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That Pet Place welcomes Zoologist/Herpetologist Frank Indiviglio to That Reptile Blog

Frank Indiviglio working with gator

That Reptile Blog would like to take this opportunity to welcome renowned Zoologist, Herpetologist and Author Frank Indiviglio. With his experience as a zookeeper at institutions like the Bronx Zoo, field work with such exotics as anacondas in Venezuela, and a lifetime’s worth of intense interest in all things animal, Frank is here to share his experiences and answer any pet-related questions you may have. He will be contributing articles to That Reptile Blog, and related blogs: That Fish Blog and That Avian Blog. Take a look at Frank’s autobiography and read about his exciting life!
I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive Frank Indiviglio with Anacondas in Venezualan llanosmenagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later.

I was fortunate in having at my doorstep institutions that were, quite literally, paradises for one such as me. I spent countless hours roaming the grounds of the Bronx Zoo and the halls of the American Museum of Natural History, and was there set upon the path that would determine my life’s course. That course was, no doubt, a convoluted one – at one point, feeling the financial pressures that inflict most of those interested in working with animals, I became a lawyer. Fortunately, and for this I remain ever grateful, those closest to me helped me decide to follow my heart and return to the work I was born to.

My first jobs with animals were as an unpaid helper at local pet stores, after which I moved on to be a poorly-paid assistant at an animal importing facility. Much of my “salary” came in the form of permission to keep certain creatures – usually sick ones – as my own. As I write these words, I am watched by a musk turtle that I acquired in this manner in 1969. While there is no denying the need for regulations on the trade in wild-caught animals, I must say that I learned a great deal by caring for the unending parade of chimpanzees, cFrank Indiviglio working with Leatherback Sea Turtlesoatis, kinkajous, ocelots, squirrels, rare fishes and reptiles that came through the doors in those days.

I paired my start in the legal profession with a volunteer position at the Bronx Zoo – Sundays would find me swatting Indian rhinoceros on the rump to nudge them into their exhibit or netting fruit bats while Mondays would have me at a desk in midtown Manhattan drafting leases – obviously, it was not a fair contest, and I soon found myself as a full-time bird keeper at the Bronx Zoo. As with the importing business, I entered the zoo field at the tail end of a wonderful period, when curators were naturalists as opposed to administrators and all were encouraged to learn animal care in hands-on fashion. I built upon the foundation laid down in the pet trade, and was soon caring for animals ranging from ants to elephants, and most everything in-between. As concerns zoo animals, I have always found myself drawn towards the smaller creatures, as it is these for whom we can best provide in captivity, and who reveal more of their life-cycles to us. Happily for me, such animals are also those most suited as pets. I also am pulled unfailingly towards the world’s odd, unknown and under-appreciated species.

I worked in all of the zoo’s many buildings and as a keeper of fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals, and helped to establish its first substantial invertebrate collection. I also functioned, among other things, as head mammal keeper, supervisor of the Prospect Park Zoo and educator. Thus I came to live the life I know and love – courting adventure and knowledge and, hopefully, passing along something of value in the process.

Field research projects have taken me throughout North, Central and South America in an exciting quest for information about the natural histories of many varied creatures. I don’t have the words to describe the excitement felt during weeks of wrestling 17 foot long anacondas from the swamps of the Venezuelan llanos, nor my amazement at watching scores of macaws cross the sky or a brilliant basilisk run atop the surface of a forest pool. The anaconda project was highlighted in National Geographic Magazine – growing up, the idea that my photo might somehow wind up in that grand publication was simply unimaginable. Other projects had me dodging electric eels, marking crocodiles, tagging leatherback turtles, collecting spiders, stalking dart poison frogs and catching piranha in locales ranging from the beaches of Costa Rica to the pine barrens of New York.

My work has put me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping pets of every description, and I believe I have benefited more than they from the experience. For in their sense of wonder and caring I found a constant renewal of my own, and a validation of the path I had taken. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site.

After a career of over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo, I signed on as consultant for the Staten Island Zoo, working on the re-construction of their famed reptile house. This building was, in years past, presided over by none other than Carl Kauffeld, a veritable giant among herpetologists and an inspiration to a generation of snake enthusiasts. The new building, made possible by the efforts of the zoo’s unusually dedicated staff, is wonderful, and I hope you can visit. I continue to act as a consultant there, and am also designing exhibits for the Maritime Aquarium and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. I have spent time in Japan, fascinated by its public aquariums and pet stores, and regularly exchange ideas with zoo and aquarium professionals there.

I often pursue another life-long interest – writing – and have published books on invertebrates and fish, fresh-water, marine and brackish aquariums, newts, salamanders, seahorses and geckos. I was also fortunate in having opportunities to write articles that were published in professional and popular magazines, and in a number of books and conference proceedings. Appearances on television and radio have enabled me to discuss pet-keeping with large audiences. Perhaps because of my own roots, I enjoy helping NYC children discover nature, and have long presented animal-related programs for Science Development, Inc. and have taught biology at Columbia Preparatory School (somewhere along the line I had acquired a Master’s Degree in Biology, which was infinitely more interesting than acquiring a law degree!).

I hope that I can help you with your questions, and that you will favor me with your pet – keeping observations, ideas and suggestions. In your decision to correspond, please bear in mind that no observation, no matter how seemingly mundane, is unimportant, especially considering all that is yet unknown about many commonly-kept pet species. I myself recall letters that I wrote to Bronx Zoo curators and other such people, seeking information and noting my observations. Several times my quite questionable conclusions were validated, in one case after 18 years, by later experiences with these same people (many times I was mistaken, of course, but I learned a great deal none-the-less). Sometimes such led to a publication, often just to a good laugh, but everyone, including the animals involved, benefited. The point is that, in this wonderful field of ours, the exchange of information is necessary, and always interesting and enjoyable. I look forward to corresponding with as many of you as possible. Thank you, Frank Indiviglio.


  1. avatar
    Frank Indiviglio

    Dear Adam,

    It was a pleasure to meet you and your family at That Pet Place on Saturday . Thanks so much for the naming your gecko after me – it is quite an honor, the first for me. (you are the first to write into my new blog as well)!

    You can feed your gecko 3 times each week. One meal can be made up of 3 crickets or 2-3 mealworms or waxworms. You can find some other feeding ideas in my book at page 66 (thank you for using my book also!). Please remember to use vitamin/mineral supplements on 2-3 of the feedings. You can also feed smaller amounts of food 4-5 times each week, if you prefer to feed your pet more often.

    Take care and please keep me posted on your progress, Frank

  2. avatar

    Hi Frank,
    My son has a water monitor, approx. 2′ in length nose to tip of tail….we think he might have a cloacal prolapse…something is protuding at the very top of the tail, it protrudes, and withdraws…and oh! there it is…oh! gone…can you advise? He is a pretty feisty guy, but I’m sure btwn my husband and son, he can be wrangled. Thanks, and we look forward to hearing from you.

  3. avatar

    Hi Julie,

    Thanks for writing in.

    My first thought is that what you are seeing is the male sexual organ, known in lizards as the hemipenes. A prolapsed cloaca or hemipenes usually remains out of the body and is not withdrawn frequently as with your monitor.

    Lizards sometimes extrude the hemipenes during periods of excitement or agitation, irrespective of breeding condition (or opportunity!). It seems that the “wiring” for all classes of excitement is very close in some reptiles and amphibians – male frogs, for example, often attempt to enter amplexus (the fertilization position) with females, other males and even floating plants when they are fed in a group situation!

    If your water monitor is of the species Varanus salvator (others are sometimes sold as “water monitors”), then he seems a bit on the small size to be exhibiting sexual behavior. However, if he has been feeding well he may have mmatured early. Please send in a photo if you are unsureof the species.

    Factors which might cause your lizard to extrude the hemipenes include aggitation (territorial defense, a cage that is too small), anticipation of a meal upon seeing you enter the room, a new smell or any type of environmental change. In fact, old zookeepers’ tricks to induce breeding in monitors and snakes included changing the cage’s substrate and also putting the intended couple in a burlap bag and driving them around in a car for awhile…both techniques worked on occassion!

    If the condition seems to worsen, or the organ remains out of the body, you should bring the animal to a veterinarian specializing in reptiles (please let me know if you need some listings in your area).

    Please bear in mind that all monitors are agressive feeders and can administer severe bites..also, they often react (as perhaps you are seeing here)to stimuli that we do not sense, so always handle them with care.

    Careful attention should be paid to the diet of rapidly growing monitors, as they need proper amounts and ratios of calcium and other nutrients. I’d be happy to provide some suggestions if you feel that might be helpful. Again, please send in a photo of your animal if you are unsure of the species – Varanus salvator, the Asian water monitor, can reach 6 feet in length, so you’ll need to do some advance planning if this is the species that you have.

