Round Island Boa Reintroduction – Back in Wild after a 150-Year Absence

Casarea dussumieriHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Mauritius, an island nation off the coast of southeast Africa, is best known to naturalists as the site of the Dodo Bird’s extinction (Mauritius also is, in a sense, the reason I was hired by the Bronx Zoo and spared life as a lawyer – see article below for the story!).  Herp enthusiasts, however, know it as the habitat of several unique reptiles, all of which are now very rare or extinct. But we can delight in some news just released by the Durrell Wildlife Trust - a new population of the Round Island or Keel-scaled Boas, Casarea dussumieri, will soon be established in the wild.  This unusual snake disappeared from nearly all of its range in the 1860’s, and its return is the culmination of 40 years’ worth of captive breeding and habitat restoration efforts.

Status and Conservation

The Round Island Boa is now confined to Round Island, a tiny speck of habitat where perhaps 500-1,000 individuals survive.  A single wild population and limited number of captives place it at continued risk of extinction.  The new population to be established on another Mauritian island (where the snake formerly lived) is a vital step towards ensuring the species’ survival.  Read More »

Reptile and Amphibian Abuse – Examples, Laws and How You Can Help

live turtles in Asian marketHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Unfortunately, animal abuse is a serious and surprisingly common problem in the USA. The applicable laws vary from state to state, and it can be difficult to determine which agency is responsible for enforcement. Regulatory agencies are often under-funded, so many rely upon citizen complaints. It is important, therefore, that concerned people learn how to proceed when they suspect that animal abuse is taking place. This is especially true where reptiles and amphibians are concerned, as they draw less interest than mammals, and mistreatment is difficult to detect by the inexperienced.  Please be sure to post your own observations below, and let me know if you need help in deciding how to report a problem.

State Law

Animal abuse is a crime every state in the USA, and most aspects of the problem are controlled by state law. This results in a confusing array of widely differing statutes and enforcement policies. Details, such as what constitutes abuse and how the laws are actually enforced, vary from state to state. Until recently (July, 2012), for example, an Indiana “festival” that allowed participants to twist off the heads of turtles for public amusement was held not to violate state law (please see below)!  In some states, live Tiger Salamander larvae are legally used as fish bait (please see this article), while in others they are protected as an endangered species. Read More »

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 »

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