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A Guide to…

Australian

DRAGONS

in Captivity

By Dr Danny Brown

BVSc (Hons) BSc (Hons)

SNEAK PREVIEW


CONTENTS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR ....................................................................................................................................15 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS.................................................................................................................................................16

INTRODUCTION ...............................................................................................................................................................18 GENERAL MANAGEMENT.............................................................................................................19 PET SUITABILITY ...........................................................................................................................................................................................19 CHOOSING YOUR STOCK ..............................................................................................................................................................19 Selecting an Individual Dragon ..............................................................................................................................................21 HANDLING AND HYGIENE............................................................................................................................................................22 TRANSPORTATION ....................................................................................................................................................................................23 Short Journeys.....................................................................................................................................................................................................23 Long Journeys ......................................................................................................................................................................................................25 Timber Boxes..........................................................................................................................................................................................................26 Plastic Containers ...........................................................................................................................................................................................26 PURCHASE AND FREIGHT ETIQUETTE ..................................................................................................................27 Buyers ................................................................................................................................................................................................................................27 Sellers .................................................................................................................................................................................................................................28 LEGAL REQUIREMENTS ....................................................................................................................................................................28 GENERAL SAFETY........................................................................................................................................................................................30 SECURITY....................................................................................................................................................................................................................30 QUARANTINE ......................................................................................................................................................................................................31

HOUSING

INDOOR ENCLOSURES ..................................................................................................................................................32

Rack Systems ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................32 Tubs .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................32 Tanks ....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................33 Pits ...........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................33 Timber Enclosures .........................................................................................................................................................................................34 Glass, Perspex or Plastic Moulded Commercial Terrariums ......................................................34 Mesh Terrariums ...............................................................................................................................................................................................35

OUTDOOR ENCLOSURES ........................................................................................................................................35

Pits ...........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................35 Aviaries ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................37 ENCLOSURE SIZE ..........................................................................................................................................................................................39 Minimum Enclosure Sizes .................................................................................................................................................................39 COMPATIBILITY ...............................................................................................................................................................................................39 VENTILATION ......................................................................................................................................................................................................40 page 3


SUBSTRATE .............................................................................................................................................................................................................41 Sand ......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................41 Soil ...........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................42 Gravel..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................42 Scoria...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................42 Leaf Litter .....................................................................................................................................................................................................................42 Potting Mix ................................................................................................................................................................................................................43 Sphagnum Moss ...............................................................................................................................................................................................43 Peat.........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................43 Bark and Wood Chip...................................................................................................................................................................................43 Wood Shavings ...................................................................................................................................................................................................43 Corn Cob Litter ....................................................................................................................................................................................................44 Walnut Shell Litter .........................................................................................................................................................................................44 Alfalfa/Lucerne Pellets ...........................................................................................................................................................................44 Compressed Timber Pellets ...........................................................................................................................................................44 Compressed Newspaper Pellets.............................................................................................................................................44 Zeolite and Clumping Cat Litter .............................................................................................................................................44 Paper....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................44 Artificial Grass ......................................................................................................................................................................................................45 Indoor/Outdoor Carpet ........................................................................................................................................................................45

HIDE SITES.......................................................................................................................................................................................................45 Vertical Hide Sites ..........................................................................................................................................................................................45 Horizontal Hide Sites ................................................................................................................................................................................45

ENCLOSURE ENRICHMENT ...................................................................................................................................47 Surface Litter ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................48 Branches and Hollows.............................................................................................................................................................................48 Artificial Plants ....................................................................................................................................................................................................48 Dried Plants ..............................................................................................................................................................................................................49 Live Plants ...................................................................................................................................................................................................................50

HEATING ...............................................................................................................................................................................................................50 HEAT CORD OR TAPE ..............................................................................................................................................................................51 HEAT MATS ..............................................................................................................................................................................................................51 HEAT ROCKS ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................52 CERAMIC HEATERS....................................................................................................................................................................................52 GLOBES...........................................................................................................................................................................................................................53 Standard Incandescent Globes................................................................................................................................................53 Reflector Globes ...............................................................................................................................................................................................53 Reptile Lamps .......................................................................................................................................................................................................53 Halogen Bulbs ......................................................................................................................................................................................................53 Infrared Globes ...................................................................................................................................................................................................54 Mercury Vapour Lamps .......................................................................................................................................................................54 Metal Halide Bulbs........................................................................................................................................................................................54 page 4


LIGHTING............................................................................................................................................................................................................56 THE SCIENCE OF LIGHTING .......................................................................................................................................................56 Visible Light..............................................................................................................................................................................................................56 Infrared ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................56 Ultraviolet A (UV-A) .....................................................................................................................................................................................56 Ultraviolet B (UV-B) ......................................................................................................................................................................................56 Ultraviolet C (UV-C)......................................................................................................................................................................................59 LIGHTING OPTIONS .................................................................................................................................................................................59 UV-B Emitting Fluorescent Tubes.........................................................................................................................................60 Black Lights...............................................................................................................................................................................................................60 Compact UV-B Emitting Lamps ...............................................................................................................................................61 Mercury Vapour Lamps .........................................................................................................................................................................62 ‘Modified’ Halogen (Quartz or Dichroic Halogens) Bulbs ............................................................63 Metal Halide Lamps ....................................................................................................................................................................................63

THERMOSTATS ...................................................................................................................................................................................63

