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ERPETOCULTURE AGAZINE Issue 6 - April 2020

Night Herping In Bangkok The Art of Vivaria For Spilotes Cracking the code on Red Coastal carpets

Maternal Incubation With Morelia Red-eyed Croc Skinks

6 plants to spice up your vivs! 1

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This Issue...

Cover Photo By Takano Akitoshi

Pg. 4

Pg. 26

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Pg. 30

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Pg. 43

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Copyright Š 2020 by Herpetoculture Magazine all rights reserved. This publication or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. Sixth Edition www.herpetoculturemagazine.com HerpetocultureMagazine.com

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Contributors

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Justin Smith - Publisher -

Billy Hunt - Publisher -

Riley Jimison - Contributor -

Erin Ferguson - Contributor -

James Lewis - Contributor -

Erick W. Hernandez Chacon - Contributor -

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Ashley Haude - Contributor -

Dyllon Wittenmeyer - Contributor -

Roman Astheimer - Contributor -


Editor's Note With Southeast Carpetfest just ending and some of the other events that have happened recently, I want to take this chance to tell you how awesome this hobby is. We have a community that takes care of each other.  We raised $30,000 dollars with the Southeast Carpetfest auction to go toward Nido research.  USARK FL also raised over $30,000 dollars to go towards help us fight the recent legislation here in FL.  How many communities can say that within a month, two separate auctions raised that much to help make the hobby better?  That gives Justin and I the fuel to make this magazine.  This publication is for you guys.  I can’t say that enough.  We want to bring the most diverse content to you guys so you can see how many species are available in the hobby that you don’t see that often.  So as always, if you have something you would like to see in the magazine, don’t hesitate to let us know!  So without further ado, sit back, relax and enjoy Issue #6!

Justin Smith & Billy Hunt - Editors -

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Suburban Giants: Nighttime Herping in Bangkok

By Erin Ferguson

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Stepping out onto the city streets of Bangkok is an assault on the senses. It’s the smell that hits you firstSpicy food cooking down the street, diesel fumes, and incense burning somewhere. My Girlfriend, Ashton, and I hailed a cab with no destination - just headed toward the general outskirts of the city. Our friend, Jesse Goodyear, had been living in Thailand for about a year and was busy teaching a class at a nearby university. I had directions to the general area where we would be staying, but addresses in Thailand are unreliable to say the least. The weathered cabdriver spoke no English, and I only knew very basic Thai words and phrases. After an exhausting hour of pointing, following turn-by-turn directions on my phone, and lots of backtracking, we finally made it to our hostel. By this point, the driver and I were laughing like children from the confusion and mime style communication. Ashton was not nearly as impressed. She was understandably tired and frustrated. I paid him the fare and slipped him a generous tip before we parted ways. Exhausted from a 20-hour flight, we opted to sleep until dusk.

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Photo by Tontan Travel

The Neighborhood Comes Alive...

The area surrounding the hostel was made up of many gated communities, bisected by large, open, wooded lots. It was obvious that this was not a working-class neighborhood. Some houses had water features and lush green gardens, and many had European cars parked in the driveways and along the street. This was the kind of place I could see myself retiring to. Many of the homes here were surrounded by 8-10ft concrete and stucco walls, while directly next door were large undeveloped lots full of construction debris and the remnants of old structures. These overgrown parcels were thick with native evergreen plants and vines, undoubtedly acting as corridors for wildlife. We set out on foot to target these areas. Just a few steps outside the hostel, we began shining an empty square lot, planted with banana trees in even rows. Some trees were tall and fruiting, while others were well started in fivegallon buckets, fading Thai labels still attached. I shined every banana tree and shrub as we walked. Out of my peripheral, I saw an odd shade of green draped across one of the broad leaves. Snake! Loosely coiled across the leaf was a gorgeous little White-lipped pit viper (Trimeresurus albolabris). This species is a brilliant yellow-green and is easily seen in contrast to the green foliage. 6

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However, distinguishing the myriad of other green-colored snakes from the surrounding green foliage can be a real challenge. Movement, shape, and subtle color differences will give them away if you take time to scan an area close. This is much easier said than done.

Not long after, I heard Jesse yell up ahead. When I reached him, he had his light on a long, slender, green phase Asian Vine snake (Ahaetulla nasuta) perched atop some hedges, adjacent to a home.


Ahaetulla nasuta Seeing this species in person was amazing. It didn't take long to see what had drawn the snake to the bushes. Several diurnal Oriental Garden Lizards (Calotes sp.) lay sleeping and motionless in the crooks of branches making themselves easy prey. This genus is highly variable. We later found bone white adults, bright yellow and slate gray juveniles. It sat staring at me with horizontal pupils, tongue held straight out-seemingly frozen in time. I must have gotten a little too close because before I knew it, the snake had latched onto my middle finger. They have a very strong bite for such a slender snake! I cleaned the tiny scratches left on my fingertip as it slipped into the hedgerows, disappearing like a ghost. We made it to the wooded lot just in time for the frogs and geckos to begin to call. The unmistakable “TO-KAY- TOKAY� Onomatopoeic call caught my attention. Scurrying across a stucco wall was a large Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko). HerpetocultureMagazine.com

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The tokays in this area have a whitish-blue skin with bright orange spots. The males are much more vibrant than the females. These geckos are very attractive, but not easy to catch. They have jaws like vice grips. It’s a good idea to grab behind the head of the largest specimens. A large individual of 12-14”is not unheard of! Passing yet another open lot, my flashlight beam reflected off some scattered tin underpinning and I saw a coiled greenish body laying across it. Before I could take a step into the brush, I saw another blue-green body lying in the leaf litter. In all, 3 Large-eyed pit vipers (Trimeresurus macrops) lay in ambush around the tin. This species appears to be much more common than their White-lipped cousins in Bangkok, which is not the case in other areas of Thailand. While neither the T. macrops or T. albolabris are likely to kill you, they do have a painful venom that is procoagulant and some deaths have been reported – albeit very rarely. The type locality given for T. macrops is “Bangkok, Thailand”so it was interesting to see them here.

T. macrops

" While neither the T. macrops or T. albolabris are likely to kill you, they do have a painful venom that is procoagulant and some deaths have been reported"

We followed Jesse into the thick undergrowth of the vacant lot. A small dirt path led us to the bank of a narrow canal, one of hundreds that pass through Bangkok and into surrounding areas for crop irrigation. Here, the trees grew larger and the ground more open. Several termite mounds rose out of the ground like stalactites. Perched atop one of the mounds was a heavy bodied Banded Kukri snake (Oligodon fasciolatus). This individual was clean and highly iridescent. Not at all the way I had imagined this species to look. I was careful to keep my hands away from this one. Kukri snakes are known for their knife shaped-teeth and nasty bite. 8

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Oligodon fasciolatus


Bending down to photograph the kukri snake, I saw some movement at the base of a tree. A large Asian Painted Frog (Kaloula pulchra) was gobbling up ants as they scurried across the forest floor; an interesting natural history observation. I suddenly had the overwhelming feeling that I was being watched. Looking up, I spotted a large Asian Water monitor (Varanus salvator) looking down on us from the crook of the tree. These monitors were seen throughout our trip and some of the largest inhabit parks and canals right in Bangkok. As I turned to walk away I saw an owl staring down at me from another tree. It was odd to see an owl in this tropical habitat. The Oriental Bay Owl (Phodilus badius) resembles a giant eastern screech owl from the U.S. Seeing all the wildlife moving after dark had everyone excited. There was talk of reticulated pythons found throughout the area with seemingly no correlation. They could be anywhere. Jesse told us that he had seen several since moving to the area. Anywhere that there is sufficient food and cover, pythons can be found. Many of the feral dogs sleeping on the streets of Bangkok are likely eaten, along with rats living in the trash that is all too often dumped in abandoned lots. I later heard many stories throughout the country of pythons eating household pets. Domestic animals like cats and dogs don’t stand a chance outside at night.

Varanus salvator

It was hard to wrap my mind around. The giant pythons I had read about as a kid in books like Sherman Minton's Giant Reptiles, could be all around us. As I child I was amazed by stories of 20ft snakes being found deep in some remote jungle. 20 years later and here I am, walking amongst them. How many had I missed, coiled and camouflaged in the tall grass? HerpetocultureMagazine.com

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Jesse mentioned his motorbike back at the hostel and we all agreed that that would be our best shot to cover ground. Ashton, standing just at five feet tall, managed to squeeze between us on the small moped. The three of us crammed onto the tiny moped was quite a sight!

