Spider Reproduction


Male spiders spend their whole life preparing for the time they will mate. All of their energies, movements, feedings, molting, and even the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives are designed to aid the continuation of their species. When males are sexually mature, they transform a hunger for food into one of procreation. Before seeking a partner, the male needs to prepare for courtship by pumping his palps full of sperm. A male does not have a penis. He deposits sperm from beneath his body onto a specially constructed silken mat and from there siphons it into his palps. He is now ready for mating.

Unfortunately for the male, the female is always food motivated, whether it be insects or male spiders. After finding a partner, males are driven by two conflicting motivations; one of sexual desire, the other for self preservation. Males of different species will use a range of approaches when wooing females.  These vary from the rhythmic strumming of the web by the male to the seductive waving of the Wolf Spider’s front legs.

Most males make tentative approaches towards the female, with limbs trembling and appendages chattering. Many males are equipped with structural adaptations for gripping onto the female and holding her fangs away from him. Behavioral adaptations include: tying females down with silk; mesmerizing them into a trance-like state and in some species, approaching and mating without the female even knowing.

If the male is successful, he will have placed his palps near the female’s egg tube and squeezed out the sperm fluid which the female stores in special pockets until she is ready to lay her eggs. Once copulation has taken place, the male must flee or risk being captured and eaten by the female who uses him as a valuable energy source in the production of her eggs.

Even if the male does escape, he will soon die as he takes no further interest in feeding – his mission in life is now complete. Females build protective egg-sac until fully formed. At this stage they hatch, but remain inside the egg-sac attached beneath her abdomen. Once the spiderlings have emerged, they will ride on her back for up to 7 months before dispersing.

Common House Spiders


RED-BACK(Latrodectus hasselti)

The abdomen of the female Red-back is round and large with characteristic orange to red markings on the middle of her back. Mature females are larger and darker than males. In fact, males are often mistaken as baby spiders. The Red-back is often found in dry-sheltered sites in the corners of sheds, under tables, around pot plants and in outdoor toilets. Although the female may lay up to 300 eggs, as with many other spiders, the young are cannibalistic and only a few reach maturity.

No specific first aid is prescribed, as the venom of this spider moves very slowly. The use of restrictive bandages will only increase pain. Seek medical advice immediately, taking the spider along for positive identification. Iced water in a bag may be applied to the bite to reduce pain.

GREY HUNTSMAN (Holconia immanis)

Even though common around the house, the natural habitat of these large, hairy bodied spiders is amongst the trees of forested areas. Their flattened bodies and sideways spread legs enable them to squeeze underneath the bark of trees where they construct their papery silky nest. Often they will hunt on the outside of the tree, waiting motionless for unsuspecting insects to pass by.

Huntsmans are not considered dangerous to humans, although they can deliver a painful bite.

DADDY LONG LEGS (Pholcus phalangioides)

Unmistakable in their looks, Daddy Long Legs are friendly visitors to homes (and bath tubs) all around the world. They are completely harmless to humans. Like their legs, the webs they weave are delicate and fine, and provide the perfect scaffolding to snare prey including Red-backs, and other spiders. They are completely harmless to humans.

BLACK HOUSE OR WINDOW (Baduma longinqua)

Black House or Window spiders may be identified by their web alone which is commonly built in the corners of windows, walls, tree trunks and crevices.  The web is very silky and gives an untidy funnel-like appearance.

These robust spiders can be dark in color, with a very hairy abdomen and short, stout legs. A bite from this spider may cause vomiting, headaches, sweating, and in extreme cases, semi-consciousness. Infection of bite area may occur.



GOLDEN ORB(Nephillia)

Golden Orb spiders build huge golden silky wheel webs that are remarkably strong and often strung between small trees in woodlands and gardens. The female spiders are large and can often span the width of an adult’s hand. Female Golden Orb spiders are characterized by the yellow bands that run around the joints of their black legs. Their slender body is a yellow-brown to silver-grey color. These spiders eat insects – even cicadas.

