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Giant Centipedes – My Experiences with Centipede Bites and Behavior

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Whether you are considering the massive Amazonian Giant Centipede (Scolopendra gigantea) or the tiniest native species, the keeping of these fascinating but potentially dangerous creatures should not be undertaken lightly.  During the course of my career in zoo-keeping and field research, I’ve encountered many species, and have learned something of the difficulties and dangerous their care poses.  An escaped Giant Centipede once gave me much cause for concern (please see article linked below), and several colleagues have been bitten, sometimes with dire results.  Yet many of us are drawn to them, and with so much still to learn, and so many species yet to be discovered, their study offers an exciting challenge.

Escapes

Vietnamese Centipede

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Matt Reinbold

Centipedes are very fast, can scale glass, and are able to squeeze through unbelievably small openings…escapes are not uncommon, even in zoos.  And once out, they are almost impossible to find – or forget! I should know – I’ve helped recapture animals ranging from Snow Leopards to Kodiak Bears, but concerns caused by an escaped Giant Centipede lingered longest of all; please see the article below for details. Read More »

Pet Frogs – the Best Species for Children and First Time Keepers

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Many of the world’s nearly 6,000 frog species make wonderful pets that may live for 10, 20 or even 50 years.  Among them we find creatures that glide, brood their eggs in vocal sacs, form lifelong pair bonds and exhibit other fascinating behaviors.  While the smallest is barely as large as a pea, the nine-pound African Bullfrog can chase lions away from its tadpoles!  Today I’d like to introduce some of my favorites, each of which is hardy enough for beginners yet so interesting that herpetologists – myself included – regularly keep them as pets.  Please be sure to let me know about your own “best pet frogs” by posting below.

Frog Care

White's treefrog

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by LiquidGhoul

Even the toughest of frogs have specific care needs that must be met if they are to thrive.  The following information is meant to illustrate why one should consider a particular type of frog.  It is not a complete care guide…please be sure to post below for detailed information about keeping and breeding these or other frogs. Read More »

Black Mamba Memories – Working with one of the World’s Deadliest Snakes

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. As a small boy, I devoured the books of Messrs.’ Ditmars, Kauffeld, Whittaker, Sanderson and others who sought out snakes in their natural habitats. The formidable Black Mamba, (Dendroaspis polylepis), accorded respect by all, was given a special place of honor by legendary snake man C.J.P. Ionides in Mambas and Maneaters. Although I was eager to expand my snake hunting experiences, these authors convinced me that this longest of Africa’s venomous snakes was better observed than handled. Fate intervened, however, and I wound up working closely with what has been described as “Africa’s deadliest snake”. Accounts of the recent escape of a Black Mamba from the Pretoria Zoo brought an experience of my own back to mind…

Mamba striking

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Tad Arensmeier

Handling Mambas and Cobras

Zoo-based reptile keepers such as I handle thousands of venomous snakes over the course of their careers. A snake hook generally fits the bill for routine tasks. The Black Mamba, King Cobra and several related species, however, present special challenges, especially when they reach full size. Quick, high-strung, and seemingly more alert and intelligent than others, many Elapids (cobras, mambas and their relatives) are difficult to move via snake hooks….all old reptile keepers have their stories. You can read about my adventures with an escaped King Cobra in this article.

I was fortunate in having had the benefit of working with several older, well- experienced keepers, and had no illusions about “proving” myself when it came to cobras and mambas. I feel that “discretion is the better part of valor” where they are concerned, a belief confirmed by observations made in the course of responding to many snakebite emergencies over the years. Whenever possible, I relied upon shift cages or other “tricks” (please see article below) when I needed to move a mamba.

Read More »

Working with the False Gharial – One of the World’s Largest Crocodiles

False GharialHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  I find it difficult to express just how fortunate I’ve been in having had the chance to work with 12 Crocodilian species in the wild and captivity.  Breeding Dwarf Caimans, wrestling Orinoco Crocodiles into boats, getting up close and personal to Gomek (a giant, now famous Salt Water Croc), rearing Indian Gharials…these and many other experiences remain etched in my memory.  One species in particular cemented my interest in the group, and remains as much a mystery today as it was when I first saw it some 40 years ago – the massive False Gharial, Tomistoma schlegelii.

A Mysterious Giant

The False Gharial, which may exceed 16 feet in length, is the least-studied of the large Crocodilians, and among the rarest.  It has been bred in captivity only 3 times in the last 60 years (once at the Bronx Zoo, prior to my tenure) and few US zoos exhibit them today; 28 reside in European zoos, while South America is home to 1 specimen.

A secretive nature keeps the False Gharial shrouded in mystery.  The few field studies that have been carried out (please see below) indicate that it has been exterminated from much of its range.  Read More »

The Best Filters for Axolotls, Clawed Frogs, Newts and Other Amphibians

BullfrogHello, Frank Indiviglio here. With their highly-permeable skins, amphibians absorb ammonia and other pollutants over a greater surface area than do fishes.  Surinam Toads, Axolotls, tadpoles and other aquatic amphibians are most at risk from poor water quality, but even terrestrial species such as toads and Fire Salamanders can quickly succumb to water-borne toxins while soaking in terrarium pools. Keeping their water clean, both visibly and chemically, can be quite a challenge. 

General Considerations

Natural History

Your pet’s natural history will determine the type of filter that should be used.  For example, newts and Dwarf Clawed Frogs will be stressed by fast currents, Hellbenders are extra-sensitive to water quality, many species are prone to bacterial attack in highly-oxygenated waters, and so on.  Please post below if you need help in selecting a filter. 

Types of Filtration

Biological filtration, wherein aerobic bacteria convert ammonia to less harmful compounds (nitrites and nitrates), is the most important of the three basic filtration processes. Ammonia enters the water via dead animals and plants, uneaten food and the occupants’ waste products. The organisms involved in the process, Nitrosomas and Nitrobacter bacteria, live on substrates that are bathed with oxygenated water (i.e. gravel, filter pads). Read More »

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