The Best Terrarium Cleaning Products and Methods

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  During a long career zoo career that found me working with animals ranging from ants to elephants, I’ve had many occasions to review veterinary and pathology reports.  In doing so, I’ve come to understand that zoonotic diseases – those that can pass from animals to people – are a potential concern in the keeping of any pet.  Most people associate Salmonella, the best known zoonotic, with reptiles, but nearly any animal, including dogs, cats and birds, may harbor this bacterium. Fortunately, Salmonella and other infections can be avoided by following a few relatively simple rules. 

Note: This article is not meant to replace a doctor’s advice, nor is it intended to discourage pet ownership.  By observing a few simple precautions, the most commonly-encountered problems can be effectively managed.  Please post your questions and concerns below, and be sure to consult your doctor or veterinarian for specific information concerning disease prevention and treatment. Read More »

Supplies for Red Eared Sliders and Similar Turtles

Slider ReleaseHello, Frank Indiviglio here.   Tempted to buy that tiny green turtle being offered for a mere dollar or two?  While Red-Eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) can make an interesting and responsive pets, their care is far more complicated (and expensive!) than most new owners expect.  In perhaps no other animal is the distinction between initial price and long term cost of care so great.  Furthermore, the care guidelines offered by many sellers are often overly-simplified and inaccurate.  Following is a list of everything you’ll need to provide a proper home for Red Eared Sliders and other species with similar lifestyles (i.e. Map, Painted and Side-Necked Turtles, Cooters), along with notes concerning each item.  An in-depth article about Slider care and natural history is posted here.

Do Not Buy Hatchlings!

Although newly-hatched Sliders are still offered for sale, usually at fairs, carnivals and street stalls, it is illegal to sell them (or any turtle less than 4 inches in length) in the USA, and has been since 1975.  The law was enacted by the Food and Drug Administration in response to Salmonella outbreaks linked to hatchlings. For further information on the Salmonella- turtle connection, please see this article.

Because Sliders grow much faster than most owners expect, turtle rescue organizations are swamped with unwanted pets.  Please consider adopting rather than purchasing a turtle; please post below if you need adoption assistance.  Read More »

World’s Oldest Dinosaur is Discovered and Studied

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.   Recent studies of a creature known as Nyasasaurus parringtoni indicate that dinosaurs may have appeared over 240 million years ago – 10-15 million years earlier than was previously believed.  Its fossils, unearthed in Tanzania, also shed light on where dinosaurs first arose and how they spread to new environments.  I’ve also summarized some other recent paleontological surprises concerning the oldest dinosaur nest, dinosaur flea, bird, and organic molecule.

Dinosaur or Silesaur?

Nyasasaurus parringtoni lived in the Mid-Triassic period, alongside dinosaur-like reptiles known as Silesaurids (please see drawing).  The dating of its fossils to this period is significant, because true dinosaurs were likely very rare at the time. 

Some paleontologists believe that Nyasasaurus is a Silesaurid rather than a dinosaur.  However, its upper arm bone bears a bony crest that held the shoulder muscles in place.  Known as the deltopectorus crest, this structure is found in all other dinosaurs, but not in Silesaurids. 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 »

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 »

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