Home | 2012 | December

Monthly Archives: December 2012

Chameleons as Pets – 5 Things You Should Know Before Getting a Chameleon

Veiled ChameleonHello, Frank Indiviglio here. Perhaps the most fantastically-bizarre of all lizards, chameleons have long been popular in private and public collections. However, the world’s 195 species, ranging in size from the 1.5 inch-long Pygmy Leaf Chameleons (Rhampholeon spp.) to the 30 inch Oustalet’s Chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti), often prove to be difficult captives.  Although great strides have been made, chameleon husbandry remains challenging, if intriguing. The following points, drawn from notes taken during my years working at the Bronx Zoo, are useful to consider before embarking on a chameleon-keeping venture.

Chameleons Do Not Like Company – Human or Otherwise!

Wolverines and Tasmanian Devils are more sociable than the average chameleon!  Highly territorial, both males and females will fight among themselves and with the opposite sex. Pairs may get along in large, heavily-planted enclosures, but they must be watched closely.

Chameleons abhor handling, and are best considered as animals to observe only.  Don’t worry, for when properly kept, chameleons will reward you by exhibiting fascinating behaviors…but this will not be the case if you disturb them with unnecessary handling! Read More »

Jumping Spiders – Captive Care, New Species and a Surprise (They Watch Videos!)

Phidippus audaxHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  As a bug-hunting child, I was once startled to come upon a housefly that appeared to be walking on its hind legs.  Closer inspection revealed that the unfortunate insect was being carried in a head-up position by a Jumping Spider.  I was aware that a variety of these brilliantly-colored little beasts inhabited my Bronx neighborhood, and became interested in how they managed to capture such elusive prey without a web. I began reading and collecting, and was soon fascinated by their keen eyesight and cat-like stalking techniques.  They would follow my finger, leap on a feathers pulled by a string, and even display to a mirrors. 

I’ve recently learned that biologists are showing videos to Jumping Spiders in an attempt to learn more about their remarkable eyes (which allow for forward, backward, an sideways vision simultaneously), and that a new ant-mimicking Jumping Spider with enormous fangs has turned up in Borneo.  I’ll highlight this new information below, and review their natural history and captive care. 

A 360 Degree Field of Vision

Animals that are on the menus of other creatures generally have eyes set well back and to the sides of their heads.  This arrangement gives mice, deer and others a wide field of vision, with the only bind spots being well to their rear.  Predators, such as foxes and hawks, usually have forward-facing eyes, to allow for accurate focusing on prey. Read More »

Round Island Boa Reintroduction – Back in Wild after a 150-Year Absence

Casarea dussumieriHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Mauritius, an island nation off the coast of southeast Africa, is best known to naturalists as the site of the Dodo Bird’s extinction (Mauritius also is, in a sense, the reason I was hired by the Bronx Zoo and spared life as a lawyer – see article below for the story!).  Herp enthusiasts, however, know it as the habitat of several unique reptiles, all of which are now very rare or extinct. But we can delight in some news just released by the Durrell Wildlife Trust - a new population of the Round Island or Keel-scaled Boas, Casarea dussumieri, will soon be established in the wild.  This unusual snake disappeared from nearly all of its range in the 1860’s, and its return is the culmination of 40 years’ worth of captive breeding and habitat restoration efforts.

Status and Conservation

The Round Island Boa is now confined to Round Island, a tiny speck of habitat where perhaps 500-1,000 individuals survive.  A single wild population and limited number of captives place it at continued risk of extinction.  The new population to be established on another Mauritian island (where the snake formerly lived) is a vital step towards ensuring the species’ survival.  Read More »

Reptile and Amphibian Abuse – Examples, Laws and How You Can Help

live turtles in Asian marketHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Unfortunately, animal abuse is a serious and surprisingly common problem in the USA. The applicable laws vary from state to state, and it can be difficult to determine which agency is responsible for enforcement. Regulatory agencies are often under-funded, so many rely upon citizen complaints. It is important, therefore, that concerned people learn how to proceed when they suspect that animal abuse is taking place. This is especially true where reptiles and amphibians are concerned, as they draw less interest than mammals, and mistreatment is difficult to detect by the inexperienced.  Please be sure to post your own observations below, and let me know if you need help in deciding how to report a problem.

State Law

Animal abuse is a crime every state in the USA, and most aspects of the problem are controlled by state law. This results in a confusing array of widely differing statutes and enforcement policies. Details, such as what constitutes abuse and how the laws are actually enforced, vary from state to state. Until recently (July, 2012), for example, an Indiana “festival” that allowed participants to twist off the heads of turtles for public amusement was held not to violate state law (please see below)!  In some states, live Tiger Salamander larvae are legally used as fish bait (please see this article), while in others they are protected as an endangered species. Read More »

Scroll To Top