How Does the Backwater Reptiles Shipping Process Work?

One of the biggest concerns many people have with purchasing an animal of any kind online is the safety of the animal during transit. To the unexperienced, it would seem like delivering a reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate in the mail would be dangerous. However, at Backwater Reptiles, we have years of experience packaging, shipping, and ensuring safe delivery of our animal cargo.

In this article, we will explain how we go about making sure that our animals and our customers are happy.

We will answer questions such as:
Exactly how safe is it to package and ship an animal? Isn’t it risky?
How does the entire ordering process work?
What happens if the animal is unintentionally harmed during transit?
How do I know that my pet will arrive safe and sound?
How will my pet be packaged?

We’ll even include a video demonstrating our packing method so that you can see exactly how the animals are boxed up.

How safe is it to package and ship a reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate? Isn’t it risky?

The short answer to this question is that it is very safe. Although there are rare instances where an unforeseen occurrence can injure an animal during the shipping process, it is rare. Most pets will arrive safe and sound at their new home with little to no stress.

Truthfully, the types of animals sold by Backwater Reptiles are all critters with pretty hardy dispositions. Most reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates don’t need to eat on a daily basis, so not eating for a day or night while they travel to you is nothing out of the ordinary for them.

hybrid box turtle
Turtles and tortoises fare particularly well during the shipping process. They do travel with their “homes” on their backs anyways!

And rest assured that at Backwater Reptiles we do everything in our power to make sure that the manner in which our animals are packaged and shipped keeps them within the proper temperature and moisture range. But we’ll touch upon that a little later in the article.

The bottom line is that it is very safe to ship snakes, lizards, frogs, spiders, scorpions, and all other types of pets sold by Backwater Reptiles. In fact, ninety-eight percent of orders we send out arrive safe and sound and we’re very proud of those numbers.

How does the entire ordering process work?

Our ordering process is very straight forward and simple. It’s not really that different from ordering anything else online.

You can browse www.backwaterreptiles.com by the type of animal you’re looking for. For instance, we have a section for lizards, snakes, toads, frogs, spiders, etc. Each of these categories is further divided into specific species categories. The lizards section contains species tabs such as geckos, iguanas, and chameleons. The snakes section contains species tabs such as boas, pythons, and corn snakes. We like to make browsing as uncomplicated and easy as possible.

You also have the option to use the Backwater Reptiles website’s search feature. This is useful if you have a specific species name or even a scientific genus and species you’re looking for.

One you’ve located the pet you wish to purchase, simply add it to your cart. Generally, you can also purchase all the needed supplies and accessories for any given type of animal on that specific animal’s “for sale” page. For example, on each chameleon for sale page, you can scroll to the bottom of the page and add a chameleon kit to your order.

What happens if you have a question? What if you have a gender request, size request, or even color request for any given animal?

All you need to do if you have a question of any kind before placing your order is email our hard-working customer service team. They work full-time to ensure that all your questions are addressed. After all, we do want you to be one hundred percent satisfied with your order!

We would like to mention that the main difference between ordering a living creature and ordering any other product online is that we require our carriers to obtain a signature from the recipient of the animal to ensure that it was delivered in a timely, efficient, and secure manner. So check out our shipping schedule when you place your order and make sure that you are ordering for delivery on a day when someone will be present to sign and accept the animal.

antilles pink toe tarantula spiderling
Invertebrates such as this Antilles Pink Toe Tarantula spiderling also fare extremely well during the shipping process.

How do I know that my pet will arrive safe and sound?

While we can’t guarantee with one hundred percent certainty that all will go exactly as planned during the shipping process for every single order placed, at Backwater Reptiles we take every precaution to ensure that each and every animal that we ship out is packaged with care and attention to detail.

When packing a shipment, we take into consideration everything from the external temperature in our location to the temperature of the animal’s final destination. We also make sure that each animal is packed in an appropriately sized container with the correct amount of air circulation.

Furthermore, we clearly and distinctly label each and every box with a stamp that indicates that there is a live animal inside. This helps make sure that the carriers are gentle with the boxes and therefore makes the journey safer for the animals.

All animals that depart from the Backwater Reptile facility are sent out using overnight shipping. This means that the animal is transported quickly and with minimal stress. Although most of the animal we ship don’t mind being in a small space for periods of time, we do like to make sure that they get to their destination as quickly and efficiently as possible. Most will depart our facility in the morning before or around noon and arrive at your doorstep the following morning.

Using overnight shipping not only means that your pet arrives quickly, it means that you receive up to date tracking information that allows you to follow the progress of your pet and make sure that you are home to sign for it. While being able to sign for the animal on the first attempt is ideal, most FedEx and UPS facilities will hold the animal for pick up at your convenience. If you do happen to miss your delivery window for any reason, we do highly recommend retrieving the animal as soon as possible to avoid stress or injury from occurring.

What happens if my pet is unintentionally harmed during transit?

It’s beneficial to all parties involved if the animal arrives at its new forever home safe, sound, and without incident. However, there are unfortunate times when animals will arrive either injured, ill, or dead on arrival (DOA). And while nobody wants to have to deal with the heart ache or hassle of such an occurrence, just know that at Backwater Reptiles, we take good care of our customers and we will do everything to make sure that you have a good experience with us.

contact backwater reptiles
If you ever have any issues with your order, all you have to do is use the contact form on our website or email our customer service team via sales@backwaterreptiles.com.

We also think it’s worthwhile to mention that we have a shipping success rate of ninety-eight percent, which means that only two percent of all orders sent out have any issues. We’re very pleased with this statistic because it means that our animals are treated well, our customers are treated well, and we can rest easy knowing that we do and will continue to do everything within our power to be humane and ethical when delivering our beloved critters to their new forever families.

Because we do offer a live arrival guarantee PLUS an extended seven day warranty on all animals ordered from us, if you do ever happen to have something go wrong with your order, the process of either getting a refund or a replacement animal is very straight forward. All you have to do is email our customer service team and tell them your situation. They are fully equipped and ready to address your concerns and want to make the process go as smoothly as possible.

How will my pet be packaged?

Packing and prepping an animal to be mailed is not as simple as putting a frog in a box. It requires a bit of planning and careful placement and organization. After all, you don’t want your pet bouncing around inside a box or getting too cold, too wet, or too hot.

Most animals sold by Backwater Reptiles are small enough to fit inside small plastic cups with breathing holes. Most hatchling snakes, invertebrates, amphibians, and small lizards fall into this category. However, sometimes reptiles that are too large (i.e. some iguanas, some mature snakes, and other adult animals) will be sealed inside a breathable bag for transportation. No matter what temporary container your new pet is inside of, we make sure that said container is placed comfortably but securely within the shipping box to minimize movement and jerkiness.

Styrofoam inserts are placed on all sides of the box to not only secure the container from moving around, but also to create additional insulation. The styrofoam helps maintain the desired temperature within the box.

Whether or not a heat or cool pack is included inside your new pet’s shipping box depends on several factors – namely, the local temperature at our facility and the temperature at the animal’s final destination.

For instance, because the Backwater Reptiles facility is located in Northern California, our summers can get into triple digit temperatures. This means that even if the animal’s destination is somewhere cold, we can’t include a heat pack to keep the animal warm because it would overheat while in transit from our location. It’s a balancing act taken case by case, and usually we choose to take into account the most extreme temperature situation at either the departure location or the destination and compensate for it.

We will also take temperature into account when poking air holes in the actual shipping box itself. More holes does allow for more air flow, but it also allows the temperature exchange to occur more quickly. So, for instance, if the exterior temperatures are very cold and we’ve packed the animal with a heat pack to compensate, it doesn’t make sense to poke a ton of air holes in the shipping box because it allows all the heat created by the pack to escape. There’s no need to fret though – the boxes themselves aren’t sealed to the point of preventing proper air circulation, so your new pet will not suffocate.

All of our shipping boxes are also properly labeled to help the FedEx and UPS carriers understand that there is a live animal inside. Not only are the boxes labeled as such, but we use a special “LIVE ANIMAL” stamp to add extra security.

All you have to do once your new pet arrives is crack the tape seal on the box, open and remove your critter! Most animals will need anywhere from a day to a week to feel at home in their new enclosure and to begin eating, drinking, and functioning as normal.

Below is a video demonstrating the details of how we package each animal. The video does go over much of the same information that’s listed above, but it’s a useful visual representation for those who prefer watching a video over reading.

Conclusion

We hope that this blog article has helped make you comfortable with the process of ordering a living animal online.

Our goal is to show current, past, and future customers that delivering animals through the mail is safe. Even if something does go wrong in transit, Backwater Reptiles will do everything to make sure our customers are happy by either offering a replacement animal or a refund.

We also have the best live arrival and warranty terms of any online reptile vendor!

If you have any questions or concerns that were left unanswered by this article, feel free to ask them in the comments section.

How to Care for Pet Crocodilians and Pet Monitor Lizards

Most pet reptiles sold by Backwater Reptiles can live comfortably within a tank or enclosure that maxes out around twenty gallons. However, there are some really amazing reptiles that people keep as pets that grow rather large.

While we definitely feel that these large pet reptiles make rewarding pets, it’s very true that they are not necessarily the best animals for beginners to the reptile hobby. For obvious reasons, they are also not good pets for people who have limited space, live in compact city environments, or don’t have the physical capabilities to transport such large animals when they need to leave the house (i.e. take a trip to the vet).

In this article, we will discuss our favorite large pet reptiles. We’ll go into detail about how to care for them, the pros and cons of keeping such large animals, and what is required to keep these amazing reptiles happy and healthy in captivity.

Crocodilians

We want to preface this section about pet crocodilians by making it very clear that we are NOT endorsing alligators, caimans, and other crocodilians as pets for just anyone. These animals can not only be dangerous, they have very specific care requirements in captivity that make them suitable for very special owners who can meet and understand their needs.

So please, if you are interested in owning a pet crocodilian, do your research and be prepared to handle the animal when it attains its full size.

When considering a pet crocodilian, it’s also necessary to be sure that it is actually legal to own this type of animal within your state, city, and county. Check with your local fish and wildlife department and obtain any necessary permits before adopting.

Creating a Crocodilian Enclosure

Of all the large pet reptiles discussed in this article, crocodilians are certainly the most difficult to maintain. They require a large habitat with both land and water elements as well as a specific protein-based diet and warm temperatures. In the long run, they are costly and their enclosures require quite a bit more effort to maintain and keep clean.

Even caimans, which are considered small by crocodilian standards, grow to be around five feet long. They will need an enclosure that is at least several times their body length with both aquatic and land elements. Crocodilians do spend most of their time in the water, but they do need a dry area to emerge to bask.

Despite rumors indicating otherwise, crocodilians do not stop growing to fit the size of their enclosure. So if you’re not prepared, your crocodilian can and will outgrow its home. If you don’t enlarge your pet’s space as it grows, its health and life span can be compromised.

american alligator
Pictured is a baby American alligator. They grow to be quite large pets and require dual wet/dry habitats, so please do your research and make sure you can care for an alligator or other crocodilian species before you adopt.

So, how big should a crocodilian’s home be then? We recommend that the width and length of the cage, tank, or terrarium be at least three to four times the animal’s length, but the larger, the better. Your crocodilian should be able to swim around and walk around comfortably in both portions of the enclosure.