It

was

a

surreal

moment,

holding

this

massive snake with streetlights behind me. A childhood dream come true. The python struck wildly at first but quickly settled down. The snake was everything I had imagined

I'm sure people would laugh in your neighborhood, but in Thailand, we fit right in. We had seen entire families and their groceries piled onto a single Vespa in the city. We cruised through several neighborhoods, scanning all the usual haunts- Abandoned concrete structures, hedgerows and canal banks.

my first wild Retic to be and more. Her

I was interested to hear that pythons in Bangkok have been seen using storm drains and sewers to move from one area to another in search of food, often too fat to squeeze back into the drains with a heavy food bolus. This species seems to have a higher intelligence than many other snakes. Anyone who has kept this species in captivity has likely observed this.

with

We rounded a corner on a paved road that separated the main subdivision from a low depression swamp covered in tall reeds. Up ahead, the fluorescent light of a 7-eleven store shown in the distance. An old man in a straw hat rode past on a bicycle. He had a stick in one hand and a headlight. We watched as he stopped to noose a sleeping Oriental Garden Lizard (Calotes sp.), likely for the food markets in town. As we drove on, Jesse's spot light passed over a large tail about to disappear into the reed grass. We abandoned the moped as fast as possible and dove into the grass. Within seconds, we were wrestling a 14ft Reticulated Python (Malayopython reticulatus) up the grassy dike where we could get the situation under control.

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bright yellow head was a striking contrast to the geometric body pattern; a Thai retic at its finest. Upon inspection of the snake, we

found a tick attached to the head and

removed it. Everyone wanted to get a picture the

snake

and

she

seemed

rather

calm, since she had tired out trying to flee. We never restrained the big girl and she seemed to just watch us cautiously, giving a big hiss every so often. After a moment of admiration, we watched her slip back into the reeds. The next day, we were joined by our friends, Micah Earnest of Austin, Texas and Takano “Habu�

Akitoshi

of

Ginowan,

Okinawa,

Japan. We went on to travel across Thailand on an incredible Field Herping trip, finding so many amazing animals along the way. For me though, the nights spent roaming the suburbs in search of reptiles with great friends, keep me longing for the next trip.

Erin Ferguson is a Field Herper and citizen naturalist from eastern Kentucky. He contributes species occurrence and distribution data in his home state and to museum databases.


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McPeek 's Piece With Keith McPeek

We that call ourselves keepers have a one up on the rest of the population when society faces real life challenges. A Mere few feet away in our home we have a pressure release valve that the rest of the world does not have. We are afflicted with a passion that can easily give us moments of relief from real world stresses by simply walking into our rooms or outdoor enclosures.

Today Theresa and I spent the better part of the day stocking up on non perishable items should the need arise to spend 2 weeks or more inside our home. Needless to say for a loaner like me that is about as social as a Honey Badger standing on lines listening to everyone's doomsday predictions left me wanting to get home, unload my truck and retreat for a few minutes to a rainforest in South America, sit on a mountain top in Papua or drive the red dirt roads in Kakadu. Checking on my keeps, my mind goes to far away places. Where problems of evading predators and securing food are the daily concern, problems of finding TP dont seem to enter my mind. Now don’t get me wrong, the Keepers room is not meant to negate ones real world responsibility that are obviously infinitely more important then figuring out how to get pearly whites out of a black python .but it sure is comforting to have that passion of something positive to always fall back on and get lost in for a few moments...of course family and friends serves the same purpose for a guy like me but today's challenges seem to have even isolated those from us on a day like today and it made me reflect even more on just how lucky we are as keepers. 10

Specializing in GTPs and arboreal boas

See our available animals at morphmarket.com/stores/sjreptiles

/SandJReptiles 12

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@sj_reptile


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Plants To Spice Up Your vivaria!

whether you’re interested in creating your own planted paradise, or you’re on the hunt for new and exciting, exotic flora for your fauna; This carefully selected list will guide you in the right direction! We’ll break it down by giving you a simplified version of plant classification. We’ll go through some pros, some cons, and even what you need for everything talked about here and we’ll leave the decision making up to you!

We’ll start simple with a fan favorite. Moss. No one knows they need it until they see it, in a vivarium. Resilient, easy upkeep and one of the most incredible finishing touches every enclosure needs.

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New Zealand Sphagnum Moss Sphagnum flexuosum or peat moss as it’s commonly called is nearly perfect. It contains a phenolic compound, which is commonly produced in response to ecological difficulties such as pathogens and insect attacks, UV radiation and wounding. Meaning they are hardier than other species in comparison. Sphagnum Moss is easily accessible and can easily be planted for a little bit of an Oceanic accent. My only problem with this is Moss is the fact that it is commonly sold dried and browned.

Sheet Moss Hypnum cupressiforme goes by many names, but our name for it in the hobby is Sheet Moss. This species is, surprisingly, found in every continent, with the exception of Antarctica. It prefers an acidic PH, and is fairly tolerant of contaminants. Mood Moss is also a moisture loving plant but be very careful not to overwater this species, or you can expect your hard work go from green to rotted and brown in no time. Overall Sheet Moss is spectacular! It grows and it does it fast, creating dense bushels of lichen! 14

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Mood Moss Dicranum scoparium is just recently making an appearance in the market and for good reason. With its distinctive feature of all of its leaves facing and leaning to one side it is the ultimate, decorative touch. It can be over watered but had also been known to live in climates dry as bone as well as wet as a swamp. This is a must have for some of the more experience vivarium keepers for sure!

Neoregelia Donger One of my favorites from this genus and I think you’ll see why. Donger is well suited for a medium sized or larger enclosure, as it reaches up to 8” across. If you’re looking to breed your froggies this is a must have, as this plant is capable of holding great amounts of water for rearing, but should be drained at least once a week to prevent rot. With its beautiful pink tips and awesome practicality it’s a must in my terrariums.

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Ficus Pumilia Vines are vastly underrated. The way they travel throughout your personal rainforest, is incredible and quite a sight when they're fully grown. My first choice for any vining species would be Ficus Pumilia, or Creeping fig. With its simplistic leaves and incredible growth rate, Creeping Fig is known for being a wall climber. Originating in north east Asia, this plant would be well acclimated to moist, and humid conditions!

Saxifraga stolonifera To add some color to your vine collection, strawberry begonia is the way to go. With its bright red stems and alien green leaves, this plant is sure to not disappoint. Oddly enough strawberry begonia, isn’t actually a begonia at all. It really belongs to the

Saxifragaceae family, meaning you can expect some flowering for an added touch of beauty.

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- Herp Book Review The Complete Children's Python The Complete Children’s Python is a must have for any keeper that keeps or is even slightly interested in the Antaresia genus. This book covers all of the subspecies, not just children’s pythons.   At 250 pages, it covers everything possible you could want to know about Antaresia.  Field notes, break downs of each subspecies, keeping in captivity, getting neonates started, all the morphs in the genus, and tons of other information on Antaresia.  This book is on par with all of the other books in the “Complete” series, being that the authors took a lot of time in the field and in their personal collections to collect tons of useful data on their animals.  

Book by Justin Julander, Nick Mutton & Peter Birch Review by Billy Hunt

I originally got this book because I was interested in getting into Antaresia. Like most books out there on a specific species, this book gives a lot of information that you can utilize on other species as well. The last 50 pages or so is a photo catalog of all the known morphs in Antaresia, most of which are only available in Australia but it is really cool to see what they are working on over there.  So, if you have any interest in Antaresia or you are looking for another solid book for your herp library that has more in-depth information, I urge you to consider The Complete Children’s Python by Nick Mutton, Justin Julander, and Peter Birch. HerpetocultureMagazine.com

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Mother Knows Best: Maternal Incubation With Jungle Carpet Pythons! By Riley Jimison

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In order to successfully breed egg laying species of reptiles in human care, aside from all the other specifics, we must know how to care for the eggs should we be so fortunate to get that far. As first-time breeders we are taught the methods to success for artificial incubation; removing the eggs from the mother after deposition and placing them inside an egg box within a temperature-controlled incubator. Most breeders implement artificial incubation for 100% of their produced offspring with high rates of success. What many breeders and hobbyists don’t do is Maternal Incubation; allowing the female to retain control of her eggs and take them to hatching successfully. Maternal incubation places all control of the eggs in the “hands” of the female snake in question. As the keeper we have little control of what is happening to the eggs. What we do have control of, however, is the climate provided for the snake inside the enclosure. If we have this dialed in for the species, hypothetically the female should be able to see those eggs to hatching if they were successfully fertilized. The hypothesis is that these animals have evolved and survived successfully this far due to their ability to reproduce in the wild. If we are providing them an environment that is as close to what they need as possible, then they should be able to replicate the reproductive process of their wild counterparts. Although there is relatively little we as keepers can do for the eggs once they are laid, we can at least provide an optimal environment to ensure the eggs have the greatest chance of survival. The idea is that once the eggs are laid, we do nothing. Nothing.