Probe Thermostats .......................................................................................................................................................................................64 On/Off Thermostats ....................................................................................................................................................................................64 Dimming Thermostats............................................................................................................................................................................64 Pulse Proportional Thermostats ............................................................................................................................................64

HUMIDITY .......................................................................................................................................................................................................65

FEEDING METHODS AND NUTRITION INVERTEBRATE FOOD ITEMS......................................................................................................................68

Crickets—Acheta domestica .................................................................................................................................................................68 Cockroaches ............................................................................................................................................................................................................68 Mealworms—Tenebrio molitor .........................................................................................................................................................69 King Mealworms or Superworms—Zophobas morio .................................................................................69 Maggots/Flies/Pupae—Musca vetutissima ..................................................................................................................70 Slaters.................................................................................................................................................................................................................................70 Silkworms—Bombyx mori and other caterpillars ............................................................................................71 Termites ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................71 Earthworms—Lumbricus terrestrius ...........................................................................................................................................71 Locusts—Chortoicetes terminifera .................................................................................................................................................71 Fruit Flies—Drosophila species .....................................................................................................................................................72 Waxworms—Galleria mellonella ....................................................................................................................................................72 Wild Fodder ..............................................................................................................................................................................................................72 Nutritional Data Averages for Invertebrate Diets.....................................................................................73

VERTEBRATE FOOD ITEMS ................................................................................................................................74

Rats and Mice ........................................................................................................................................................................................................74 Chicks and Small Birds ...........................................................................................................................................................................75 Guinea Pigs ...............................................................................................................................................................................................................75 Fish ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................75 Reptiles ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................75 Nutritional Data Averages for Vertebrate Diets ...........................................................................................76 page 5


ARTIFICIAL DIETS.......................................................................................................................................................................77 HERBIVOROUS/OMNIVOROUS DIETS ....................................................................................................................77 Table of Calcium to Phosphorus Ratio in Fruits and Vegetables......................................78 CARNIVOROUS/INSECTIVOROUS DIETS ...........................................................................................................80

CULTURING INSECT FOOD ITEMS ..................................................................................................81

Crickets—Acheta domestica .................................................................................................................................................................81 Speckled Feeder Roaches—Nauphoeta cinerea ..................................................................................................84 Locusts— Chortoicetes terminifera................................................................................................................................................84 Bush Flies—Musca vetutissima .........................................................................................................................................................85 Mealworms—Tenebrio molitor and King Mealworms—Zophobas morio ........................87 Slaters.................................................................................................................................................................................................................................88 ‘Lesser Waxworms’—Indian Meal Moths Plodia interpunctella ...................................................88 Fruit Fly/Vinegar Fly/Ferment Fly—Drosophila species.........................................................................89

DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS .........................................................................................................................................90 CALCIUM ......................................................................................................................................................................................................................90 Gut Loading .............................................................................................................................................................................................................90 Dusting.............................................................................................................................................................................................................................91 PROTEIN........................................................................................................................................................................................................................92

FEEDING FACILITIES ...........................................................................................................................................................92 FEEDING PROBLEMS .........................................................................................................................................................93 TREATMENT ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................95 Assist Feeding .....................................................................................................................................................................................................95 Force Feeding........................................................................................................................................................................................................95 Tube Feeding .........................................................................................................................................................................................................96

BREEDING VISUAL SEXING ...................................................................................................................................................................................97

Colour.................................................................................................................................................................................................................................97 Size ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................97 Femoral and Preanal Pores .............................................................................................................................................................98 Hemipenal Bulges..........................................................................................................................................................................................99 Paracloacal Spur Structures ......................................................................................................................................................100 OTHER SEXING TECHNIQUES .............................................................................................................................................100 Hemipenal Probing .................................................................................................................................................................................100 Hemipenal Popping................................................................................................................................................................................100 Hemipenal Transillumination .................................................................................................................................................101 Hemipenal Observation ..................................................................................................................................................................103 Hemipenal Plug Observation .................................................................................................................................................103 Hemipenal Palpation ............................................................................................................................................................................104 Cloacal Opening Shape ....................................................................................................................................................................104 Hydrostatic Eversion .............................................................................................................................................................................105 page 6


BREEDING AGE.................................................................................................................................................................................105 COURTSHIP ...............................................................................................................................................................................................105 MATING ...............................................................................................................................................................................................................105 STRATEGIES TO ENHANCE BREEDING SUCCESS ......................................105 COOLING ................................................................................................................................................................................................................105 SEPARATION .....................................................................................................................................................................................................108

REPRODUCTION...........................................................................................................................................................................108 REPRODUCTIVE STRATEGIES.............................................................................................................................................108 EGG TYPE ................................................................................................................................................................................................................108 CLUTCH SIZE .....................................................................................................................................................................................................108 BREEDING FREQUENCY ..............................................................................................................................................................108 GRAVIDITY ...........................................................................................................................................................................................................109 CARING FOR BREEDING FEMALE DRAGONS .........................................................................................109

NEST FACILITIES ...........................................................................................................................................................................111 ARBOREAL SPECIES.............................................................................................................................................................................111 TERRESTRIAL SPECIES....................................................................................................................................................................111

EGG LAYING .............................................................................................................................................................................................112 EGG MANAGEMENT ............................................................................................................................................................................114 Collecting and Handling .................................................................................................................................................................114 Determining Egg Viability ............................................................................................................................................................115