Bites from these spiders can be quite painful, and usually only occur if harshly provoked. NET-CASTING (Deinopidae)

Net Casting Spiders literally throw a net over their prey as it walks below them. These spiders will hang down from twigs or grass, combing their coils of tangled silk, awaiting suitable prey to approach.  The spider will eat then cast the net, and envelop the prey. Net Casting spiders have a stick-like appearance with very long legs that are often grouped into pairs, similar to the St. Andrew’s Cross Spider.

Net Casting spiders are thought to be completely harmless to humans.

ST. ANDREW’S CROSS (Argiope Keyserlingi)

The female of this spectacular species of spider is characterized by the colorful silver and red/orange bands that cover her body. She often weaves a web with a cross in the center. Here she will sit with adjacent pairs of legs together to form a cross. When threatened, the St Andrew’s Cross is able to shake her snare violently so that the whole web glimmers and she becomes a blur. As with many species of spider, the male risk losing their lives if they attempt to mate with a not too willing female.

If bitten, symptoms may include swelling, nausea, and dizziness.

WOLF (Lycosa)

These drab colored, but often strikingly patterned spiders use their large, strong legs to run potential prey down. They may even run out onto the water in an attempt to catch their victim. The male Wolf Spider will use the unusual courting behavior of waving his front legs about as if he is the conductor of an orchestra.

Once, fertilized, the female lays her eggs in a silken ball which remains attached to her spinnerets. After the eggs hatch, the spiderlings ride for a period of time on their mum’s back.



MYGALOMORPHS The family Mygalomorphs includes some of the largest, most ancient and most dangerous spiders in the world. In Australia we have 10 families of Mygalomorphs. Included within are the Funnel-web, Mouse and Trapdoor Spiders.

FUNNEL-WEB (Hadronyche and Atrax spp.)

Massive fangs glisten with venom as the body of this formidable spider rears up – ready to make the first of its many repeated strikes.

The Funnel-web family, uniquely Australian, includes the spider that is considered by many to be the world’s deadliest spider – the Sydney Funnel-web (Atrax robustus.). The increase of urban sprawl along the east coast of Australia has seen humans encroaching upon the Funnel-web’s natural habitat – hence the corresponding increase in the incidence of reported bites. Before the development of the antivenom in 1980, at least 13 people had died from the bite of a male Funnel-web. There have been no fatalities since.

The largest of the Funnel-web spiders, the female Northern or Tree-dwelling Funnel-web is twice the size of the male and can span the width of an adult’s hand. Both males and females are potentially dangerous and the toxins they inject may be fatal. Fortunately, this spider is rarely encountered as it inhabits heavily timbered areas rarely visited by people.

MOUSE (Missulena Occatori)

The colors of the female and male of this species are so dissimilar, that they were once thought to be members of two distinct species. The female is glossy black, whereas the male is much more distinctive, with his orange to bright red fangs and head. They both appear stumpy because of their wide body and short legs. Immature males live in burrows until maturity.

WHISTLING (Theraphoisdae)

Largest of all Trapdoor spiders, with a leg span of up to 16cm. The Whistling Spider gets its name from the hissing noise it makes when disturbed. Although not naturally aggressive, it will rear up with its large fangs poised ready to strike. Selenocosmia is the most common genus of Whistling Spider in Australia. Bites from such a large spider would be painful and cause symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, however, they are not deadly. Seek medical advice.



Bite Prevention Spiders do not set out to harm people. A common sense approach will reduce the chances of your being bitten by a spider, and in most cases, prevent it from happening. Wearing suitable footwear and gloves while gardening and exercising caution when moving things around your shed or garden are examples of simple precautions that should be taken.


First Aid

The vast majority of spiders are harmless to humans. A bite from most spiders will heal quickly, producing very few side effects. Even the more dangerous spiders in Australia rarely produce effective envenomations. (People react differently. The type of reaction depends upon a number of factors that range from the size of the spider, to the size of the person.) On most occasions, first aid will not be necessary for spider bite victims. However, it is always best to be cautious. Suspected bites by Funnel-webs and Red-backs should always be taken seriously and medical advice should be sought immediately. The pressure-immobilization method should only be used in the treatment of a Funnel-web Spider bite.

