Authorities think the lizard was someone’s escaped pet, and this led me to think more deeply about my 6-year-old son’s recent request for a lizard. Is our family ready for a reptile?
For some advice I gave Owen Maercks a call. He’s the co-owner of the East Bay Vivarium in Berkeley, what’s likely the best place to purchase a reptile in the Bay Area. I started by asking questions about monitor lizards and then requested tips on buying lizards for kids.
Do you carry monitor lizards? At any time we have at least 10 of them in the store. They’re a big family of lizards. Some are as little as 2 feet long. The crocodile monitor can get up to 16 feet long and we carry them. Most are carnivorous.
Are monitor lizards safe pets? Again, it’s a large, diverse group of lizards. Some are virtually untameable while others are perfectly safe to keep as pets.
The lizard in Riverside was a black-throated monitor. Do you carry those?We have one. Elmo is 6 feet long and he goes with us to preschools and birthday parties. We’ve worked with him and he’s friendly, but black-throated monitors aren’t naturally tame.
Let’s say a 6-year-old boy comes into the store and he’s ready to adopt his first lizard. Would you recommend a monitor? That’s not where I’d start.
Where would you start? There are four lizards that I like to recommend as first lizards. The leopard gecko can grow up to about 9 inches long. They’re naturally docile and hearty. Crested geckos are the up-and-coming pet. They’re as cute as a button and reasonably easy to handle. Bearded Dragons are our most popular lizard. They grow to about 12 to 14 inches. They’re an Australian lizard and sweet-natured. And then there are blue tongue skinks, which are also good-natured. Like all lizards they can eat bugs but people love that you can also feed them canned cat food and snails.
What tips do you have for someone buying her first lizard? Don’t buy it on a whim. Research your source. Avoid buying lizards on Craigslist. Be sure to look at the regime of care required for your lizard. Some require daily feedings while other lizards can be fed a few times a week. And get the lizard your child is in love with. The child needs to be absolutely jazzed about it.
It seems that people are often excited about getting a pet lizard and then they’re disappointed because it doesn’t really do anything. Lizards aren’t mammals. They’re not active. Their job is to do as little as possible all day. People need to realize that there’s a big difference between dogs and lizards. Dogs are substitutes for babies. Lizards aren’t that. A reptile gives you an open invitation into an alien world. I find that people who like lizards are broader thinkers.