Monday, January 16, 2012

Reptile Awareness!

So I'm just going to spit it out. In my day to day life as a reptile hobbyist, enthusiast, breeder, and owner, I am sickened by the amount of fear, intolerance, and ignorance that surrounds reptiles. The most intolerable wall of ignorance induced fear. To this end, I will be writing articles about different species of reptile, in attempt to clear up these irrational fears, and to provide a knowledge base of reason and fact. I hope to impart to people unjustly terrified by such incredible amazing creatures the information to help them get passed their crippling fears.

Lets take a moment to go back to the beginning. To the time before mammals even existed, after sea life had begun to take a hold of a world out of water. I am talking about the first amphibians. These amphibians would go on to further evolve into what would become known as reptiles. Reptiles, which in time would further evolve into mammals, and out of mammals came human beings. So first and for most, you, me, and every other rational evolutionist, owe our existence to reptiles. They are our ancient ancestors, our predecessors'.

Now lets break down reptiles into their respective categories, and discuss how they came to be.


Snakes, more then likely the most feared animal by man kind. Snakes came into this world as all modern species, through that of evolution. Evolving over millions of years, from burrowing lizards who would spend their days hunting under ground. Through process of evolution the limbs were discarded by design to adapt to their new habitat, and give them the ability to manoeuvre small thin underground tunnels.

Now, why fear snakes? Most typically, I hear, they look unnatural, they are spawn of the devil, they are poisonous, large snakes want to eat people, etc etc etc.

While there is little I can do to help make a snake look more natural to your eye, but if you read the above paragraph, I hope that at least explains to you, why it is they look the way they do. And lets face it, they've been around longer then we have.

(Garter snake, non-venomous, garden variety harmless snake, found all over North America)

Now, if you believe that Lucifer created snakes in some nefarious plot to tempt eve into eating an apple and ruining paradise for one and all, well, your a fucking idiot, stop reading now, and by all means return to your small minded existence, you are beyond my help, and I suggest spending some serious time in a mental rehabilitation facility.

(Boa Constrictor, native to South America, big in the bet trade, mid sized constrictor, non-venomous, docile but not for novice snake keepers)
As for poisonous snakes, yes they are out there. Are all snakes poisonous? No, far from it. The majority of snakes in at least the western world are harmless. And the poisonous snakes we do possess, are more often then not, not fatal. However, many snakes in south america, africa, the pacific, and asia, are highly poisonous, and very deadly. If you live in, or are planning to visit a country located within these realms I beg you to do your research, there are many non venomous snakes in these regions as well as venomous. So, with so many poisonous snakes out there, why shouldn't people be afraid? Well the answer is simple, with proper research into what venomous species live in a region you are living or visiting, you can learn how to avoid these animals, to avoid being bitten by them, and what to do in the event you are bitten. All first world countries with poisonous snakes are well equipped with anti-venin in hospitals, and ambulances. Deaths from poisonous animals in first world nations are extremely rare as such. In short, before you fear venomous snakes, take the time to do the research to find out if your region even has them, and what to do in response to them. And keep in mind, venomous animals are very rare, and often illegal in the pet trade (your room mates, spouses, childs, ball python/corn snake will not be able to kill you if it wanted to).

(The bushmaster, a highly venomous South American snake, nocturnal, lives in the jungle, minimal contact with humans)

(King Cobra, the largest venomous snake, found in South East Asia, avoids confrontation, highly aggressive if cornered, flairs hood when threatened.)

That giant snake is going to eat me!!! While I would always keep a high level of respect for large species of snake, in most likelihood, they have little interest in trying to eat you. Which is not to be mistaken for their lack of ability to eat, and your hurt / kill you. Now you ask, if a snake can hurt me, kill me, and eat me, why won't it? Well this is simple, snakes find prey by scent, and people, simply don't smell like food. Now there are reports of larger species of snake, such as reticulated pythons, green anacondas, and African rock pythons attacking and even in very rare cases eating people, this should be by no means considered the norm. These animals are rare in the wild, are very reclusive, often burrowed out of sight, and eat little more then one large meal a year.

(African Rock Python, from Africa, yes it likes large meals, no it probably isn't going to eat you)


So with snakes dealt with, lets talk a little about lizards. Now first and formost, lizards have no where near the stigma attached to them that snakes do. What can I say, people like 4 legs and a tail. However, people terrified of lizards are still out there. So lets break it down. There are very few species of venomous lizard. As far as I know this is broken down to the Komodo Dragon (which is not really venom),

the Gila Monster, and the Mexican Bearded Lizard. This doesn't mean there aren't any other lizards that could pose a threat to humans, large monitors could severly hurt a person, but likely wouldn't be able to kill someone. Which pretty well leaves most other species of lizard as being harmless to humans. Short of maybe a nagging bit or tail whip. So, geckos,




and a plethora of other species not only are harmless, but make great pets.


Now, if there was ever a species of reptile I could understand fear invoking, it would be in these behemoths with rows of razor teeth. Now alligators and crocodiles can most certainly present danger to human beings, they are mostly located far from most human settlements. Alligators are also timid of human contact and likely to flee.

(Baby alligators maybe be cute, but they get bigger! And can fuck you up. Don't buy them if they are going to end up in your local sewer system a few years down the road.)

Larger species are more likely to be aggressive and curious of humans. All large alligators and crocodiles should be avoided by anyone without proper training in handling, and crocodilian behaviour.

(Saltwater Crocodile, I love reptiles, I have enough common sense to keep my distance from this guy. You should too.)

They are still fascinating creatures whos beauty can be admired from safe viewpoints in most zoos. I do not recommend these as pets.

(The Black Caiman is also quite dangerous)


The vastly unheard of species of reptile. The Tuatara, native on New Zealand and its surrounding islands, is a species millions of years old, and all but extinct with only two remaining subspecies. The remaining subspecies have are being well preserved by the New Zealand government in an effort to save this incredible species from extinction, and as such are now considered vulnerable. While extraordinary similar to lizards, with a bit of reading, its relatively simple to find the differences that set them a part. This fascinating species is of massive intrigue to many herpetologists. Whilst this is a vastly unheard of reptile, I hope I haven't given anyone planning a visit to New Zealand cause for alarm. They are harmless to humans.

(The ancient Tuatara)

Whilst I have noted several animals either big in the pet trade, or that make great pets, PLEASE always do your research and homework when considering an exotic pet. Find out how big something gets, if you will be able to take care of it properly, what special requirements they need, from simple things like humidity, temperature, and diet, to the specified requirements such as a preference of vertical or horizontal space.

Whilst I could also have addressed turtles, as they are indeed reptiles as well, I chose not to, do to the fact that I do not see much room for misconceptions, or irrational fears of turtles. If you personally have a very strong fear of turtles, please contact your local mental facility.

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