ARTIFICIAL INCUBATION.......................................................................................................................................118 INCUBATION FACILITIES .............................................................................................................................................................118 CONTAINERS.....................................................................................................................................................................................................118 HEATING ...................................................................................................................................................................................................................119 TEMPERATURE CONTROL .........................................................................................................................................................120 INCUBATION MEDIUM ....................................................................................................................................................................120 Vermiculite.............................................................................................................................................................................................................120 Perlite..............................................................................................................................................................................................................................121 Sphagnum Moss ...........................................................................................................................................................................................121 True Peat Moss ................................................................................................................................................................................................121 Coir Peat Moss ................................................................................................................................................................................................121 Sand ..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................121 No Substrate .......................................................................................................................................................................................................122 INCUBATION REGIMES ...................................................................................................................................................................122 TEMPERATURE DEPENDENT SEX DETERMINATION.................................................................123

NATURAL INCUBATION..............................................................................................................................................125 page 7


HATCHLING CARE .....................................................................................................................................................................125 FEEDING ...................................................................................................................................................................................................................125 Feeding Frequency ..................................................................................................................................................................................126 Supplementation ........................................................................................................................................................................................126 LIGHTING ................................................................................................................................................................................................................126 HOUSING.................................................................................................................................................................................................................126 HEATING ...................................................................................................................................................................................................................126 COMPATIBILITY ...........................................................................................................................................................................................126

COMMON DISEASES AND DISORDERS DISCLAIMER............................................................................................................................................................................................128 NUTRITIONAL DISORDERS ...............................................................................................................................129 OBESITY ....................................................................................................................................................................................................................129 METABOLIC BONE DISEASE (CALCIUM/VITAMIN D3 DEFICIENCY)..............129 Early Onset Metabolic Bone Disease ..........................................................................................................................129 Late Onset Metabolic Bone Disease ............................................................................................................................130 Delayed Metabolic Bone Disease.....................................................................................................................................130 Reproductive Metabolic Bone Disease...................................................................................................................131 GUT IMPACTION ........................................................................................................................................................................................131

PARASITIC DISORDERS ..............................................................................................................................................133 INTERNAL PARASITES .....................................................................................................................................................................133 EXTERNAL PARASITES....................................................................................................................................................................135

SKIN DISORDERS ........................................................................................................................................................................135 DYSECDYSIS.......................................................................................................................................................................................................135 SCALE ROT ............................................................................................................................................................................................................135

NAIL, TOE AND LIMB DISORDERS...................................................................................................136 EYE DISORDERS.............................................................................................................................................................................137 EYE POPPING ...................................................................................................................................................................................................137 EYE TRAUMA.....................................................................................................................................................................................................137 PHOTOKERATOCONJUNCTIVITIS ...............................................................................................................................138 PRIMARY BACTERIAL EYE INFECTIONS ..........................................................................................................138

RESPIRATORY DISORDERS................................................................................................................................138 BACTERIAL PNEUMONIA ...........................................................................................................................................................138 VITAMIN A DEFICIENCY ...............................................................................................................................................................139 HUMIDITY RELATED PROBLEMS..................................................................................................................................139 PARASITIC PNEUMONIA ............................................................................................................................................................139

TRAUMA............................................................................................................................................................................................................139 page 8


BITE INJURIES .................................................................................................................................................................................................139 THERMAL BURNS .....................................................................................................................................................................................140

REPRODUCTIVE DISORDERS.......................................................................................................................140 PRE-OVULATORY AND POST-OVULATORY STASIS (EGG BINDING OR DYSTOCIA) ..........................................................................................................................................140 UTERINE INFECTION ..........................................................................................................................................................................143 HEMIPENAL INJURIES AND INFECTION..........................................................................................................144 CONGENITAL DEFECTS ..................................................................................................................................................................144

NASAL AND ORAL DISORDERS .............................................................................................................146 NASAL ABRASIONS—NOSE RUBS ............................................................................................................................146 JAW DISEASE/PERIODONTITIS/STOMATITIS.........................................................................................147

ADMINISTRATION OF MEDICATIONS ...................................................................................147 Subcutaneous or Intramuscular Injections .....................................................................................................147 Liquid Oral Medication......................................................................................................................................................................148 Tablet Oral Medication ......................................................................................................................................................................150

MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR REPTILE VETERINARIAN.........150

SPECIES

BEARDED DRAGONS Pogona

PRONUNCIATION .....................................................................................................................................................................................153

DESCRIPTION..............................................................................................................................................................................154

ADULTS, JUVENILES, SEXING, SUBSPECIES ............................................................................................154

IN THE WILD .....................................................................................................................................................................................158

DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT ...........................................................................................................................................158  

IN CAPTIVITY ...............................................................................................................................................................................159

STATUS ........................................................................................................................................................................................................................159

HOUSING .......................................................................................................................................................................................................159 INDOOR ENCLOSURES....................................................................................................................................................................159 Summary...................................................................................................................................................................................................................161 OUTDOOR ENCLOSURES ............................................................................................................................................................161 COMPATIBILITY ...........................................................................................................................................................................................161

FEEDING ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................162 BREEDING....................................................................................................................................................................................................163

INCUBATION AND HATCHLING DEVELOPMENT..............................................................................165 BREEDING RECORDS FOR THE BEARDED DRAGON SPECIES ...................................166 HYBRIDISATION AND COLOUR VARIANTS .................................................................................................167 LONGEVITY .........................................................................................................................................................................................................169 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................................................................................................................................................169 page 9