    Good luck and thanks for your interest in my articles.

    Best regards, Frank

  4. avatar

    Why are bats and skunks in the same cave at the Bronx Zoo?

  5. avatar

    Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    Interesting question…and original – in all my years at the Bronx Zoo, no other visitors seemed to wonder about that!

    I worked in the exhibit you are referring to, in the Bronx Zoo’s World of Darkness, for quite some time. In mixed species exhibits, zoos utilize animals that would occur together in the wild. The natural ranges of striped skunks and the fruit bats exhibited with them (Artibius species when I was there) overlap in northern Mexico. Both are nocturnal, and the reverse lighting cycle used in that building encourages them to be active during visiting hours.

    Skunks are not able to catch healthy bats, but in the wild enter bat caves in search of young or injured bats that have fallen from their roosting places on cave walls and ceilings. The skunks kept in the Bronx Zoo exhibit are, as you may have noticed, quite “hefty”, and do not bother hunting. The bats do breed in that exhibit – I have netted 100 or more surplus individuals at a time for shipment to other zoos. I would not be surprised if a skunk occasionally took a youngster that fell to earth, but I have not actually observed this. The skunks are shifted into off-exhibit holding areas when the zoo closes for the evening.

    In the same building you may also notice stripped skunks that appear to be housed with broad snouted caiman. In that exhibit, a glass wall actually separates the two species.

    Please be in touch if you need any further information.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  6. avatar

    hi i’m doing a project for my algebra 2 class. And my group and I have to interview someone in our choice of zoology for a college project. I was wondering if you would answer these following questions, it would be greatly appreciated.

    1. What made you want to become a zoologist?
    2. Do you enjoy what you do?
    3. How much schooling did you go through?
    4. What animal(s) do you deal with most?
    5. What is herpetology?
    6. What do you look for when you examine animals?
    7. Do you prefer lab work or in natural habitat?
    8. Does zoology require any physical activity?
    9. How do you get paid?
    10. Do you like your pay?
    11. What are the other branches of zoology?

  7. avatar

    Hello Ashley, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog. I’ve answered your questions below…please let me know if you need further details.

    1. I’ve been interested in animals for as long as I can remember…the encouragement of my family and growing up near the Bronx Zoo and American Museum of Natural History certainly helped.

    2. I enjoy it immensely…I’m one of the fortunate few who has made a hobby into a career.

    3. I have a Master’s Degree in Conservation Biology/Zoology.

    4. The animals I work have varied over the course of my career…everything from tiny invertebrates to the large reptiles, birds, fishes and mammals at one time or another. That is not typical of a zoologist, just my very good fortune.

    5. Herpetology is the study of amphibians and reptiles.

    6. What to look for really depends upon the nature of the question or problem, and so varies a great deal. For example, captive care, behavior in the wild and taxonomy all require very different perspectives.

    7. I prefer work with live animals in captivity or the wild as opposed to typical lab work.

    8. Zoology can be extremely physical – capturing and tagging animals in the wild, for example, or less so, i.e. when one is involved in research and writing. There is something for everyone, no matter what their level of interest or physical abilities.

    8. When working for an institution such as the Bronx Zoo, payment is as a salaried employee. In other cases, I engage in freelance work, and am paid for specific projects…for example, designing a zoo building, writing museum graphics, field surveys to identify endangered species living in an area slated for development, and so on.

    9. Good question! Pay levels in zoology are almost always lower than in other fields requiring the same amount of education and experience…it is a field one enters out of interest. Many of the organizations that hire zoologists are considered “not for profit” institutions, which typically offer modest salaries. Living in NYC, I’ve always found it necessary to take on extra work in the form of writing, etc. However, zoologists involved in certain research areas, or who become administrators, may earn higher salaries.

    10. There are a great many subdivisions in zoology, and new ones appear regularly. In its most general sense, zoology is the study of animal life, past and present, microbes to whales. Many other research areas spring from this, so that the work a zoologist does often finds application in medicine, agriculture, industry and countless other disciplines.

    Good luck in your work,

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  8. avatar

    Thank you so much for answering the questions for me and my group. It means a lot, and has made me think more about becoming a zoologist. Ive always loved animals and it would be the greatest dream in the world to work with them.

  9. avatar

    Hello Ashley, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for taking the time to write in with your kind comment; much appreciated. I apologize for the long delay in responding to you…an emergency surgery put me out of commission for a time.

    If you have a deep interest in animals, then you can ask for no better life than that of a zoologist. Please feel free to write in whenever you might need specific advice, and I’ll do my best to help out. Also concerning any subjects you might like to read about, just let me know – I found the lives and travels of zoologists and naturalists to be very inspiring in my younger days, and still re-read them today.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  10. avatar

    Hello Mr. Indiviglio,

    I’m sorry. I wasn’t sure where to post this question. Feel free to put my question anywhere on the sites if you think it might help others.

    I live in sunny San Diego. While friends and family have commented that my menagerie is a zoo. It’s just a crazy house with an usually large number of pets. The pet I am writing to about is our bearded dragon.

    I am in the planning process of creating a new outdoor enclosure for her and I have but one stumbling block. The sunny side of the enclosure is also the breezy side.

    We live very close to the ocean and while there is no shortage of sunny days, it can be a bit breezy. I am desperately trying to find a material with the following properties.

    1. Blocks the wind
    2. Allows in UVB and UVA ray (natural sunlight)
    3. Does not have the dangerous magnification properties of glass and some plastics.

    I don’t think such a material exists. I am starting to think that I should just use a low wall of white plastic on the sunny side (like the other sides) to block the wind and hope she has enough sense to stay low and move into the sun) far enough away from the wall) if the breeze is bothering her. Obviously she’s also going to have a nice sheltered place to get away if she gets too hot or wants to lay low for a while. above the white walls there will be fine mesh and other ingenious ways to keeps critters out and in.

    I’m only going to put her out on warm days and bring her in every night.

    So, do you know if there’s a way to block the breeze and not the sun? Any ideas?



  11. avatar

    Hello Paige, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    There are UVB/A permeable plastic panels available… I’ve dealt only with companies that supply the material in bulk, for zoos and greenhouses, but you may be able to find another source via an inter-net search. If not, please write back and I’ll see if I can turn anything up.

    However, if you use regular plastic to block the wind your lizard will seek out other sunny spots if available…they are very good at thermo-regulating and even, recent research indicates, in sensing UVB. Heat magnification is mainly a problem in small terrariums placed in a sunny location…as long as space is available, the lizard will move away if it becomes too warm.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  12. avatar

    hi i want to start breeding russian tortoises and i would have a good yard but there are alot of animals and my 2 english mastiffs i dont think temperature will be an issue because i live in south texas even in the winter it only gets down to 60 degrees max but there are alot of birds armadillos possoms other dogs that can get in our yard it is fenced in but there is a lake and they swim in through that i am looking for ideas for indoor and outdoor enclosures and the types of plants they can eat i have heard alot about feeding them cat food and some of that kind of stuff and how big will the enclosures have to be i intend on having 2 or 3

  13. avatar

    Hello Conner, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your comment. I’d think 2 Mastiffs would take care of most predators (although a Jaguar was just sighted 30 miles s. of the Ariz/Mex border, so watch out)! Seriously, outdoors in S. Texas is ideal, just be sure they are on a well-drained substrate. Natural UVB and temperature changes should make for good health and breeding. Dogs, coatis, raccoons are amazingly resourceful at getting into enclosures; in situations such as yours cinder block/concrete with locking heavy duty screen top and chicken wire extending below ground (3 feet or so) and curving inward would be your best bet. I’d go with hiring a pro. builder unless you are skilled at construction.

    Cat food should never be given to Russian Tortoises – they have some very unique and specific dietary needs; please see my article on Feeding Russian Tortoises for details as well as a list of nutritious native plants. At the bottom of that article you can click on others that are related – Russian Tortoise Care, Toxic Plants, Reptile Gardens.

    Provide them with the largest enclosure possible – 5’x5’ for a trio, with an attached hut as a shelter, is a good start. Please write back if you need more detail on enclosure specifics,

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  14. avatar

    Dear Frank,
    You helped me out with a question on Yahoo answers. Thank you for that, but as it seems i am in need of more help. My female red eared slider seems to have more eggs left in her. Her current tank is just water and a large rock for basking and the male Yellow Bellied Slider. I do have the means to put her in a temporary tank with an area to have eggs. Is this a good idea? In the temporary tank she would be away from the male (due to space). If i did do this what kind of a nest should i set up? How long would the female need to have the rest of her eggs? (she had the first group of 9 this past Sunday) When you get the chance any insight would be greatly appreciated.

    Tucker, Shelly, and Mike

  15. avatar

    Hello Guys, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks very much for checking my article and writing in.