Hatchling and juvenile crocodilians tend to start out small enough to fit comfortably in glass tanks that are readily available at commercial pet stores. But be advised that as your pet outgrows the tank, odds are you will need to have some sort of custom enclosure built to keep your pet at its peak health. You’ll be hard-pressed to find the proper housing for a medium to large-sized croc at any brick and mortar store.

What to Feed Your Crocodilian

In the wild, caimans and alligators are very opportunistic predators who will eat pretty much anything they can get their jaws on. Obviously, the type of prey varies based on the size of the animal. Juveniles tend to consume foods such as insects, fish, and small amphibian and reptiles. Adults eat everything from birds to mammals. They’ll even eat crayfish and mollusks when obtainable.

The most important thing to keep in mind when feeding your pet crocodilian is that they will eat pretty much whatever you feed them, so you’ll need to balance their diet and make sure that your pet is getting all the proper nutrients in the correct doses.

In the wild, crocodilians eat entire animals and are able to therefore ingest all the minerals, vitamins, proteins, and other nutrients that are essential to their health. The best diet for a captive crocodilian is one that replicates what they eat in the wild – entire prey animals. So if your pet is large enough, whole chickens, rodents, and other feeder animals varied at meal times is a great place to start. Juveniles do well on a varied diet of fish and chopped up meat.

Handling Your Crocodilian

Caimans and other crocodilians are generally “look don’t touch” pets. However, there are some owners who actively interact with their croc. It’s generally accepted that the amount of handling will vary from owner to owner and animal to animal depending on temperament.

If you do plan to interact with your crocodilian on a regular basis, we highly recommend starting from a young age to get the animal accustomed to you. This will also make it easier when it comes time to clean your pet’s home.

dwarf caiman
Dwarf caiman are the world’s smallest crocodilian species. Males max out around five feet long.

Please be aware that although you can handle your crocodilian, it is always a risky move. There is ample opportunity to be bitten. We recommend having plenty of experience with these types of animals before owning one as a pet and taking preventative safety measures (i.e. wearing gloves and occasionally taping the animal’s mouth shut if need be) in order to safely move your pet from place to place.

Monitor Lizards 

Although they do grow quite large, there are many species of monitor lizards that can be trained to be friendly family pets. Some Savannahs and Black Throats can be trained to go for walks on leashes, watch television with their owner, and even go on road trips. They can prove to be quite interactive companions with proper husbandry and attention.

Creating a Monitor Enclosure

The best thing to keep in mind when it comes to your pet monitor’s home is that size is extremely important. Bigger is definitely better, even for the juveniles and babies. It’s always a good idea to go with the biggest cage possible.

When your monitor is young, you can likely make due with a large, commercially-produced tank or enclosure purchased from a pet store. However, once your monitor reaches six or more feet long, it’s likely that you’ll have to order a specially built enclosure or, if you’re handy, build a cage on your own.

A large monitor should have an enclosure that is at least eight feet long, three feet wide, and six feet high. Many people construct cages using two-by-fours, wire screen, and plywood to meet these dimensions. But, we’ve even heard of specialty homes for pet monitors where entire walk in closets have been specially modified with screen doors and proper ventilation in order to give the monitor plenty of space and comfort.

No matter what size your monitor is when you purchase it, please do your research and be prepared to handle it when it grows to its full potential.

What to Feed Your Monitor

In the wild, monitors are opportunistic hunters. They will eat virtually anything appetizing that fits in their mouth. The primary diet of each monitor species varies from habitat to habitat, but the most commonly consumed monitor meals are: eggs, birds, small mammals and rodents, crustaceans, fish,  and even other smaller reptiles.

Monitor lizards of all species, sizes, and genders require a balanced diet in order to stay healthy. Nearly all will have ravenous appetites and consume virtually any food you give them, so it is up to you as an owner to be sure you are feeding nutrient rich meals that cover all the bases when it comes to vitamins, minerals, and protein.

So what are acceptable foods for pet monitors?

Juvenile and hatchling monitors are pretty easy to feed. They will readily eat insects such as crickets, roaches, reptiworms, and waxworms. Gut loaded insects are the best option as they are fed nutritionally dense food in order to be as nourishing as possible for your pet.

Pet monitors of all sizes can also be fed commercially produced pellets from the pet store. While these pre-packaged food items are certainly nutritionally dense, we don’t recommend making them your monitor’s only food source. It is always a good idea to vary the food your lizard eats.

Mice and rats are also good in moderation. We highly recommend using frozen rodents that have been thawed as it is safer and more humane for all parties involved in the feeding process. Believe it or not, live rodents can actually put up quite a fight and harm your monitor.

Many other common super market food items can also be fed to your monitor. Raw chicken, fish, shrimp, turkey, and eggs are all acceptable options. The only thing to keep in mind when feeding any type of meat is that  you will need to cut up or chop the meat into acceptably sized pieces. Most monitors gulp their food without chewing, so anything that is too large can cause impaction in the gut and an unwanted trip to the vet.

As with most pet of all kinds, a water dish is a requirement for all monitor species. Not only will your monitor drink water, but a water dish allows for soaking and aids with making sure the environment is humid enough.

Handling Your Monitor

As we’ve already mentioned, pet monitors can be far more interactive than a pet crocodilian. If you handle your monitor regularly from a young age, you can train it to become very docile and accustomed to human interaction.

Monitors are very intelligent as far as reptiles are concerned and they can sense discomfort, fear, and anxiety in their owners, so be sure that you approach your monitor with a calm demeanor and patience.

mangrove monitor
Pictured is a baby mangrove monitor (Varanus indicus). While some monitor species can be tougher to tame than others, most will acclimate to human interaction very well by the time they are fully grown if they are handled and interacted with regularly as hatchlings and juveniles.

Baby monitor lizards can be skittish and fearful, so it is best to handle them on a daily basis in a routine manner so that they learn to associate human interaction with a reward. Offering a treat item before, during, or directly after being picked up, handled, or otherwise played with is a great way to reinforce positivity and teach them that being removed from their enclosure is nothing to be afraid of.

Savannah monitors are particularly known for being “dog-like” in their interactions with their owners. As they mature and grow larger, many enjoy being walked outdoors on a leash and soaking up sunshine. They enjoy bath time, anticipate meal time, and enjoy sitting on their owner’s lap during down time. Many Savannahs will even fall asleep with their owner on the couch – just Google it!

Conclusion

Both monitors and crocodilians are very different as pets. Crocodilians are best as “look don’t touch” animals whereas many species of monitors actually thrive when allowed to bond with their owner.

The one thing that both large reptile species have in common when it comes to a life in captivity is that they both require large, often times specially built enclosures. They are active animals and will need plenty of space to accommodate their size and habits.

Again, although this article is dedicated to keeping these amazing reptiles in captivity, we can’t stress enough that if you are considering getting either a crocodilian or a monitor lizard as a pet that you do your research and be one hundred percent prepared to care for the animal for the duration of its life. This includes being fully prepared for their voracious appetites and extremely fast growth rates.

What To Do If Your Pet Reptile Or Amphibian Escapes

You might not be aware of this, but many reptiles, amphibians, and even pet invertebrates are known to be escape artists! If you accidentally leave their cage unlatched or the screen door slightly ajar, they can and will take advantage of the opportunity to take themselves out for a stroll around your house.

Often times, good owners who keep a regular eye on their pets will notice their missing critter right away and no harm will come to the animal. However, because there is always the possibility that a loose lizard, snake, or tarantula could injure itself or another family member (human or non-human), we wanted to take the time to write this article that will hopefully help you out should you ever find yourself in this sticky situation.

What to do if your pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate escapes its enclosure

The first thing we’d like to say is don’t panic! This is not an uncommon occurrence and odds are your missing pet will turn up safe and sound. They can only journey so far within your home and with patience and the proper “hunting” tactics, you’ll likely locate him or her in a timely manner.

what to do if your reptile escapes
Snakes are notorious escape artists. They can be sneaky and they are rather skilled at pushing up screens and squeezing through small spaces.

The first step we recommend taking before any other is to close all doors and windows in your home. This will prevent the animal from venturing outdoors and into more extreme danger.

Nearly all reptiles, amphibians, and inverts don’t need to be fed on a daily basis like other animals do because their metabolisms are much slower than that of a mammal. So as long as they’re not missing for an extended period of time, they won’t starve to death. In fact, odds are they’ll pop up when they do get hungry since they tend to know where their meals come from.

The only time we’d say that time is of the essence when trying to locate a missing animal is when there is a possibility that your pet has ventured outdoors. Because there are many more threats outside including predators, weather, and the ability to travel farther, we’d say that if you are at all concerned your pet has gotten outside, you should search in earnest until you locate him or her.

Getting the proper cage to prevent escape

The number one thing you can do as a responsible pet owner in order to prevent escape is to make sure you have the proper enclosure. This means secure cage latches, doors, and screens with no small holes to squeeze through.

Snakes

Although many snakes can be housed just fine using rack systems with open tops, they can be fairly energetic. In order to prevent escape, we recommend a cage with a secure lid and/or door. If you have a glass tank with a screen top, make sure the screen slides securely into place each time you close it.

If you have a very curious and active snake, we don’t recommend a glass tank with a screen top that fits over the entire top of the cage. We’d say go with the kind that slides into place on a track and clicks into place when it’s locked.

Glass tanks with doors that open in the front are also commonly used to house snakes and these are also great options to help prevent escape. Just make sure that the doors get shut securely each time you open them as snakes are strong and can push open a mesh door that is not latched.

Frogs and Other Amphibians

Pet frogs don’t usually bother to escape as they tend to feel safer in their enclosures. However, we do still recommend that pet frogs be kept in glass tanks with secure tops, especially if your frog happens to be an arboreal species such as a tree frog.

Salamanders are known to be burrowers and newts are aquatic, so odds are your pet salamander or newt won’t attempt to escape simply because the environment outside their enclosure is not appealing to them.

Lizards

Because there are so many species of lizards that require all different kinds of habitats, there’s not really a wrong kind of cage for a lizard. However, we would like to mention that bored lizards can get sneaky and will actively attempt escape. Large lizards such as monitors and iguanas will sometimes try to get out if they feel confined to their cage for too long, so our remedy for this issue is to make sure you interact with your pet frequently and give it exercise outside the cage so that this desire is curbed.

eco terra terrarium
Pictured is an Exo Terra terrarium. Notice that it has a set of front access doors. In order to prevent escape, always remember to latch these doors as reptiles can be stronger than they appear. Pushing open a door that is ajar is not unheard of.

As with all other species of reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates, we do recommend that all lizard cages have secure latches and doors. Be mindful of your lizard’s size and climbing habits and make sure that there are no gaps in the seams of the doors or screen that could allow the lizard to squeeze through. Small geckos are notorious for squeezing through tiny cracks and crevices, so we recommend sealing these with a strong tape if need be.

Turtles and Tortoises

Non-aquatic turtles and tortoises (i.e. box turtles and sulcata tortoises) are often kept in outdoor spaces. This means that you’ll need to be especially careful about maintaining strong borders, especially if the species you own happens to be a digger. Turtles and tortoises will wander naturally and you’ll just want to be sure that the bounds of their outdoor enclosure are robust and secure enough to keep the animal within its boundaries.

