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Monthly Archives: January 2011

Inexpensive Homes for American Toads and Their Relatives

Bufo viridisHello, Frank Indiviglio here. From simple, easily-cleaned habitats to complex environments, herp enthusiasts have many options when it comes to setting up terrariums for reptiles and amphibians.  Today I’ll cover everything you’ll need to create an ideal habitat for American, Fowler’s, Southern, Great Plains and Green Toads.  With a bit of modification, your set-up will also accommodate Red-Spotted, Colorado River and Marine Toads, and others with slightly different needs.  I’ll also mention money-saving alternatives to certain products, along with non-essential “extras” that can be added if you wish.

Enclosure

Toads spend their time on and below the ground, so floor space is the most important consideration. Read More »

Assassin Bugs – Captive Care and a Spider-Hunting Assassin – Part 2

Assassin BugHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Please see Part 1 of this article to learn about Assassin Bugs that lure prey by tricking spiders and termites.

Commercially Available Species

West Africa’s White-Spotted Assassin Bug (Platymeris biguttatus) and the Red-Spotted Assassin (P. rhadamanthus) of East Africa are sometimes offered for sale in the USA and are well-established in private and public insect collections.

Warning: All Assassin Bugs can administer a painful bite with their sharp proboscis, or rostrum.  As infection and an allergic reaction to their venom are distinct possibilities, they should only be kept by well-experienced adults.  These and other species can also spray their venom, so protective eyewear is a must.  All Assassin Bugs, including the US natives, should be handled only with forceps.   Read More »

Musk and Mud Turtles – Introducing Five Interesting Species – Part 2

Loggerhead Musk Turtle HatchlingHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  The 26 Mud and Musk Turtle species (Family Kinosternidae and Staurotypidae) share a common body plan and general behaviors, yet show an astonishing range of adaptations to diet, habitat and predators.  Among them we find both North America’s smallest turtle and brutes with jaws capable of crushing a finger.  Very few receive attention from hobbyists or zoos, yet nearly all are hardy and can be bred in captivity.  I’ve had the good fortune of keeping 15 or so species, including my longest-lived pet, a 41 year-old Common Musk Turtle (please see Part 1)…following is an introduction to some unique species.

Note: All Mud and Musk Turtles can deliver painful and, in the case of the Mexican Giant Musk, dangerous bites.  Many calm down in captivity, but extreme caution is always necessary. Read More »

The Muggar or Marsh Crocodile – Encounters in Captivity and the Wild – Part 1

Marsh CrocodileHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  I’ve been very fortunate in having spent many years working with Crocodilians in both captivity and the wild while remaining (more or less!) intact in the process.  Today I’d like to introduce the Marsh Crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) and highlight a unique population that thrives in a most unexpected locale.

Threats

Marsh Crocodiles, also known as Muggars, are equipped with immensely broad snouts (the croc world’s widest) and may reach 16 feet in length.  Their large size and propensity to colonize canals and other man-made water bodies renders them a threat to people in some areas. Attacks are not unknown – this, along with a fondness for livestock and commercially important fish, has doomed several populations to extinction.  Read More »

The Asian Turtle Crisis – a Sobering Update – Part 1

Cuoras Species HeadshotsHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  The term “Asian Turtle Crisis” was coined in 1997, when photos of thousands of rare turtles being slaughtered in a Guangzhou, China food market propelled the tragic plight of Asia’s freshwater turtles into the conservation spotlight.  The private turtle-keeping and zoo communities were quick to take action, and a number of fine organizations and programs resulted.  In 2001, I traveled to south Florida to help rehabilitate and place 7,500-10,000 turtles that had been confiscated in China.  

Hard Work Pays Off

In south Florida I worked day and night alongside dedicated folks from the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society and other herp-oriented organizations, internationally-known turtle biologists, private turtle fanciers and zoo colleagues.  The marathon effort was a grand success, with more turtles saved and placed in good homes than anyone would have dared hope upon first seeing their wretched condition.  Given the passion, funds and other support that the situation aroused, the future looked promising.  Unfortunately, 9 years later, the situation remains very bleak.

90+ Species Face Extinction

Recent studies by Conservation International (please see this article) reveal that at least 1/3 of the world’s 280 turtle species, including most of those found in Southeast Asia, are in imminent danger of extinction.  Two photos on the homepage of the NY Turtle and Tortoise Society, taken 12 years apart in Guangzhou, China food markets, illustrate, graphically and tragically, that little has changed. 

Red River Giant SoftshellSeveral turtle species are represented by single populations numbering 12-50 individuals; only 4 specimens of the Red River Giant Softshell (Rafetus swinhoei, please see photo) are known to exist, the status of many Asian Box Turtles (Cuora spp., please see photo) can not even be determined, but several species have not been seen in years…the list goes on.

In Part 2 of this article we’ll take a look at the causes of the recent catastrophic declines in turtle populations and what is being done to reverse the trend.  

Further Reading

Excellent article on the status of Asia’s turtles along with disturbing photos from food markets in China – READ THIS!

Turtle Survival Alliance Programs

Please write in with your questions and comments. 

 

Thanks, until next time,

Frank Indiviglio

 
Cuoras Species Headshots image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Torsten Blanck

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