    I’m guessing you can feel the eggs by feeling the area where the rear legs enter the body? In any event, the ideal situation would be a large tub-type enclosure with a water area and a land area with soft substrate of 6-10 inches in depth. However, I realize that this is difficult to arrange; so you can try putting her in as large an enclosure as you have; topsoil or a coconut husk-type substrate works well, keep it moist and provide as much depth as possible. A light over one area, to raise the temperature a bit, might help.

    Unfortunately, moving a gravid female is stressful – some will lay anyway, but others may retain the eggs. If she does not lay on the first night, put her in water for an hour or so to re-hydrate; dehydration will prevent her from expelling the eggs. If she does not lay in 3 days or so, I suggest you bring her to a veterinarian experienced with turtles – an oxytosin injection is usually very effective in releasing the eggs. Retained eggs can decay and cause a fatal infection.

    Pair are sometimes difficult to house together, as males may harass females continually – in the wild they can get away, but in a tank problems will develop. Be sure to feed your female lots of whole fishes once she has completed the clutch, as she will have utilized a great deal of calcium when forming the egg shells.

    Good luck and please keep me posted. Please also let me know if you need a list of reptile vets in your area.

  16. avatar

    Hello-Thank you for your interesting blog! I have a long-term colony of 3 cordlylus/ armadillo lizards. I am pretty sure they are cordylus tropidosternum. I took pitty on another two sickly (underweight and with messy vents) lizards I saw in a pet shop last year. I placed the 2 new lizards in a quarantine cage six months ago. One died shortly thereafter but the other one is thriving (and has been for about 5 months). I am wondering, is it safe to add this apparently healthy individual with my established colony? How long should someone quarantine a reptile they know has been exposed to illness? Thank you for any insights or advice.

  17. avatar

    Hello Nick, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for the kind words, much appreciated. The only way to be certain that a new animal is safe to introduce is to have a fecal sample tested, treat whatever micro-organism is present, and then test again (bloods may be needed but not usually). Standard practice in zoos is to wait until the new individual has passed 3 clear fecals. This is not practical for private keepers, but given that the animals were in poor health, a single fecal test would be a good idea…even though the lizard’s health has improved, there’s always the chance it is carrying a parasite load just below that which would make him ill. The good care you provided could have allowed his immune system to kick in, but no real way to be sure – 5 months is a substantial period of time, but if you want to be certain then a vet visit would be your best option.

    Please let me know if you need assistance in finding someone in your area,

    Good luck, enjoy, and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  18. avatar

    I’m not a zoologist yet but i always want to be.

  19. avatar

    Hello Ethan, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog. Well, there’s nothing quite like waking up and looking forward to your job, but the path there can be tricky. There are man y ways to enter the field, and if a full time career is not possible there are also related things that you can do, especially on a volunteer basis. Please let me know if you have any specific questions or plans and I’ll try to provide some ideas.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  20. avatar

    Hey Frank!
    So, ever since I was little, I always wanted to become a zoologist. I too have memorized the Bronx Zoo and have spent countless hours reading animal books and watching Animal Planet (Which now doesn’t have as many shows on actual wildlife as it used to). I am planning towards college and do not know what to do. My parents want me to become something “normal” (like a lawyer or doctor) but my love is in animals. They want to know exactly what a day in the life of a zoologist is like and what he or she does. My perfect job would be working with all types of animals and traveling. I would like to get into conservation and education, but I am not sure how to start. I volunteer at my local nature center and have had many pets before, but I wa wondering if you had any tips or know of any good places I could start volunteering or working at. I am 18 and live in Westchester NY.

  21. avatar

    Hello Chris, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog. Zoology is usually something of a trade-off, in terms of salary; even with a PHD you’ll likely earn less than in other fields at the same level of education/experience. However, no way to replace it if it is your true passion; I left law to follow my interests, but I did need to work second jobs often – many were interesting, writing, trapping animals, consulting, but necessary. Also, I stayed mainly with zookeeping for a large part of my career – great fun, but low paying (requires a 4 year degree in most places) – as a zoo director or such I would have earned a better salary.

    Travel, as in full time field research is difficult – PhD required and opportunities always depend upon grants, outside funding. However, at any level in the field you may have chances to go along and participate in projects. Museum researchers, United Nations-type jobs (check UN job listings for ideas) are often better-paying. Many zoologists teach or write books to supplement their incomes, I’ve done both.

    The day to day work is impossible to summarize – anything at all to do with animals from hands on care to field observations to lab-oriented research; in many organizations, “higher” levels are administrative, which is usually not interesting for animal oriented people but can have perks, i.e. freedom to travel on research, attendance at conferences worldwide et.

    Another option is working as a zoologist for a conservation organization – World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, Audubon Society, IUCN – these orgs use both independent and staff researchers – staff positions may be at better salaries than zoo/museum work, but it varies. Consulting for media type orgs also a possibility, i.e. BBC.

    Volunteering at a nature center is an excellent choice. Try helping out any college professors who are doing local field work also – most are underfunded and may welcome help. Attend conferences in the area of your interest when possible – try to meet people in the field (I was very quiet and this held me back). College professors teaching bio, etc. are often a good source of contacts. Bronx Zoo and others often hire summer help for their children’s zoo areas, low pay but great experience; also there are several internship type programs for young people at the Bronx Zoo (there is a fee for these) which teach basics of working with animals. American Museum of Natural History has similar programs, also sponsors trips. Join local special interest groups – Audubon Society chapter, NY Entomological Society, Local Reptile/Amphibian Group (in NYC, NY Turtle/Tortoise Society is the best); most of these sponsor fieldwork and sometimes trips. Earthwatch type trips are very worthwhile – anything to show the depth of your interest. Try publishing in newsletters of special interest groups- articles, observations, etc. UG Government Federal Job Register is a good resource, as they have animal oriented summer jobs each year – not sure of requirements, but worth checking (sign up for email alerts – USAJOBS).

    Please feel free to write back if you have other questions, or if you are leaning towards a specific part of the field.

    Lots of excitement and interest in store for you I’m sure – it is important to consider stability and finances as your parents suggest, so follow up on their ideas as well. There are ways to combine careers – one of the best “Turtle Guys” I know of is a surgeon, another is a vet – their incomes allow them to do things and go places that “regular” biologists cannot. Veterinarians are also vital in wildlife work – in zoos, as field vet, even zoo directors (as in Bronx Zoo currently) – they always earn more than zoologists, yet get to do similar work…point is, please don’t discount the financial aspects.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  22. avatar

    Thanks Frank!
    Your last reply really helped a lot! I have also talked to a few interns at the nature center and they said it is best to get experience through scientific research. Now I just need to find where to go!
    Thanks again!

  23. avatar

    Hello Chris, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for taking the time to write back; much appreciated. I think you have an interesting road ahead of you. Please let me know if you need anything further,

    Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted on your progress,

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  24. avatar

    Hello, I’m looking all over for someone to help answer my question and hope you can help. My male bearded dragon recently has to small black things protruded from the left and right side of his cloaca. I’m not sure whether this is dried feces or something else. They are a darkish brown-black color. He’s got plenty of energy, eats, and likes running around and scratching on the cage like a sicko. Please let me know if this is just a bathing issue or something more serious and what I need to do. Thank you for your time.

  25. avatar

    Hello Alyssa, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog. Dried feces would be fairly easy to remove with a damp rag; assuming it is not that, you may be seeing a prolapsed hemipenes (penis). You can try soaking the animal in few inches of water to which you have added a
    tablespoon of sugar (please check this article for details – the info re proplased cloacas is applicable;). This may sometimes help the lizard to withdraw the organ back into the body. If this does not work, you’ll need to see a vet. Infection is possible once the organ has been exposed for a time, so quick action is essential.

    Please let me know if you need anything further.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  26. avatar

    Hello again, although I was unable to take my dragon to the vet he has taken a turn for the better. Upon seeing that he kept on getting sand in that area (he has tended to prefer sand, I get the calcisand from zoo med I believe) I gave him a bath and tried to gently clean the area with a moistened Q-tip. I tried the sugar water bath too. I moved the sand over to the other side of the tank and put down some newspaper.
    The next morning one of the black things was safely retucked back underneath in his cloaca nearest the tail end. I got some more sugar and gave him a couple more baths and put more paper down cause he kept getting more sand in it due to tearing around his tank. I rinsed the area off, and had to gently push in part of the tissue(looked healthy) cause it was pretty much all the way out but it went right back in when i massaged it back in with my finger. I cleaned it off with a moistend Q-tip to try and rid it of any leftover sand.
    This time before bed I put down a couple layers of newspaper and when I checked on him this morning the other black one went back in and his cloaca looks about normal. I’m gonna keep this up for a couple more days to be safe. I also forgot to mention that when I gave him a bath the first time he made a healthy bowel movement(he generally has one every few days). Any ideas on what could have caused these to come out and how this could have happened? Right now I’m gonna stay with newspaper until I can afford reptile carpet for him. Otherwise any ideas on how to prevent this in the future. He likes to climb the tank I think in order to try to get to our other dragon next to him. We made it so he can’t see him otherwise he headbobs and goes nuts.
    Thanks again for your responses

  27. avatar

    Hello Alyssa, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for the feedback; seems you did a fine job, congrats. Best to stay with newspaper for now.