First Aid for a Funnel Web bite only Technique developed by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratory

1 Remove the patient from danger. DO NOT attempt to catch the Funnel Web, but note any distinguishing characteristics that will assist with its positive identification.

2 Reassure the patient, keeping them as calm and as still as possible. Do not clean or even wipe the bite. Any residue of venom from skin or clothing can be used by medical staff for positive identification of the offending spider.

3 Apply a broad, firm bandage directly over the bite and as far up the limb as possible, remembering to keep the limb still. Even removing clothing would cause movement which must be avoided. The same tension that you would use for a sprained ankle is enough; the aim is to restrict the lymph flow and not restrict the blood flow. The bandage should be able to be tolerated comfortably for some hours if necessary. (Creep bandages are the most ideal but torn up clothing could also be used).

4 immobilize the limb by applying a splint, over clothing if necessary. A bitten arm can be immobilized using a splint and a sling; an effective method of immobilizing a bitten leg is to bind it to the patient’s other leg.

5 Call an ambulance and be sure to give precise directions as to your location. Bring transport as close to the victim as possible.

6 Ask the patient questions to obtain a brief medical history: e.g. Is the patient an asthmatic? Are they using any medication? This information may be important.

7 DO NOT give alcohol under any circumstances. If respiration stops, administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

8 The pressure bandage should not be removed except by medical staff.

Keeping the victim still and calm is one of the most important actions. Panic only hastens the spread of the venom through the lymphatic system and also makes it difficult for medical staff to separate the symptoms of Funnel Web bite from shock. Antivenoms are now available for funnel web bites. With prompt action, proper first aid and medical treatment, surviving even the most serious of Funnel Web bites is a high probability.



Spiders have a body consisting of two parts, the abdomen and the prosoma. They have four pairs of legs and six to eight ‘simple’ eyes. They do not have any antennae, wings or true jaws. They are found in every habitat of Australia, from the harsh deserts of our arid interior to the slopes and rocky outcrops of our snow capped mountains. Even though most spiders have four pair of eyes, they can only see about 1cm in front of themselves. Even spiders that are described as having particularly good eyesight, (Wolf Spiders, Huntsmen and Jumping Spiders) can only see a few centimeters. Spiders rely very much on their other senses to detect predators and prey.


From the magnificently constructed and refined wheel webs that sprawl between the leaves of garden shrubs catching the dew-drops and sun of a new day, to the messy, silken spread that radiates towards the entrance of the Funnel-web’s tunnel, no other animal is dependant upon silk as much as the spider. For most spiders, silk aids in the capture of prey. Spiders use silk not only in the formation of webs, but in a variety of applications such as the construction of retreats and shelters. Some hibernate in a chamber of silk, whilst others use it as a lining for their burrows. Many wrap their prey in silken threads and store these bundles in a disused part of the web.


Silk is not only used by animals such as spiders, but by humans as well. Although quite impractical in this day and age, spider silk was once used to manufacture royal garments and fishing nets.


A beautiful maiden, named Arachne was famous throughout the whole of Ancient Greece for her skill as a weaver of fine fabrics and embroidered tapestries. So famous did she become that Athene, goddess of the Arts, became extremely jealous.  Believing that she was the finest weaver in the whole of Greece, she challenged Arachne to a “weave off.” Both women tested their skill against one another. Arachne was the winner. Resentfully, Athene tore the fruits of Arachne’s labor into shreds. With her beautiful work destroyed, Arachne took her own life. Athene was so filled with remorse that she brought Arachne back from the dead in the form of a spider. Arachne’s name lives on today, through that large group of creepy crawlies we call ‘Arachnids.’


The dispersal of spiders, their wide spread distribution and the early colonization of isolated areas can be attributed to some spiders’ ability to balloon! When such a spider or spiderling wishes to travel, it raises its abdomen and releases a copious amount of liquid silk which dries immediately. The silk is caught by the breeze and lifts the spider into the sky.

Unique Adaptations


All parrots have a number of distinctive adaptations that equip them for their unique lifestyle and set them apart from all other species of birds.

Distinguishing Features


A prominent, strong bill is designed to crack open nuts and cones to extract seeds.