Indoor turtle and tortoise enclosures are fairly simple. Non-aquatic turtles and tortoises can usually live in containers without lids provided the walls are high enough. You also don’t want to provide any tall cage furniture that allows them to climb out over the rim. This is particularly important not only to prevent escape but for the safety of the animal itself. If your turtle or tortoise accidentally climbs out and in the process lands upside down, it can actually die very quickly.

And although many aquatic turtle enclosure don’t have lids, we still recommend that your tank have at least a screen topper that fits over the entire cage. Aquatic turtles can be quite active and explorative and it’s not unheard of for them to escape.

Invertebrates (Spiders & Scorpions)

Because most pet invertebrates like tarantulas and scorpions are ground-dwelling animals, they don’t generally escape all that often. Like any other pet that lives in a cage, we do still recommend that all enclosures have secure access points. This is particularly important if your arachnid is very small since spiderlings can easily squeeze through small openings.

secure tarantula cage
Pictured is a tarantula cage set up suitable for spiderlings. It includes everything the spider will require and also has no cracks, holes, or crevices that will allow the small spider to escape.

Backwater Reptiles actually sells some very secure and aesthetically pleasing spiderling cages. We highly recommend them. Check them out here.

Animals that are the least likely to be escape artists

If you want a pet that is less active and therefore less likely to be an escape artist, we can make several recommendations, although there are plenty of animals not discussed below that are also great options.

Salamanders make great pets and aren’t likely to escape or go missing. Because they like to hide and burrow, they’re not likely to try to climb the walls of a smooth enclosure made of glass or plastic. They’d much rather shelter under their substrate or inside their hide box. You’ll likely only see your salamander emerge when it’s feeding time.

Newts are also very unlikely to escape due to their aquatic nature. The only time your newt is likely to emerge completely from the water is to bask. They are not known to be climbers and their fingers won’t allow them to grip glass and crawl out.

adult bearded dragon
Bearded dragons are so tame that they’re not usually at risk for escaping. They tend to get a lot of attention from their owners due to their affinity for people and are out of their cages enough for escape to rarely be a problem.

Non-arboreal lizards such as blue tongue skinks (Tiliqua sp.), leopard geckos (Eublepharis macularius), and bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) are also not usually particularly adventurous. Blueys have stocky bodies and can’t really climb due to their short limbs. Leopard geckos have been kept in captivity long enough to be extremely docile and therefore it’s not really in their nature to try to escape. And finally, although beardies are very active lizards, because they interact with people quite a lot and tend to get plenty of time outside of their cages, they are not really prone to trying to climb out of their cage.

How to draw out a missing animal

If you’ve searched your entire home top to bottom and still can’t seem to locate your missing pet, we recommend trying to draw it out using food as bait.

Obviously, this tactic won’t work on animals that eat live insects such as many species of lizards and invertebrates. It also probably won’t be effective to use with snakes since they eat rodents and also really only eat on a weekly basis.

The food-as-bait method will work best on animals that really enjoy feeding time and eat daily or every other day. For example, putting out fresh vegetation to entice an iguana or a uromastyx lizard out into the open would certainly be a good idea, but it would have no effect on a tarantula.

Because many pets will emerge at night time when there is less commotion and the house is quiet, you can actually set “traps” to alert you if the animal makes an appearance. Try lining the floors with grocery store plastic bags that make noise when crinkled. Even if you’re sleeping, the crinkling should hopefully make enough noise to signal you as to the whereabouts of your pet.

Places to search for a missing animals

The first thing you should do when searching for a missing pet is to try to think like a reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate. They all tend to prefer secrecy and hiding places, so the first places you should search should be hiding places – under the bed, in a shoe box in your closet, behind the TV, etc.

Warmer areas are also popular places to end up – near vents, close to appliances that create heat, and near lights. Potted plants near windows would also be good hiding places.

Take into consideration if your animal is arboreal or ground-dwelling. Ground-dwelling animals will tend to hide in places that are easily accessible from the ground such as low cupboards, in closets, behind toilets, underneath furniture, etc.

Arboreal pets on the other hand will likely climb somewhere seeking security.  We’d recommend searching all cupboards regardless of height, on curtains and curtain rods, in the clothing hanging in your closet, and even in laundry bins. However, just because an animal is arboreal by nature doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll find it up high. You should also check all the places you’d search for a ground-dwelling animal.

Conclusion

It’s never fun to know your pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate has gone missing. But, the good news is that most animals will be recovered shortly within the home and they will recover from their adventure with no issues.

Keep in mind that preventing the animal from escaping in the first place is the best remedy to this problem. We can’t stress enough that all lids and latches should be tightly secured. All cracks and crevices should be sealed or better yet, nonexistent.

And lastly, don’t panic. If you keep your eyes peeled, odds are your pet will resurface in no time.

Reptiles Endemic to Madagascar

It’s safe to say that any one of the Backwater Reptiles employees would love to take a trip to the island of Madagascar. So many unique animals call the island home, including an abundance of rare and beautiful reptiles. It’s an understatement to say that we would be in heaven trekking through the jungle in search of them.

Many of the reptiles endemic to Madagascar are in fact so rare and treasured that it is illegal to import them, let alone keep them as pets. So, until we can book ourselves passage to the island, the closest thing we’ve got to seeing these cool critters in person is this blog article!

Read on if you want to learn more about our favorite species that are endemic to Madagascar. Some of them are actually available for sale on our website, although we do only recommend these species for experienced reptile hobbyists since they are mostly rarer species.

Reptiles Endemic to Madagascar

What does it mean if an animal is endemic to a specific place?

First of all, we should probably explain what it means if an animal is endemic to an area since that is the concept this blog centers around.

In simple terms, it means that any particular animal is only found in a specific region of the world. An animal can be endemic to a continent, a country, a state, or even a city.

However, it can also mean that a particular species is native to a specific area of the world, even if it has spread to other regions accidentally or intentionally.

So, for this particular blog article, we are discussing reptiles that are either only found on the island of Madagascar or that are native to the island of Madagascar.

Reptile Species Endemic to the Island of Madagascar

Parson’s Chameleon (Calumma parsonii)

Parson’s chameleons are probably best known for their massive size. These chameleons are the heftiest of body and one of the largest species of chameleon on the planet. It’s been claimed they grow as large as a small house cat!

Although it is not currently legal to import this giant of a chameleon, Backwater Reptiles is lucky enough to have had a captive bred clutch of babies born in our facility! After a very long incubation period of 582 days, we had thirty-nine healthy babies hatch and have been patiently and carefully working to fulfill these delicate babies’ needs.

Reptiles Endemic to Madagascar
Pictured is one of our captive bred baby Yellow-lipped Parsons chameleons. This baby is roughly five weeks old, and a species that’s endemic only to Madagascar.

Did you know the Parson’s chameleon has a life span of about twenty years? This means that they are quite the commitment and should not be kept as pets by anyone but the most experienced herpers.

We’d also like to make it clear that due to the rarity and degree of specialized care required to keep a Parson’s chameleon healthy, these are not budget animals. They are pricey and for good reason. Odds are that if you are willing to pay the price for one of these beautiful animals, you have done your research and are prepared to accommodate and work with such a tricky species.

Malagasy Ground Boa (Acrantophis madagascariensis)

This species of boa, which is a reptile endemic to Madagascar, averages approximately eight feet in length. Adult females are slightly larger than males and can reach ten feet long. Believe it or not, but this is actually the largest species of snake found on the island!

malagasy ground boa
The Malagasy ground boa is the largest species of snake found on the island of Madagascar.

In the wild, the Malagasy ground boa eats mostly small mammals such as lemurs, bats, tenrecs, and other small rodents.

The IUCN lists this species as stable and of “least concern,” but they are commonly killed by locals for meat and snake skin products. They are also widely considered to be bad luck and are killed for their bad habit of preying upon domestic live stock chickens.

Radiated Tortoise (Astrochelys radiata

Occurring naturally in the southern portion of Madagascar, the radiated tortoise has spread to the rest of the island. It has also been reintroduced to the islands of Réunion and Mauritius.

Although it can be found throughout the entire island of Madagascar, the radiated tortoise is listed by the IUCN as critically endangered. As is the case with many endangered species, this is mainly due to loss of habitat, but poaching and harvesting for the pet trade has also played a large role in this species population decline.

radiated tortoise
This is a mature radiated tortoise. Notice its yellow and black coloration.

The radiated tortoise is so-named for its boldly colored carapace. Each shell plate is marked with striking yellow lines radiating from the black center.

Like many larger tortoise species, the radiated tortoise has a long life span. One particular tortoise named Tu’i Malila lived to be 188!

Madagascar Big-Headed Turtle (Erymnochelys madagascariensis)

The Madagascar big-headed turtle is listed on the IUCN as critically endangered and it has been said that this species is the thirteenth most endangered turtle species in the world.

Found in permanent, slow-moving bodies of water in the western region of the island, this species is named for – wait for it – its big head! Other than that, it has a fairly ordinary dark brown shell and “turtle-ish” appearance.

Although this species is critically endangered, it is still exported to Asia illegally for the medicine market. Other threats to this species’ population include getting trapped in fishing nets, being eaten for meat, and getting caught on fishing hooks.

malagasy big-head turtle
Pictured is a shy juvenile Madagascar big-head turtle that was captive bred within the U.S.

Even though it is illegal to import the Madagascar big-headed turtle to the U.S., there are some breeders that have captive bred animals for sale.

Want to learn more about the Madagascar big-headed turtle? We actually wrote an entire blog article about this unique species since we are fortunate to have purchased a captive bred baby from a U.S. breeder.

Satanic Leaf-Tailed Gecko (Uroplatus phantasticus)

This fancy-looking lizard is known by several common names – the Baweng satanic leaf-tailed gecko, the eyelash leaf-tailed gecko, and the fantastic leaf-tailed gecko. All of these monikers suit this gecko well as its tail and flat body shape very closely resemble a dead leaf.

The Satanic leaf-tailed gecko is another reptile endemic to Madagascar, and nowhere else, so it is a truly endemic species. Its habitat of choice is the trees in the central and northern tropical forests of the island.

satanic leaf tailed gecko
As you can see, the Satanic leaf tailed gecko has a tail that appears very leaf-like!

While this species is listed as being of “least concern” according to the IUCN, it is probably the least common species of gecko available for sale as a pet within the Uroplatus family.

Satanic leaf-tailed geckos are nocturnal insectivores. If you are lucky enough to keep one as a pet, it should be fed crickets, moths, roaches, and other appropriately sized insects at meal time.

Antsingy Leaf Chameleon (Brookesia perarmata)

Unlike most of its chameleon cousins, the Antsingy leaf chameleon is a ground-dwelling species of dwarf chameleon with a limited ability to change color. It does not have a prehensile, gripping tail, but rather, a truncated stumpy tail with short spines running down it. It is also covered in scales that make it appear like it is wearing armor, hence its common name.

antsingy-leaf-chameleon
This species of dwarf chameleon looks like a miniature armored dragon!

The Antsingy leaf chameleon is listed as endangered by the IUCN largely due to its very specific habitat requirements. It is only found in the northern part of the Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park in the Melaky Region and makes its home in leaf litter of relatively untouched tropical deciduous forests.