    Try moving the tank to another room if possible. Even though he is out of sight of the other lizard, he may be responding to scent, pheromones, etc. This stimulus, coupled with the fact that he cannot reach the other animal, could cause the problem you observed.

    Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  28. avatar

    Excuse me to me for my evil Englishman speaks.

    Hello Frank, I you want to congratulate to you for the book that you published of newts and salamanders.

    A book with a few nice illustrations and very complete for beginners. It is my opinion.

    When I got fond in the world of the urodels, I not tape-worm Internet and the book that you wrote was my bible, at present, I support several species of newts and salamanders and have managed to raise some species.

    A greeting and I hope that you return to write another book of the caudata.

    Shaft the near one.

  29. avatar

    Hello Efra, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for the kind words, much appreciated. I too favor books…of course I have much use for the internet, but it’s nice to hear of someone relying on books these days.

    Your English is quite good – I have been struggling to learn Japanese and Spanish for years, and know how hard it is to learn any new language.

    I look forward to hearing about your collection – please let me know which species you keep – and would welcome any questions, observations or comments.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  30. avatar

    Thank you for the response Frank, I support very common species: triturus karelinii, cynops cyanurus, ambystoma tigrinum, etc, I have a few doubts, many people support some urodels of the family of the salamandridae, (for putting examples, the triturus marmoratus), in a completely aquatic way, I believe that though many newts of these families are very aquatic, it is necessary to offer them a small terrestrial zone, eventually, cannot it be harmful to have them always plunged?.

    A greeting

  31. avatar

    when I bought your book not tape-worm Internet, is true that in Internet this one everything and mas, but the magic of a good illustrated book … there is no comparison, me liked very much, the illustrations to coal

  32. avatar

    Hello Efra, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for the feedback; sounds like you have some very interesting species.

    I agree with you – many will adjust well to aquatic situations, but all use land from time to time. Floating aquatic plants such as water hyacinth or semi aquatics such as pothos are great for those that do not wander much on land, and the newts love poking around in the roots for hidden food items.

    Lots of room for experimentation – For some species, removing much of the land and increasing the water depth can stimulate breeding. Tiger salamander larvae will often stay in the aquatic stage for years (some subspecies are permanently neotenic) if kept in deep water with plenty of food –I’ve had a few top 12 inches in length!

    Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  33. avatar

    Hello Efra, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks so much for the sup[port and kind words; I look forward to hearing from you in the future.

    Good luck with your salamanders and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  34. avatar

    Hi Frank

    My partner and I have recently started up a business in South Africa of collecting and breeding tarantulas, in particular the more endangered specimens. We are also wanting to send 10 percent of our hatchlings back to originating countries and help with the conservation and re-establishment of endangered species of tarantula back into the wild.
    Due to your extensive knowledge and willingness to help with advice we would really greatly appreciate a correspondent with whom we can communicate via e-mail, facebook, skype or blackberry messenger about our various experiences, findings, tarantula updates etc and also perhaps get your advice.
    Would it be possible to communicate with you directly?

    Would greatly appreciate it and thanks very much in advance for your assistance and correspondence.

    Yours sincerely

  35. avatar

    Hi Storm,

    I’ve set you a direct email as well; thanks for your interest and kind words. I look forward to helping out in any way I can.

    Besrt regards, Frank

  36. avatar

    Hi Frank, I have a question: what are the urodeles with the olfactory system, vomeronasal and lateral line more evolved?

  37. avatar

    Hello Efra, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for the most interesting questions.

    In salamanders, the Vomeronasal organ is mainly used to detect chemicals or chemical molecules in the substrate. It is most highly developed in terrestrial salamanders, such as the Red Backed Salamander and other Plethodontids. In fact, Red Backs and some others have small grooves (naso-labial grooves) that are used to transport chemical ques from the earth to the vomeronasal organ (which is located within the snout). They also have a head tapping behavior that seems to help in the uptake of these molecules. Females check scat piles left by males in this manner, and are able to determine the male’s fitness/health. The vomeronasal organ is reduced in size and importance in paedomorpic, fully aquatic species such as Hellbenders and Amphiumas. It is intermediate in size, at least in those species studied, in salamanders that split their time between land and water, such as the California and Marbled Newts.

    The Olfactory system/”sense of smell” is used to detect airborne scents. It seems more highly developed in terrestrial species. However, it is also housed in the snout, and differentiating between its role and that of the vomeronasal system can be difficult (and not so many people seem to try!). I know from experience that fully aquatic species such as the Siren and semi aquatic newts can definitely detect non-living food via scent – as their vomeronasal systems are not well-developed, perhaps they rely upon olfaction? Please see this article for more on the distinction between the 2 systems.

    The lateral line system is a series of pits along the sides of the body that contain sensory cells/organs, similar to that evolved by fishes. It is highly developed in aquatic species such as Hellbenders, Mudpuppies, Sirens, Japanese Giant Salamanders, Amphiumas and Mexican Axolotls (in some, such as Axolotls, the line is easy to see). It is likely present in aquatic larvae as well. Aquatic frogs, such as Surinam Toads, African Clawed Frogs and Lake Titicaca Frogs also possess a lateral line system.

    Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  38. avatar

    Thank you very much for the article and your quick response, I am very interested in the evolution of urodeles.
    From the most primitive to the most advanced of urodeles “what evolution position would place all the families of urodeles?
    Thank you very much and any related articles will be welcome.
    A greeting.

  39. avatar

    Hello Efra, Frank Indiviglio here.

    My pleasure; glad you enjoyed.

    Your question is a very interesting one that still vexes biologists. It’s not within my area of expertise, but from all I’ve read there is strong evidence that a fish or fish-like creature did evolve into the first amphibian. This is most easy to see, at least to my eye, in the lungfishes, especially the Australian Lungfish. However, there is better evidence that another group of fishes actually gave rise to the amphibians.

    You might also enjoy these articles on Early Amphibians/Missing Links and Early Terrestrial Amphibians.

    Please let me know if you need any further information and please keep the interesting notes coming. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  40. avatar

    Thanks Frank, I have not explained well, I had doubts about the more and less evolved species of “new families of urodeles” we know today.
    example: a Ambystoma tigrinum is more “primitive” a pachytriton labiatus?.

    Thanks and regards.

  41. avatar

    Hello Efra, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks, I see what you are asking. Changes in our understanding of salamander evolution occur very frequently these days due to advances in genetic research and new fossil evidence. Most taxonomists consider the Asiatic salamanders in the family Hynobidae to be among the most primitive, or at least, closest to the ancestral form. The family Plethonontidae is considered to be the most “advanced” because many have reduced their dependence on water for breeding; Red-backed salamanders, for example, lay eggs on land, guard them, and the eggs hatch into tiny salamanders, skipping the larval stage altogether. This may allow them to colonize entirely new habitats, as happened when reptiles evolved hard-shelled eggs.

    But “primitive” and “advanced” are relative. Sirens are considered primitive by many taxonomists (some place them in a different order from salamanders than altogether) yet they have gills, lungs and can breathe through their skin as well; they can also aestivate for months during droughts; therefore they can survive where others cannot. The “advanced” Plethodontids breathe entirely through their skin, and lack both lungs and gills; they are therefore limited to damp habitats on land (oxygen will only pass through wet skin) –so in that sense are less advanced than the Sirens.

    Primitive as taxonomists use it mainly means (as I understand it) “first evolved”…but we really do not have enough evidence at this time to be sure of where each family fits.

    I touch on some of this in my book Newts and Salamanders, but things change daily so please continue to write in with questions or with new information you have found. Deullman and Traub’s Biology of the Amphibians goes into evolution in detail, but again much will have changed since it was written.
    Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  42. avatar

    Frank thank you very much, it’s all very interesting, I need time to read and digest, now I just need to know to be the most suitable species for survival and to continue to evolve (although they have not done much)

  43. avatar

    Hello Efra, Frank Indiviglio here.

    My pleasure; please let me know what you learn.

    Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  44. avatar

    Hi. I have a bearded dragon. He seemed to be constipated and has prolapsed hemipenis. What will happen to him?

