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New Test for Cryptosporidiosis, an Incurable Disease of Snakes and Lizards

Corn Snake and PreyHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  A decade or so ago, Cryptosporidiosis became recognized as a major concern in captive snake and lizard collections.  Caused by a one-celled parasite known as Cryptosporidium varanii, the disease remains incurable to this day.  At the Bronx Zoo, where I worked at the time, tests showed that many snakes already in our collection, along with wild and pet reptiles, might be harboring Cryptosporidium.  But diagnosis was difficult and errors were common, resulting in the institution of expensive and time-consuming isolation protocols for new and sick animals.  So I was happy to learn of a newly devised test that ensures early, accurate diagnosis of Cryptosporidium…it will surely prove useful to pet keepers and zoos alike.

Crypto and the Pet Trade

A number of factors render Cryptosporidiosis as a major concern, including the popularity of reptile pets and the fact that the parasite can be transferred to people.  While not often of major concern to healthy adults, Crypto, as it came to be known, is a danger to immune-compromised individuals (please see article below).  A recent survey of 672 pets revealed that 1 in 6 of the Corn Snakes and 1 in 12 of the Leopard Geckos tested harbored Crypto in one form or another.  Read More »

2010’s Reptile Discoveries – New Lizard Species and Facts

Lacerta viviparaHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Several newly-discovered lizards and unexpected lizard facts made herp headlines in 2010.  From a female-only species to a 6-foot-long, brightly-colored new monitor, each gave us pause to wonder…”what’s next?!

Two Large Monitors

Undiscovered animals tend to be small and non-descript, but not so with Asia’s new contributions to the lizard role call.   The Northern Sierra Madre Forest Monitor, Varanus bitatawa, described last year from northern Luzon in the Philippines,is both large – to 6 feet in length – and colorful.  Actually, it remained undetected only to herpetologists…local people have been eating it for quite some time.  The newly described giant is arboreal and feeds largely upon fruit. Read More »

The Natural History and Captive Care of the Mertens’ Water Monitor – Part 2

Merten’s MonitorHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Please see Part 1 of this article for information about the natural history of the Mertens’ Water Monitor, Varanus mertensi, including the threat posed by introduced Marine Toads, Rhinella marinus.

Cage Size and Style

Mertens’ Water Monitors may be the ideal choice for folks interested in keeping larger monitors, but who lack the room for the true giants.  Averaging 3.5 feet in length, they are supremely-adapted predators, hunting equally well on land or in the water.  I’ve found that their alertness and aggression when hunting rivals that of any monitor I’ve observed, including the famed Komodo Dragon (keep your fingers out of their cage at feeding time!).  Read More »

The Natural History and Captive Care of the Mertens’ Water Monitor – Part 1

Varanus mertensiHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Many lizard-keepers find Mertens’ Monitors, Varanus mertensi, to possess an ideal mix of large and small monitor qualities.  While large enough to satisfy the desires of aspiring Crocodile Monitor keepers, they can be comfortable in sizable, but less than room-sized, enclosures.

Description

Mertens’ Water Monitor (not to be confused with the larger Water Monitor, V. salvator – please see photo) is the most thoroughly aquatic Varanid and has a number of specialized adaptations for life in the water.  The tail is laterally compressed (as in Crocodiles) to assist in swimming and the nostrils, which can be sealed during dives, are located high on the snout.  Read More »

A Monitor First – Male Rosenberg’s Monitors Cover and Guard Nests

Water MonitorHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  I remain awed by the learning abilities and complex behaviors evidenced by the Water and Lace Monitors I cared for at various zoos…spend time with any species and you’ll quickly see why.  Despite being popular study subjects, monitors are constantly surprising us.  For example, the current issue of The Journal of Herpetology (V44, N3, Sept 2010) documents an entirely new behavior for any monitor species – cooperative nest building and nest guarding in Rosenberg’s Monitor (Varanus rosenbergi).

Nest Defense by both Sexes

A 16-year-long study of this species on Australia’s Kangaroo Island has revealed that females guard their nest sites for up to 3 weeks after egg deposition, a behavior that has not been documented for any other monitor (3 species, including the Komodo Dragon, may return to the nest site on occasion, but seem not to remain nearby).  Amazingly, in 8 instances a male joined the female in protecting the eggs. Read More »

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