In the 2018/2019 breeding season I decided that I was going to allow my larger female Jungle Carpet Python “Azteca” maternally incubate her clutch. She was bred to a male Striped Jungle Carpet Python “Rorschach” and they successfully produced a large clutch of eggs. I had thermometer probes in the enclosure as well as the nest box that I provided for Azteca. Fortunately, she utilized her lay box instantly and I was able to monitor what the environmental conditions were like around her and the eggs to get some insight. Once she laid her eggs, I checked that she had a good hold on her “beehive” of eggs within her nest box of lightly misted sphagnum moss. Once she was in, she was left alone other than for weekly checks on her and the eggs to ensure nothing visibly wrong was occurring with any eggs, such as mold. After 59 days of waiting I noticed a large spike in the nest box temps and sure enough, little baby Jungle Carpet Pythons had begun slicing their way out of their eggs underneath the watchful and protective eye of Azteca. After 24 hours I removed the mother from her eggs to get her cleaned up and ensure the babies didn’t find their way out of the vents and gaps in the enclosure. Once things were all cleaned up and rearranged, babies began to emerge and get set up in their individual enclosures and were weighed and photographed for identification and study purposes. HerpetocultureMagazine.com

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I decided to go to this level of monitoring the incubation process and measuring offspring because I wanted to see what was going on to ultimately help study a larger hypothesis. My hypothesis is based off a lot of discussion among other breeders and keepers more experienced than myself about how maternally incubated babies tend to come out larger, more robust, and better feeders. In my first of many future planned attempts at maternal incubation, there were 18 eggs, 16 of which made it full term. The two that were dead inside their eggs were at the bottom of the pile and may not have had the full oxygen transfer needed to make it all the way. There was very little surface area exposed for those babies and ultimately, they perished. The 16 remaining baby Jungles all weighed much more than any baby carpet pythons I had produced prior (which is not many, but a sample size of roughly 75-80).

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Aside from one outlier at 24 grams, the average weight among the babies was 28 grams. Some of them were massively well fed from the provided yolk inside their eggs and emerged with huge full bellies from nourishment. These babies were massive. Three and a half weeks after they had their postnatal shed, 15 out of 16 babies drop fed upon frozen thawed fuzzy mice left in the enclosure overnight. The one holdout waited three weeks before getting with the program. In one month’s time after first offering every baby had eaten two to five meals. It took several more weeks to get the babies to eat from tongs because they were so shy and hadn’t quite worked up the bravery to strike at dangling food. These are the gentlest giant baby Jungle Carpet Pythons I had ever experienced. To this day not one has ever struck or bitten me. I intend on doing more maternally incubated clutches every year if possible, to continue to add to my study sample size, but for a first attempt these were very encouraging results.

Now why don’t more keepers implement maternal incubation? There are many justifications, and this is not a stab at other keepers for not trying this method at all. I was brought into this hobby being told that it’s doomed to fail, scary, bound to lose you babies, etc. and ultimately there was an air of fear and despair about it. Despite that, there were still a few folks who had done it here and there with some success. Everyone that I spoke with was not willing to risk their eggs trying or had heard horror stories from their friends about their attempts. Yet, there were still whispers of folks who had plenty of success doing it. I decided to roll the dice on maternal incubation with Azteca because she was a proven breeder and a pretty hefty jungle to begin with. Her size and previous experience left me feeling confident that she had the technique and fat reserves to undergo more time away from food. I went ahead with it and it all went fine. The hard part is to not intervene. HerpetocultureMagazine.com

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Momma knows best. Azteca moved the nest box off the direct heat into the middle of the enclosure and scooted the water bowl towards her. She did what she wanted, I left her alone, and everything went fine. You cannot helicopter mom your snakes going through maternal incubation, but you do want to keep an eye on them. Females have been known to kick out eggs or ditch entire clutches from time to time. For these reasons you want to have an incubator ready. Not all females make perfect snake moms. My ultimate takeaway is that more keepers should try doing maternal incubation at least once in their time breeding egg laying snakes. It’s quite rewarding if you get to witness that maternal instinct kick in inside one of your animals and watch her protect her brood for months forgoing opportunities to feed. You gain a lot more insight into just how durable and intelligent these animals are. As a breeder I feel that I understand that snake a lot more than I did prior to her maternal incubation. I am excited to do it again at least once per season with other carpet pythons to learn as much as possible. It likely will have it’s less than perfect moments and outcomes here and there, but I won’t know until I try. My goal is to increase the amount of times I have done maternal incubation to get a better understanding of if it truly does produce healthier and more robust babies in the end to strengthen our animals. Regardless of the outcome, I am glad I tried it and I am having fun learning about these snakes I love so much.

Follow Riley at @ rileys_reptiles for more Jungle Carpet goodness!

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Product Review:

The Portals from Specialty Enclosure Designs

As hobbyists in herpetoculture, we have ever expanding collections which means we have ever expanding cage needs as well as usually limited space and budgets. Some like to stick to racks, some swear by vivaria, and some like an option somewhere in between. The Draco and Python Portals from David Brahms’ Specialty Enclosure Designs is that option. The Draco and Python Portals take average boring tubs and turn them into front opening enclosures that are not only functional, but also much more aesthetically pleasing. Currently S3D offers two models depending on the size of tub you are wanting to convert. A benefit from both models is that you still have top access to the whole set up via the lid if adjustments are needed. Otherwise regular maintenance is all done through the front of the tub.

The frames of both products are made by 3-D printing but feel very solid. The hardware (screws) for attaching the frames to the tubs also comes included as well as instructions for attaching. Aside from that you’ll need some sort of marker or sharpie to trace the inside of the tub to then be able to cut the opening of the tub.

David and I both use a Dremel Saw Max which you can buy online or at a hardware store for around $100. Having made a handful of these tubs now I have to say that the Dremel made the whole process MUCH easier! If you plan on making these set ups regularly I highly recommend picking up one of them.

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The Draco Portals The Draco Portal is the smaller model that comes in a variety of sizes to fit virtually any tub that has the wall space for one. I’ve used them on 20 Qt. sterilite tubs and was more than happy with how they came out. They come with the glass already in the track but the frame features two “latches” that fold down and prevent the glass from sliding out of either side. Since this model is all one piece, attaching it to a tub is easy and quick.

The Python Portals The Python Portal has more pieces and is slightly more involved when it comes to building but not anymore difficult to do. This model has corner brackets, center joiners for the top and bottom (if it’s a longer portal size) and then the frame pieces for the top, bottom, and sides. The top and bottom frame piece have different track depths so the glass can be lifted up and out for cleaning or easier access. This model does not come with glass but a simple trip to your local glass shop where it can be cut to size solves that. I typically take the frame with me to the shop, tell them how wide of an overlap I want in the two panes and they do the rest.

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I find that these portals are incredibly versatile. I’ve used them for Corallus, Boiga, and chondros with zero problems. My favorite size tub to use is a 200 Qt. Sterilite as these are big enough to mount a small radiant heat panel on one end of the tub and have more than enough space for most arboreal species that don’t get to excessively large sizes. These portals combined with the other awesomely innovative products that S3D offers means you can have a great looking set up at a considerably cheaper price than most PVC cages! Check out the portals and more at specialtyenclosuredesigns.com

Review

by

Justin

Smith

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Photo by Volker Wurst

Keeping a Mini-Dragon!

Care for Red-Eyed Croc Skinks!

Red-eyed crocodile skinks (Tribolonotus gracilis) are an extremely shy reptile, but despite preferring a quiet life these skinks can be an absolute joy to keep in captivity.

Known for the red/orange circle around their eyes and a crocodile-like scale pattern, adult croc skinks will max out at around 7-9 inches in total length and have a captive lifespan of up to 7-10 years. Don’t be alarmed when you see a juvenile red-eyed skink without the red circle as it takes time to develop.

Natural Habitat A tropical species originally from Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, croc skinks require temperatures that range from low 70s Fahrenheit to low 80s. Humidity needs to stay above 70% for them to thrive, which can easily be achieved in captivity with a water feature within the enclosure. As a crepuscular species active mostly during dawn and dusk, croc skinks spend the majority of the daylight hours in forested areas under moist leaf litter and logs on moss and soil.