Oustalet’s Chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti

Listed as being of least concern on the IUCN list of endangered species, the Oustalet’s chameleon is not uncommon in the reptile pet world, although admittedly, wild caught specimens are far more common than captive bred ones.

Oustalet’s chameleons are another very large species of chameleon. In fact, they are also commonly referred to as the “Malagasy Giant Chameleon.” They can reach lengths of twenty-seven inches. It’s said that they even surpass the Parson’s chameleon in size, but in our personal experience with both species of chameleon, Oustalet’s are longer while Parson’s are stockier and weigh more.

oustalets chameleon
Pictured is a good-sized Oustalet’s chameleon.

Oustalet’s chameleons require lots of space when kept in captivity, so we tend to only recommend them to experienced herp lovers. In addition to having large appetites to suit their large stature, these chameleons will require a large, often custom built, mesh screen enclosure, which means they are not appropriate for first time chameleon owners.

If you are ready to tackle such a large species of chameleon as a pet, Backwater Reptiles does sell medium to large Oustalet’s chameleons at competitive pricing.

Mossy Leaf Tail Gecko (Uroplatus sikorae)

Listed as a species of least concern on the IUCN endangered species list, the mossy leaf tailed gecko is not uncommon in the reptile hobbyist world. Not only is this an odd-looking gecko, it is also a fairly docile species and popular with gecko specialists.

The mossy leaf tail gecko is an arboreal lizard with an appearance to help it camouflage into its environment. Because it is a nocturnal animal, it has large round eyes with vertical pupils and it can even alter its color to match its surroundings!

This neat gecko gets its common name because it has a special fringe of skin known as a dermal flap that runs the length of its body that helps make it appear flush with moss, lichen, and other plants that grow on the trees it calls home. What a great way to conceal itself!

mossy leaftail gecko
Mossy leaf tail geckos have a special fringe of skin that allows them to camouflage seamlessly against trees.

When keeping a mossy leaf tail gecko in captivity, you should provide a cage that has more vertical space over horizontal space. These geckos are arboreal climbers and they need lots of hanging plants and branches to hide in during the day.

Because mossy leaf tail geckos are insectivores, you should feed them a varied diet of crickets, roaches, reptiworms, and other appropriately sized invertebrates.

They should have their enclosure misted regularly. We recommend once or twice a day along with providing a water bowl or small fountain.

If you want a gecko that can disappear before your eyes (their camouflage is that good!), then we recommend a mossy leaf tail.

Panther Chameleon (Furcifer pardalis)

Panther chameleons are very popular with reptile enthusiasts and reptile amateurs alike due to their dazzling and eye-catching color spectrum. It’s very common for Panthers to be various shades of red, pink, blue, green, with white accents depending on the animal.

Did you know that the color of a Panther chameleon can change with environment, but that species from specific regions of Madagascar tend to have certain color schemes? Panthers from Nosy Be and Ambanja tend to be blue while those from the Ambilobe and Sambava regions are usually red, green, or orange.

red panther chameleon
While Panther chameleons can be a variety of colors, this one exhibits tones of red.

Panther chameleons are very commonly bred in captivity and are one of the hardier species of chameleon that you can keep as a pet. They do still require a mesh cage, specific humidity levels, and UV lighting though.

If you are interested in owning a pet panther chameleon of your own, Backwater Reptiles sells Ambanja, Ambilobe, Nosy Be, and Sambava “varieties.”

Conclusion – Reptiles Endemic to Madagascar

Madagascar is a very unique island filled with reptiles that can only be found on that specific island within an even more specific type of habitat. We will never cease to be fascinated by these creatures and we hope to see some of them in their natural habitat some day!

While some of the species endemic to Madagascar that are found on this list can be purchased as pets, not all of them can and that’s largely due to habitat destruction. That’s why Backwater Reptiles plants a tree in Madagascar for every order placed on our website.

This list of reptiles endemic to Madagascar is by no means all inclusive. It’s just a representation of our favorites. What are your favorites? What species would you add to our list?

Most Common Reptile and Amphibian Care Mistakes

Because we pride ourselves on our knowledge and ability to care for the animals we sell, we answer a lot of questions at Backwater Reptiles ranging from how to care for species X to what to feed animal Y.

One thing we’ve discovered throughout the years is that many people receive false information on their new pet and therefore come to us for help. Often times, this erroneous information is easily corrected and the problem is solved simply.

This leads us to the subject matter of this particular blog article. In the paragraphs to come, we’ll discuss many of the common mistakes people make when caring for reptiles and amphibians as well as how to avoid making them yourself.

Feeding Incorrectly

Probably the most common mistake made by many new or inexperienced reptile and amphibian owners centers on feeding the animal in question.

Clearly not all reptiles and amphibians eat the same thing, so the first thing to take into consideration if you have a picky eater is if you are feeding it the right type of food.

Although it’s true that the majority of pet lizards are carnivores, not all lizards eat insects. Some are actually herbivores and will get sick if you feed them too much protein.

Examples of common herbivores that are frequently mis-fed protein-based diets include: iguanas, Uromastyx lizards, blue tongue skinks, and tortoises. While it is true that many of these species will consume meat if given the opportunity, that doesn’t mean it’s good for them. In fact, herbivorous species can go into liver failure and will also have diarrhea to the point of dehydration if you feed them high protein diets.

juvenile green iguana
Green iguanas are herbivores and should not be fed a protein-based diet. Make sure you are feeding your reptile or amphibian the proper diet by doing your research before adopting.

So, do your research and be sure your reptile is a carnivore before giving it a cricket-based diet.

Another food-related issue we hear about from customers is offering food of the wrong size. While snakes can stretch their jaws and consume prey that is larger than their own head, the same is definitely not true for lizards, tortoises, frogs, toads, and turtles.

Would you give a toddler an entire piece of steak to eat? No, you would most certainly cut it up into manageable pieces that the child can easily chew, swallow and digest. The same should be true of your pet reptiles and amphibians. Baby chameleons should not be given full-sized crickets to consume and large monitor lizards shouldn’t be given tiny fruit flies. It’s basic common sense.

Well, if your pet is mid-sized, you still might be wondering what size food to give it, right? There’s actually a very simply rule to follow when feeding your reptile or amphibian. The size of the insect being offered should be no larger than the width between the eyes of the animal being fed.

So what about if you feed your pet pre-made reptile chow? For instance, commercially made crested gecko, tortoise and turtle pellets, and even vitamin powders for all sorts of reptiles are commonly sold at pet stores. So, are these good for your pet?

The short answer is that, yes, commercially prepared reptile food is perfectly acceptable. However, sometimes pet reptiles, particularly those that were wild-caught and not captive bred, will not eat pet store food. We want our readers and customers to be aware that just because these types of foods exist, they are most certainly not the only option.

Even if your pet does readily consume prepackaged food, we do still recommend alternating and supplementing with freshly prepared food. Variety is key to keeping your reptile happily fed and healthy and anytime your pet refuses food, we always recommend offering a new type of food before taking drastic measures.

Hydrating Improperly

Now that we’ve discussed common feeding mistakes, let’s touch on common hydrating mistakes.

You might not think over-watering your reptile or amphibian would be a problem, but it actually can be!

Did you know that too much moisture in your pet’s cage creates the perfect environment for mold, mildew, and other bacteria to grow? Not only are these pathogens not good for the health of your pet, they’re not good for your health either.

So, if you notice that some mold is growing within the enclosure, clean it right away! More than likely, you’ll also then need to replace your substrate. Odds are it was too wet. An ideal substrate moisture level for most species of amphibians is wet but not dripping. You’ll want to be able to pick up the substrate and feel moisture in your hands but there should never be dripping water.

Too little moisture is also bad for herps of all species. Even desert-dwelling species require some sort of humidity level, albeit it’s usually less than that of a tropical species.

Because different species have different moisture requirements, the best way to know if your pet is getting enough humidity and moisture in its environment is to do your research.

One very specific instance that inexperienced herp owners can encounter is how to hydrate a pet chameleon. Because chameleons are so temperamental, maintaining the proper moisture level is tantamount to keeping them healthy.

male jacksons chameleon
Many people make the mistake of giving their chameleon a water dish to drink from. Unfortunately, this can result in dehydration as chameleons won’t drink from a dish.

You will need to mist the chameleon’s enclosure regularly to provide the lizard with water to drink and to cultivate proper humidity levels.

Giving a chameleon a water bowl is pointless as it won’t recognize it as a source of water. Instead, there has to be enough moisture present in the cage to collect on the leaves so that the chameleon can lap it up.

Providing an Improper Enclosure

Housing and where we live is important to us as humans, right? Well, the same is true of our pet reptiles and amphibians.

First of all, size of the enclosure is a very important factor to consider when keeping a pet reptile or amphibian. Although you’re usually safe if your cage is too big, the opposite rule does not hold true. A vivarium that is too small can be detrimental to the well-being of your pet.

A common mistake many people make is purchasing a juvenile or hatchling monitor, green iguana, or tegu. While these lizards do make excellent pets, they grow extremely fast and when they reach full-capacity, they essentially need an entire room or a custom built enclosure to stay happy and healthy.

young savannah monitor
Many animals like this juvenile Savannah monitor start out small enough to fit into the palm of your hand, but will grow at a rapid rate. This means that they will require a large, custom-built enclosure when fully mature.

Please do your research and be prepared to house and care for your pet reptile for the duration of its life regardless of its size. Know how big your pet will grow and make sure you can accommodate it once it reaches maturity.

It might seem almost humorous if it weren’t true, but we also get a fair amount of emails from customers stating that their pet has escaped. More often than not, it’s a pet snake or lizard as these tend to be escape artists.

So, how would a good reptile parent prevent escape from occurring? You’ll just need to make sure your cage has a tight-fitting and secure lid. Any type of cage that latches should also always be latched and “locked” because reptiles are stronger and more resourceful than they appear.

Here’s another very specific housing mistake that reptile novices can make – many newbies to the reptile husbandry world aren’t aware that chameleons require a special type of mesh cage. They need plenty of air circulation and a glass cage will promote stagnant air rather than fresh air. In the long run, this can lead to respiratory issues. So be sure that if you have a pet chameleon, its cage is constructed of mesh and not glass.

Improper Handling

It might seem silly to have to say this, but not all reptiles and amphibians enjoy being picked up and handled by people. There are a multitude of species commonly kept as pets that we’d consider “look not touch” animals.

There are many species that just do better in captivity when left to their own devices. Being poked and held by human beings just stresses them out and can actually be harmful to the animal’s health.

Some good examples of reptiles and amphibians that we recommend handling minimally include: anole lizards, all species of newts, aquatic frogs, basilisk lizards, and small, skittish species of lizards.

If you do happen to have a reptile that interacts well with people such as a bearded dragon, leopard gecko, boa, python, or tortoise, there is in fact a wrong way to handle these creatures.

The number one rule to follow that many people fail to adhere to is to support the animal fully, no matter the species. For instance, although their body shape might suggest otherwise, snakes don’t like to dangle. When you hold your pet snake, its entire body should be coiled around your wrist, hand, or arm so that it feels secure.

zebra tailed lizard
If you are going to hold a species such as this zebra-tailed lizard that is not well-known for being an interactive and responsive pet, we highly recommend holding it against a flat surface as pictured. This way the lizard doesn’t dangle in any way and can feel fully supported and safe and will be less likely to behave skittishly.

