Reptiles, Amphibians, Tarantulas among “World’s 100 Rarest Species”

Tarzan’s ChameleonHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  A unique list of species facing imminent extinction was released by the Zoological Society of London at the recent (September, 2012) World Conservation Congress in Jeju, South Korea.  As a former member of several IUCN Species Survival Commissions, I was eager to learn the current thinking on the world’s most threatened creatures.  I’ll summarize below…any opinions you may have concerning “passed over” species would be most appreciated (please post below).

I’ve worked with several animals given the dubious honor of “World’s Rarest”, including the Batagur Turtle and Jamaican Iguana, and was heartened to see that zoos and private individuals are still contributing mightily to their protection.  However, many of listed species are poorly-studied, and draw few supporters.  Unfortunately, two such creatures that I’ve cared for in the past – the Chittenango Ovate Amber Snail and the Tanzanian Spray Toad – are now extinct in the wild. Read More »

World’s Largest Snake – Finding and Keeping a Giant Reticulated Python

FluffyHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  While working at the Bronx Zoo, I had the once-in-a lifetime opportunity of helping to import and care for one of the largest snakes in captivity.  While “largest snake” debates are ongoing, the massive Reticulated Python I came to know was awe-inspiring by any standard.  Dubbed “Samantha”, she was captured as an adult in Borneo, and eventually reached 26 feet in length and 275 pounds in weight.  The story of how she arrived in the USA involves a cash reward established by Theodore Roosevelt, the leather trade, animal dealers and other twists and turns.

Wanted: 30 Foot-Long-Snake

In 1910, Theodore Roosevelt, long involved with the Bronx Zoo, offered a reward to the first person who presented a snake of 30 feet in length; in time the reward grew to $50,000.  In 1992, I and other Bronx Zoo staff heard rumors that a giant Reticulated Python that had been captured in Borneo.  We did not get overly-excited… being well-seasoned, I automatically deducted 25-50% from the size of any “biggest snake-turtle-croc” stories that came my way.  But then grainy photos arrived by mail, and the snake depicted was, if not the largest I’d seen, impressive.  Whether by design or bad luck, the photos did not allow us to accurately gauge the animal’s length. Read More »

Amphibian Care during Power Outages – Bacteria, Disease and Oxygen

Albino FrogsHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Hurricane Sandy, which hit the Northeastern USA in October of 2012, caused losses to both private herp keepers and zoos.  My own collection, home to a 32+ year-old Red Salamander and several others aged 20+, thankfully fared very well.  The zoos and aquariums for which I consult are working to limit losses; I’ll provide updates via Twitter.

Reptile care during power outages is well-understood by most, so today I’ll focus on amphibians, as their unique needs can be easily over-looked.  Most of the points mentioned below also apply to semi-aquatic species.    

Filter Care and Bacteria Die-offs

When power fails, submersible, corner, and other internal filters should be removed from the aquarium.  When oxygenated water is flowing through a filter, ammonia is converted to less toxic nitrites and nitrates by beneficial aerobic bacteria.  Once the flow of water stops, the resident beneficial bacteria perish and your filter becomes a source of decomposing organic material, poisoning the already-stressed aquarium inhabitants.  Fish keepers are well aware of these processes, which are part of the nitrogen cycle.  An understanding of the nitrogen cycle will enhance your ability to keep and breed amphibians; (please see this article). Read More »

Land Hermit Crabs and Coconut Crabs (the world’s largest) as Pets

Coconut CrabHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  People are often surprised to learn that Land or Terrestrial Hermit Crabs engage in complex social behaviors, are capable of communicating via “chirps” and, with proper care, may live for over 20 years.  I’ve had the pleasure of working with them at home, in zoos and the wild, and have even kept the massive, awe-inspiring Coconut Crab.  Please read on to learn about their care and natural history, and be sure to post your own thoughts and experiences.

Natural History

The Purple-Pincher or Caribbean Hermit Crab (Coenobita clypeatus) is the most common pet trade species.  It ranges throughout the Caribbean, reaching as far north as Florida and Bermuda. 

Some populations live at altitudes of over 3,000 feet, but females return to the sea, usually in one massive migration, to spawn. The larvae, or zoea, float about with plankton for 2 months, after which they take up life on land. Read More »

Halloween Creatures – Orange Crabs, Ghost Frogs, Vampires, Goblins…

Gluvia dorsalisHello, Frank Indiviglio here. Herp and invertebrate enthusiasts are never at a loss for frightening, even “ghoulish” (to “regular” people) stories. With Halloween just around the corner, I’d like to highlight some creatures whose names or habits associate them with this holiday.  Some, such as Thailand’s fanged, bird-eating frog and the skin-feeding Caecilian, are relatively new discoveries.  I’ve taken the liberty of extending beyond our usual subjects to include a parrot-eating bat and the well-named Goblin Shark. 

Halloween Crab, Gecarcinus quadratus

Bright orange color and brilliant “eye-spots” on a round carapace lend this crab a pumpkin-like appearance.  Highly terrestrial, it lives along forest edges from Mexico to southern South America, returning to the sea only to reproduce.  Studies have shown that Halloween Crabs recycle vast quantities of dead leaves, acting as the “earthworms” of their ecosystems.

I’ve kept Halloween Crabs in zoo exhibits for years, and couldn’t resist purchasing a few at a recent reptile expo.  They make interesting terrarium subjects, and often give up their nocturnal ways to forage by day.  Please post a comment below if you would like information on their care. Read More »

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