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Enclosure

Like elaborate aquariums, a croc skink’s enclosure is one of the most rewarding parts of keeping these little dragons. Since they are more of a “look don’t touch” display animal, a well-scaped paludarium consisting of a fully planted, bioactive terrestrial section combined with an aquatic pool can be a wonderful addition to your home.

Size

I have been successful housing male and female pairs of croc skinks in 40 gallon breeder paludariums. For a visual paludarium build guide, please check out the video on how I created a croc skink habitat. on my Youtube channel (Method Noir Exotics LLC & Focus Cubed Habitats). Single adult skinks can live in 20 gallon long or similar sized enclosures, but to complete a proper paludarium setup the 40 breeder size is just easier on keeper and animal to move around in. Hatchlings are better suited to more sterile tub setups in the beginning to monitor feeding and defecating activity. Once they are consistent, juvenile skinks can be moved to a larger tub, 10 gallon, or 20 gallon long enclosure.


Contents

Temperature

The aquatic section of a paludarium easily keeps humidity levels over 70% with proper ventilation and also gives the animal a place to drink and submerge.

As far as temperature gradients, I keep my skinks in one of my warmer reptile rooms so ambient temperatures average in the mid-70s and no supplemental heat is necessary.

A turtle filter/pump or similar should be used for lowmaintenance water care. The terrestrial side should include a selection of hides, plants, leaf litter, moss, soil, and dedicated water and food bowls. I find cork bark, coconut halves, and reptile safe plants such as pothos and ferns allow the skinks to pick and choose where they want to reside.

If your home is cooler most of the time, heat should be added on a case-by-case basis. UVB lamps give off a nominal amount of heat, and when placed on one end it of the enclosure offers a nice 1-3 degree temperature gradient for thermoregulation and basking options.

Lighting UVB lighting is a controversial subject for crepuscular species, but I have had success offering very low levels of UVB through the 40 gallon breeder’s screen top, measured with a UVB meter (very handy tool any keeper should look into). An Arcadia Shade Dweller mounted at one end of a planted enclosure is great for crepuscular species to choose to bask or seek shade among the leaves and hides. I feel if the sun is available in nature, it should be available for captive animals.

Handling Frequent handling is not recommended with these guys because of their timid personalities, though I am working with gregarious individuals in an attempt to create a more personable line of captive animals. Sometimes food can be used to coax them out of their hide, however, most of the time croc skinks will either freeze and play-dead or scurry away to safety at the sight of you. If you do need to grab them they are able to drop their tails when threatened and sometimes can bite, so please exercise care when handling.

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27


Feeding

Breeding

Croc skinks are insectivores who, in the wild, use the low light of morning and evening to safely forage for a variety of worms, beetles, roaches, and crickets. In captivity skinks will often feed when offered as long as they are comfortable with their surroundings.

Sexing croc skinks is actually relatively easy compared to other reptiles. Males have grayish raised pores on the underside of the long digits on their back feet, whereas females do not. Another main difference is males have several rows of more squared scales on their lower belly than females.

Still, I try to feed mine in the morning before going to work, or right when I get home in the evening. A good rule of thumb for both juveniles and adults is to feed items that are smaller than the space between their eyes.

A good sign of a proper habitat is breeding activity in adult pairs. Red-eyes can be kept in male and female breeding pairs, possibly 1.2, though same-sex pairs are not recommended as there is the potential for territorial behavior. As with any breeding endeavor, always start with mature/large enough animals who are properly fed and housed. Females need calcium for egg production so a diet poor in quality feeders without any UVB can be a recipe for disaster.

Hatchlings and juveniles do well with cut up night crawlers, wax worms, dubia roaches, and though I do not offer personally, crickets. Hatchlings are offered food daily, juveniles every other day. Adult skinks eat those same feeders in addition to more superworms every 2-3 days. My feeding bowls consist of plastic bottle caps for hatchlings, moving to escape proof bowls with a ledge for juvies and adults. You can choose to use these type, or more natural store bought bowl options. Since I offer my skinks UVB I do not dust with calcium + D3 every feeding, juveniles every other feeding or so, and adults about once a week. Though I up female skink’s calcium intake when she is producing eggs.

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Herpetoculture Magazine

In the wild breeding is triggered by the wet season from December to around March, and can be triggered the same way at any time in captivity by upping the humidity. Once mated, females lay one egg about every 6 weeks or so over the duration of the season, or about 4 months. Croc skinks are fairly unique among reptiles because they will actually care for their young once hatched. Some keepers prefer nest incubation within the enclosure, some prefer removing the egg to incubate on a separate hatching medium.


From experience, I have had good results with both incubation methods, so I would recommend experimenting for yourself to see which you prefer. I will mention though that if your enclosure is not spoton, there is a larger possibility of egg failure when left to the elements of mold, fluctuating temperatures, and too high/little moisture within the enclosure. So you’ve got an egg, have chosen your method of incubation, now what? Candle the eggs for veins to make sure it is actually fertile. Then you should wait about 6090 days, and BOOM, baby croc skink! I like to incubate at lower temperatures for a longer period and will start keeping a closer eye on the eggs around 70 days. The eggs will grow significantly from their initial laid size. Watch out for sweating. While drops on the egg late in the term do not necessarily mean the egg has failed, early sweating can indicate issues with the shell quality and troubles within.

Is a red-eyed crocodile skink for you? Now that I’ve outlined some basic information and care for these intriguing mini-dragons, you should have a better idea about whether or not a croc skink is the right fit for you. Red-eyes can be incredibly rewarding to observe in a captive habitat, though if you are looking for an animal to interact with you might look beyond these shy little skinks.

Follow Ashley at @ methodnoirexoticsllc on instagram and facebook!

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29


Spilotes In T

changing an existing enclosure for tiger rat snakes (Spilotes pullatus) into a themed bio active enclosure and the practical experience with maintaining it. By Roman Astheimer

30

Herpetoculture Magazine


The Vivarium I got my first Spilotes pullatus in 2009, a German captive bred male from 2007. It was obvious that the temporary enclosure I kept him in was too small to keep such an active snake for an extended period of time. Due to the spatial restrictions of my home it took some time to plan an enclosure which would be an attractive addition to my living room as well as a more than just sufficient new home for my still growing

Spilotes. With the help of a friend, we came to a really nice solution in the end but it took him some additional time to figure out how to build this particular brainstorm of mine. The enclosure was finished in 2011. HerpetocultureMagazine.com

31


The enclosure is 250 x 90 x 190

repairs needed on his home. I could try

cm (ca 8 x 3 x 6 ft) length x width

to get my male (or his) to breed with the

x height, I used two 70W metal

female and he had enough time to do his

halide lamps for ambient lighting and

repairs. I got his pair in February 2015.

heating and in addition another 70W metal halide light which also emits

Unfortunately, my male died a short

UVB light. I have two RHPs on a

time later because of an inflammation

thermostat for additional heating, but

in his bowls (gastroenteritis) which

since they never had to do anything

didn’t

they have been offline since 2012.

a few hours before his death, so

show

any

symptoms

until

I had only the loaned pair left. I used living plants from the outset, but I chose plants for their sturdiness

In September 2015, I got a WC female

and the survivability in a heavily

from French Guiana and in June 2016

used environment. So I used nothing

another WC pair also from French

imaginative but the always present

Guiana. The first female was kept

pinnatum) and (Scindapsus pictus) regardless of the origin of the plants. I also used some smaller Epiphytic plants like bromeliads that, unfortunately, didn’t last more than a few weeks.

together with the pair from my friend

In 2015, I was still searching for a

A few months later, my friend told me

female for my male when a friend

that he was unable to take his snakes

suggested loaning his pair to me for

back, because the repairs proved to be

two years since he could not keep them

more of a rebuilding of the entire house

pothos

(Epipremnum

any longer due to some extensive 32

Herpetoculture Magazine

and I planned to keep the new pair in quarantine until he would get his snakes back (which was supposedly a little more than 6 months, so just long enough for WC animals).


and he had neither the time nor the So he made the arrangements to hand resources to do this at that time. them over to the zoo. They are now He offered to sell me the snakes, in the Zoo of Dortmund, if you are in otherwise he would give them to a the vicinity of the city of Dortmund (eg zoo who already kept Spilotes. I was visiting the Terraristika expo in Hamm) really tempted to buy the female but you could visit the Zoo and the Amazon decided against it in the end because house there to have a look at the pair I my enclosure was OK for three kept for more than two and a half years. snakes. Another female might have pushed it and I didn’t have enough room for another large enclosure. This picture shows the enclosure several weeks after the first Spilotes moved in in 2011

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33


A new Beginning

Since the enclosure needed an overhaul, some of the plants had been in there since the beginning in 2011 (and it showed) I decided to do it a different way this time. I wanted to build an enclosure which is completely bio active and themed as a Central / South American habitat. and all kinds of different plants to The basic setup remained the same,

create a living sidewall. However,

the branches and cork tubes were

this substrate is originally used in

the same as before. I only chose

smaller enclosures for dart frogs,

plants from this region. I added

so I found it doesn’t work on large

Xaxim panels for the backside of my

walls, it broke down after some time

enclosure as an additional foothold

and covers no part of the ground.

for the climbing plants (and the climbing snakes) as well as added

The ground consists now of two

a special substrate to the sidewall.

layers of pebble stones as drainage layer and on top of this a mix of soil

It consisted of some kind of glue and

and sand. The complete substrate

substrate with seeds and spores in it.

is about 25 cm (10 inches) deep.

