general, some species that take better to human contact than others, there is still some variability between individual animals, even of the same species.

Nile Monitors Varanus niloticus, are notoriously feisty animals that seldom tame down to an acceptable level for most people. In my opinion, these are animals whose natural beauty and mystique are best enjoyed from a distance. However, I have seen one or two specimens that have been absolute puppy dogs, allowing their owners and strangers alike to handle them casually. Likewise, I have seen a number of bearded dragons, often toted as the world's tamest lizard, that have had nightmarish temperaments. I still think beardeds make great pets, but it just goes to show that with animals, there are exceptions to every rule.

One must also remember that temperament varies from each individual animal. When you see a person walking their dog on the street, you usually ask first if it is friendly before reaching down to pet it. Just because the dog you see is a golden retriever much like the one you had growing up, does not ensure it's placidity. There are nice golden retrievers and there are those that are not so nice. Likewise, there are some ball pythons that are calm, cool, and collected straight out of the egg, and others who will even as adults be reluctant to relax around people.

Some individual animals are better suited as companion animals than others. Depend on your reptile dealer for help in determining the pet potential of a given animal. Remember, they've seen many more of these animals than you probably have, and they are pros at reading their behavior.

Thinking Like a Reptile

Unlike dogs, cats, or even hamsters, reptiles are not domesticated animals. For the most part, they still have a lot of the "wild" in them. The best thing that we as keepers can do is to understand the instincts and behaviors of reptiles, and use this information to help us interpret their actions.

Most hatchling and young reptiles have a distinct fight or flight response, with very little middle ground. In the wild, these small animals are prey for a variety of larger creatures, and have little in the way of actively defending themselves. They depend mostly on keeping a low profile in order to survive. So what happens when you lift up the hide box from on top of your baby carpet python? Well, for starters, the animal is going to immediately realize that another organism has discovered it. Upon sensing you large size and unfamiliar scent, the baby will assume a defensive posture, tightly coiled with its mouth agape and head raised, following your every movement. If you still haven't been frightened off by a few lunging bluff strikes, then the snake will resort from fighting to flight. It will quickly slither off to find a new, more secure hide out.

Source: www.lllreptile.com

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