You’ll also want to support lizards, tortoises, and turtles too. If your turtle or tortoise is too large to sit comfortably within your palm, it’s probably best to leave it be as you don’t want the animal to feel like it’s treading air due to having no foothold.

Sometimes reptiles can be nippy or seemingly aggressive when first being removed from their cage. Keep in mind that this behavior is a natural defense mechanism for these animals and if you are determined to hold your pet, exercise patience when working with them.

Through experience we’ve found that moving slowly and making deliberate attempts not to startle your reptile as you enter its cage is the best way to pick up an animal that spooks easily. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that grabbing it quickly will eliminate nipping, clawing, or struggling.

Keeping Multiple Animals Together

Because it can be tough to determine the gender of young reptiles and amphibians if they are not a sexually dimorphic species, it’s always a gamble to keep multiple animals together in the same enclosure.

Do you intend to breed your animals? If so, don’t make the mistake of assuming you automatically have a male and female. Take your pet to the vet to have its gender checked if you are unsure. Many species of reptiles and amphibians are territorial and accidentally placing two males together could actually incite aggression between the two animals to the point that they harm one another.

We’ve also heard customers tell us tales of surprise babies or eggs! They just thought their lizard, snake, or amphibian was chubby, but then they discover that the reason their pet was a little portly was due to being pregnant,  or as we refer to it in reptile terms, gravid. Generally, this is a pleasant surprise and then we get amusement and gratification out of informing them that sometimes the animals are shipped out gravid or that they must have been keeping a male and female together in the same cage unintentionally.

It’s also important to know if the species you are keeping is gregarious or not. Some reptiles and amphibians are more social than others and will thrive in environments where there are multiple animals around, but others will become territorial, stressed out, and even cannibalistic.

We recommend that if you plan to keep several animals of the same species in a single enclosure that it is not only big enough to accommodate them, but that the animals themselves are OK with it.

Conclusion

The goal with many of the blog articles we write is to educate the public and potential reptile and amphibian owners before they make mistakes that harm or injure any animals.

We sincerely hope that this article has taught you a thing or two to avoid and watch out for if you do plan on adopting a reptile or amphibian in the near future.

And as always, we highly recommend doing the research on the species you plan to adopt before you purchase.

How To Gift Wrap a Reptile

If you’re wondering how to safely and humanely gift wrap a reptile, you’ve come to the right place!

We’d like to preface this tutorial article by saying that although we think reptiles and other exotic animals can make excellent gifts, we’d very much like to make it clear that you want to be one hundred percent sure that the recipient of any live animal as a gift is fully prepared to handle the responsibility of caring for a living creature.

We love all the animals we sell at Backwater Reptiles and while any one of the Backwater team would definitely love and appreciate receiving an invertebrate, reptile, or amphibian as a gift, we also know how these exotic animals need to be cared for properly.

Although many of the animals sold by Backwater Reptiles are relatively low maintenance in comparison to a pet dog or cat, they are still life long commitments and we want to include a disclaimer in this article making it known that we wish all gift givers to do their research before giving a friend, family member, or significant other a pet as a gift.

Many of the animals we sell can actually have very long life spans and taking on a new pet is not something that should be taken lightly. Again, do your research on the animal and please be sure that the recipient is fully qualified and capable of caring for it.

That being said, this article will focus on the methods we recommend for safely gift wrapping a reptile, invertebrate or amphibian.

gift wrapping a reptile
Unfortunately, it’s not always as simple as placing a reptile with a bow under the Christmas tree! Read this article to find out how to safely wrap a reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate for any occasion.

How To Gift Wrap a Reptile

What supplies will I need to wrap a reptile, invertebrate, or amphibian?

Fortunately, wrapping up a reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate is not all that complicated. It’s actually very similar to wrapping any other gift, with a few exceptions. What this means is that you probably won’t need many special supplies.  Most of the items needed you should already have around the house.

Supplies needed to gift wrap a reptile, amphibian or invertebrate:

-Scissors. This is a pretty self-explanatory tool. You’ll need to cut your wrapping paper and/or tissue paper. Regardless of whether you wrap your pet in a box or a gift bag, we pretty much guarantee you’ll need scissors at some point.

-Pen, screwdriver, or other strong, slender and pointy utensil. You’ll only need this tool if you are choosing to wrap your animal using the box method.

There are many objects you could use that you’re likely to already have handy around the house – a sturdy pen, a screw driver, or even a letter opener – but the reason you need this kind of tool is to poke air holes in the bottom or sides of the gift box. We prefer a screwdriver or pen as both are sturdy enough to poke through card board and they produce nice, solid, round holes that are appropriately sized.

-Gift bag and tissue paper OR gift box and sheer, breathable wrapping fabric or paper. Again, this is another supply that is pretty straight forward. Your wrapper of choice will largely depend on whether you wrap using a gift bag or a box.

If you use a gift bag, you will essentially only need to place the animal inside the bag with its heat pack and artfully place tissue paper to stick out of the bag to hide what’s inside.

If you prefer to wrap using a box, obviously you’ll need an appropriately sized box. We recommend using a different box than the one your critter is shipped in as the shipping box will be labelled “LIVE HARMLESS REPTILE” and sheer, breathable wrapping fabric will not hide this text.

You will likely need to purchase a special type of wrapping paper or fabric in order to successfully wrap a reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate. This is because you need to use a material that allows air to pass freely through the wrapping material. Traditional wrapping paper will block the air holes you poke in the box.

If you’re unsure what types of materials are appropriately breathable, we recommend a mesh or tulle style fabric. In fact, it might be easier to go to a fabric store and purchase the material rather than a box retail store with regular, solid wrapping paper.

-Bows, ribbons, or other decorative accessories. Once more, this item on the list of supplies needed comes down to personal preference. If you wish to add a bow to your box, you certainly can. Ribbons are also nice touches. Be as creative as you’d like!

-Packing tape or clear scotch tape. Just like wrapping any other type of gift, you’ll need clear tape to hold your box shut. You’ll also need it when adhering your wrapping material to your box. Pretty cut and dry.

When should I gift wrap my reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate?

Most people’s first question or concern when gift packaging a living creature is is it safe? In short, YES, it is indeed safe for exotic animals to be gift wrapped, so long as you don’t leave them unattended in a box for an extended period of time.

how reptiles are shipped
Once you’ve opened up your reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate, we recommend giving it some time to “air out” and “breathe” before you wrap it.

The appropriate time to wrap your pet for the recipient is the night before. For instance, if you are gifting a snake as a Christmas present, we recommend wrapping it and placing it under the tree on Christmas eve. Just make sure that no sneaky gift sleuths shake the box or bag trying to figure out what’s inside!

As long as you follow the instructions below to safely and humanely prep a reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate for gifting, you can leave the animal wrapped for an overnight time frame safely.

How to gift wrap a reptile or invertebrate

The nice thing about packaging a reptile or amphibian up into a neatly decorated little package is that they don’t require as much moisture as amphibians do. This ultimately means less hassle and far less to take into consideration when prepping your pet for the recipient.

Step One – take the reptile or amphibian out of its shipping packaging.

Your critter will arrive in a plastic cup with a lid on it with air holes. It should also contain a heat pack and the proper amount of moisture or substrate within the cup for the animal to live comfortably for a day or two.

We highly recommend taking the animal out of its shipping box and letting it “breathe” or air out in a temperature controlled environment for a few hours before wrapping it.

shipping a live animal
Your reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate will arrive in a box that looks much like this one. The first step in gift wrapping it is to open up the box!

If you are so inclined, the animal would probably appreciate a little bit of time outside of the plastic cup as well. However, if you’re not comfortable handling the animal, it will be just fine in the cup for another day.

Step Two – poke air holes in your gift box. You can skip this step altogether if you are wrapping the animal using a gift bag.

poking air holes
Use a pen, screw driver, or similar implement to poke air holes in the bottom and sides of the gift box.

Remember that pen, screw driver, or other sturdy tool from the supplies list? You’ll need it to poke a fair amount of air holes in your gift box. We definitely recommend poking holes in the bottom of the box, however, if you are not concerned with the aesthetic appearance of the box, you can also poke extra holes on the sides.

gift box with air holes
Your gift box should have at least this many air holes poked into the bottom.

Step Three – wrap, wrap, wrap! Now that you’ve poked air holes, it’s time to proceed as usual. Secure your critter inside the box so that the plastic cup it arrived in doesn’t shift around, make sure the heat pack your animal was shipped with is secured inside the box, wrap your critter’s box with your sheer, breathable fabric, top with a bow, and you’re all set!

Once you’ve finished the wrapping process, we’d like to mention that unless you’ve poked holes in the sides of your box, you should prop it up at a slight angle so that the air holes aren’t directly against a flat surface. This is usually easiest when you are placing the animal under a Christmas tree. Other gifts around the oddly angled box will usually make it appear less strange.

prop up wrapped gift
Although this box has not been properly wrapped, you can see that it is propped up at an angle. The angle allows the air holes in the bottom to be exposed. You can use virtually anything to prop your wrapped reptile at an angle.

You can use virtually anything to prop up the gift. We think other, smaller presents work great! But tissue paper, a door stop, or any other wedge-shaped object will be fine.

How to gift wrap an amphibian

You can wrap an amphibian using the same methods described above, but there is one additional aspect to take into account. Reptiles and invertebrates don’t require as much moisture as amphibians do. Amphibians need to have moisture present in their environment in order to survive, so you’ll want to be sure that there is plenty of moisture present in your amphibian’s temporary plastic carrying cup home before wrapping.

When we ship an amphibian, we will include some type of moist substrate in the shipping cup, usually wet paper towels. Paper towels tend to hold the proper amount of water and are easy to wring out if you accidentally over saturate them.

sheer wrapping paper
This is the type of wrapping paper needed to wrap a living animal. It is sheer, porous, and breathable and allows air to enter and exit the breathing holes poked in your pet’s gift box.

The paper towels in your amphibian’s overnight plastic cup home should be wet but not dripping. You want them to be wet to the touch but if you were to pick up the paper towel from the cup, you don’t want it to be dripping any water. If you include the proper amount of moisture, you shouldn’t have any leakage onto the pretty packaging of the wrapping material.

What species are best or easiest to gift wrap?

Overall, we think it’s easier and safer to wrap a reptile or invertebrate over an amphibian. Amphibians tend to be more delicate – they’re more sensitive to moisture changes, temperature changes, and other external stimuli.

Our top pick for the easiest reptile to gift wrap is the bearded dragon. Not only do they make fantastic pets who enjoy being handled, but they are extremely hardy and won’t mind being in a box overnight.

Most species of snakes that are commonly gifted such as corn snakes, milk snakes, boas, and pythons are also pretty tough little critters. Most snakes are content to sit calmly coiled up in their plastic shipping cup for another night and will experience no additional stress.

Scorpions and spiders are also great animals to gift wrap. Unless you specifically order a mature spider, most will arrive as tiny spiderlings and will fit nicely in cute little boxes or bags with no issues.

What if I’m not comfortable gifting a live animal?

If this article still hasn’t convinced you that gift wrapping a reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate is really not too tough of a task, then there is another option available to you if you really want to give someone a pet as a present.