When it dries out and becomes solid you begin to water it and after some time it is supposed to spawn moss 34

Herpetoculture Magazine


I originally used the following plants • 1x Dieffenbachia seguine • 1 x Monstera deliciosa • 1 x Monstera acuminata • 3 x Marcgravia sintenisii • 1 x Cissus amazonica • 1 x Begonia thelmae • 1 x Begonia microsperma • 1 x Mimosa pudica • 1 x Pilea involucrate • 1 x Pilea sp. Panama • 1 x Philodendron

camposportoanum • 1 x Philodendron sp. Französisch Guyana • 1 x Philodendron scandens • 1 x Nanodes/Epidendrum porpax Dieffenbachia seguine

I left the Dieffenbachia and Monstera deliciosa in their pots to give them some

additional

support

and

enough depth for their roots. I left the Philodendron scandens in it’s pot as well and put the pot in the cork tube centered in the enclosure right

behind

the

Dieffenbachia,

creating a level resting place right

under one of the UVB lamps. I did the same with the Monstera acuminate with the second cork tube in the right corner. The plant pots have the same diameter as the inner diameter of the cork tubes. The other plants were planted directly into the substrate. HerpetocultureMagazine.com

35


The finished enclosure

The enclosure was finished at

for the plants on the ground I added

the

September

another UVB emitting 70W metal

2017, the first female Spilotes

halide light, so the enclosure runs

moved in on September 7th,

with a total of 280W of lighting.

beginning

of

followed by the second female and the male one day later.

The new model enclosure has now been in use for nearly 2.5 years,

I added two breeding colonies

occupied by a large male (ca 240

of isopods and five millipedes

cm / 8 ft in length and weighing

as cleaning crew (the millipedes

about 3.1 kg) and a smaller female

are

there

(about 200 cm / between 6 and 7

were simply no South or Central

ft and weighing about 1.0 kg). The

American

second female died a year ago,

from

Madagascar, species

available).

a necropsy showed an small slug In order to provide enough light 36

Herpetoculture Magazine

egg which had caused

sepsis.


The smaller plants didn’t make it, but I expected this from the beginning, since most of the plants were

complete

unknowns

care

wise. Surprisingly most did rather well for a while, especially the large plants like the Dieffenbachia

seguine and Monstera deliciosa. Both have lost some leaves due to heavy use, but they have grown more leaves to replace the lost ones. The smaller plants were crushed by the snakes eventually, they simply could not replenish the lost substance fast enough. I added other plants to replace them, currently I use 3 Fittonia spec., a Philodendron

scandens and 2 different Monstera at ground level. These plants are now in place for ca. 18 months and it seems that they can handle the stress.

Overview of the current enclosure Heating with four 70W lights and the

horizontal

basking

and

branches resting

offers

spots

in

different heights and provides a vertical

thermal

gradient.

There

are several different microhabitats in the enclosure the snakes can choose for basking, resting or hiding. The liana branches supporting the

Monstera deliciosa are directly in the flood area of one of my UV emitting bulbs, creating a hot spot of ca 25°C / 77°F and providing UVB (UVB index 1.0). An additional bonus is the light color which is in the right spectrum for the plant’s photosynthesis.

The first female Spilotes when it moved in and inspected her new surroundings

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37


Overview of the enclosure

T h e s it u a t io n o n t h e v e r t ic a l c o r k t u b e

F o r t h e t w o c o r k t u b e s o n t h e r ig h t

in t h e c e n t e r re a r o f t h e e n c lo s u re

s id e a t g ro u n d le v e l, t h e re is s t ill s o m e

is t h e s a m e , it is o n t h e fr in g e o f t h e

lig h t fro m t w o b u lb s g e t t in g t h e re ,

le f t U V B b u lb a n d is c o v e re d b y m o s t

b u t t h e t e m p e r a t u re s a re lo w e r, a b o u t

o f th e o u tp u t o f th e se c o n d U V B

2 3 °C / 7 3 °F a n d a n U V B in d e x o f 0 .1 ,

b u lb , t h e t e m p e r a t u re o n t h e s u r fa c e

s o t h e re is o n ly a lit t le U V B re a c h in g

o f t h e c o r k t u b e is 3 2 °C / 9 0 °F, t h e

g ro u n d le v e l. U n d e r t h e le a v e s o f t h e

U V B in d e x is 1 .2 . T h is re s t in g p la c e is

D ie ff e n b a c h ia a n d w it h in t h e c o r k

u s e d b y a ll o f m y S p ilo t e s , s o m e t im e s

t u b e s t h e re is n o m e a s u r a b le U V B .

b y a ll o f t h e m a t t h e s a m e t im e .

A t g ro u n d le v e l a t t h e le f t s id e t h e s it u a t io n is s im ila r, t e m p e r a t u re is a b o u t

T h e s e c o n d c o r k t u b e in t h e r ig h t

2 3 °C / 7 3 °F a n d a n U V B in d e x o f 0 .2 .

c o r n e r is n o t d ire c t ly lit , it is a lit t le s h a d y a n d g e t s o n ly s t r a y lig h t fro m

I s p r a y lu k e w a r m w a t e r w it h a h a n d

t h e c e n t e r U V B b u lb . W it h 2 7 °C / 8 1 °F

sp ra y e r o n c e a d a y, 6 d a y s p e r w e e k ,

it is s lig h t ly c o o le r, t h e U V B in d e x

w it h o n e “d r y ” d a y . I s p r a y w a t e r a t e v e r y

is 0 .7 . It is a ls o u s e d b y a ll s n a k e s ,

p la n t a n d le a f a s w e ll a s o n t h e s u b s t r a t e .

b u t m o s t fre q u e n t ly b y t h e fe m a le , s h e w ill s t a y h e re m o s t o f t h e t im e . 38

Herpetoculture Magazine


Schematic of the top (PMH = Philips Metal Halide light 70 W, BSun = LuckyReptileBright Sun Jungle Flood 70 W Metal Halide UVB

If a s n a k e is s o m e w h e re o u t s id e I

in t h e w a t e r b o w l it w a s s o c o m p le t e ly

s p r a y w a t e r d ire c t ly o n t h e s n a k e

o u t o f c h a ra c te r th a t I c h e c k e d h e r

a n d if it is s t a r t in g t o d r in k I c o n t in u e

la t e r, b u t

t o s p r a y u n t il it s t o p s . I u s u a lly s p r a y

re a s o n (lik e s t u c k s h e d , m it e s , e t c ).

a b o u t 2 .0 – 2 .5 L it e r s o f w a t e r p e r d a y . T h is c re a t e s a c o n s t a n t h u m id it y

Behavior of the snakes

o f c lo s e t o 1 0 0 % , d ro p p in g d u r in g

T h e fe m a le s e t t le d in w it h in a w e e k o r

th e d ry d a y to 8 0 % – 8 5 % . T h e

s o . S in c e t h e n s h e is a c t iv e o r re s t in g

s u b s t r a t e is s lig h t ly m o is t b u t n o t w e t .

o n t h e c o r k t u b e s o r t h e lia n a b r a n c h e s . The

b ig

t h e re

m a le

was

to o k

no

m uch

o b v io u s

lo n g e r.