  45. avatar


    It would be best to take the animal to an experienced reptile veterinarian; both are serious problems that should be addressed by a professional. Please let me know if you need help in locating a nearby vet. Please also write back with details as to the animals care – diet, temperature, UVB exposure etc.; I’ll review and make an necessary recommendations, Best, Frank

    Best, Frank

  46. avatar

    First off let me thank you for this blog. I was led here by a post by “find1″. I have a question (probably silly) but no one has a definitive answer for me. ((Aside: My two partners have 13 turtles in 9 tanks.)) I have a guppy tank with trapdoor snails, assassin snails (AAARG!), a couple of chinese algea eaters, two small plecos, one clown/coral and the other albino and, ghost shrimp.

    The other week I fished out what it thought was a piece of plastic. It took me a week to figure out what it was a ghost skin/exoskeleton. Is it normal for shrimps (and crabs and lobsters) to shed their skin? I have never hear of this (except in snakes) so endith the epistle) :-) And another question that I’ve never come near getting an answer. How do assassin snails kill? And can they kill something as big as an apple snail. I am forever picking tiny assassins out of my tank.

    I’d really like to find out about these 2 things.

    Many thanks for your time and energy. Lynn

  47. avatar

    Hi Laura,

    Thanks for the kind words, much appreciated.

    Shrimp, crabs, lobsters and almost all other invertebrates (insects, spiders, scorpions, etc.) do shed their skins, or exoskeletons, as they are also known. We don;pt often find them because the owner usually eats the old exoskeleton once the new one hardens (they are soft and virtually defenseless for a few hours after shedding). Some species do not eat the old skin, but in that case snails or even fish usually find and consume it. Exoskeletons are comprised of chitin, and are often high in Calcium.

    Lizards, frogs and salamanders also shed and usually eat their old skin; turtles and crocs flake off bits of skin and shell scales (turtles) but do not consume them.

    Assassin snails are one of the few freshwater members of the whelk family; several species are sold under that name, but most simply grab and eat other snails with their strong mouthparts. Some marine whelks actually shoot “darts” at fish and reel them in like a harpoon line…some of these are capable of killing a person very quickly! You can attract assassin snails into a jar by baiting it with a bit of meat, fish or a protein-based bottom-feeder pellet. They are most active after dark, so if you leave some food out (they crave protein) at night and check frequently you may be able to clear them out quickly. I’m not sure if they can take an apple snail, but they might cause injuries by trying. Some apple snails also consume others…again several species are sold under the same name.

    Most snails need a good deal of calcium in the diet. Soem will take pieces of cuttlebone (sold for cage birds; sinking pellets marketed for cichlids and catfish are also useful.

    Please check in again; let me know if you have any specific needs concerning turtles as well, Enjoy, Best, Frank

  48. avatar

    It was all helpful. Many thanks. :-)

  49. avatar

    My pleasure..please keep me posted, Best, Frank

  50. avatar

    Hi Frank, how are you?I have a question about my Malayan Leaf Frog and I’m hoping you can help. Thank you so much for the information you have written about them and cb. It’s become increasingly difficult for me to find trusted info on these frogs. It all appears to be the same recycled information. I have a male of this species, housed by himself. I obtained him from a friend and am quite positive that he is (unfortunately) wc so his age is unknown to me. My problem is he injured the skin on his back, I believe he scraped it on a rock he was hiding under. Once I noticed this, I removed the rock hiding spot and replaced it with cork. I’ve been keeping a close eye on the injury and it appeared to be fine. But the last couple of days I have noticed there are some white spots developing in the scraped area. I’m concerned it could possibly be some sort of fungus, however I’m not sure if it is just discoloration as the skin is healing. Since this species can be so delicate I don’t want to do any unnecessary treatment to stress him out. Unfortunately in my state (CT) I have been unable to find any vets that specialize in herps. Any suggestions on what I should do? His routine has remained normal, eyes are clear, he’s soaking, calling and eating like normal. My plan was to move him to a sterile paper towel only tank, and possibly do some soaks with an anti-fungal (I have used triple sulfa in the past w/ other species but not sure if that would be ok for the malayan leaf). I was also going to remove all moss and substrate from his habitat, while he was in the sterile environment, and replace with fresh moss and bedding. I also thought it may be a good idea to use a high level uvb on the tank (while he’s not in it of course) to kill off any remaining fungus. I’m reading so much information online and it all seems to be contradictory so I’m no longer sure what the best course of action will be. I would really appreciate the advice of a veteran herp keeper. I was also concerned that putting a species who finds great comfort in hiding, in a sterile paper towel environment with no place to hide. I’m not sure if that’s just me being over protective of him though! He’s one of my favorite frogs I keep so I’d really like to be sure he is ok. I have emailed you a photo I took of him last night while he was soaking to the contact email listed on this site. I apologize that it’s not completely clear, the reflection of the water caused a small glare. I truly appreciate you taking the time to read this. Thank you, Liz

  51. avatar

    Hi Liz,

    Thanks for the kind words.

    It probably is a fungal infection; opportunistic bacteria can also take hold; very common after skin injuries.

    I’ve had some luck using methylene blue on other species; please see this article; you can apply right to the area with a swab; try 1/2 fish strength, leave on for 1 hr and rinse. If no bad reaction, can increase strength, leave on 2-3 hours.

    Triple sulfa may be useful also, and worth a try if you’ve had success…no hard/fast rules, unfortunately. Please let me know any details you might have re that, good to keep on hand.

    You might find a vet through either of the 2 following sites; NYTTS is based in NY, they usually list offices in CT



    Good luck, pl keep me posted, Frank

  52. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Thanks so much for your quick response! I’m going to move him into a hospital tank today and I’m on the hunt for the methylene blue. Thank you for the article of information on it! I like the fact that it has been commonly used without adverse reaction. I have 3 pet stores not too far from me and I’m hoping between the 3 one will have it! I will absolutely keep you posted and note my observastions. I’m quite nervous about stressing him out so keep your fingers crossed for me! Thank you again for your help. I’m sure I will need more advice!

    Thanks :)


  53. avatar

    Sorry, I’m a little neurotic- I just have to correct observations* lol

  54. avatar

    Good luck, Liz, I hope all works out, Best, Frank

  55. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    How are you? I wanted to keep you posted on my progress. I have been treating my Malaysian leaf for 7 days so far with Methylene blue. He is eating well and his eyes are still clear. So far I have not seen improvement, however it also seems to not have gotten any worse. With exception of tonight. There is a very small red spot on the wound. I put 2 crickets in there for him today that he hasn’t eaten yet, so I wonder if a cricket could have irritated it? Or do you think it could be something else? I currently have him in a 10 gallon sterile tank. I’ve been changing the paper towels and water dish daily. I also covered the back & sides of the tank in hopes that he would feel less stressed while in there. Just wondering about your thoughts on the progress so far and if there is anything I should change in my treatment or his environment. I have a photo of the red spot I saw tonight and if it would be helpful I could email it to you- please just let me know and I’ll send it over. Thank you again. I appreciate your help!


  56. avatar

    Hello Liz,

    Fine here, thanks for the feedback; i hope all is well. It’s a good sign that the condition is not worsening in general, and that the frog is feeding; however, new red areas usually indicate that opportunistic bacteria have become established…very common when the skin is compromised. Your best course of action would be a vet exam; I believe I sent some lists last time, but if not please let me know and I’ll forward. Best,. Frank

  57. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Yes you sent me a list, thank you. I will make phone calls tomorrow to them and keep you posted. Thats unfortunate that the bacteria have taken hold. :-( I was really hoping to avoid that situation for him. Poor boy. I hope he is ok.

    Thank you,

  58. avatar

    I hope all goes well, please keep me posted, Frank

  59. avatar

    Hi again Frank,

    Hope you are well. I have quite a bit of an update so I pre-apologize for the length of this email! As you suggested I contacted a vet. Her name is Dr. Barbara Mangold. From what I understand you actually know each other! Before my appt with her I became concerned about not only his wound, but also felt as tho he had a blockage and was constipated. We began treating him with, Baytril, Novalsan solution, soaking in amphibian ringers and also feeding mineral oil- the last 2 being to help the blockage. After a week, he had a prolapse. We went back to the vet and yesterday did a Barium Swallow and series of xrays. He stayed over night and when she evaluated the xrays this morning it showed that the barium had just stopped in the intestines. So she did surgery on him this morning and removed a huge piece of hardened fecal matter. She couldn’t believe how large it was! He is still in the process of waking up so we are still not out of the woods, but he made it through the surgery. We are going to continue the antibiotic and novalsan on his wound. I will continue to keep you posted, she will be calling me later to give me an update.

    I need a bit of advice again. I had another malaysian leaf frog who passed away about 1.5 yrs ago b/c of hardened fecal matter. And also a friend had a group of 4 who all passed away w/ a prolapse. Have you ever heard of this species being prone to intestinal issues/ fecal blockages? I’m trying to figure out preventative measures I can take in the future. His current substrste is a mix of moss, coco soft and the coco soil. I’m going to take out the coco soft since that has some larger chunks. But right now we are not sure if there was even substrate in the blockage. I’m going to vary his diet more and thinking of possibly putting him in an empty tank to feed a couple of times per week. But I’m not sure these changes are enough to prevent any future problems. Both Dr. Mangold and I thought it was a good idea to reach out to you on this matter. I appreciate you reading this long update! Have a good day.