Zygodactylous Feet

Two toes point forward and two point backward. Each foot can essentially work like a hand. Food is generally held in the left foot when feeding.

Movable Crest

Cockatoos are different to other parrots as they possess a distinctive erectile chest that is raised when the bird is alarmed. Male cockatoos may also raise their crest during courtship and territorial displays.

Muscular Tongue

The tongue helps to manipulate food held in between the upper and lower mandibles. Lorikeets and other nectar and pollen feeders have a brush-tipped tongue.



Lorikeets are restricted in their distribution to southern regions of the South Pacific and Polynesia. Of the 55 known species of lorikeet, only 7 reside in Australia, The Australian species are believed to be relatively recent emigrants from New Guinea. Unique dietary adaptations, such as their bush-tipped tongues, help set lorikeets apart from all other parrots. Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus)

Strikingly vibrant plumage coupled with characteristic chattering and screeching make positive identification of the Rainbow Lorikeet easy.

They are frequent visitors to many suburban backyards, while their playful nature and ability to whistle make them popular household pets.

Nectar and pollen from the blossoms of native flowers such as eucalypts, melaleucas, grevilleas and banksias, are the lorikeet's natural diet. Their bills are relatively long and narrow, enabling them to penetrate flowers and fruit. Their legs are short, thereby increasing their agility when moving amongst thin twigs and branchlets in the tree-tops.

Most of the Rainbow Lorikeet's time is spent in the trees. Despite their vibrant plumage they camouflage quite well, their presence betrayed only by their noisy chattering and characteristic screeches.

Gregarious by nature, it is common to see large numbers of lorikeets congregating at a communal food source or roosting site. Currumbin Sanctuary, a well known tourist attraction on Queensland's Gold Coast, is internationally renowned for daily visits by large flocks of wild lorikeets. To the delight of many visitors, these colorful, noisy birds perch on heads, shoulders and arms as they are hand-fed a special nectar mix – definitely a fun, but often sticky experience!

Scaly-breasted Lorikeet (Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus)

'Greenies', as they are commonly called, are often seen amongst flocks of Rainbow Lorikeets. These two birds will hybridize to produce mottled-looking offspring.

Musk Lorikeet (Glossopsitta concinna)

Like other Lorikeets, nectar and pollen constitute the major part of their diet – the pollen providing the protein content. They feed predominantly from the canopy of tall flowering eucalypts.

Little Lorikeet (Glossopsitta pusilla)

Their name alludes to the fact that these are Australia's smallest lorikeet. Nectar, pollen, blosssoms and fruit are their favored diet, however they are not troublesome to orchardists as are some other lorikeet species.

A structural adaptation that assists the lorikeet's feeding and sets them apart from all other birds is the possession of a strong, muscular brush-tipped tongue. The bristles on the end, called papillae, are retractile. During feeding, they are extended to assist in their collection of nectar and pollen from flowers.

The bristles are delicate and will wear down if rough food is ingested. Lorikeets kept as pets must receive an appropriate diet. Soft fruit, dry lorikeet mix and fresh native flowers should comprise their diet.

Attract wild lorikeets to your garden!

Establish a grove of native, flowering trees such as eucalypts, melaleucas, bottlebrushes, and grevilleas.

Typical Parrots


Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans)

A spectacular sight is a flock of these beautiful birds on the ground, feeding on the berries and the seeds of various grasses. Fortunately this sight is not a rare one, as these parrots currently remain widespread and relatively abundant. They can be observed in the outermost branches of tall eucalypts and moist forest trees.

Southern members of this species may be yellow or orange compared to their predominantly red counterparts. Despite their vibrant plumage, they are able to camouflage remarkably well into their dark green background.

Double-eyed Fig-Parrot (Cyclopsitta diophthalma)

Cyclopsitta, the generic name for 'Cyclops' parrot, refers to the presence of a colored spot close to the eye in some races of Fig-Parrot.

The smallest of the parrots, they often go undetected in their rainforest habitat as they feed upon various fruits, seeds and nectar high amidst the canopy branches.

The northenmost races of Double-eyed Fig-Parrots are relatively common. However, the southernmost race, Coxen's Fig-Parrot, has been sighted on very few occasions over the past twenty years. It is one of Australia's most endangered birds, considered to be in danger of imminent extinction.