T h e la rg e w a t e r b o w l in t h e e n c lo s u re is r a re ly u s e d , s o m e t im e s t h e s n a k e s

D u r in g h is fi r s t fo u r w e e k s in t h e n e w

w ill d r in k fro m it a f t e r h a v in g e a t e n

e n c lo s u re , h e s t a y e d in o n e o f t h e c o r k

s o m e t h in g , b u t t h e y p re fe r t o d r in k

t u b e s o u t o f s ig h t m o s t o f t h e t im e a n d if

w a t e r d ro p le t s a f t e r s p r a y in g . N o w , in

h e w a s o u t s id e h e w o u ld g o in t o h id in g

1 0 y e a r s o f c o n t in u o u s k e e p in g a t le a s t

a s so o n a s h e sp o tte d m e n e a r th e

o n e S p ilo t e s p u lla t u s , I h a v e s e e n e x a c t ly

e n c lo s u re . To d a y h e h a s s e t t le d in a s w e ll,

o n e u s in g t h e w a t e r b o w l t o b a t h e in fo r

b u t h e is s t ill m o re w a r y a n d is a lw a y s

t w o d a y s , t h e fe m a le d id n ’t d o it b e fo re

c a u t io u s w h e n I o p e n t h e e n c lo s u re .

a n d n e v e r d id it a g a in . W h e n I s a w h e r HerpetocultureMagazine.com

39


B o t h o f t h e m w ill b a s k u n d e r o n e o f

The

fe m a le

t h e U V B lig h t s fo r s o m e t im e , t h is c a n

o r t w o s m a ll r a t s (3 0 - 6 0 g ) o r

b e a fe w m in u t e s o r s e v e r a l h o u r s ,

tw o

to

u s u a lly

t h re e

d ay

e a ts o ld

one

c h ic k e n .

u s u a lly s t a r t in g in t h e la t e m o r n in g t il e a r ly a f t e r n o o n . T h e fe m a le w ill

T h e m a le e a t s t w o m e d iu m r a t s (1 0 0 –

s p e n d m o s t o f h e r t im e o n t o p o f t h e

1 5 0 g ) o r u p t o 4 d a y o ld c h ic k e n p e r

r ig h t c o r k t u b e , t h e m a le c h o o s e s

m e a l. I fe e d a t le a s t t h re e m e a ls w it h r a t s

t o re s t o n g ro u n d le v e l q u it e o f t e n .

b e fo re I o ff e r a m ix e d m e a l o f r a t s a n d c h ic k e n (o n e r a t , o n e o r t w o c h ic k e n )

in fl a t e

o r a c h ic k e n o n ly m e a l. T h is re fl e c t s

t h e ir n e c k t o c re a t e a n e v e n la rg e r

t h e fi n d in g s o f a fi e ld s t u d y fro m t h e

s u r fa c e a n d p ro b a b ly t o w a r m t h e

A t la n t ic F o re s t o f S o u t h e a s t e r n B r a z il.

When

b a s k in g

th e y

m ig h t

a ir in t h e ir t h ro a t , y o u c a n s e e t h e m k e e p in g t h e a ir in t h e ir t h ro a t fo r s o m e

T h e d e fe n s iv e n e s s t h e s n a k e s s h o w e d

t im e a n d t h e n t a k in g a d e e p b re a t h ,

w h e n t h e y w e re s t ill in t h e s m a lle r

s o t h is m ig h t b e a w a y t o w a r m t h e

q u a r a n t in e

in s id e o f t h e s n a k e m o re e ffi c ie n t ly .

w it h in a s h o r t p e r io d o f t im e . D u r in g

e n c lo s u re

had

ce ase d

s p r a y in g o r m a in t e n a n c e t h e s n a k e s T h e re is a s ig n ifi c a n t s iz e d iff e re n c e

w a t c h m e a n d s t a r t t o fl ic k t h e ir

b e t w e e n m a le a n d fe m a le . T h e m a le is

t o n g u e if I c o m e t o o c lo s e fo r c o m fo r t

c o n s id e r a b ly lo n g e r (2 4 0 c m ) a n d h e a v ie r

b u t t h e y u s u a lly d o n ’t b o t h e r t o r a t t le

(3 .1 k g ) t h a n t h e fe m a le (2 0 0 c m / 1 .0

t h e ir t a il o r e v e n in fl a t e t h e ir n e c k .

k g ). H o w e v e r, t h is s iz e d iff e re n c e d o e s n ’t c a u s e a n y p ro b le m s w h e n k e e p in g a p a ir o r e v e n a g ro u p o f t h e m in t h e s a m e e n c lo s u re . T h e s n a k e s a re u s u a lly fe d o n c e e v e r y w e e k o r e v e r y s e c o n d w e e k , d e p e n d in g o n t h e fo o d s iz e a n d a m o u n t t h e s n a k e s a t e t h e la s t m e a l. 40

Herpetoculture Magazine


Co-Habitating

e a c h o t h e r, b u t it c o u ld h a v e re s u lt e d in

K e e p in g S p ilo t e s p u lla t u s in p a ir s o r

c o n s t a n t in fi g h t in g a n d s t re s s fo r b o t h

g ro u p s o f o n e m a le a n d t w o fe m a le s is

o f t h e m . It m ig h t b e h e lp fu l t o in t ro d u c e

n o p ro b le m . F e m a le s d o n ’t s h o w a n y

a s e c o n d m a le d u r in g b re e d in g s e a s o n

t e r r it o r ia l b e h a v io r a g a in s t e a c h o t h e r.

to

in it ia t e

c o u r t s h ip

and

m a t in g .

I n e v e r e x p e r ie n c e d a n y a g g re s s iv e b e h a v io r b e t w e e n m a le s a n d fe m a le s .

W h e n t h e b io a c t iv e e n c lo s u re s t a r t e d

O b v io u s ly fe e d in g s h a v e t o b e w a t c h e d ,

t o w o r k a n d t h e c le a n u p c re w o f

b u t in m y e n c lo s u re , it t o o k o n ly a

is o p o d s

lit t le t im in g t o a v o id a n y fi g h t in g .

n u m b e r s I s t a r t e d t o t h in k t h a t t h is

K e e p in g a m a le a n d fe m a le (s ) t o g e t h e r

e n v iro n m e n t w o u ld b e id e a l fo r d a r t

y e a r -ro u n d h e lp s in it ia t in g b re e d in g .

fro g s . I s t a r t e d t o in v e s t ig a t e if t h e re w a s

and

s p r in g t a ils

g re w

in

a n y in fo r m a t io n a b o u t c o -h a b it a t in g

S p ilo t e s p u lla t u s t o g e t h e r c a u s e s t e r r it o r ia l in fi g h t in g . I h a d t w o m a le s fo r s o m e t im e a n d k e p t t h e m t o g e t h e r. In t h e fi r s t w e e k , t h e “d o m in a n t ” m a le t r ie d t o p re v e n t t h e o t h e r m a le fro m c lim b in g t o t h e u p p e r b r a n c h e s , It w o u ld fo llo w t h e o t h e r m a le , c r a w lin g o v e r it a n d s o m e t im e s b it in g it in t o t h e la s t t h ird o f t h e b o d y , p re fe r a b le t o t h e t a il re g io n . T h is b e h a v io r s t o p p e d a f t e r t w o w e e k s , a f t e r t h a t t h e m a le s d id n ’t s h o w a n y a g g re s s io n t o e a c h o t h e r. H o w e v e r, I w o u ld n o t d o t h is a g a in . I w a s lu c k y t h a t m y m a le s p re t t y m u c h ig n o re d K e e p in g

tw o

a d u lt

m a le

c o lu b r id s a n d d a r t fro g s a n d fo u n d – n o t h in g , w h ic h w a s n ’t re a lly s u r p r is in g . A f t e r m o re t h a n a y e a r o f p la n n in g a n d t h in k in g I d e c id e d t o g iv e it a t r y a n d b o u g h t a t r io o f D e n d ro b a t e s t in c t o r iu s , a s p e c ie s fro m t h e s a m e lo c a t io n a s m y S p ilo t e s p u lla t u s . W h e n I a d d e d t h e fi r s t fro g I s p e n t s e v e r a l