Backwater Reptiles currently offers gift cards in $25 increments!

Let your gift recipient choose the exact animal they want and avoid having to wrap a critter all at the same time!

Conclusion

Again, we want to stress that gifting a living animal is not to be taken lightly. We want all the animals we ship out to go to loving homes with owners who are fully devoted to caring for the critter for the duration of its life.

gift bag wrapping method
Gift bag wrapping is also an option when gifting a live animal. The tissue paper and open nature of the bag allows the animal to get plenty of fresh air circulating. Just be sure to include the heat pack your animal was shipped with.

Research is essential! Make sure that you are not giving someone something that they are not prepared to handle. Investigate the life span of the animal, what it eats, how large of an enclosure it will require, and any other special care requirements.

Happy reptile wrapping!

Top Ten Most Famous Fictional Reptiles and Amphibians

Reptiles and amphibians have become a part of pop culture appearing in everything from music videos to television commercials. The funny thing is that until you really sit down and think about it, you probably wouldn’t even notice.

Because we’re obsessed with all things herpetology-insired at Backwater Reptiles, we’re devoting this blog article to the topic of the top ten most famous fictional reptiles and amphibians in pop culture.

So, in no particular order, here are our picks for the top ten most famous fictional herps in recent memory.

Top Ten Most Famous Fictional Reptiles and Amphibians

Kermit the Frog

Young children to grown adults are probably familiar with the very famous muppet frog named Kermit created by the late Jim Henson.

First appearing in the year 1955, Kermit rose to fame as the leader of the Muppets and became famous for his love affair with an equally famous muppet by the name of Miss Piggy.

Top Ten Most famous reptiles and amphibians
Kermit the Frog is a lovable, green, muppet frog. He is often the sensible leader of the muppets and is in love with Miss Piggy. Definitely one of the most famous fictional amphibians.

Kermit has appeared in many TV shows including The Muppet Show, Muppet Babies, and Sesame Street. He also stars in The Muppet Movie and each subsequent movie incarnation featuring muppets.

Kermit is perhaps most famous and well-known (at least by the older generation) for his chart-topping singles “The Rainbow Connection” and “Bein’ Green.”

Originally performed by the legendary Jim Henson himself, Kermit is now performed by Steve Whitmire since Henson’s passing in 1990.

In addition to appearances on all of his own shows and films, Kermit has been a guest star and made cameos in countless other productions. He has been interviewed on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and also played on Hollywood Squares.

And if fifty plus years of pop culture involvement doesn’t make Kermit famous enough for you, he’s even met Michelle Obama in 2014! Not too many frogs can say they’ve had the opportunity to shake the hand of the First Lady!

Kermit the frog also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and had his own set of collector postage stamps issued on his 50th birthday in 2005.

The Geico Gecko

Although we might not know his name, it’s fair to say that anyone who has a TV or watched an online video has likely seen the Geico Gecko in a commercial. You know him – he’s that little green day gecko who tries to persuade you to purchase car insurance in a very sensible manner.

geico gecko
The Geico Gecko is at heart a salesman, so don’t be surprised when his tagline of “Fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent on car insurance” gets stuck in your head.

Making his first appearance in 1999, the Geico Gecko has evolved and changed into an anthropomorphic, computer animated cartoon with a cute British accent.

Although Geico has featured other personalities and characters in its ad campaigns, we think it’s safe to say that the Geico Gecko is not only the cutest and most memorable, but the one with the most staying power as well.

Rango

Rango is the lead character from the animated feature film of the same name. Rango is voiced by Johnny Depp and his tale is that of a misplaced pet chameleon who ends up in the wild west trying to help the locals recover their water supply. Along the way, he encounters many other animated animals including a female desert iguana named Beans and a gunslinging rattlesnake named Rattlesnake Jake.

rango
Johnny Depp voices the chameleon Rango. The film is a western in which the title character, Rango, gets stranded in the desert and comes into contact with some interesting animals.

While Rango might not be as popular a character as other animated animals such as Mickey Mouse or Dory from Finding Nemo, Rango certainly holds his own in the world of animated, anthropomorphic animals.

Rango is such a quirky character with a unique story that the film even won best animated feature in 2011. And we’re all for any movie starring a chameleon – animated or not!

Godzilla

Okay, we’ll admit Godzilla might better be classified as a monster instead of a reptile, but we think he bears enough resemblance to our herp friends that he qualifies for this list.

Godzilla originated in a Japanese film of the same name in the year 1954 and has since become a cultural icon. He has made appearances in many movies (American and Japanese), comics, and even TV shows.

2014 godzilla
This is the modern iteration of Godzilla from the American 2014 film. We think he’s much more menacing here than when he’s portrayed by an actor in a costume.

When Godzilla was first conceived, he was mainly meant to serve as a metaphor and commentary on the threat of nuclear weapons. However, with time, the reptilian monster took on many more nuanced aspects including playing an antihero, a purely destructive villain, and even a defender of humanity.

Godzilla has evolved over time from being played by a man in a suit to his latest American incarnation where he is an elaborate computer simulated masterpiece. No matter how technologically advanced Godzilla might become, he’s still one very famous reptile and we are excited to see the next movie he stars in.

Tick Tock, the Crocodile 

There are many iterations of the classic story of Peter Pan in the film and TV world. And many of the stories have some version of a crocodile that ate Captain Hook’s hand leaving him with his famous hook.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to discuss the 1953 Disney animated version of Peter Pan and the crocodile Tick Tock.

tick tock the croc
Here we see Tick Tock the Croc eagerly awaiting a chance to take another bite out of Captain Hook.

At some point, Tick Tock the croc managed to eat an alarm clock. This has left him with a permanent “tick” and a delightfully catchy tune that accompanies him whenever he appears on screen.

Tick Tock might not get much screen time in the movie, but when he does appear, he definitely steals the scene!

Wally Gator

Wally Gator is an old school Hanna-Barbera cartoon that first appeared on TV in the 1960s. Wally lives in the city zoo and is watched over by the zookeeper Mr. Twiddle who has to make sure Wally doesn’t get into too much trouble when he leaves the zoo.

wally gator
Wally Gator is a famous Hanna-Barbera cartoon that aired in the 1960s.

Nowadays, Wally isn’t really seen too much on TV, mainly due to issues with remastering the series. Fans of this anthropomorphic Cajun alligator still hope that a complete DVD set of the series featuring all fifty two episodes will be released at a future date.

Mr. Toad

The character of Mr. Toad actually originates in literature. He is one of the main characters in the book The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and he is also the title character in the A.A. Milne play Toad of Toad Hall which is based upon the book.

Although he is a famous literary character, Mr. Toad has also made his way into many hearts by being animated into a Disney film entitled The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. The film depicts Mr. Toad as an egocentric chaser of fads who is accused of car theft and ultimately winds up being acquitted. If you’ve ever been to Disneyland, there is an entire ride in Fantasyland based around the crazy antics that Mr. Toad gets himself into.

mr. toad
This is Disney’s version of Mr. Toad. As his eyes clearly indicate, Mr. Toad is about to get himself into some trouble.

Ultimately, Mr. Toad is portrayed as a lovable but selfish rogue. He gets himself into trouble, but not too much trouble. The people who live with him put up with him and have come to accept his behavior as normal although he is constantly obsessed with something or other.

Kaa the Snake

Kaa is another famous fictional reptile born out of literature. He makes his debut in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, a tale many of us have come to know through countless adaptations on the big screen.

Probably the most famous incarnation of Kipling’s Kaa is in the 1967 Disney animated feature film The Jungle Book. Not only is this movie filled with memorable songs, but Kaa is portrayed as less of a menacing character and more of a bumbling failure. Each time he tries to eat Mowgli, he is unsuccessful and flounders comically when his attempts are thwarted by Bagheera the panther.

kaa
In Disney’s version, Kaa the snake is not as menacing as he is in Kipling’s depiction.

The Disney animated version of Kaa even gets his very own song in the movie titled, “Trust in Me.”

Kaa’s lisping voice coupled with his hypnotic powers make him quite a memorable reptile, even if he is only a cartoon.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The popular eighties cartoon featuring the four teenage mutant ninja turtles – Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo, and Raphael – has since been adapted to big budget feature films directed by established action-flick director Michael Bay.

The older generation will fondly remember the popular Ninja Turtles animated cartoon TV series that aired in the 1980s until 1996 and lasted a full ten seasons! This was a fairly light-hearted cartoon where the turtles ate pizza and fought crime. The cartoon was accompanied by a series of toys that became extremely popular. While the cartoon was on the air, the Ninja Turtles could be seen on everything from lunch boxes to T-shirts.

Aside from being television stars, the four Ninja Turtles have also starred in several movies. In the early nineties, they starred in three live-action films with partially animatronic likenesses portraying the iconic turtles. Jim Henson’s Creature Shop developed animatronic heads that were placed atop real actors and the result, while considered somewhat “cheesy” by today’s special effects standards, was quite cutting edge at the time.

teenage mutant ninja turtles
The Ninja Turtles got a reboot in 2014. This is how they appear in Michael Bay’s movie.

Since the three films in the nineties, director Michael Bay has resurrected the legacy of the Ninja Turtles within the last few years, giving Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo, and Raphael new life thanks to the magic of computer special effects and digital animation. The Ninja Turtles have become super heroes and action heroes in their own right.

Not only do the Ninja Turtles have quite a presence in TV and movies, they even starred in a series of video games. The Ninja Turtles were first seen in game form on the NES system and have since been found in arcade systems as well as more modern consoles like the Playstation and XBOX systems.

Yoshi

We’re pretty sure Yoshi isn’t a typical reptile. In fact, to be fair, he’s essentially a dinosaur, but we’re still including him on this list because he very closely resembles some of our lizard friends and we think he deserves recognition.

Yoshi is a creation of Nintendo. He’s a cute little green dinosaur who originally started out as Mario and Luigi’s side kick. He has since grown into a character with his own game series and personality to match.

yoshi
One of Yoshi’s talents within the video game world is grabbing enemies with his long tongue.

Yoshi is known in the gaming world for his ability to eat virtually any enemy and produce a spotted egg which can then be used as a weapon. Like a chameleon, he has a sticky tongue that extends very far out of his mouth and allows him to grab food and enemies from very far away. He is also capable of behaving like a horse and Mario and Luigi can ride on his back if both characters are appearing in the same game.

Aside from appearing in the various Super Mario Brothers games, Yoshi has starred in his own Nintendo games such as “Yoshi’s Story” and “Yoshi’s Island.” He is also always a playable character in the Super Smash Brothers games as well as the Mario Kart series, both of which are games that feature a collection of Nintendo characters pitted against one another.

Conclusion

Even though all of the fictional reptiles on this list might not technically be considered true reptiles and/or amphibians, we think it’s great that herps have gotten recognition throughout the years and carved out such notable niches for themselves in pop culture.

So, whether your favorite herp appears on TV, in movies, in a video game, or even in a classic work of literature, be sure to note what a feat it is that they became so recognizable in the first place. The more reptiles and amphibians we see on a daily basis, whether fictional or real, the happier we are!

So, what did you think of our list of the top ten most famous reptiles and amphibians in pop culture? Was your favorite included? Any noteworthy or honorable mentions you think we should have included? Let us know in the comments section!