While tree hollows are the preferred nesting site of most parrots, some nest in termite mounds, while others nest on the ground.

Parrot Conservation


Australia has one of the poorest records of wildlife preservation in the world. A result of this is that many animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. Parrots are by no means exempt from this carnage. There are several factors threatening the survival of these distinctive birds, two of which are outline below. Smuggling

Huge sums of money are often exchanged on the black market in return for Australia's unique wildlife. Parrots in particular are favoured across the globes as one of the most sought after types of bird.

Penalties for the illegal trapping of native wildlife are severe – 10 years imprisonment and/or $100 000 fine.

Glossy Black-Cockatoos are highly prized in illicit bird trade, their distinct beauty and threatened status making them prime targets for smugglers. Habitat destruction also presents a grave threat to the survival of these beautiful birds. Widespread removal of casuarina trees, their exclusive food source, has led to population fragmentation and a marked decrease in numbers.

Habitat Destruction

Many of Australia's native animals require tree hollows for shelter and breeding. Each of the parrots included within this brochure relies upon these hollows. In fact, almost one fifth of Australia's birds depend on tree hollows as nesting sites.

Hollows are disappearing at a rate faster than nature can replace them.

It may take between 50 and 200 years for suitable hollows to develop. Although many of us may plant one, or perhaps several trees in our lifetime, most of us will probably not live to see hollows develop in the limbs of these trees.

Present rates of urbanization, land clearing and the removal of old growth forests are responsible for the widespread disappearance of animal homes.

The survival of this majestic bird, the Palm Cockatoo, depends upon the preservation of rainforest habitat in tropical far north Queensland, as well as the elimination of illegal smuggling



Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua Galerita)

Probably Australia's most well-known cockatoo, the Sulphur-crested is also highly prized worldwide as a pet and aviary species. Individual birds may often build up an impressive, even colorful repertoire of words and sentences.

These cockatoos are also known for their longevity. It is not uncommon for the family pet Sulphur-crested Cockatoo to be handed down to a family member, having outlived its owner. In open country wild birds may congregate in their hundreds. Although 'an impressive sight', it is also one that's often dreaded by grain farmers, as many crop has been partially destroyed by these strong-billed parrots. Compensating for this crop destruction, however, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos will assist farmers by feeding upon the seeds of many nuisance weeds. A variety of nuts, roots and berries are also consumed.

Gang-gang Cockatoo (Callocephalon fimbriatum)

Once familiar winter residents of some of Australia's colder southern suburbs, Gang-gangs now prefer to remain amidst the mountainous regions of their distribution. They are still sighted around the suburbs at certain times of year, feeding from various fruiting trees and shrubs.

Early settlers could approach within touching distance of these cockatoos as they intently gleaned nuts and berries from their favored food trees. Only males bear the red plumage on the head, while the female is entirely grey. Their colors are quite unique amongst Australian Cockatoos, most of which are either predominantly white or black.

Hollows high up in old eucalypts provide sites for nesting, which takes place between October and January.

Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo (Calytorhynchus banksii)

The most widely distributed of the cockatoos, this impressive bird, with its brilliant markings, is a feature of northern Australia where flocks of up to 200 may congregate.

Highly nomadic throughout drier inland pastoral regions, seeds of native trees and introduced pastures constitute their primary diet.

The plumage of the male is completely black apart from the tail feathers which bear a vibrant red band. Females are speckled with yellow across their head and shoulders, and possess an orange-red, variegated tail band.

Always entering the hollow tail first, they will nest in any tree that has a hollow of suitable size. The inside hollow is chewed to produce a layer of wood dust onto which a single egg is laid.

Pink Cockatoo (Cacatua leadbeateri)

Another name of this species is 'Major Mitchell' after Sir Thomas Mitchell, an early explorer who marveled at the huge flocks he encountered on his journey through the N.S.W. interior in 1835.

The subtle tonings of this beautiful bird render it a popular aviary species, hence making it a prime target for the illegal bird trade. Curiously, they do not learn to talk and often do not develop a rapport with humans.

