Keeping Dice snakes (Natrix tessellata)

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Dice snakes (Natrix tessellata) are a harmless European water snake widely distributed throughout Europe, North African and the Middle East. As it is a water snake, its primary habitat is around ponds, slow moving streams and lakes – but also found around human habitation such as irrigation channels and tanks. Although classified as harmless it’s reported to have a well developed gland in its mouth that produces a mild neurotoxin and produces a potent antihemorrhagin in its serum. However this is highly unlikely to effect humans. They also void the contents of their vent, which is a smelly defence. This species when I was a child, was a common pet snake – along with the related Grass and Viperine snakes. I remember visiting pet shops where a tank would be…
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Keeping a very unusual salamander species – the Siren

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Sirens are a fascinating fully aquatic salamander species that resembles an eel. They all have a distribution of the Southern United States into Northern Mexico.   As a captive they present few problems to maintain successfully – they are one of natures survivors and for this reason thrive in captivity. They are an evolutionary throw back, and seem to have an answer to every scenario – for example the adults have small lungs and gills too.  This means they have a survival mechanism to survive drought, they can seal themselves in the mud of their pond should it dry up, to venture back out once the rain fills it back up. The long thin body is ideal for aquatic life, but with serpentine action, and small front limbs they can…
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Speke’s Hingeback tortoises (Kinixys spekii)

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This species of tortoise is a highly evolved species with excellent protection from predators by means of a fully closable shell design. Once closed the rear legs are not available to be bitten. They have also evolved to live in a very specific habitat – hot and dry most of the year, with a specific wet season. They are quite a flat species, ideal for living in rocky terrain. For this reason they have some very different requirements to more commonly kept tortoise species. They occur in savannah dry bush areas in East Africa. This effects their heat, light and diet requirements – not to mention the challenge of replicating their natural terrain. Speke’s Hingebacks are not a large species rarely growing more than around 20cm. For this reason a…
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Emerald Swifts (Sceloporus malachitus)

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When I was a child, over forty years ago I kept wild caught Sceloporus lizard species. They were commonly offered for sale, and were more often than not the spiny desert species originating from the USA. They were often sold as Fence lizards, and almost always kept as a desert species, no matter what their requirements consisted of. I cannot remember if this central American species was available, I don’t think it was, but certainly it’s reputation of being a difficult captive will likely originate from keeping them too dry and hot. Emerald swifts (Sceloporus malachitus) come from Mexico and further into Central America. Their habitat is quite specific, they occur in high elevation cloud forest – it’s quite cool and humid. Keeping them hot, as for example a Bearded…
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Taiwan beauty snakes – Orthriophis taeniura friesei

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Taiwan beauty snakes - Orthriophis taeniura friesei   A large colourful Colubrid snake species that occurs  almost completely in Taiwan . A sub-species, other similar looking sub-species and the nominate occur throughout a wide range of South Eastern Asia. This sub-species can be a large snake, but slender, at a maximum of nearly 3 metres long – most grow to around 2 metres in captivity. When I first bred this species, from wild caught stock, in the 90’s large specimens were quite common, but most seem to be smaller nowadays. Their natural habitat varies, unlike several of the sub-species who mainly occur in caves – this sub-species can be found in wooded, agricultural, human residential and other areas. Often found climbing in trees, under debris and generally active (in the hot…
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Fan Foot Geckos – Ptyodactylus guttatus

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Fan Foot Geckos - Ptyodactylus guttatus (some imports are hasselquistii) A small to medium sized gecko species that commonly occurs in North Africa and western Asia.They are very adaptable as a species, and are found in a variety of habitats including around human habitation, wooded areas, stone walls, agricultural and many others. They can be found in relatively dry terrain, and also in more humid areas. In captivity they are easy to maintain. A vivarium measuring a minimum of 3x2x2 is fine, three feet tall would be better. Daytime temperatures should be in the region of around 30-32C, dropping by a few degrees at night – perhaps to around 22-25C. Lighting for species like this is a debatable topic, the more recent school of thought is to provide a “scattered”…
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Care Of Morroccan Eyed Lizards

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There are two species of Eyed or Ocellated lizard commonly kept in the hobby, Timon lepidus and Timon pater. The former is the larger of the two, reaching around 60cm, and is the hardiest of the two species – it is often kept in secure outdoor enclosures even in Northern Europe (with supplementary heating), and is usually provided with a true period of brumation (hibernation). It naturally occurs in and around the Iberian Peninsula, mainly Spain and Portugal. Timon pater does not grow as big, around 30-40cm and is not a hardy species, it originates from the more Southerly geographical region of Morroco. For this reason it is more suited to indoor vivaria, the smaller size and lack of hardiness lending itself well to the average sized indoor enclosure in a centrally heated home.…
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