Why Pet Reptiles Aren’t Considered Domestic Animals

Are reptiles domestic animals?

Anyone who reads the Backwater Reptiles blog is more than likely a reptile owner or at least curious about getting a pet reptile. But did you know that even though there are tons of species of reptiles sold to hobbyists that these animals are not domesticated?

Many are not even technically tame. They are still exotic pets even if certain species are commonly sold at large, chain pet stores.

Time and time again we get emails from Backwater Reptiles customers or even just reptile owners who ask us how to make their snake, lizard, or turtle calmer or more accepting of human interaction.

But in truth, pet reptiles have not been around long enough to be tame and domesticated in the same manner that cats, dogs, and even rodents are.

In this blog article, we’ll touch upon topics ranging from why some reptiles just don’t like being held to how to work on taming your own pet.

domesticated blue tongue skink? Perhaps not.
Blue tongue skinks, like the one pictured, are generally fairly docile. But just like human beings, reptiles have various temperaments and moods. As you can see, this skink certainly was not in the mood to be removed from its enclosure.

What constitutes a domestic animal?

Through monitored reproduction and selection for specific traits, humans have created animals that are so different from their wild ancestors that they are not usually suited to live without the assistance and help of humans. Domestic animals usually have specific purposes such as being cultivated for food, raised for companionship, or even to work alongside of people as helping hands.

We’re all familiar with dogs and cats. Clearly, these animals are intended to be companion animals or pets to people. Everything from their size to their personalities indicates that they are meant to live side by side with humans, usually in such a personal manner that they even share our beds.

Dogs and cats are just one example of a species that has been bred through generations in order to coexist with people symbiotically. Both humans and the domestic animal benefit from this relationship. In the case of dogs and cats, the benefit to people is usually just camaraderie and company, however sometimes specific dog species are bred to work on farms, to serve as service animals, or even to protect people. While the benefit we get from pets is pretty  clear cut, the animal also benefits by being given food, a home, and protection from the elements.

french bulldog
Believe it or not, this French bulldog puppy’s ancestor was the wolf. Through human selection, this breed has become domesticated and drastically altered from its ancestral form in order to suit the needs of humans. Reptiles have not undergone this process yet and are thus not considered domestic animals.

So, because reptiles haven’t been kept by people long enough to be bred for generations to retain specific traits that make them anything other than more colorful than usual, we can’t truly classify them as domestic.

However, that doesn’t mean that individual pet reptiles don’t get along well with their human owners. Many become tame and can behave like a dog or cat. If you continue reading, you can find out the difference between what makes an animal tame and what makes it domestic.

“Tame” versus “domestic”

We’ve already covered the definition of a domestic animal and explained why reptiles simply don’t fall into this category at this point in time. But you might be wondering about the tegus, iguanas, and bearded dragons who come running up to greet their family members just like your average dog. Why aren’t these pet reptiles considered domesticated?

The answer is simple really. Although individual pet reptiles can certainly grow fond of and acclimated to people, they have not been bred in captivity for many generations and altered from their wild state in order to suit the needs of people. A lizard, snake, turtle, or tortoise that enjoys human companionship has become tame and docile rather than domesticated.

A good way to look at the difference between tame and domestic is to again draw from a source that we are familiar with – the pet dog. The wild ancestor of the dog is the wolf. Dogs are descendants of wolves that have been selectively bred through many generations by people to express very specific traits that we desire. With the exception of a few species, dogs no longer resemble the wolf in either disposition or appearance. On the other hand, if you capture a wild chameleon, iguana, or alligator lizard, it will look much the same as a captive bred specimen. There will be little to no physical difference other than specific examples where certain species have been bred a few generations to exhibit definitive color morphs.

Captive breeding of reptiles

We’ve already mentioned that certain species of reptiles are captive bred in order to display different morphs. A few common examples are corn snakes, leopard geckos, and bearded dragons. All of these reptiles are available through breeders in a multitude of unique and special morphs that change their color but no other physical attributes.

This is different from the selective breeding of a domesticated animal because usually these morphs only have to go through two or three generations in order to achieve the genetic makeup that causes their coloration to be different from their “normal” brethren. Furthermore, other traits such as docility, work ethic, companionability, etcetera are generally unchanged. We selectively breed these reptiles just to aesthetically please us.

Which species of reptile are the closest to tame and domesticated?

We would like to point out that there are many species of reptiles that tend to be more docile. This can be because the species is more laid back in general or it can be because the parents were captive bred.

If you wish to have a pet reptile that you can hold, pick up, and train to eat from your hand, we do have a few recommendations.

Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius) – Leopard geckos are very commonly sold at pet stores as well as specialty breeders. They are available in a seemingly endless number of morphs including a “jumbo” size. They are very docile as a species and are overall pretty healthy because nearly all of them are captive bred.

Corn Snake (Elaphe g. guttata– Like leopard geckos, corn snakes are commonly available at large pet stores. You can get many morphs that result in colors ranging from lavender to bright red.

albino cornsnake
Corn snakes, like this little albino beauty, are usually captive bred. This means they are accustomed to humans and are actually healthier overall. As you can see, holding a baby corn snake can be quite fun!

Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps) – Beardies love being held! They love to sit on your shoulder, lap, or near your warm laptop computer. They are very hardy lizards and feeding time is always fun.

Argentine Black and White Tegu (Tupinambis merianae) – Although they can be a tiny bit skittish as hatchlings, tegus will generally warm up to their owner and become very tame. When mature, they reach large sizes and can be trained to behave much like a pet dog.

Savannah Monitor (Varanus exanthematicus– Keep in mind that although Savannahs are very cute when young, they eat voraciously and grow to large sizes very quickly. Be prepared to provide a very large enclosure and lots of attention as these lizards truly enjoy going for walks outside with their owner and being given plenty of attention in the form of baths, petting, and other interactions.

My reptile doesn’t like being held. How can I train or teach it to be more docile?

First off, we’d like to say that not all reptiles can be tamed. This is particularly true of the species that already have ornery dispositions and double true of species that have been captured from the wild and not bred in captivity. Again, reptiles are not tame or domestic animals so there is never a guarantee that your pet will like being held or handled.

Patience is key when it comes to teaching your reptile good manners. You will need to devote time to taking him or her out of the enclosure and socializing with people. Be warned – you’ll likely experience some aggression if you’re working with an animal with a poor disposition and snakes tend to be particularly prone to nipping their owners when first being removed from the cage. Our best advice is to wear gloves if your reptile has sharp teeth or you are afraid of being injured.

pictus gecko
One way to help tame your reptile is to adopt it as a baby. Start handling him or her from a young age and it will be easier to get it accustomed to you.

Don’t be deterred if it takes time for your reptile to become accustomed to you. In addition to patience, you’ll need to be calm, collected and ready to confront your pet’s mood swings with compassion and understanding.

A very useful trick to use when acclimating your reptile to people is to associate the cage opening with feeding time. Most reptiles love to eat and if you teach your pet that treats come when the cage opens, they will receive positive reinforcement and become used to being picked up. Just be sure that you avoid getting your fingers in the pathway of your reptile’s mouth!

If you want more specific tips and tricks on picking up your pet lizard or picking up your pet snake, we wrote blog articles about both topics.

Which species should I avoid if I want a pet reptile that behaves like a cat or dog?

Snakes can be somewhat jumpy or nervous when you remove them from their cage. Sometimes it’s because they’re being woken up from sleeping and sometimes it’s just because you accidentally took them by surprise. However, there are certain species that are actually known for their aggressive nature such as anacondas and a few species of pythons.

Many small lizard species also don’t like interacting with people on a regular basis. Smaller lizards tend to be flightier because they have more natural predators in the wild. They will view you as a predator and most likely try to hide or become aggressive. Many of them are too small to inflict pain or draw blood if they attempt to bite, but it’s best to avoid causing any unnecessary stress to your pet if it’s not necessary.

Here’s a short list of lizards that make rewarding “look not touch” pets:

Anoles – These little lizards are known for being great beginner lizards. They are inexpensive, pretty, and overall healthy little critters. However, they usually don’t like being held and would much rather hide from you than play with you.

Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko– While very colorful and striking at maturity, Tokays are actually known for being particularly grumpy. They can pack a pretty mean bite when they feel threatened and they don’t particularly enjoy the company of people either as babies or adults.

Ameivas – Although ameivas are bright and colorful lizards, they are extremely fast and pretty agile. Most of the time, they will bolt and try to hide if you attempt to pick one up. They thrive in captivity but we do recommend that you give them space and don’t try to interact with them on a frequent basis.

Conclusion

Ultimately, reptiles of all species are NOT domestic animals. Many are not even tame. When you adopt a pet reptile, you should understand that these creatures still have their wild survival instincts in tact. They will do anything to survive ranging from dropping their tail, biting, snapping, and hissing at you, and even defecating and/or urinating on you!

baby bearded dragon
Bearded dragons are one species that nearly always has a friendly disposition towards people. We recommend them if you want a mid-size lizard that enjoys being held.

Not all reptiles have bad manners though and many can be worked with to develop good habits. If you are willing to put forth the effort to tame your reptile, you’ll find that they can make quite entertaining and rewarding pets.

Endangered Reptiles Hobbyists Wish They Could Have as Pets

Many species of reptiles kept as pets are commonly bred in captivity. Many are easy to care for because they are hardy animals both in captivity and in their natural habitats. There is no shortage of these critters either in captivity or in the wild.

However, just like there are endangered mammals and birds, there are also endangered reptiles. Although we’d never keep a critically endangered species as a pet or encourage trade in these animals, we can always fantasize about how cool it would be to keep some as pets in a perfect world.

In this blog article, we’ll name some of the critically endangered reptiles that we think would make amazing pets for one reason or another. Since we’ve never kept or seen these reptiles in real life (except for maybe at a zoo if we’re lucky!), this article won’t focus on care tips or handling techniques.

Instead, we’ll discuss why these endangered species are unique and what makes us so interested in them. Perhaps we’ll even raise some awareness and inspire conservation efforts to protect them.

Gharial/Gavial (Gavialis gangeticus)

The gharial or gavial is a crocodilian known for its very unique snout and appearance. Unlike typical crocodiles and alligators, the gavial’s mouth and nose are long and narrow rather than triangular in shape.

The narrowness of the mouth combined with sharp teeth that lace together in an interlocking pattern makes it perfectly suited to catch fish, which just happen to make up this reptile’s main diet.

Topping off the long mouth is a bulbous snout which is said to resemble an earthenware pot known as a ghara in Hindi. This is where the gharial’s common name is derived. It’s believed that this nose bulb is used in mating behaviors such as bubbling water to attract a mate and as a visual indicator of gender.

gavial
This photo very clearly shows the prominent bulb on the gavial’s nose. It also lets you see that the gavial’s mouth is longer, more tapered, and more pointy than any other crocodilian’s. And although those teeth protrude and look quite fierce, the gavial’s primary diet is fish, which means that it’s less likely to view you as an appetizer.

The gavial is native to India. While this fascinating creature used to inhabit nearly all the major rivers in India, it can now only be found in two percent of these waterways. The numbers of the gavial have been declining largely due to hunting for trophies, indigenous medicine, and consumption of the reptile’s eggs.