During the breeding season, incubation of the egg is carried out by both parents – the male day and the female during the night.

These larger members of the parrot family require old trees with hollows of suitable size for breeding and shelter. For the continued survival of these distinctive birds, stands of old growth forests must be retained and preserved.

Parrots of the Interior

Budgerigar (Melopsittacus Undulatus)

Budgerigars are popular worldwide as domestic cage birds. Many people fail to realize that the 'budgie' as it is affectionately known, is an inhabitant of Australia's arid interior.  Its natural color in the wild is green, however, domestic colors vary from blue and yellow and even albino.

Flocks numbering tens of thousands are not uncommon sight, particularly at a waterhole.

Princess Parrot (Polytelis Alexandrae)

One of Australia's most beautiful parrots, this arid zone dweller will go to extraordinary lengths to camouflage itself. When disturbed, it will lay lengthwise along a branch in a lizard-like fashion to avoid detection.

Rarely observed in its natural state, durations of 20 years between one sighting and the next are uncommon.

Cloncurry Parrot (Barnardius Zonarius Macgillivrayi)

One of the four races of Ringmeck Parrot, this subspecies is of limited and isolation distribution.

Its subtle colors and broad neck band make it an attractive species, highly prized by aviculturists the world over. Its naturally rare status and restricted home range are compounded by the extra burden of illegal trapping which can be quite devastating on wild population numbers.

Scarlet-chested Parrot (Neophema Splendida)

Splendida, the species name of theis parrot is an apt description of its beautiful appearance.

Populations are subject to 'boom and bust' cycles, increasing during the good seasons and crashing during the droughts.

In their arid habitat, water is obtained by drinking morning dew from leaf surfaces.

Parrots of the Forests


Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus Roratus)

The male and the female of these striking rainforest birds are as distinct from each other as they are from all other species of parrot – males are predominantly green with an orange bill, whilst females are blue and red with a black bill. This marked difference in appearance, known as sexual dimorphism, initially led to confusion that each bird was a member of the a different species.

Their loud, raucous calls may be heard echoing through the rainforest canopy as they perch high, gleaning the branches for various berries, fruits, seeds and blossoms.

Different to other parrots, the Eclectus Parrot has an unusually short, square, stumpy tail.

Up to eight birds of both sexes have been observed tending a single nest.

Australian King Parrot (Alisterus Scapularis)

Residents of rainforests and heavily-timbered mountain ranges, these birds feed upon seeds, berries, nuts, leaf buds, and blossoms.

Although showing preference to native eucalypts and acacias, they have taken to introduced plants as well, and are often uninvited guests at many orchards and maize crops.

They may have become regular and numerous visitors to areas where a food source is plentiful. Hundreds of these beautiful parrots frequent O'Reilly's Rainforest Guesthouse on Queensland's Lamington Plateau, where they are hand fed a variety of seeds – an exciting experience for all visitors and guests.

About Parrots


Psittaciformes (pronounced sit-assi-forms), better known as parrots, could be described as one of Australia's most well-known groups of birds. Parrots are divided into three distinct sub-groups:

Lorikeets Cockatoos 'Typical' Parrots

Each sub-group has characteristics and traits that are readily identified by people who possess very little knowledge of birds. With their brilliant coloration and vibrant personalities, many of these birds are popular aviary species, highly prized and sought by aviculturists worldwide. Indeed this very aspect has impacted significantly upon the parrot's survival.

Australia is truly a unique continent. Following its separation from the supercontinent of Gondwana millions of years ago, both its flora and fauna have undergone a series of gradual changes to produce some of the most diverse landscapes and species of wildlife found anywhere in the world.

Visitors to our shores marvel at both the beauty and harshness of the environment, complemented by its spectacular variety of unique wildlife. Nowhere is this more apparent than when you look at Australia's birds, in particular, that well known, colorful group – the parrots.

Home in a Hollow


Providing artificial shelter and nesting sites to help Australia's native wildlife. The clearing of habitat is the main threat to many species of native wildlife trying to survive in their environment. By providing suitable nest boxes. You can offer a variety of native wildlife shelter from predators, while at the same time create a breeding or nesting site for them.