  60. avatar

    Hi Liz,

    Thanks for the update,…you’re in good hands there, Dr. Mangold is the best.

    Varying diet would be a good idea, especially focusing on small earthworms, which provide great nutrition and seem to be digested well. With any food, opt for the smallest individuals that will be accepted. Err on the side of feeding less…amphibs are great at conserving resources, and expend little energy in captivity; can also modify metabolisms to fit food availability; starvation never a problem in those that feed. Use younger crickets..adult have a good deal of matter that is difficult to digest, or which is passed intact…wings, rear legs, thicker exoskeleton; lab-reared colonies of flightless houseflies are another good option; soft, east to digest.

    However, blockages are not always related to diet itself…hydration, general health and other factors involved; many aspects of their natural environment are missing in captivity, and these are likely factors as well. I can’t say that I’ve heard of this species being more prone to such, but they are delicate captives and we have much to learn. Calcium levels 9and likely other factors) affect the ability to contract muscles and expel wastes…this can also play a role.

    Would be useful to do away with all substrate..use a Moss Mat or Terrarium Liner instead. Provide a cave or similar retreat as a hide spot (use a large one, such as this model, to avoid abrasions, etc. I’m leaning this way with more and more species lately…eliminates need to remove for feeding. Pothos will grow on wet liners and in water bowls, or you can add some potted plants if you wish.

    Please give my regards to Dr. Mangold, and pl keep me posted..very interested to hear how all goes, best, Frank

  61. avatar

    Hi Frank,
    I truly enjoy your fascinating posts. I have 3 questions about breeding Leopard Geckos. I hope it’s not too much at once.
    1. I had a female leopard gecko lay 4 clutches all duds (soft eggs), I observed her mate twice. Is there anything that can be done to prevent this?

    2. I also had several eggs get moldy. I treated them with corn starch and also tried an anti fungal powder. I was only able to save 2 or 3 out of 12. I kept my laybox susbstrate within the recommended moisture range for Hatchrite. Do you have any tips for preventing or treating moldy eggs?

    3. Lastly, I had a couple of females that accepted the male the first time I introduced them. However, in spite of ovulation, turned him down 6-8 weeks later, when I attempted to reintroduce them. Are there any tips that you can offer to improve the rate of successful introduction or reintroduction.
    Thank you and regards.

  62. avatar

    Hi Rudy,

    Thanks for the kind words, much appreciated.
    Unfortunately there are a number of possible answers to your questions.

    Infertility is linked to inbreeding in other animals, but we do not have much info specific to geckos. Assuming diet and CA reserves are ideal, and the female is mature, an internal problem in the reproductive tract may be involved, as can happen with any species.

    Anti fungal powders have worked, but may not be effective on all fungal species; I’ve used methylene blue on reptile eggs, with varying degrees of success; this article describes use with amphibians,…I would start with a weak dilution in water, perhaps 50% methylene blue, swab lightly. I would avoid corn starch, as some fungi can use it as a food source (i.e. doctors advise patients with athlete’s foot to discontinue use).

    I have seen the same re refusal to mate…there may be more to mate choice than we know; female’s cycles are often changed by captive conditions, despite fact that same protocol has worked in the past….not as clear cut as in wild, unfortunately.

    Sorry I could not be of more help, please let me know your thoughts, and keep me posted.

    Here is a basic breeding article...no new info for you, I imagine, but if you post here in the future it would benefit other readers, thanks, best, Frank

  63. avatar

    HI Frank
    I just did a major turtle tank clean- had a nasty bad egg smell starting over the past weekend- I don’t know if there was leftover food as the cause; I have two canisters filters and less gravel overall. The water is cloudy now- I suspect the bacterial flora has been compromised. The turtle looks fine.

    By the way, the turtle is “molting”- I imagine that is part of the normal shell cycle.



  64. avatar

    Hello Rob,

    If you are feeding in the tank, and have gravel, this problem will keep arising. We run into problems even in zoo exhibits with huge filters. Changing filter medium regularly (always leave a bit of the old material to help seed new medium with aerobic bacteria) and partial water changes will help, but not likely eliminate the problem. A portion of the turtle’s wastes are in liquid form, invisible ..so water clarity is not always a sign that all is well. Leaving turtle in feeding container for a time after it has finished is helpful, as they often defecate soon after eating.

    Normally, shell scutes will flake off from time to time, not all at once as in other reptiles and not in any specific pattern or time frame. Constant shedding and raised scutes may be a sign of bacterial infection.

    Best, Frank

  65. avatar

    Hey Frank,

    Really enjoyed browsing your website and learning of your history! I was really excited when I seen how many people you have answered and assisted by replying to their questions and comments and on behalf of all animal parents, we definitely appreciate somebody with your knowledge and background giving us some words of wisdom. Thank you for that!

    I am writing to you today regarding a couple of questions/concerns that I have;

    1- I recently became the owner of a garter snake/ribbon snake (I am not sure which of the two it actually is). After about a month, I noticed that my snake had some little bugs crawling on him. After researching the issue, I determined these bugs to be mites. Since then I have been doing everything I can to get rid of them: I purchased a mite spray called mite off and listened to the instructions that Petland advised me of; basically to soak the snake in water and drown out the mites, spray him with the spray, sanitize the cage and any hiding spots and fixtures, changing substrates, etc. After doing this, I noticed that it seemed to work for a couple of days but then I noticed another mite. The amount of mites have been decreasing vastly as I hardly see any now, but I still am concerned. I purchased provent a mite spray, which was reviewed as being a better and more effective spray long term. I am going to treat the issue with that spray next just to be safe. I was wondering if you might have had any experience with this issue or any knowledge you could advise me of?

    Also, regarding the same snake, it seems to be very easily frightened and for lack of a better word lazy! Rarely do I see it out of the hiding spots. I am wondering if I am doing something wrong or if the environment just isn’t interesting enough for it? I keep the temperature at a range from 85 during the day time to 75-80 at night and feed it the feeder fish purchased at local pet stores such as Petland as I was instructed to do by the store. I’ve done a lot of reading and research but I cannot seem to get a straight answer on whether or not these feeder fish present a good diet for this snake. It seems to like them but it has not been eating as much as it was when I first got it recently, which I attributed to the mite issue as well as it preparing to shed. Back to the handling issue, the snake always jets across the cage away from me whenever I try to handle it; I have been trying to handle it more often so it would get used to me doing so but so far nothing has changed really.

    2- I went to the Bronx zoo recently and was amazed at their snake collection. It was fantastic! I was wondering, do they show any of the feedings to the public? Is there a schedule or is there a way to be able to view the feedings for the snakes in the reptile world exhibit? I would really love to see them.

    Any comments and advice that you can give me is very much appreciated. If you have any other tips or knowledge that you can advise me of for being the owner of a garter/ribbon snake, be it on here or from a book or website, please let me know. Lastly, thank you so much again for acknowledging and helping so many others already!

    Best regards,


  66. avatar

    Hello Gennaro,

    Thanks for the kind words.

    Here’s a link to Part 4 of a related article I’ve written. Links to parts 1-3 are in text.

    Species ID is important..while general care is similar for all, there are differences among the many species, and between garter and ribbon snakes. You should be able to find useful online refeenes, but colors/patterns vary among different populations. Your best ID resource would be the Peterson Fields Guides (eastern and Western NA).

    Snake mites are generally black or red, and concentrate about the head. Over-the counter remedies are not very effective, and an understanding of the life cycle is essential. Please see this article re treatment; an expereinced reptile vet can also administer ivermectin and advise re treating the habitat. let me know if you need a reference. Small white mites are generally harmless; please see this article for more info.

    Garter and ribbon snakes are not ideal candidates for handling…tend to remain high strung and to attempt escape. best considered an animal to observe rather than handle. They are more active than most snakes, but relatively inactive in general. If there is no reason to move about (hunger, basking) they remain within shelters…on the menu of a great many predators, impt to cnserve energy, etc. However, lethargy and non-feeding can also be symptomatic of health problems, inappropriate temps etc.

    Diet varies a bit with the species, but minnows and shiners are fine as 40 – 50% of the diet of most garter species. Earthworms can make up the rest, along with the invertebrates mentioned in the articles above. Except for a few rarely kept species, garter/ribbon snakes have not evolved to feed solely upon fish. Goldfish may be used on occasion, but frequent long term use has been linked to liver/kidney problems in other reptiles, so best to avoid.

    A steady temp of 85 F is not ideal. Establish a range of 72-80, with a basking site (use a small spotlight) of 85-88. This is most easily accomplished in a large terrarium, as smaller ones overheat easily when basking lights are used.