CREVICE AND ROCK DRAGONS Ctenophorus

PRONUNCIATION .....................................................................................................................................................................................170

DESCRIPTION..............................................................................................................................................................................171

ADULTS, JUVENILES, SEXING, SUBSPECIES ............................................................................................171

IN THE WILD .....................................................................................................................................................................................177

DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT ...........................................................................................................................................177  

IN CAPTIVITY ...............................................................................................................................................................................178

STATUS ........................................................................................................................................................................................................................178

HOUSING .......................................................................................................................................................................................................178

INDOOR ENCLOSURES....................................................................................................................................................................178 Summary...................................................................................................................................................................................................................179 OUTDOOR ENCLOSURES ............................................................................................................................................................180 COMPATIBILITY ...........................................................................................................................................................................................180

FEEDING ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................180 BREEDING....................................................................................................................................................................................................181

INCUBATION AND HATCHLING DEVELOPMENT..............................................................................183 BREEDING RECORDS FOR THE CREVICE AND ROCK DRAGON SPECIES....................................................................................................................................................................................183 HYBRIDISATION AND COLOUR VARIANTS .................................................................................................184 LONGEVITY .........................................................................................................................................................................................................184 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................................................................................................................................................184

TWO-LINED DRAGONS Diporiphora

PRONUNCIATION .....................................................................................................................................................................................185

DESCRIPTION..............................................................................................................................................................................186

ADULTS, JUVENILES, SEXING, SUBSPECIES ............................................................................................186

IN THE WILD .....................................................................................................................................................................................190

DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT ...........................................................................................................................................190  

IN CAPTIVITY ...............................................................................................................................................................................191

STATUS ........................................................................................................................................................................................................................191

HOUSING .......................................................................................................................................................................................................191 INDOOR ENCLOSURES....................................................................................................................................................................191 Summary...................................................................................................................................................................................................................192 OUTDOOR ENCLOSURES ............................................................................................................................................................192 COMPATIBILITY ...........................................................................................................................................................................................193

FEEDING ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................193 BREEDING....................................................................................................................................................................................................193

INCUBATION AND HATCHLING DEVELOPMENT..............................................................................195 BREEDING RECORDS FOR THE TWO-LINED DRAGON SPECIES ............................195 HYBRIDISATION AND COLOUR VARIANTS .................................................................................................196 page 10


LONGEVITY .........................................................................................................................................................................................................196 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................................................................................................................................................196

EARLESS AND HEATH DRAGONS

Tympanocryptis, Ctenophorus and Rankinia

PRONUNCIATION .....................................................................................................................................................................................197

DESCRIPTION..............................................................................................................................................................................198

ADULTS, JUVENILES, SEXING, SUBSPECIES ............................................................................................198

IN THE WILD .....................................................................................................................................................................................204

DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT ...........................................................................................................................................204  

IN CAPTIVITY ...............................................................................................................................................................................205

STATUS ........................................................................................................................................................................................................................205

HOUSING .......................................................................................................................................................................................................205

INDOOR ENCLOSURES....................................................................................................................................................................205 Summary...................................................................................................................................................................................................................207 OUTDOOR ENCLOSURES ............................................................................................................................................................207 COMPATIBILITY ...........................................................................................................................................................................................207

FEEDING ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................208 BREEDING....................................................................................................................................................................................................208

INCUBATION AND HATCHLING DEVELOPMENT..............................................................................209 BREEDING RECORDS FOR THE EARLESS AND HEATH DRAGON SPECIES....................................................................................................................................................................................209 HYBRIDISATION AND COLOUR VARIANTS .................................................................................................210 LONGEVITY .........................................................................................................................................................................................................210 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................................................................................................................................................210

FRILLED DRAGONS Chlamydosaurus

PRONUNCIATION .....................................................................................................................................................................................211

DESCRIPTION..............................................................................................................................................................................211

ADULTS, JUVENILES, SEXING, SUBSPECIES ............................................................................................211

IN THE WILD .....................................................................................................................................................................................214

DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT ...........................................................................................................................................214  

IN CAPTIVITY ...............................................................................................................................................................................215

STATUS ........................................................................................................................................................................................................................215

HOUSING .......................................................................................................................................................................................................215 INDOOR ENCLOSURES....................................................................................................................................................................215 Summary...................................................................................................................................................................................................................216 OUTDOOR ENCLOSURES ............................................................................................................................................................217 COMPATIBILITY ...........................................................................................................................................................................................217

FEEDING ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................218 page 11


BREEDING....................................................................................................................................................................................................218

INCUBATION AND HATCHLING DEVELOPMENT..............................................................................219 BREEDING RECORDS FOR THE FRILLED DRAGON SPECIES ........................................220 HYBRIDISATION AND COLOUR VARIANTS .................................................................................................220 LONGEVITY .........................................................................................................................................................................................................220 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................................................................................................................................................220

LARGE ARBOREAL DRAGONS

Lophognathus, Caimanops and Chelosania

PRONUNCIATION .....................................................................................................................................................................................221

DESCRIPTION..............................................................................................................................................................................222

ADULTS, JUVENILES, SEXING, SUBSPECIES ............................................................................................222

IN THE WILD .....................................................................................................................................................................................227

DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT ...........................................................................................................................................227  

IN CAPTIVITY ...............................................................................................................................................................................229

STATUS ........................................................................................................................................................................................................................229

HOUSING .......................................................................................................................................................................................................229

INDOOR ENCLOSURES....................................................................................................................................................................229 Summary...................................................................................................................................................................................................................230 OUTDOOR ENCLOSURES ............................................................................................................................................................230 COMPATIBILITY ...........................................................................................................................................................................................231

FEEDING ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................231 BREEDING....................................................................................................................................................................................................232

INCUBATION AND HATCHLING DEVELOPMENT..............................................................................233 BREEDING RECORDS FOR THE LARGE ARBOREAL DRAGON SPECIES.....234 HYBRIDISATION AND COLOUR VARIANTS .................................................................................................234 LONGEVITY .........................................................................................................................................................................................................234 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................................................................................................................................................234

RAINFOREST DRAGONS Hypsilurus

PRONUNCIATION .....................................................................................................................................................................................235

DESCRIPTION..............................................................................................................................................................................235

ADULTS, JUVENILES, SEXING, SUBSPECIES ............................................................................................235

IN THE WILD .....................................................................................................................................................................................240

DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT ...........................................................................................................................................240  

IN CAPTIVITY ...............................................................................................................................................................................241

STATUS ........................................................................................................................................................................................................................241

HOUSING .......................................................................................................................................................................................................241

INDOOR ENCLOSURES....................................................................................................................................................................241 Summary................................................................................................................................................................................................................. 243 OUTDOOR ENCLOSURES ............................................................................................................................................................243 COMPATIBILITY ...........................................................................................................................................................................................244 page 12


FEEDING ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................244 BREEDING....................................................................................................................................................................................................245

INCUBATION AND HATCHLING DEVELOPMENT..............................................................................246 BREEDING RECORDS FOR THE RAINFOREST DRAGON SPECIES........................247 HYBRIDISATION AND COLOUR VARIANTS .................................................................................................248 LONGEVITY .........................................................................................................................................................................................................248 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................................................................................................................................................248

SAND DRAGONS Ctenophorus

PRONUNCIATION .....................................................................................................................................................................................249

DESCRIPTION..............................................................................................................................................................................250

ADULTS, JUVENILES, SEXING, SUBSPECIES ............................................................................................250

IN THE WILD .....................................................................................................................................................................................254

DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT ...........................................................................................................................................254  

IN CAPTIVITY ...............................................................................................................................................................................254

STATUS ........................................................................................................................................................................................................................254

HOUSING .......................................................................................................................................................................................................255

INDOOR ENCLOSURES....................................................................................................................................................................255 Summary...................................................................................................................................................................................................................256 OUTDOOR ENCLOSURES ............................................................................................................................................................257 COMPATIBILITY ...........................................................................................................................................................................................257

FEEDING ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................257 BREEDING....................................................................................................................................................................................................258

INCUBATION AND HATCHLING DEVELOPMENT..............................................................................260 BREEDING RECORDS FOR THE SAND DRAGON SPECIES .................................................260 HYBRIDISATION AND COLOUR VARIANTS .................................................................................................261 LONGEVITY .........................................................................................................................................................................................................261 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................................................................................................................................................261

SMALL ARBOREAL DRAGONS Amphibolurus

PRONUNCIATION .....................................................................................................................................................................................262

DESCRIPTION..............................................................................................................................................................................262

ADULTS, JUVENILES, SEXING, SUBSPECIES ............................................................................................262

IN THE WILD .....................................................................................................................................................................................266

DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT ...........................................................................................................................................266  

IN CAPTIVITY ...............................................................................................................................................................................267

STATUS ........................................................................................................................................................................................................................267

HOUSING .......................................................................................................................................................................................................267 INDOOR ENCLOSURES....................................................................................................................................................................267 Summary...................................................................................................................................................................................................................268 OUTDOOR ENCLOSURES ............................................................................................................................................................268 page 13


COMPATIBILITY ...........................................................................................................................................................................................268

FEEDING ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................269 BREEDING....................................................................................................................................................................................................269

INCUBATION AND HATCHLING DEVELOPMENT..............................................................................270 BREEDING RECORDS FOR THE SMALL ARBOREAL DRAGON SPECIES ....271 HYBRIDISATION AND COLOUR VARIANTS .................................................................................................271 LONGEVITY .........................................................................................................................................................................................................271 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................................................................................................................................................271

WATER DRAGONS Intellagama

PRONUNCIATION .....................................................................................................................................................................................272

DESCRIPTION..............................................................................................................................................................................272 ADULTS, JUVENILES, SEXING, SUBSPECIES ............................................................................................272

IN THE WILD .....................................................................................................................................................................................276 DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT ...........................................................................................................................................276  

IN CAPTIVITY ...............................................................................................................................................................................277 STATUS ........................................................................................................................................................................................................................277

HOUSING .......................................................................................................................................................................................................277 INDOOR ENCLOSURES....................................................................................................................................................................277 Summary...................................................................................................................................................................................................................279 OUTDOOR ENCLOSURES ............................................................................................................................................................280 COMPATIBILITY ...........................................................................................................................................................................................280

FEEDING ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................281 BREEDING....................................................................................................................................................................................................281