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h o u r s w a t c h in g it a n d t h e re a c t io n o f e a g e r t o e a t , b u t n o t s h y a n y lo n g e r. T h e t h e s n a k e s v e r y c lo s e ly . T h e s n a k e s w e re

p la n t s a re d o in g w e ll, t h e c le a n u p c re w

c u r io u s a n d re a c t e d t o t h e m o v e m e n t n e e d s p ro b a b ly a lit t le m o re t im e t o o f t h e fro g , b u t n e v e r a t t e m p t e d t o

re p ro d u c e e n o u g h is o p o d s fo r t h a t m u c h

h u n t it , e v e n w h e n it w a s in e a s y s t r ik in g

g ro u n d a n d t h in g s t o c le a n . T h e d e c is io n

d is t a n c e (o r o n t o p o f t h e s n a k e ). t o g o w it h a “re g io n a l” p la n t t h e m e is w o r k in g g re a t a n d le n d s t h e s e t u p W h e n t h e fi r s t d a r t fro g h a d “s u r v iv e d ” a n o t h e r le v e l o f a u t h e n t ic it y . T h e la t e s t h is fi r s t w e e k I a d d e d t h e o t h e r t w o a s a d d it io n o f t h re e p o is o n d a r t fro g s a d d e d w e ll. T h e y u s e t h e w h o le e n c lo s u re , a n o t h e r le v e l o f e n r ic h m e n t fo r b o t h s o m e t im e s e v e n h id in g u n d e r / b e t w e e n

s n a k e s a n d fro g s a n d h a s n o w w o r k e d

/o n t o p o f a re s t in g o r b a s k in g s n a k e . fo r n e a r ly a y e a r w it h o u t a n y p ro b le m s . T h e y p ro v id e a n a d d it io n a l s t im u lu s fo r t h e s n a k e s , b e c a u s e t h e y re a c t t o t h e m o v e m e n t s o f t h e fro g s , w a t c h in g t h e m b u t o b v io u s ly “k n e w ” t h a t t h e y s h o u ld n o t e a t s o m e t h in g c o lo re d lik e t h is . A n o t h e r p o s it iv e

e ff e c t I h a d

not

e x p e c t e d w a s t h e fro g s h u n t in g s m a ll p re y d ire c t ly o n t o p o f t h e s n a k e s . I s a w s e v e r a l h u n t in g ju m p s fo r s m a ll p re y I c o u ld n ’t s e e , b u t t h e fro g g o t s o m e t h in g a n d a t e it . I p ro v id e s o m e D ro s o p h ila as

a d d it io n a l fo o d

fo r

th e

fro g s .

A ll in a ll I a m c o m p le t e ly s a t is fi e d h o w t h e e n c lo s u re w o r k e d o u t . T h e S p ilo t e s a re a c t iv e d u r in g t h e d a y a n d a re a lw a y s 42

Herpetoculture Magazine


Industry Spotlight

James Lewis Simply Serpents

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43


James Lewis is the host of a new herp podcast on the scene, The Reptile Gumbo Podcast, where he is joined with his co-host Carley Jones. The two cover current events, talk to guests, and do polls with listeners on social media. Outside of the podcast James is the owner and operator of Simply Serpents, specializing in boas and pythons.

HM: Why Sand Boas? With so many species out there, what was the draw to them originally?

HM: You do more than just sands, what other projects are you working on or have planned for the future?

JL: I got my first pair of Kenyan Sand Boas by trading for them at a reptile shop about 15 years ago. They reminded me of the sandworms from Beetlejuice and the Graboids from Tremors, two of my favorite movies as a kid. After getting them, I bred them just a couple times over the following 10 years but they were kept mostly as pets.

JL: The first two species I really got into were Brazilian Rainbow Boas and Boa Constrictors (Boa imperator). I still have my 17 year old pair of Brazilian Rainbows and hope to continue breeding them. I lost most of my boa constrictor collection several years back, due to something that passed through my collection. My boa constrictor collection now only consists of Kahl sunglows with plans to add a little more, but I really want to focus on making the best looking Kahl sunglows I can. Along with having Kenyan Sand Boas, my goal is to collect as many different species of sand boas as possible.

When I first got into Kenyan Sand Boas, you could pretty much have the natural orange and black color or the white and black anerythristic color. Around 4 years ago, I began to notice the large variety of color and pattern mutations in KSBs and as someone that enjoys genetics, the breeding possibilities were very promising. Their size also meant that I could use racks and keep a fairly sizable collection of them. As someone that originally got into boa constrictors, the size and ease of keeping sand boas was a huge draw.

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Herpetoculture Magazine

HM: You come from a zoo background, how have you adopted things you learned there to your own collection? JL: Organization is a big thing that I carried over into my personal collection. Everything in my room as its own spot. It is important to be able to find equipment when it is needed. My hooks and tongs have their spots to hang so that I can grab them when needed. I have tubs for storing bedding and other supplies so that I don’t just have things randomly spread throughout my room. Organization makes it easier to care for your collection and keep everything cleaner.


HM: What should people do more of with their collections that is done in the zoological sector? JL: Like I said before, I think becoming more organized makes everything easier, but stopping the possible spread of disease is also very important. Using a good disinfectant when cleaning cages and tools should be done in all collections. I like using chlorhexidine but there are many other options out there. You should also quarantine any new animals before you bring them near your established collection. I like to quarantine for at least two months but I do a three month quarantine when I can. This can simply be done by setting up a cage on the opposite side of your home. It is important that you disinfect yourself when going between your quarantine animal and the rest of your collection. I also have separate tools for working with my quarantine animals and my larger collection. HM: What made you want to start the Reptile Gumbo Podcast? JL: There were already several very good reptile related podcasts but I felt that I had a different idea for a podcast. Most of the established podcasts were an interview style and I wanted to have more of a weekly update of the hobby. My co-host is Carley Jones. I wanted her as my co-host because she is fairly new to the hobby and brings a completely different view to the show than I do. Each week we have a different guest co-host to help us discuss what has been happening in the hobby that week. We discuss what has been happening on YouTube, social media, other podcasts, and anything else that is going on in herpetoculture. HM: Do you have any goals with that that you’d like to achieve at some point? JL : We hope to get the listeners more involved. When we started our podcast, we wanted to give the listeners more of a voice in the hobby. We want them to share their stories because we feel that it is important for people in the hobby to get out there and share their experiences with each other. It is important to realize that everyone in the hobby is a resource and you can learn stuff from someone with one snake just as much as you can learn something from someone with a collection of 100+ snakes. So hopefully as our podcast grows, more and more people reach out to us to share their stories and experiences. HerpetocultureMagazine.com

45


HM: You do something different from other podcasts in that you interact more with the listeners with questions and polls, how has the response been with that aspect of the show? JL: It has been great in the sense that listeners are beginning to realize that they are not alone in the hobby. Listeners are able to hear other people share their experiences, both positive and negative. We are hoping that this keeps someone from feeling like if something negative happens in their collection, that they are a horrible keeper and no one else has those same mistakes. Listeners can hear that others have gone through that same experience and maybe connect with those people and see how they handled it. I remember when I was getting into the hobby, even though we had forums, I felt so separated from the rest of the hobby. There is no reason, especially with the resources we have now, that people should feel so alone. We are able to connect with people from around the world and spread so much information. I hope that our podcast, in some small way, can help people come together in this hobby. HM: Finally, what’s your advice for anyone wanting to get into the breeding side of the hobby? JL: The biggest thing I want to stress about breeding is that you take your time and breed for quality. So many people want to breed that they will just grab a random male and female and start producing babies, with no thought about a long term goal. If you are going to breed then sit and think about what you want to accomplish with your breeding project. If you want to produce a certain color or pattern, then go out and find a male and female that show that color or pattern the best. If you start with subpar parents, then you will most likely only produce subpar offspring and that does not help move the hobby forward. Selective breeding is the only way to improve projects and really set yourself apart from the next person.

Follow James at @simply_serpents on Instagram and listen to the Reptile Gumbo Podcast anywhere podcasts are found! 46

Herpetoculture Magazine


t h tlig e Py

e o r T p n S e e a r i

s n tho

l G e k r a i o B M -

There are a lot of misconceptions about

Green Tree Pythons. From their care to their disposition, you don’t have to look very far to find an outdated nugget

awesome

of

information

group

specifically attitudes,

in

about

there

about

Morelia.

is

their one

this

Speaking

notorious

subspecies

that is likely the culprit for this

known mean streak. The Biak chondros. Of all the species and subspecies in

chondros, the biaks (Morelia azurea azurea) are typically the largest of them all. These chondros can have a

lot of variation in phenotype that ranges

from

an

olive

green,

green with minimal pattern white

flecking,

to

a

lime

random

yellow/green

combination that looks like someone spilled

yellow

paint

on

them.