    The Bronx Zoo does not have established feeding times at the reptile house. The Staten Island Zoo, put on the map by the legendary Carl Kauffeld, has a wonderful snake collection (I spent years there also, and consulted on their new reptile house); public feeding (snakes ) has long been on Sundays, at 2 PM; call ahead to confirm, however.

    Please let me know if you need more info, best, Frank.

  67. avatar

    Hi Frank,
    Love your writing and the topics you write about. I was talking to you on the parrot forum about leaf-tails recently. You mentioned you may head to Australia in the future? My background is also in zoology (worked on a few projects but mygalomorphae spiders were the passion). There is a lot of interesting ecology here that you may be interested in and I am more than happy to help with any info I can. I would love to read some of your future articles about in the flesh experience with the Australian environment :)

    All the best.

  68. avatar

    Hi Danie,

    Thanks for the kind words and for posting here. They are a passion of mine as well, and as you say so much of interest in Australia. I’ve gleaned a bit from arachnologist friend Sam Marshall but not much available to either of us here in the USA in the way of live animals. A trip has long been on my mind…can’t plan right now, unfortunately, but hope to soon. Please stay in touch, and posts most appreciated. Some spider articles:

    Thanks, best Frank

  69. avatar

    Hi Frank,
    I am fascinated by your knowledge and willingness to share your expertise with so many! If you don’t mind, I have a few questions about my daughter’s Reeve’s Turtle. We got him as a “hatchling” 3 months ago–about the size of a silver-dollar. He seems to be fine, but I am overly cautious as turtles are a new pet for us newbies and we want to take great care of him!

    He’s eating, growing quickly, becoming less shy. Feed him daily, using the recommended hatchling pellets that came with him. We have allso offered him dried shrimp, and a variety of veggies, but so far he only wants the pellet food. Have a heat lamp and UVB lamp on him, but he doesn’t bask – he stays in the water 100% of the time. Habitat is very clean, filtered, and maintained well. Has a cuttlebone (sp?) but doesn’t use it that I’m aware of. Have also tried to add the Calcium powder to his food at feeding time.

    1. I am getting a bit concerned about his shell. It is becoming a lighter color on many of the scutes, making me think his shell is shedding, or getting a build-up of some kind. Last week we started forcing him out of the water for several hours to “dry out” and started using a store-bought shell conditioner. Since I am new to turtles, I didn’t know what is considered normal shedding.

    2. How can I be sure he’s getting enough calcium? Not sure adding the Calcium powder during feeding time is actually getting ingested. We were getting him outside in the sunshine, until recently when it’s gotten too cool to take him out. We are going to switch him to a better/stronger UVB lamp. What else do I need to do/look out for?

    3. Do you think it’s problematic that he is only eating the pellet food? He defecates during feeding time pretty consistently, and the “quality” of his feces varies greatly, including recently very large “floaters” that are different enough from the norm to lead me to email you about my turd-le!

    Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated–we just want to do our best for this little guy, and there’s not a lot available on Reeve’s turtle care.

    Thanks so much for your time,

  70. avatar

    Hi Laurie,

    Thanks for the kind words. No need to feed daily….best to skip 1-2 days/week. To encourage it to try other foods, keep hungry for 3-4 days. reptopmin is the best commercial food to use as a staple. The other dietary recommendations in this article also apply to Reeves. Small whole fishes are critical as a Ca source; powders added to the water/food are not effective, and not all will use cuttlebone. Greens etc not often taken by youngsters….they begin to accept as they near adulthood, but try from time to time. UVB exposure allows them to manufacture D3 in the skin, but does not provide Ca per se (D3 is needed in order to metabolize the Ca that they consume).

    The shell scutes (scales) will lighten and peel off from time to itme….they do not shed entirely all at once as do snakes; light color can also be due to a fungal infection, but you would see a fine covering on the scutes.

    Small ones may be reluctant to bask, as they are on the menus of so many predators. Try providing a partially submerged basking site, floating plants in the tank to encourage security. The ramp areas of some commercial rafts are often used by hatchings: see here and here. Eventually they usually move fully onto the dry area.

    Please let me know if you need more info, enjoy,. Frank

  71. avatar

    Dear Frank,
    Thanks so much for sharing your expertise. Will try the Reptomin and add feeder fish, and not feed so often. I had read that baby turts needed to eat daily, and that feeder fish are still too large for them to eat safely, so I now know better!
    Been reading up on turtles a lot, and after seeing some online photos, feel pretty sure Tuttle Bob is fighting some sort of shell rot. The light/white areas are rough/peeling. Can send photos if you’re interested to see. In addition to diet changes, plan is to lower the water temp (currently 80 degrees) and move/raise the basking temp, keep him dry more, and switch to a better/stronger UVB light. Will get him to a vet in a few days if we don’t see improvement. Thank you ever so much!

  72. avatar

    Hi Laurie,

    My pleasure…Dainty – stay away from that info source! nothing dainty about them at all!!..hatchlings will rip into a huge fish carcass if able; they need lots of protein and CA when young. Very hard to ID / diagnose via photos; they do shed scutes naturally, but see a vet if you are unsure. Keep water within safe range; drying will help some fungal, but generally you need to have source of infection identified in order to determine proper treatment..many possible micro-organisms may be involved. n The Zoo Med 10.0 is ideal if you use a fluorescent… standard model should be within 6-12 inches of basking site, others ok further Best, Frank

  73. avatar

    Hello frank.

    I am Seth, we talked a little bit on a different site. I was asking you if you had ever done a Amphibian survey, and you said to contact you on one of your blogs and I am pretty sure this is the one you were talking about.

    Anyway, so I was just wondering because I think it would be a really fun and learning experience to do a amphibian survey and I want to know more about it. I am determined to be herpetologist when I grow up so I want to start learning now. I mentioned that I live near a mountain that had a partial survey done on it, so I am wondering what a “partial” survey is? Is it that they didn’t finish the survey? And I was also wondering what exactly the goals and purposes of doing amphibians surveys is? Well, I mean I am guessing its to get a idea of the number of amphibians in the area and the health they are in but is that the only reason(s)?

    Also I found out that you have done a D. tenebrosus survey as well. I think that is amazing! I would love to do one when I get older as they are one of my favorite species. I live next to a few streams that have some in them, but unfortunately the one that had the most is going dry because of development uphill, it really makes me mad. But I have found 5 adults in it besides, three of them terrestrial and the other two padeogenic/neotonic ( did I spell either one of those right? ). I am very sad that the stream is drying up, but I don’t think there is anything I can do about it.
    I also am fortionate enough to live near some great A. gracile habitat and breeding sites of at least two species.

    Thanks! -Seth

  74. avatar

    Hi Seth,

    Doing a survey on your own would be a great way to establish that you are serious in your interests. Publishing it somehow, perhaps in the newsletter of a local herpetological society, would be ideal. And one never knows what will turn up…new info is discovered every day by students and non professionals and in recent years a new species of centipede and leopard frog were discovered in NYC! (the centipede in Central Park). There are specific, accepted methods used to conduct surveys…best to look at a book on that topic; I’m a bit out of touch now, but if you decide to go ahead and need help in locating a book, let me know.

    Surveys can be done for the reasons you mentioned..health is especially common due to the Chytrid threat, changing water quality etc. Other reasons include to check for species believed to be in trouble or extinct, to see what is present in unexplored habitats, check range expansions, monitor introduced species, determine effects of floods, hurricanes, etc., to see if protected species are present prior to building on undeveloped sites (this type of survey is common, required by most states and/or federal law, known as environmental impact statements); to fulfill requirements for college degrees or Master’s and PhD programs, as research for articles/books…really depends on interest, needs, who is paying the costs etc. can involve one or many species.

    “Partial” doesn’t have a specific meaning…best to check with the person or institution that was involved in order to find out what has been done…it’s likely published somewhere.

    In case useful, here’s a list of some colleges known for herpetology courses or majors (not exhaustive)

    This article
    may interest you…since it was written (2010), several mentioned have \been re-discovered.

    Best regards, Frank

  75. avatar

    http://blogs.thatpetplace.com/thatreptileblog/2010/08/16/rare-but-unprotected-red-tape-pushes-12-us-amphibians-towards-extinction/ I read this too, and the Oregon Spotted Frog is the closest one near me. I may have been stupid enough to catch one thinking it was a Red-Legged Frog and didn’t even notice it could maybe have been one of these. It may have also been a Cascades Frog, but it is hard to say, I might be too far west for them. I took a picture of it though, so I at least can go back and look at it.