INCUBATION AND HATCHLING DEVELOPMENT..............................................................................283 BREEDING RECORDS FOR THE WATER DRAGON SPECIES .............................................284 HYBRIDISATION AND COLOUR VARIANTS .................................................................................................284 LONGEVITY .........................................................................................................................................................................................................284 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................................................................................................................................................284

AUSTRALIAN HERPETOLOGICAL SOCIETIES AND USEFUL WEBSITES

HERPETOLOGICAL SOCIETIES ..........................................................................................................................................285 OTHER USEFUL WEBSITES.......................................................................................................................................................286

BIBLIOGRAPHY

PRINTED LITERATURE......................................................................................................................................................................286 ONLINE RESOURCES ..........................................................................................................................................................................289

GLOSSARY .....................................................................................................................................................................................291 page 14


HOUSING

The diversity of dragon species available for captive care may be accommodated in a variety of enclosure designs. No single housing design is appropriate for all dragons. Consideration must be given to each genus and species as well as an individual’s requirements for heating, lighting, security, substrate, ventilation, humidity and furnishings. However, this does not mean that housing dragons needs to be complicated or expensive.

INDOOR ENCLOSURES The predominant means of housing dragons is in indoor enclosures. Virtually all species can be accommodated indoors, although some, such as large dragons, may be better suited to outdoor housing. Consider the dragon’s basic requirements as well as your own preferences in design. Following are the various types of indoor enclosures available.

Rack Systems Rack systems comprise plastic tubs enclosed within a shelving system. They are compact, secure and inexpensive. The major disadvantages of rack systems are that they are not as aesthetically appealing as other types of enclosures and are difficult to light appropriately. Heating is usually limited to subfloor heating. This dramatically limits their suitability for dragons except for the temporary housing of very young hatchlings and winter cooling.

Tubs

Recycling tubs with aluminium framed lids

page 32

D BROWN

D BROWN

Essentially the same as rack systems, tubs are generally positioned in a more open manner, allowing heating and lighting to be provided from above. They are inexpensive and available in a range of sizes. Tubs are suitable for many dragon species—select a size and height relevant to the species to be housed. The main disadvantages of tubs are the limitations on furnishings, their aesthetic appearance and their poor security—it is difficult to supply appropriate heating and lighting with a lid on the container. Access can be improved by placing the tub on shelves that can be attached to drawer sliders allowing the whole tub to be moved out from beneath heating and lighting fixtures.

Recycling tubs are positioned on sliding shelves for easy access


Tile ‘stacks’ are simple to make

page 46

D BROWN D BROWN

Hollow logs

D BROWN

Clear containers may be painted internally to make them opaque

Terracotta saucers and bamboo splits make ideal hides for small species D BROWN

lengthwise, terracotta tiles, tile or timber stacks or commercial hide sites usually shaped as artificial rocks. Horizontal hides can be used in one of two ways. Most burrowing and digging species will use a hide as a starting point for their burrows, which may start as a shallow depression. Other ground dwelling species will use hides as preexisting cavities—the artificial equivalent of soil cracks, gaps under logs and spaces between rocks. When determining the placement of hides, consider the relevant safety issues. Plastic hides are at risk of outgassing—which is the production of fumes from heated plastic—and must never be placed directly under a heat source. Timber hides should also be placed carefully to ensure they do not pose a fire risk if exposed to excessive heat. Terracotta tiles cater for burrowing and nonburrowing species. If these tiles are placed directly on the substrate and partially beneath a heat lamp, burrowing animals will burrow along one edge and use the tile as the roof of the burrow—this allows them to engage in sub-soil basking by lying adjacent to the warmest part of the tile. The addition of short legs to the tile allows non-burrowers to do the same—simply attach short timber pieces, 2cm higher than the substrate depth to the tile using Liquid Nails TM or construction adhesive. These legs will allow the tile to sit just above the substrate level and provide a gap underneath for use as a hide. Timber or tile stacks are commonly used as hides by species of rock dwelling dragons. They are constructed from squares of plywood, pavers or floor tiles and are designed to mimic layered, flat exfoliating rock formations. Heat is directed on to the uppermost layer, providing the hide site with a vertical heat gradient from the top to the bottom. A tile should be used on the uppermost layer to avoid the fire hazards associated with heated timber. The bottom layer of a timber and tile stack should be placed on a spacer to keep it off the floor—a couple of


FEEDING METHODS AND NUTRITION

Foods suitable for dragons can be broken into three broad categories—invertebrate food items, vertebrate food items and artificial diets.

INVERTEBRATE FOOD ITEMS There are many different invertebrate food items suitable for dragons—many may be cultured at home, collected or purchased commercially. The most common invertebrate food items are crickets and cockroaches. Less commonly fed items include mealworms, mealworm beetles, Zophobas worms, flies, fly larvae, fly pupae, slaters, silkworms, termites, earthworms, locusts, spiders, fruit fly, wax worms and wild fodder. Each of these food items has a range of positive and negative attributes. Some also have specific uses, such as locusts and termites, and others are accepted more generally. Each live food item, its use and—where relevant—how to culture it, will be discussed below. A comparative nutritional table is provided at the end of this section.

