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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Bearded Dragon Health – Atadenovirus (Wasting Disease, Star-Gazing)

Bearded DragonHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Bearded Dragons are among the hardiest of all lizards, and very well-suited to captivity. However, a serious viral disease to which they are prone is well-established among populations in theUSA and several other countries.  Unfortunately, Atadenovirus infections, also known as Wasting Disease and Star Gazing, are incurable and difficult to detect by symptoms alone. Related viruses afflict Blue-Tongued Skinks, Fat-Tailed Geckos, Leopard Geckos, chameleons and other reptiles, birds and mammals, but infections are most commonly diagnosed in Bearded Dragons. 

Infection and Transmission

Atadenoviruses are highly contagious, and spread via body contact and improperly cleaned tools or terrarium accessories. Female Bearded Dragons may also pass infections along to their young. There is evidence that some Bearded Dragons harbor the virus while remaining otherwise healthy, and that sensitivity varies among individuals that do become ill. Read More »

Inclusion Body Disease or Stargazing – Pet Owners Aid Vital Research

Diamond PythonHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Inclusion Body Disease (IBD), or “Stargazing”, is an incurable ailment that afflicts captive Boa Constrictors, Ball Pythons and related snakes (please see below for species list).  As a child with a burgeoning snake collection, I was warned about it by older keepers, and then faced the perplexing condition as I began to work for animal importers and zoos.  Always, the scenario remained the same – once symptoms appeared, the snake died. In zoo collections, much time and expense was spent in testing snakes that had been exposed to IBD, with euthanasia being the usual course of action for those found to be positive.  However, snake keepers now have cause for guarded optimism – a ground-breaking finding published this week (August, 2012) may pave the way for a treatment.  The sequence of events leading up to the discovery involves pet owners, gene-sequencing competitions and a host of twists and turns, and shows that alert, dedicated snake enthusiasts can make vital contributions to conservation and research. Read More »

Malayan and Kuhl’s Flying Geckos – Breeding and Care

Ptychozoon kuhliHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Like most lizard enthusiasts, I was mesmerized by Flying Geckos at first glance. Early on, both Malayan and Kuhl’s Flying Geckos (Ptychozoon lionotum and P. Kuhli) were rare in the trade, but by the early 1980’s I found them readily available and integrated both into a Southeast Asian exhibit I maintained at the Bronx Zoo. I had some breeding success, but today’s stock remains largely wild caught.  Because they are both inexpensive and bizarre, Flying Geckos are often purchased by relatively inexperienced keepers. But while they can be hardy, prolific breeders, Flying Gecko ownership requires some forethought; hopefully the following information will prepare you.

Description

The 7 Flying Geckos in the genus Ptychozoon are among the most unique of the world’s 900+ gecko species.  Both the Malayan and Kuhl’s reach 6-8 inches in length and are distinguished by skin folds (along the head, flanks and toes) that enable them to glide through the air. A heavily-serrated tail assists in breaking up their outline. In overall appearance, I can best describe them as “amazingly bark-like”. 

Their color varies through a wide range of tans, grays and browns, and the skin is marked with an array of blotches and stripes.  Malayan and Kuhl’s Flying Geckos are difficult to differentiate by eye; the Kuhl’s tongue is often tipped in black, but I cannot say whether this always holds true.

Range and Habitat

The Malayan Flying Gecko inhabits Myanmar, Thailand, India, Malaysia and neighboring islands. The range of Kuhl’s Flying Gecko extends from southern Thailand through Java, Sumatra, Malaysia, Borneo and Sulawesi, and overlaps that of its cousin extensively.  Whether or not they hybridize, or utilize different niches within the same range, has not been researched. Other geckos are, however, known to partition habitats in species-rich areas; this article describes an interesting study carried out on Borneo.

Flying Geckos favor rainforests and other humid, densely-foliated habitats. However, they have colonized farms and human habitations, and it is from such areas that most are collected.

Captive Care

Malayan and Kuhl’s Flying Geckos may be kept and bred under similar conditions. As most in the trade are wild-caught, stress, mites and internal parasites are a major concern. As concerns medication, I’ve found them to be quite delicate; be sure that you use a well-experienced veterinarian to examine all new arrivals.

The Terrarium

Although wild-caught females may initially produce eggs, sustained captive breeding is only possible if the appropriate environment and diet is provided.  A spacious terrarium – a 20-30 gallon tank for a trio – is essential.  “Tall” style aquariums are ideal.  Flying Geckos spend most of their time on tree trunks, where their camouflage may be used to great advantage, and will be stressed if forced to use other resting sites.  Corkbark or native tree bark must be available, and the cage should be densely-planted (live plants are best).  Flying Geckos will not thrive in bare enclosures.

Temperature, Humidity and Light

Humidity should be maintained at 75-80% for most of the year (see “Breeding”), with a temperature gradient of 75-85 F.  Nighttime temperatures can dip to 70 F. A mix of sphagnum moss and a forest bedding, serves well as a substrate.

