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Large Lizard Paradime

chelvis

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Sorry if this is long winded and I hope this does not become controversial but it would be nice to get a discussion on this as it’s something I know I’ve personally seen in the hobby and others here have as well.

So what I wanted to bring up was the two different schools on large lizard care and husbandry. There are many different thoughts but the two I have experienced are very different and seem to be the big ones. Historically when I first got into the herp field I was keeping small display lizards and the general rule was handle only if absolutely needed. This made senses animals like day geckos would often shed scales and get infections if handled, so no handling got it. When geckos got boring I started to branch out and I came into the field of monitors (tegus had just really started to get more attention at that time so not really available to the average market). I did my research to convince my folks to let me get a monitor and was torn, I wanted an animal I could handle but almost everything I read and the people I talked to said it was best to set them up naturally and just let them be themselves. It was the idea that their natural behaviors would be reward enough of keeping them. I had to agree with that, I loved watching wildlife out on hikes so why not in my own home. A few months later an argus monitor was in the house and a trio of ackies (sadly they never bred for me). The ackie’s were lots of fun, they showed all the behaviors one would expect to see and I really enjoyed them. They got use to the cleaning and feeding but never really got use to being handled. The argus only tolerated so much before becoming aggressive, this was way when I left for school my parents had be re-home him, the ackies could stay.

Fast forward two years and enter the world of tegus. I got a young blue tegu and even before hand all my research conflicted with what I had learned before. There was no 20’x15’ cage blue prints, there was no hands off and aggressive response noted by a lot of keepers and the stigma was these were pets, not fish that to be watched only (sorry to any fish keepers out there). So I figured might as well try it. At first the little tegu was stressed and this is what monitor keepers said was important to avoid as its unfair to the animal. After three months he seemed to fine and he really liked to come out more and explore.

Now working in wildlife and zoos myself I come across this issue all the time, do you cause acute stress (a lot of stress all at once) at the start to help alive stress throughout their life, or is it better to have small episodes of stress throughout the life of the animal? So an acute stress situation would be you have an animal that for some reason cannot go back out into the wild, you choice to train it, get it use to people and although stressful at the start there are payoffs in the end. Rather then be scared or stressed during the normal care its relax, vet care can be done without darting, and the animals life can be enriched in many ways such as leash walks to new areas. Downside is there was that initial stress at the start that it may not survive and most likely its natural behavior is changed. The other method would have little impact on its initial health but long term this animal wonders what it going to happen to it every time a caretaker is in the area, is this the day something happens. They get less sensitive as time goes on, but they never truly relax around people. If you have to do routine care like a nail trim or grooming or vaccines then it’s a major stress on them for that time. The benefits is less time commitment and less chance of initial sickness.

From the keepers perspective it all depends on the person. Like I said I loved my ackies and my argus but I really enjoy my tegus and caiman lizards. I love the fact that each morning my male tegu and caiman lizard are at the cage entrances ready for their morning bask time in the living room. There is no fight to get them out they simple get picked up walked to the front room and then free roam. I can pick them up, leash them up, clip their nails and check their mouth (Bosco has constant bad tooth that I keep an eye on.). They enjoy their time out. My female tegus like to sleep in and when I get home they are waiting for their time out, they prefer the familiarity of the reptile room so they wonder around there. They are not nearly as friendly as the boys but they will tolerate being picked up and often come over for a chin rub.

Having them use to people has made it easier when they have health issues (like Bosco’s tooth), when I’ve had to move its not a fight to load them and they are fine in a hotel, to just making their lives better with daily outside the cage time. Granted if I went with the other model I would have a much larger cage for them so arguably they wouldn’t need outside time because the cage would be large enough and set-up like a mini ecosystem. There would be no reason for health exams as almost all reptile health issues stem from poor husbandry (Bosco’s tooth is a result of the first outdoor cage design where he bit down on some wire that stabbed into his lower jaw). As for moving its always best to be in a stable situation when getting a large reptile so moving should be limited.

I am not trying to prove one side or the other. I am honestly torn between what might be best for the animal, and when it comes down to it, it might really depend on the individual animal and keeper. It’s just funny to see two very different sides from the same hobby.
 

HeatherN

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Location
San Luis Obispo, CA
a thought provoking post, unfortunately i don't have much experience dealing with zoo/wild animals, but id love to see more opinions on the matter. thanks for the thoughts!
 

Bubblz Calhoun

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For me it's more so what's best for the animal, some do better and like handling while others don't. Some times there's only one way to find out and that's hands on to a degree. If it doesn't work then switch your tactics, what works for one may not work for the other.

Some animals do fine as display pets while others don't, even then they still need some sort of enrichment besides sitting in their enclosure day in and out. If you can get them use to basic handling every once in a while or when needed then great,.. less stress for every body. If not,.. then do what has to be done when needed. Depending on the animal, besides health reasons we also have to consider safety for the animal as well as the keeper. Some times in stressful situations someone or something's bound to get hurt. So what ever you can do to reduce the amount of stress the better.

But for me this is also a sticky situation leading into why some animals shouldn't be kept in captivity and some other issues.
 

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