Crickets—Acheta domestica

D BROWN

Crickets form part of a staple diet for 70–90% of small and medium reptile species across all families including dragons. As there is no ideal live food for dragons, crickets are the best of a bad bunch—with one of the lowest fat levels, moderate protein levels but a poor calcium to phosphorus ratio. The latter can be improved by including a high calcium supplement in a cricket’s diet in the days prior to feeding—known as gut loading—or by coating the cricket in a calcium supplement powder immediately prior to feeding—referred to as dusting. (See page 91 for more details). Crickets may be fed live or freshly killed as part of an artificial mix. They can also be frozen or slow roasted to produce a product suitable for mixing with soft foods.

Cricket sizes (left to right)—adult female, adult male, 2/3, 1/2, 1/3, 25 day old, 20 day old, 10 day old and pinhead

Cockroaches Cockroaches form part of a secondary staple diet for many species—predominantly larger species, due to the larger size of this food source. In Australia, dragons are fed primarily on one cockroach variety Nauphoeta cinerea known here as speckled feeder roaches or woodies and overseas as lobster roaches. These cockroaches have wings but do not readily fly and will not page 68


CULTURING INSECT FOOD ITEMS

Crickets—Acheta domestica

R PORTER

Culturing your own insects allows you to supply your dragons with a wide variety of live food. It ensures a continuity of supply, which is not always possible when you rely on commercial suppliers that may run out of stock when demand is high and often favour commercial buyers over small customers. There are many different methods for producing live foods. Following are the methods I have found most successful, including the insect species I have found the least troublesome.

D BROWN

Crickets are not difficult to breed, however it is time consuming and requires considerable space if a large number of crickets are required. Basically, crickets require food, moisture, heat and egg laying facilities to thrive. I have bred crickets in an old freezer chest heated by two light bulbs—just in case one fails—or by a 60W heat cord run around the bottom of the chest’s walls and connected to a basic A small cricket culture probe thermostat. Hides, a water source, food and a foam block standing vertically on a shallow tray should be placed on the floor. Egg cartons or toilet rolls placed vertically make good hides and allow cricket faeces to fall out easily. A moisture source and foods can be placed in separate takeaway containers. Provide ventilation through openings in the container lid and cover in flyscreen to keep flies, geckos and vermin out. All life stages can be fed with the same diet. Fish food flakes, chick starter crumbles, lucerne pellets, egg and biscuit, crushed mouse pellets and ground puppy biscuits are ideal. Smaller life stages simply require food items to be ground finer. Moisture must be supplied but by a means in which the crickets are not able to drown—newly hatched crickets can drown en masse in a single drop of water— this is of less concern with large crickets. Moisture can be supplied via highly moist food items such as orange, carrot or shredded lettuce. Alternatively it can be supplied as a protected water source, such as water crystals or via Old chest freezer used as a large scale a sponge that fits tightly in a reservoir such as a coffee cricket breeding facility or jam jar lid—these must be topped up regularly and cleaned at least one to two times per week. Heat can be supplied via light bulbs, a heat mat or heat cord placed within or under the container being used for culturing. The ideal culture temperature is 28°C, maintained by a thermostat the same as that used for an incubator. page 81


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In captivity, small species generally lay more clutches each year than large species. The interval between clutches produced by smaller species is generally 2−3 weeks with 3−5 clutches produced per year. Large species may produce clutches every 4−8 weeks resulting in 2−4 clutches per year. The highly domesticated Central Bearded Dragon Pogona vitticeps is unique, with females able to multi-clutch simultaneously. In the lower part of their uterus, females may have a clutch ready to be laid while fertilised ovum that will become the next clutch are developing in the upper part of their uterus. Up to 10 clutches per year have been recorded with the interval between clutches as often fortnightly. This is why this species are bred in such large numbers compared to other species.

GRAVIDITY Each group of lizards display different features when laden with eggs (gravid) or carrying young (pregnant). A gravid dragon can be identified by a marked increase in girth and the outline of the eggs may be visible through her abdominal wall. Sometimes, the eggs may be gently felt— lightly use your index finger and thumb to pinch along the sides of the abdomen. Eggs will be felt sliding within the uterus. Eggs should not be palpated in the first two to three weeks after mating is observed. A gravid Diporiphora nobbi showing distinct egg bulges Palpation in very early stages of gravidity often reveals very soft and not particularly well defined lumps. These are early follicles and may rupture if pressed too hard.

CARING FOR BREEDING FEMALE DRAGONS Breeding can inflict a physical toll on females, regardless of the breeding method used. Other than self-inflicted hunger during courtship and occasional fighting injuries, stresses on male lizards at this time are energetically minimal. In comparison, females must produce eggs with sufficient nourishment to support developing young. Female dragons often lay repeated clutches in a single season, having little time to recover between clutches. They will often noticeably lose weight prior to egg laying—particularly in the tail and over the hips. In most circumstances, condition should be regained within 7−10 days only to then be used for the next clutch of eggs that are following. This process places considerable stress upon a female. The drive to breed is generally stronger than common sense and females may literally ‘lay themselves to death’ if sufficient nutritional support is not provided. Be aware of the following with egg laying females— • Egg laying is an innate response. Females will either lay when they are physiologically ready to—regardless of conditions—or not lay because conditions are unsuitable and specific cues have not been met. page 109


sides should be visible—a clear side and a pink side. The clear side represents the yolk side of the egg and the pink side represents the embryonic side. The eggs should be positioned in the incubation container with the pink side facing upwards. Dragon eggs are very easy to candle—the embryonic side is often visible to the naked eye without the need for illumination.