We think the gavial would make a cool pet because of its very particular mouth and nose. Unlike a croc or gator, the gavial actually doesn’t possess a whole lot of jaw strength. This means that although we’re not sure we’d recommend it, you could probably hold a gavial with much less fear of being bitten.

We’re sure that a gavial’s bite would still be pretty painful, but probably not nearly as bad as that of a reptile with as much jaw strength and ferocity as a crocodile.

Cayman Island Blue Iguana (Cyclura lewisi)

As its name suggests, the Cayman Island blue iguana is a lizard with a stunning color palate. At rest, these iguanas have a grayish complexion, but when breeding season hits, or when the iguana becomes agitated or excited, it transforms into a brilliant azure blue color.

The Cayman Island blue iguana is endemic to the Cayman Islands and is actually considered to be one of the most endangered lizards alive today. Back in 1940 when this reptile was originally described taxonomically, it was considered to be on the brink of extinction, and with human interference, whether accidental or intentional, its numbers have dwindled even further. In fact, in 2002, the population of these lizards remaining in the wild was estimated to be a mere ten to twenty-five animals!

cayman island blue iguana
This photo captures the true azure blue coloration of the Cayman Island blue iguana. Who wouldn’t be proud to show off such a beautiful lizard to family and friends?

Efforts to preserve the species have definitely been ongoing. As recently as 2004, a wildlife conservation group released hundreds of animals back into the wild. Additionally, at least five separate nonprofit organizations are working with the Grand Cayman government with the hope of preserving this colorful iguana.

Considered to be the largest native land animal living on Grand Cayman, the Cayman Island blue iguana maxes out around twenty to thirty inches in body length with a tail that is usually around the same length, putting the average animal anywhere between forty to sixty inches in total length. Despite this large size, the iguana is still preyed upon by non-native, invasive species such as feral cats and dogs.

While there are certainly blue iguanas available to reptile hobbyists nowadays, these are just variants of the very common green iguana and are still of the genus and species Iguana iguana. We think it would be beyond rewarding to be able to keep a breeding population of these “true” blue iguanas and be able to help contribute to the conservation efforts as well as enjoy the beauty of such a flashy lizard.

Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)

We admit, having a pelagic reptile of any kind as a pet seems no easy feat. But, in a perfect world, wouldn’t it be cool to have a salt water aquarium full of tropical fish and a sea turtle or two?

Like all sea turtle species, hawksbill turtles are endangered due to human interference. Believe it or not, people eat sea turtle eggs and mature sea turtles around the world, despite the protected status of these majestic ocean reptiles. Hawksbills in particular also have very beautifully designed shells which people love to collect. The fishing industry is also a factor in the endangered status of the hawksbill. Often times, these turtles will become accidentally entangled in fishing nets which can lead to drowning.

hawksbill sea turtle
The scutes or hard, bony plates that make up the hawksbill’s carapace are visible in this photo. People hunt the turtle to keep the beautifully patterned shell as a trophy.

Out of all the sea turtle species, the hawksbill turtle is one of the smaller species. Adults will grow to be around forty-five inches long and weigh around 150 pounds.

Hatchling hawksbill sea turtles have heart-shaped carapaces which eventually elongate. When mature, the shells have overlapping serrated scutes, or bony plates. They also have unusually sharp points on their nose/mouth area that resemble a bird of prey’s beak, which is how they received their common name. And yet another characteristic feature of the hawksbill is a pair of claws that adorn each flipper. Overall, the hawksbill sea turtle is a very visually striking reptile.

As reptile lovers, many of us are familiar with the struggle infant sea turtles of all species must undergo when it comes to safely making their first journey to the sea. The mother turtles lay their eggs in a hole dug into a sandy beach and some months later, baby turtles emerge. Because sea turtles make mass migrations to beaches to lay their eggs, the baby turtles tend to all hatch around the same time, meaning that tons of baby sea turtles end up crawling out of the sand and into the ocean.

Because there are so many, they wind up being easy prey targets for predatory animals, namely birds and crabs. In addition, due to human encroachment and installation of street lights and hotel lights along beach fronts, baby sea turtles often wind up crawling towards civilization instead of their true home, which also has an impact on the wild populations.

We’d truly enjoy raising a baby hawksbill sea turtle and watching it grow into a regal adult. But we’ve got to admit that “Finding Nemo” has us a little biased towards that idea. Can’t you just picture them swimming around and speaking in surfer lingo?

Tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus)

What makes the tuatara so fascinating to scientists and reptile enthusiasts alike is that this animal is part of its own distinct lineage – the order Rhynchocephalia. This means that although the tuatara very much resembles a lizard, it is in fact, not a lizard!

From a scientific stand point, the closest living ancestor of the tuatara is the squamates, which of course are lizards and snakes. Scientists study the tuatara in order to learn more about the history and appearance of early reptiles called diapsids.

Tuataras are endemic to New Zealand. Because they are so isolated geographically coupled with the fact that they take many years to reproduce, the population of these reptiles has dwindled placing them on the endangered species list.

tuatara
Although it resembles a common lizard such as an iguana, the tuatara is in a family all its own.

Quite possibly one of the coolest things about the tuatara is that it possesses a third eye! This third eye appears in the middle of the reptile’s forehead and is called a parietal eye. Just like normal eyes used for seeing, the tuatara’s parietal eye has its own lens, cornea, retina with rod-like structures, and is connected to the brain via a degenerated nerve.

When tuataras are babies, the parietal eye appears as a translucent spot in the middle of the animal’s head, but sadly, as tuataras mature, the eye becomes covered with scales and pigment. This is why you don’t see photos of adult tuataras with three eyes, although we think that would be pretty freaky!

As far as function is concerned, scientists have deduced that the purpose of the parietal eye is to help with absorption of UV rays to help the tuatara produce vitamin D. It’s also been postulated that the eye helps with thermoregulation as well as determining light and dark/day and night cycles.

Unlike other reptiles, tuataras thrive in much lower temperatures. They can be active in temperatures as low as forty-one degrees Fahrenheit and temperatures over eighty-two degrees Fahrenheit can actually be fatal to them. This unique animal has the lowest resting body temperature of any reptile. This also means they have a particularly slow metabolism.

Tuataras have unusually long life spans. In captivity, they are estimated to be able to live up to two hundred years old! In fact, Henry the tuatara, who lives in the New Zealand Zoo, became a father at the ripe old age of one hundred and eleven!

Since they have such low metabolic rates (as we already mentioned), tuataras take a long time to reach sexual maturity and a long time to reproduce. Tuataras aren’t ready to mate until they are ten or twenty years old! From start to finish, the entire reproductive cycle can take two to five years, which is the longest of any reptile.

So, if the abundance of weird factoids and cool tidbits of knowledge about this “living fossil” reptile hasn’t convinced you that a tuatara would make a fascinating pet, we’re not sure you’re reading the right blog!

Conclusion

We have already mentioned that this a purely hypothetical blog article. As reptile lovers, we are definitely not endorsing capturing any of the endangered species, exporting them, and/or keeping them as pets for our own entertainment and pleasure.

We are fully aware that these reptiles are in need of serious help and this article is written from a place of wishful thinking. In a perfect world, these wonderful and rare species wouldn’t need our help to survive in the wild and we wouldn’t have to feel bad about having them be a part of our families as pets.

But alas, all we can do for now is discuss how neat it would be to care for these reptiles and hope that this article inspires people to try and help with conservation efforts.

If you want to help preserve these magnificent animals, we recommend donating to a conservationist group. There are multitudes of organizations that focus on protecting specific species as well as plenty of groups that specialize in general endangered species preservation efforts.

Rather than have us tell you who we donate to, we feel you should do your research and find a group whose goals, morals, and standards are in line with your own.

How to Pick Up Your Pet Lizard

Wondering how to pick up a lizard? There are countless numbers of animals available in the reptile hobbyist world and many of them can be picked-up and held. Some pet lizards even enjoy human interaction.

However, lizards are not domesticated animals like cats or dogs, and so they can be tricky to handle if you don’t have experience. That’s why we’ll explain our methods for picking up lizards, address some common mistakes made when handling lizards, and offer up helpful tips and tricks we’ve learned throughout our years of experience dealing with all kinds of lizard species.

How to pick up a lizard

There are several methods you can use when picking up lizards and in truth, the best method will vary from animal to animal, species to species, and even person to person! It’s going to take some experience on your part to learn which way works best for your own pet.

how to pick up a lizard
Geckos are more delicate than other species of lizards. Be careful not to restrain them too tightly or you may accidentally injure them. Gentle handling is the key.

The first thing to take into account when picking up and handling any pet lizard is the size of the animal. Larger species such as bearded dragons and Savannah monitors will require a different technique than something as small as a dwarf gecko species.

If you are dealing with a larger species or a species that has a good disposition, such as a leopard gecko, then picking up and handling the lizard is very straight forward. Approach the animal steadily with no jerky or overly speedy movements and simply pick it up. Once the lizard is in your hands, make sure it is supported and that it has a place to crawl if it is moving or wiggling a lot.

If you are working with a smaller species or a more delicate species, such as a day gecko or an anole, we recommend cupping the animal rather than grabbing it outright. You can accomplish this by literally trapping the animal under a cup and sliding a piece of paper or other flat, solid object underneath the cup. Or, alternately, you could form a cup with your hands over top of the lizard and pick it up from there.

Things to avoid when picking up your pet lizard

Possibly the most important thing you want avoid when dealing with your pet lizard is squeezing it or making it feel trapped. If you hold it too tight in order to prevent escape, your lizard will feel very stressed and uncomfortable. If you can’t hold the lizard without feeling like you’re physically restraining it, odds are you’ve got a lizard that isn’t meant to be held.

crocodile skink
This crocodile skink is being supported and has a comfortable perch. Be sure to cradle and not squeeze your pet lizard and you will both be more at ease during the handling process.

Never try to hang onto a lizard by its tail. Many species actually drop their tails as a defense mechanism against predators when they are stressed. While its true that ultimately it won’t harm your lizard in the long run to drop its tail, it’s still a stress to the animal at the time it occurs and many people dislike how their lizard appears cosmetically after losing a tail.

Helpful tips and tricks for handling your pet lizard

  1. Big lizards will need two hands. It’s common sense that you shouldn’t try to pick up a four foot long monitor with just one hand. Bigger lizards need more support and therefore more hands.
  2. Not all lizards should be picked up. Again, keep in mind that lizards are not domesticated animals and they do not all enjoy interacting with people. In fact, many of the smaller, flightier species will get overly stressed out if you handle them because they will think that you are a predator. And some species are so delicate that you can actually injure them if you pick them up incorrectly.
  3. Take some time to get to know your lizard’s personality and read its moods. If you invest in learning about lizard body language, you’ll be able to tell if your pet is in the mood to come out and play or not. This will help avoid unnescessary stress and will also help avoid any unnecessary biting or scratching.

Conclusion

bearded dragon hatchling
Bearded dragons are very interactive lizards that enjoy being held by humans.

Lizards make great pets and there are many species that are hands on and incredibly interactive animals. However, not all species will enjoy being held and it’s up to you as a potential pet owner to do your research and make sure you’re choosing a species that suits your needs.

We hope that this article has given you some insight into how to handle different species of lizards. But if you have any tips or tricks of your own, feel free to share them in the comments!