Flying GeckoAlthough Flying Geckos are nocturnal, wild individuals often spend their days in open situations, on tree trunks, and may therefore be exposed to UVB.  Low doses of UVB, as provided by a ZooMed 2.0 bulb, are likely beneficial.  Overly-bright environments should be avoided, so choose plants that do well in low light (pothos, snake and cast iron plants).  Incandescent heat bulbs  can be used to maintain temperatures; red/black night bulbs (which will assist in nighttime observations) or ceramic heater-emitters can be used after dark.  

Diet

Flying Geckos specialize in hunting flying and arboreal insects, and will not fare well on crickets alone.  Housefly cultures, silkworms, roaches, moths and other insects are essential to their well-being.  The comments in this article on Red-Eyed Treefrog Diets are largely applicable; please write in if you have any questions on this critical aspect of husbandry.

Breeding

Mature males may be distinguished from females by their pre-anal pores and the two scaly skin-folds that outline the cloaca. 

Males fight savagely, and cannot be housed together.  A single male may be kept with multiple females.  Gecko skin is delicate, and bite injuries may occur during courtship and copulation; check also for dominance battles among females.

Stimulating Reproduction

In the wild, breeding likely extends through much or all of the rainy season (March to May through October, depending upon locale).  Increasing the frequency and duration of daily misting in the spring will encourage captives to come into breeding condition.  Novel food items and increased dietary variety should also be introduced at this time.  Some have reported that removing and re-introducing a male will stimulate interest.

Lowering temperature and humidity slightly during the fall and winter may also be useful, but is not critical (please write in for details). 

The Eggs

Gravid female swell noticeably, and their 2 eggs will be visible through the skin in time.  A well-fed female may produce 3, or possibly more, clutches of 2 eggs each.  I’ve recorded inter-clutch intervals of 2-3 weeks, but this time period is likely affected by many factors.

Eggs are affixed to bark, glass or stout plant leaves.  Be sure to provide ample nesting sites that can be removed for incubation, as the eggs are often broken during attempts to peel them from the deposition surface. Corkbark slabs are ideal, as they can be cut to fit incubators if need be.   

Incubation

Suitably-sized plastic terrariums, with the ventilation ports sealed, make ideal incubators.  Eggs under my care generally hatched in 60-80 days at 82-85 F, but temperatures of 70-90 F, and incubation times of 30-90 days, have been reported.

Eggs deposited on glass are difficult to remove; I’ve incubated House and Day Gecko eggs on glass by affixing a cup containing damp sphagnum moss over the eggs, but this is not an ideal situation.

The Young

Hatchlings average a bit over 2 inches in length and may be reared on fruit and other flies, small crickets and roaches, silkworms, moths, termites and similar insects (please see diet comments above). 

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.  Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable.  I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly. 

 

Thanks, until next time,

Frank Indiviglio

 

Further Reading

Gecko Gliding Explained: excellent, comprehensive articles with photo of geckos “in flight”

Incubating Reptile Eggs

Kuhl’s Flying Gecko: great photos

Ptychozoon kuhli image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Manuel Werner

 

Reptile & Amphibian Conservation – Protection Sought for 53 US Natives

San Bernardino Ringneck SnakeHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  I’ve recently posted information concerning a petition that seeks Endangered Species Act protection for 53 US herps.  Many readers applauded the news, but some were concerned about potential limitations on their ability to keep protected species.  As they correctly pointed out, responsible pet owners have made important contributions to the conservation of many species (please see article below).  In the course of my work as a zoologist, I’ve often dealt with federal, state and international permits, and continue to assist zoos with related issues.  Today I’d like to explain a bit more about this proposal, which was championed by the Center for Biological Diversity, and how it may impact target species in the wild and captivity.

The ESA: Pros and Cons for Herp Keepers

Although federal red tape complicates life for private herp owners, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) remains our nation’s most powerful conservation tool.  A recent study revealed that the ESA is 99% effective in preventing extinctions…once a species is listed, its survival is almost guaranteed.  Benefits to such species extend beyond permit requirements – habitat protection, research funds, compilation of recovery plans and other possibilities arise.  This post lists frequently asked questions concerning the ESA. Read More »

Snake Lizards – Legless Lizard-eaters in the Wild and Captivity

Burton’s legless lizard Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  While working at the Bronx Zoo some years ago, I was delighted to receive a surprise shipment of New Guinea Snake Lizards (Lialis jicari).  Also known as the Long Headed Scaly-foot or Flap-Footed Lizard, it and the related Burton’s Snake Lizard (Lialis bertoni) have long fascinated herpetologists and hobbyists alike.  As you’ll see below, their similarity to snakes goes way beyond a limbless body; indeed, many consider the Snake Lizards to be an example of convergent evolution (unrelated species evolving similar characteristics).  Today I’d like to summarize my experiences and some of what is known about these amazing, little-studied creatures.

Classification

The 2 species mentioned above are the sole members of the genus Lialis. They are classified in the family Pygopodidae, along with approximately 38 other legless relatives. Their distribution is limited to Australia, New Guinea, and some nearby islands.

Snake Lizards have been described by one taxonomist as “legless geckos”, and appear most closely related to that group.  Actually, Snake Lizards do sport remnants of their rear legs, which appear as small skin flaps (hence the name “Flap-Footed Lizard”).  Read More »

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