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A healthy clutch of P. vitticeps eggs ready for removal for candling

A clutch in trouble—many of these Pogona vitticeps eggs will not be expected to progress normally or hatch D BROWN

There is little benefit incubating eggs that have no likelihood of hatching. Therefore, it is important to be able to identify which eggs are viable—of adequate quality and fertility. Viability should be assessed preincubation—at the time of collection and post-incubation—for 10−20 days following incubation. Pre-incubation indicators of non-viable eggs are— Yellowish coloured eggs. Good quality eggs are generally a clean, white colour. Sunken eggs Particularly if other eggs in the clutch appear normal. Soft and squishy eggs Eggs that indent easily may indicate drying or non-viability. Firmness Viable eggs are generally plump and slightly compressible like a well inflated balloon. Eggs that are hard are often referred to as ‘slugs’ and are infertile, nonviable eggs. Adherence of substrate While it may be quite normal for the eggs of some species to have substrate stuck to the eggs, it should be consistent throughout the whole clutch. Different sized eggs in one clutch Significant differences in the size of eggs within a single clutch may indicate some eggs—generally the smaller ones—are non-viable.

R WALKER

Determining Egg Viability

A clutch of non-viable freshly laid Amphibolorus muricatus eggs displaying sunken, yellow and squishy features and substrate adhering to only one egg in the clutch

page 115


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NASAL AND ORAL DISORDERS NASAL ABRASIONS— NOSE RUBS

Abscess in the roof of the mouth of a Pogona vitticeps with chronic nasal abrasion

page 146

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Nasal abrasion in Pogona vitticeps

Chronic nasal abrasion in Hypsilurus spinipes— note the chronic scar tissue and exposed lower jaw bones M CANNON

This type of abrasion affects all dragons but is more common in Lophognathus, Hypsilurus, Intellagama and Pogona species. It is caused by repeated trauma to the skin on the tip of the snout. It is generally the result of an individual repeatedly pacing up and down against a wire mesh surface to escape from a dominant individual, to attack a subordinate, to flee the keeper or to access more appropriate companionship or areas on the other side of the mesh. Repeated trauma may also be the result of a repeated concussive injury from leaping off a raised area onto a hard surface. The tissue on the tip of the snout is quite thin and overlies a bony area—healing in this area is often slow. Repeated trauma to a previously damaged area will cause thickened scar tissue to develop, which will further delay healing and result in an open ulcerated area often complicated by exposed bone. Treatment should commence with the correction of the husbandry issue that initially caused the problem—this is most important. In the short-term, move the individual to another enclosure or cover the wire with an opaque and/ or soft material such as shadecloth, fibreglass fly mesh, poster cardboard or CorfluteTM. It may not be necessary to cover the entire surface—just the side where the rubbing is occurring. If the nose rubbing is occurring at ground level, cover the side to a height of 1−2 SVL—it is very hard for a dragon to rub its nose horizontally when it is standing vertically to reach over a barrier. For those dragons suffering trauma related to falling onto a hard surface, the provision of deeper and softer substrate is recommended. The nasal abrasion may self-heal once the dragon is removed from its enclosure. However, antibiotic ointments such as silver sulphadiazine may be used to control secondary infection and


Members of the bearded dragon group are of medium to large size with short, robust bodies and moderately long tails. A ‘beard’ extends from a spiny gular region when in defensive posture or aroused. Distinctive rows of spiny scales are present along the borders of the head, neck, lateral abdomen and limbs—the arrangement of these spines can be used to distinguish some Pogona vitticeps species. They range in size—the smallest, the Abrolhos Bearded Dragon P. minor minima measures 115mm SVL and the largest species, the Central Bearded Dragon P. vitticeps measures 250mm SVL. The majority of species in this group measure 120–150mm SVL. A typical specimen of the smaller species measuring 135mm SVL will weigh an average of 90−100 grams and a typical specimen of the larger species measuring 180mm SVL will weigh an Pogona barbata average of 280−300 grams. Pogona henrylawsoni

page 154

S EIPPER S MACDONALD

ADULTS

G SCHMIDA

DESCRIPTION


S MACDONALD

Ctenophorus caudicinctus caudicinctus

DESCRIPTION ADULTS

Ctenophorus ornatus

J VOS

The crevice and rock dragon group are of medium size with stocky bodies, degrees of dorsal body flattening and moderately long tails. They have relatively small nuchal crests and compensate for this with the ability to erect the skin in the vertebral region into a crest. They range in size—the smallest species the Ochre Dragon C. tjantjalka measures 73mm SVL and the largest species the Ring-tailed Dragon C. caudicinctus measures 100mm SVL. A typical specimen measuring an average length of 80−90mm SVL will weigh an average of 19.5 grams.

page 171


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Ventral view of an adult female Tympanocryptis intima D BROWN

Ventral view of an adult male Tympanocryptis intima

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Head shape variation in Tympanocryptis tetraporophora— male (left) and female

Head shape variation in Tympanocryptis tetraporophora—male (below) and female

D FISCHER

Ventral breeding colouration Tympanocryptis tetraporophora—male (left) and female

Hemipenal transillumination can be used on hatchlings, sub adults and adults, however spiny tail scales may make this technique difficult. Hemipenal popping can be used, although this is not recommended in such small specimens as there is a high risk of damage. Harlow’s technique can be used on hatchlings through to adults. Tympanocryptis tetraporophora female showing facial flushing indicating receptiveness to mating

page 202


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