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 »

St. Lucia Racer, World’s Rarest Snake (Population 11) is Rediscovered

Antillean Racer

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Postdlf

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  The St. Lucia Racer or Ornate Ground Snake, Liophis ornatus, has the unenviable distinctions of being both the world’s rarest snake and the species with the smallest range…it may even be the rarest creature on the planet.  The entire population – 11 individuals at last count – is confined to a 30 acre Caribbean island off St. Lucia.

Ever since reading Archie Carr’s wonderful books as a child, I’ve been drawn to the Caribbean’s islands and coastlines.  As luck would have it, I eventually found myself working at Tortuguero, Costa Rica – the very site where much of his ground-breaking Green Turtle research was done.  There I became hooked on the region’s fantastic array of creatures, and endeavored to become familiar with as many as possible.  In time, I tagged Leatherback Sea Turtles on St. Croix, collected Bahaman Brown Racers, Alsophis vudii, on several islands, and vowed to find again a large, flying Mole Cricket that once stopped me in my tracks on St. Lucia.  Unfortunately, Caribbean animals suffer some of the world’s highest extinction rates.  In fact, the St. Lucia racer was “officially extinct” for nearly 40 years.  Happily, we now know that it still holds on…but just barely. Read More »

How to Care for African Giant Millipedes and Their Relatives

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Millipedes (Order Diplopoda) are among the most diverse yet least studied of all invertebrates.  There are enough millipedes to keep generations of fans happy – over 12,000 species have been described so far, and we know little about most!  Many species make hardy pets that adjust well to small enclosures and may even breed. All are quite intriguing – while working with arboreal South American millipedes at the Bronx Zoo, I was even involved in a mysterious “millipede emergency”…please see this article  for details.

Millipede

Photo uploaded to wikipedia commons by Bubba73 (Jud McCranie)

The following information can be applied to the commonly-kept African Giant Millipede (Achispirospreptus gigas) and many of the others that appear in the trade from time to time.  Several millipedes native to the USA, such as Narceus americanus, are also large and brightly-colored…all are ignored by zoos and deserve more attention from hobbyists.  Husbandry details will vary…please comment below for information on individual species. Read More »

Best Tadpole Foods (Based on my Experiences) – Seeking Additional Suggestions

tadpoleHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Breeding frogs and rearing tadpoles is one of the most enjoyable aspects of our hobby, and becoming ever more important to the survival of many species.  In the course of working with numerous species at home and in zoos, I’ve compiled a list of commercial foods that have proven especially useful as tadpole foods.  The variety of new food items that have appeared and the many frog species that have been recently bred by hobbyists have convinced me that it’s time to reach out see what new “wonder products” or ideas folks have tried. I have, therefore, highlighted some of the foods I’ve come to rely on, and would greatly appreciate hearing of your experiences with them and others. Thank you.  

The Amazing Specialists

While the tadpoles of many commonly bred frogs (i.e. White’s Treefrog, Litoria caerulea) are omnivorous and take a variety of foods, others are specialists and will not survive unless their exacting requirements are met.  The tadpoles of African Clawed Frogs, Xenopus laevis and Malayan Leaf Frogs, Megophrys nasuta, for example, are filter feeders, while those of the African Bullfrog, Pyxicephalus adspersus, are as carnivorous as their pugnacious parents.  Poison Frog tadpoles of several species feed upon unfertilized eggs deposited by their mother, Goliath Frog, Conraua goliath, tadpoles consume a single species of algae, Fringe-Limbed Treefrog (Ecnomiohyla rabborum) tadpoles eat their father’s skin,  Brown Leaping Frog (Indirana semipalmata) tadpoles gnaw on wood (high up in trees!) …the list is fascinating.  Please post below if you would like information on these or other species. Read More »

Snake Conservation in 2013 – The “Year of the Snake” Begins

Eastern Indigo SnakeHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  In 2010, I highlighted a study that documented steep declines in a number of snake species.  Despite disturbing similarities to the “Disappearing Amphibian Crisis”, the snake situation seems not to have generated widespread concern.  In my own career as a herpetologist, opportunities to become involved in snake conservation were also limited. Although I was fortunate enough to work in programs designed to bolster the populations of several species, including Green Anacondas, Indigo and Hognose Snakes, most such efforts were short-lived.  I was pleased to learn, therefore, that a partnership of several major conservation organizations has made the plight of the world’s snakes a priority for the year 2013.

The Year of the Snake…your input needed

The Year of the Snake effort is spearheaded by Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, and was preceded the Year of the Turtle and the Year of the Lizard.  PARC will be joined by the Center for Conservation Biology, the Orianne Society and other notables (please click here for a complete list).  In addition to field research and captive breeding programs, public education will be a major component of each group’s activities.  I was very glad to see that input from interested non-professionals will be solicited.  This is an all-too-rare step, despite the fact that professionals, being limited in both numbers and financial resources, cannot begin to address the myriad conservation needs of the world’s threatened snakes.  Please see “What Can I Do”?, below, if you wish to participate. Read More »

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