The Best Diet for Uromastyx Lizards – a Herpetologist’s Thoughts

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. Bulldog-like faces, calm dispositions, and fascinating behaviors – not to mention the stunning colors of many species – place Uromastyx Lizards high on the “must have” lists of serious lizard fans and zoos alike. Also known as Dab Lizards or Spiny-Tailed Mastiguerres, North African and Egyptian Uromastyx Lizards (Uromastyx acanthinura and U. aegypticus) first arrived on the US pet scene in the early 1990’s. I’d had some prior experience with these and several others through my work with the Bronx Zoo, but our ability to successfully keep and breed them was limited. Today we have learned much about their unique nutritional requirements, and several of the 15 described species are regularly bred by hobbyists. The following information regarding the best diet for Uromastyx may be applied to Egyptian, Indian, Ornate, Sudanese, Mali, Moroccan and most other varieties; please post below for detailed advice on individual species.

Don’t “Kill them with Kindness”!

Mali Uromastyx

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Nadja Pöllath

Uromastyx Lizards dwell in harsh habitats, and have evolved to consume a diet that is high in fiber and relatively low in nutrients. In the wild, they feed mainly upon tough grasses and herbaceous plants. A diet that is too rich (i.e. high in fruit or insects) can kill them as quickly as will one lacking essential nutrients. As I’ve learned from caring for animals as diverse as giant anteaters and proboscis monkeys, one must feed specialists carefully…they will not thrive on a diet that might be perfect for closely-related species from different habitats. Read More »

Odd and Giant Snake Meals – Sticks, Antelopes, People, Siamese Cats…

Gaboon ViperHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Many interesting reptile field research reports are published in professional journals that are not available online to non-subscribers. Fortunately, I’ve long had access to many of my favorites, including Copeia, Herpetologica, and Herpetological Review.  From time to time I like to provide summaries of interesting reports that I have read and enjoyed.  Today’s article covers some very unique snake feeding observations drawn from recent publications and my own experiences in the field and among zoo animals.  Please be sure to post your own observations below, thanks.

When Prey Exceeds Predator’s Mass

The largest snake meal that I’ve personally witnessed was a 60 pound White-Tailed Deer taken by a 17 foot-long, 215 pound Green Anaconda, Eunectes murinus, in Venezuela. A 130 pound Impala consumed by an African Rock Python, Python sebae, is the largest fairly reliable meal I’ve been able to document (please see article linked below).

But in terms of the ratio of prey size to snake size, a Red Duiker (small antelope) eaten by a Gaboon Viper, Bitis gabonica, beats most accounts hands down.  The antelope outweighed the snake by 4%!  In addition to being the largest meal recorded for this species, this is also the first record of an ungulate being taken by a Gaboon Viper in South Africa.  I’ve worked with Gaboon Vipers in zoos, and know how well-adapted they are for taking large, infrequent meals, but I was still quite surprised by this observation. Read More »

The Best Foods for Poison Frogs, Mantellas and Other Tiny Amphibians

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  I began working with Poison Frogs and Mantellas in zoos just as the secrets to longevity and breeding were being discovered.  Today, captive-bred animals are almost mainstream.  This is wonderful, but there is a downside – they are sometimes viewed as “simple to keep”.  But while these tiny gems can be surprisingly hardy, they will not thrive long-term if their unique nutritional requirements are not met.  Friends of mine who have broken new ground with Poison Frogs – in one case years before most zoos did – have always expended a great deal of effort on providing a varied diet.  The following information is drawn from their and my own experiences over several decades, and may also be applied to the care of many other small and newly-transformed amphibians.

General Considerations

Golden Poison frog

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Marcel Burkhard

Although we do not know the exact nutritional needs of any species, certain principles have become evident.  Chief among these is that a highly-varied diet is essential. Crickets alone, even if powdered with supplements, are not an adequate diet.  There are exceptions, but nearly every study of free-living amphibians reveals that a surprising range of prey species are consumed. Read More »

The Best Humidity Gauges for Reptile, Amphibian and Invert Habitats

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Like most lifelong animal keepers, I consider myself to be a fairly good judge of humidity levels in the home terrariums and zoo exhibits under my care.  But when I began working in new buildings equipped with state-of-the-art hygrometers (humidity gauges), I quickly realized that I had much to learn.  I was especially surprised to discover how widely humidity levels can vary within even a small enclosure, and how this can affect every facet of an animal’s life.  The accurate, easy-to-use humidity gauges now available offer us the chance to provide better care to our charges and perhaps to uncover important new details about their lives.

Recent Innovations in Humidity Monitoring

Over the past several decades, hobbyists and zoos have greatly expanded the number of rare and delicate species that can be kept and bred in captivity.  Many of these successes have been due to an increased understanding of the roles that UVB, temperature, diet and other such factors play in their lives.

Orchid mantis

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Luc Viatour

Humidity levels have also been taken into account by serious animal owners, but this topic has been given less attention than others.  This is partially because many reptiles, and some amphibians and invertebrates, can meet their needs by soaking in a water bowl or retreating to a moist shelter.  But the real obstacle has been the unavailability of affordable hygrometers designed for use with animals.  Happily, humidity gauges that fit just about every terrarium and budget are now available, and all are very simple to use (since I can do it!). Read More »

Important Supplies for Pet Tarantulas – a Zoo Keeper’s Notes

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Among the world’s 900+ tarantula species (Family Theraphosidae) we find spiders of every conceivable size, description and lifestyle, some of which make interesting, long-lived pets.  I had the chance to work with many during my zoo career, and most of the supplies that I relied upon are now readily available to hobbyists.  Whether you are just starting out or looking to add additional species to your collection, the following information will assist in your decision.  Please be sure to post any questions or observations about pet tarantulas below. 

Housing

Setting up the Terrarium

Tarantulas are best kept in screen-covered aquariums, reptile cages or plastic terrariums.  “Extra high” styles are best for Pink-Toed Tarantulas and other arboreal species.  Be sure to use cage clips on the cover, as tarantulas can climb glass and are incredibly strong.  A 10-15 gallon aquarium is adequate for all but the largest individuals.

Goliath Bird eating Spider

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Snakecollector

All tarantulas require a dark hiding spot.  Burrowing species such as the Goliath Bird-Eating Spider will dig their own caves if provided deep substrate. Sri Lankan Ornamental Tarantulas and other arboreal species will utilize the underside of an upright piece of cork bark.  Most also accept inverted flower pots and plastic reptile caves. Read More »

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