    I don’t know if I could/should do a survey on my own. I have kind of been discouraged on collecting and recording my findings in the past. It was said that my recordings would probably be of no use.
    I don’t see why not though, its information, and information is always good. And like you say, you never know what one might find! I have been looking vigorously for books at my local library website, but they don’t have much. I will look outside the website though, I might be able to buy a book or find a PDF or something. I live near several breeding sites of A. gracile that I could maybe do a survey on. I can also find them outside the breeding season sometimes. I actually did a Nitrate test on the marsh near me once just to see what a natural marshes Nitrate levels are. I could also try and do one on introduced species. There are two species that I know are non-native here that I could monitor and make sure they don’t get into natural habitat ( though they may have already ) and see the effects it has on the native amphibians. They are Bullfrogs ( R. catesbieana ) and carp ( I am not sure what kind ). The weird thing is that the carp aren’t normal, they and like koi. They are in most of the storm water retention ponds here and I am guessing they are to help keep them clean. But they may be getting into the marsh, as well as the bullfrogs.

    Thanks for the links! I haven’t seen the one about colleges before, but I have seen a different one that you linked one time.
    Unfortunately none of those species that are on that list in the second link live near me.

    But I am still a bit confused on surveys. I just am not sure how to do them, successfully. And I don’t know the “specific accepted methods used to conduct surveys”. I guess that’s why I need to start my studying though, so I can learn how and do it, and the sooner the better!

    Thanks for the information Frank! It is much appreciated!


  76. avatar

    Hi Seth,

    Ignore anyone who discourages you from taking notes etc…I use 50-year old notebooks of mine in books and articles I write today; it’s also enjoyable. Childhood notebooks were largely responsible for my being hired as a keeper at the Bx Zoo…the curator doubted my interest, as I was working in an unrelated, high-paying field, until I brought him the notebooks.

    Bullfrogs and carp are responsible for major amphibian declines and local extinctions here and abroad; bullfrogs eat hatchling western pond turtles as well, in some habitats, have caused declines. Good animals to consider. Check here for some background. One carp species was introduced to clear aquatic weeds in some places; name escapes me now, but easy to find); now regulated, but too late. The more commonly seen species was brought here as a food/sport fish, and is established widely…even in rivers here in NYC. They hybidize with released koi (same species, I believe) and possibly goldfish; this may account for the colors you may see.

    Re surveys, anythin you do would be valuable, but if you can use the same or similar methods as do professional field researchers, your work will carry more weight with others. Some methods are complex, others simple. Here’s one summary, based on Australian amphibs. You can also search field survey methods amphibians;; try that in google scholar also – you’ll get mainly abstracts, as well as some papers; many will be heavy on ststisticcal analysis (which is beyond me,..I seek help if needed) but you’ll get an idea of what is going on in the field.

    I’ll sound like a dinosaur, I know, but I’ve always favored visiting a library and speaking with a librarian…most are very happy to help, and excel at locating ontarget books. Explain your interests…professional methods of conduction field surveys, etc.

    Amphibian Ark is a great source of news, ideas, and other info;sign up for their newsletter and check out what they have posted.

    Please let me know if you need more info, best, Frank

  77. avatar

    Thanks Frank!

    Those links are great!
    Nope, you don’t sound dinosaur to me, I do a lot of research on library websites and books. There is some neat stuff on status reports and such. I am currently reading about Northern Leopard Frogs in Washington, its a book on status and the like. It is written by some familiar names that I a fond of ( the peoples work, not the names ), its a great one.

    Thanks again Frank, you have been a great help. I will most likely contact you again at some point, I am always asking questions.


  78. avatar

    Good to hear Set…thanks for the feedback, enjoy and keep at it; write anytime, Frank

  79. avatar

    Dear Frank

    Thank you for your excellent article re the superb fruit dove .
    My wife and I live in northern Tasmania and we are wanting to buy a pair for breeding.
    Can you help or do you know of a breeder who may ?
    Kind regards

  80. avatar

    Hi frank. I have read a lot of your articles but I haven’t made comments. I will from now on. Sorry.
    I went to the zoo with my mom ad my little sis. It was her first time. She liked most things. The day we went the animals were really active. The only animal that was not active was the wolves. The otter was swimming right in front of the glass. He even did a flip!
    I hope to meet you this summer. I will keep in touch. For real this time.
    Your friend,
    Ari Mct.

  81. avatar

    Hi Ari,

    Your Grandfather has old me that you enjoy my articles…thank you! Otters are amazing, aren’t they? I worked with a few species. One, the Asian Small Clawed Otter, lives in family groups of 6-15..hard to describe how active they are, or how thoroughly they destroyed their exhibit each day! Hope school has gone well for you and that you are looking forward to summer. Write in any time, and please give your Grandfather my regards – I’ll hopefully see the both of you this summer.

    Take care, Frank

  82. avatar

    Hi. I just built an indoor pond for my turtles and did not want to buy the more expensive pond liners so I decided to temporarily line the pond with some polyethylene plastic film which cost $16 at Home Depot.

    I filled the pond with water. At first I filled the water higher than I really wanted to. I later found my small spotted turtle desperately swimming in it and trying not to drown. I did not know that he was in the pond and he might have been in their for up to a half an hour. I immediately took him out and he seemed okay. I then lowered the water to a couple of inches. Today I found that same spotted turtle dead. I have read from peoples comments on ythe internet that polyethylene plastic can be toxic and I am not sure if that killed the spotted turtle or he was stressed from swimming in after too deep.

    I do not want to use the plastic if it is toxic and will kill the rest of my turtles. I just wanted to know of you know people who have used the plastic to house reptiles and if it is considered toxic? Thanks.

  83. avatar


    I’m not sure if all labeled as polyethylene are actually the same…your best option would be to contact the manufacturer; they will not likely comment on use for turtles, but perhaps an explanation of what is in the product will be useful. Best, Frank

  84. avatar


    Hello, I hope you are well. I’m hoping you can help shed some light on an issue I’m having. I have had a pair of Ruby Eye Tree Frogs for about 2 years. A week ago I found my male on the bottom of their enclosure upside down. I took him out and placed him in a small plastic enclosure with moist paper towel. He has not been doing well. I’m almost certain he will not make it. Today, I have just found the female sitting on a plant with her back legs dangling. I also took her out and also placed her in a small plastic enclosure with moist paper towel. She seems unable to use her back legs at all. I’m afraid she may go the way of my male and quickly deteriorate. Do you have any suggestions on what the problem may be? Possibly there is something I can use to treat her with? Their enclosure is a planted live vivarium using ABG substrate. They are fed in an empty glass dish that I put directly inside the enclosure and it gets filled with crickets dusted with Repashy Calcium Plus. The only thing that recently changed was that I placed some plastic over the top of their screen enclosure in order to keep the humidity up, as my menagerie room can tend to be dry. any advice you have would be appreciated.

    Thank you,

  85. avatar

    Hello Liz, Thanks, all fine here, I hope you are well.

    No way to diagnose, unfortunately, as symptoms are similar for a host of ailments,. A CA deficiency will lead to inability to move…a seeming paraysis etc, and this is a very common problem in small frogs, especially where dietary variety is limited; Ca supplements do not always suffice. Please see this article and the one re Houseflies linked at the end for some ideas. Some success has been had with various Ca drops placed on skin, but at this point CA gluconate injections are likely needed (if this is the problem)…a vet exam would be your best option. Please let me know if you need help in finding a vet, best, Frank

  86. avatar

    God morning, Frank.

    I was wondering if you had any experience with a little sand burrowing snake of the western deserts, specifically, Chionactis occipitalis, the Shovel nosed Snake? Recently I caught one, and have had success feeding it in a small cage where it can corner its prey. It took 4 crickets and a Black Widow Spider. But I was wondering if there are other things to do to keep this darling little snake long-term?

  87. avatar

    I have a question about my RES. I believe she is gravid, shes showing alot of the signs when shes in her aquarium but when I put her in her box w the 50/50 mixture she spends her time trying to get out, after she gets tired of that she puts her head in a corner buries her rear end in the dirt n jus lays there like that for hours n hours. Should I take her out at night n put her back in her aquarium or jus let her stay in her maternity box a couple of days?
    Confused in Texas..lol

  88. avatar

    Hi ,

    They can be very schooling about nest sites, and often react as you describe when moved. Some females will drop eggs in water , but safest option is radiographs and an oxytosin injection; let me know of you need help locating a local vet, best, frank

  89. avatar

    Very interesting! I’ve spoken to folks who have kept them…friend at Az Sonora desert Museum, I believe, but not in detail. They seem to take a wide range of invertebrates, so a varied diet will likely be impt for long term health (in contrast to rodent feeders, they cannot obtain all needs from 1 prey species). I wiould provide as many species as possible – wild caught and those available online (silkworms, hornworms, butterworms, roaches, etc). Be sure tank stays dry; an undertank heater may be used for basking , red/black bulks useful for night viewing and heat if needed. Please keep me posted, enjoy, frank

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About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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