Neonates for this subspecies emerge from the egg as either red or yellow in color. Biaks are also well known

for taking the longest to complete their

ontogenetic

color

change

in

comparison to other subspecies, some taking upwards of 5 years! Imported

chondros are still incredibly common in the hobby and a large majority of

them are biaks. A lot of individuals are

that

imported fetch

as

lower

farmed

prices

hatchlings compared

to their captive bred counterparts. As far as the stereotypical attitude

Biaks in particular are known for, I’ve found that they are usually high

strung animals. Exceptions to this rule DO exist. For example I have an adult female that can be tough to remove

from her enclosure but once she is out, she’s fairly trustworthy. My male, on the other hand, is extremely defensive.

Personally, I believe the reputation

these insular chondros have earned is accurate but it does not apply to all

of them. The same can be said for the Aru animals that are known for being

much more calm. There are plenty of

Aru animals with nasty personalities. HerpetocultureMagazine.com

47


Interestingly enough, there aren’t a lot of people that are solely focused on breeding this subspecies in green trees. Because of this and the amount of them that are imported each year they are often written off as the “junk” locality. Ironically it is the biak blood that really does some interesting things when paired with some of the designer lines or crossed with other subspecies! In a way they are considered to some as the “secret sauce” to really turning some bloodlines and phenotypes up a notch. I highly recommend that ones first chondro be a CBB animal. It is not uncommon for imports to come in with endoparasites

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Herpetoculture Magazine

and if one doesn’t know how to handle that situation then the odds are not in their favor. Yes they are cheaper BUT after vet visits, fecals, meds, etc. you basically end up spending the same amount of money you would have on a captive bred animal. Biaks, despite their attitudes, are awesome chondros (aren’t they all?) that will definitely spice up a breeding project and be great eye candy in a snake room! Getting one as a youngster and watching the color change is one of the coolest parts about chondro ownership that more than makes up for the high strung stereotype. By Justin Smith


T

s d t s e u t o e b R p r A a e l l h A lC

z e d an

d e R

n r e a H t . s W a o k C ric E y B

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The term Red Coastal Carpet Python has been around

Around the same time, a new morph was showing up, the

since the early 2000’s. This term is used to describe

Caramel. This phenotype as hatchlings looks a lot like

animals that, as neonates, are hatched with a red

reds but it’s mode of inheritance was easily figured out

coloration or red tones on their background color. Some

to be incomplete-dominant. As they age, Caramels gain

animals look albino or hypo as hatchlings, having little

yellow tones and black flecking with super Caramels

black with reddish eyes. A few people have tried to tease

gaining little black. The rise of the Caramel put the reds in

out this trait, but no one has achieved concrete results. I

the back burner for most while others dropped the project

am one of those lucky few that have had the opportunity

completely. Why was the red such a tricky phenotype to

to work with this trait. Ever since I saw my first “red”

figure out? Animals that showed no red as babies could

coastal I knew I had to work with this trait. In this article

potentially throw red babies. Animals that were red when

I am going to go over my observations, breeding efforts,

bred together didn’t produce any “supers” and sometimes

future projects and try to finally answer some of the

you had no red babies in the same clutch even if both

common questions regarding this color form of coastals.

parents were reds. The inheritance looked like it was a mix bag, acting randomly and not in a simple Mendelian way.

There are a few red lines around these days, but the most recognized, without a doubt, are the animals descending

In the late 2000’s I was fortunate enough to acquire a

from Madame Blue Berry (MBB). This was an animal that

MBB line red from Will Leary’s stock. A local buddy, David

was owned by Will Leary. She had a unique look with a very

Poppy, sold this animal to me and I named him Roku. Roku

pixelated head pattern and grey/blue tones. One of his

blew me away and I knew right there that I wanted to

most famous pairings was with a jaguar called Benjamin.

work with these regardless of its mode of inheritance.

These two produced some unique looking animals, with

My goal was to simply produce the best looking reds

high red coloration staying longer in development and a

and make a “better” normal. If along the way I figured

reduction in black. Giving them the nickname “red hypos.”

out what’s going on with them, great, but that wasn’t my

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Herpetoculture Magazine


initial goal. I searched for the best complementary female

were jaguars. This made the reds pop more since the

for him. I wanted to produce what is called an outcross,

jaguar morph is also a color enhancing gene. This clutch

meaning you cross out the line to an unrelated animal to

didn’t really tell me a lot about the mode of inheritance,

bring new genetics or to diversify it. I wanted a female

but the resulting animals were trophy red jaguars. So,

with little black and that wasn’t carrying any red genes.

what next? The next steps in teasing out the mode

This will be useful later on when I try to tease out its

of inheritance was to perform a backcross (crossing

inheritance. I ended up settling on a Lemke line female I

my holdback back to her red father) and another

named Azula. Lemke/VPI/MPenn animals tend to lack a

outcross using Culruin. With these two pairings I will

lot of their black which was exactly what I was looking for.

have a clear picture finally of how it’s being passed on.

My first successful clutch was in 2012. When the babies

hatched,

they

were a mixed bag. Some had reddish brown tones, others didn’t express any red at all and yet there were a few that had higher expressions of the trait. The simplest way to describe it was a curve from no red to middle “grade” and high expression reds. I selected my holdbacks, sat back, and watched them grow. As they grew my holdback animals started to color up, gaining redder coloring and losing the black that was on the edge of the pattern. This black didn’t totally disappear but faded away and sometimes

My third clutch in regard to testing the mode of inheritance

created a “shadow.” Giving them a ghostly appearance.

yielded the results that I was expecting. I paired Culruin with Azula and the results were again a mixed bag of animals

For my second clutch, I paired one of my female holdbacks

ranging from high red expressors, to medium, to no red. A

named Katniss with a red jaguar named Culruin. Culruin

nice curve going from no red to a high concentration. This

was bred by Erin Buhaly using siblings that came from

clutch was a decent size (17 eggs) giving me a big sample

Will Leary’s MBB line. This clutch yielded all red animals

size. If Culruin was a “super” the red should’ve been

of different levels of expression and all except for one

inherited dominantly and all animals should have been red. HerpetocultureMagazine.com

51


If it was incomplete-dominant a clear 50-50 split would have been observed. But what we saw was a “dilution” in the phenotype giving us animals with different levels of red pigment. Now for the backcross, this was the most important of the “test crosses.” If there was a super involved, it should appear in this clutch but again the results showed a mixed bag of reds. This time, the ones that expressed the reds were nicer and had higher levels of expression which I was expecting since I am bringing together two related animals of high quality and expression. However, there were some clear non-reds in the clutch with not even a hint of red showing up. So, now that we have years of clutch data and I have seen how babies develop; what does this say about the mode of inheritance? There is a line of coastals that have been following the same mode of inheritance that mirror my results beautifully, the tiger coastal, which has been proven to be polygenetic. After all this time, I can confidently say that the red trait is also polygenetic in nature. To better understand what a polygenetic trait is, let’s think about height in humans. Height in humans is a polygenetic trait meaning there is more than one gene that controls height. I can have two parents that are over six feet tall but when they produce kids, it doesn’t mean they will automatically make giant babies or be as tall as they are. Yes, there’s a higher chance of this happening; however, when genes are mixed together they are allocated randomly. Offspring can be shorter than the parents, average height, or taller depending on what genes are passed on. In the case of the reds, people like myself have been trying to take those genes and concentrate them as much as possible, this will make the results less variable. Because the amount of variation within the genes of that animal is less, the results tend to be more consistent. This is why lineage history is important. If I want to have consistent results and less variation, knowing the history of the animals will make the results a bit more predictable. I am happy with the current state and look of the reds I have been producing. I will continue line breeding and see how much the gene can be “improved” but there might be a point where the look of the animal will level out. Now that I have my base phenotype, the possibilities are endless. I want to focus on breeding my reds into axanthics and also creating a red stripe unrelated to the red tigers. My goal was always to create the best looking “base” coastal to give people a solid starting point on their projects. My customers will have the benefit of working with a line that has been selected for at least three generations ensuring that their results will always be stunning animals. In conclusion I hope this article has helped shed some light on MBB red coastals. Even though this line of coastal carpets has been in the hobby for over 10 years we are only starting to scratch the surface on it’s potential.

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Herpetoculture Magazine


In The Incubator...

- American Turtles - Herping Ethics - Doing Real research - Baylin Tigers

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HM Issue #6 - April 2020  

This issue of Herpetoculture Magazine features night herping in Bangkok, Red Eyed Croc Skinks, Red Coastal Carpet Pythons, maternal incubati...

HM Issue #6 - April 2020  

This issue of Herpetoculture Magazine features night herping in Bangkok, Red Eyed Croc Skinks, Red Coastal Carpet Pythons, maternal incubati...

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