A Crocodile Called Casey


It was about two years ago when Steve - funny there is another bloke of that name who mucks around with crocodiless too - ran a fishing camp on an island in the Adelaide River, a known crocodile breeding ground. Steve Timmons was pretty new to the area, he knew there were plenty of crocodiles in the river and that they were dangerous, but he didn't know much about them. And he wasn't prepared for his first meeting with Casey.

We'll let Steve continue the crocodile story

The island itself is long and narrow, the living area is only 50 metres at best from the river and that's in the dry season. In the wet season the water floods the kitchen. There is a resident saltie on this island named Casey, a name given to her by the owners of the island. She, because she's a pretty crocodile. Anyway, Casey is used to being around humans in fact, I think she likes them.

One night, as I was cooking dinner by myself, I noticed this crocodile hanging around at the back of the kitchen. Hmm! Not a large crocodile, only about three metres, but definitely a saltie. I don't know whether this is the one I was told about or not, we were never introduced.

I was inside, it was outside and we were both curious. I continued to cook dinner thinking I could take a photo later.

Well, this crocodile wasn't having any of this. "If you ignore me, I'll just come in." As I turned away from the stove, I saw this bloody lizard, crawl into the kitchen. It just lay there looking at me like I was dinner. So here I was, caught between a croc and a hot place, with this walking handbag blocking the only exit. I must admit that the camp oven smelt good, but the ever-strengthening smell of methane was blowing my cool. We just stood there looking at each other waiting to see who would make the first move.

If I climbed onto the bench, I would have to turn my back on the croc and even if I made it onto the bench, a three metre croc could easily get me. I thought of grabbing a knife and doing a Crocodile Dundee turnout, you know, do a western roll, whipping out the bowie knife in mid-air and stabbing it in the brain. This, by the way is the only way to kill a croc outright, right between the eyes five centimetres back. But a croc's head is one-sixth of its total length and I was in no position to get past those jaws; and a butter knife does not instil confidence.

Where the hell is Steve Irwin when you need him. He could jump on its back and distract it. Did I think of that? No bloody way.

The croc just lay there, legs cocked ready to pounce, even if I could jump high enough to miss those massive jaws the ceiling fan would get me. I've got a gun, but it's on the table behind the croc. You idiot! We both just stood our ground waiting for the first move. Then for some reason the croc relaxed its haunches and lowered it's head to the floor, but stayed put.

Hmmm, it must be hungry. There's a barra carcass on the bench and the fillets are in the camp oven. It's bloody amazing what you think of when you are expecting pain. I grabbed the carcass and with an almighty heave, it was the worst throw of all time, the barra landed a metre away from me! The croc lunged forward at a such rate that I didn't have time to move, picked up the carcass, chomped it a couple of times, broke it in half, picked up the head, crushed it with those massive jaws, gave me a wink and then just turned away and left.

By this time I had lost my appetite.

This, apparently, was Casey. I'm very glad it wasn't a mean one! Casey became a regular at my back door during meal times. I found a bowl and put food in it every night - yes she eats out of a bowl. Some say I should have shot her, some say that I'm crazy to feed her, but it did stop her from coming in. She became a sideshow for visitors. Do I trust a crocodile? Not a chance!

Then there was a caretaker named Paul. A large, strapping bloke with a voice that roared. He would thump around the place, cursing and yelling. I think the vibrations he gave off actually attracted Casey. She would follow him around the island.

Sometimes she would hide in the long grass near the generator, which needed to be refuelled regularly, and would bolt out and say "hi ya bloke!" She was always somewhere around the island.

One day Paul was working on the outboard, bent over, head near the water, she surfaced to say hello. This of course, gave him a big scare - as it would. Paul yelled and cursed like a bullock teamster, Casey just stayed there and smiled.

Paul and Casey spent a lot of time around each other, balmy nights sitting under a palm tree at the back of the kitchen with a bottle of rum to get the chitchat started. Paul discovered that Casey would chomp on anything that he threw at her, some things she liked, some things she didn't but she would always have a go. This was a great way to crush beer cans, but she worked out quickly that they were not food and became annoyed.

One night Casey came up to feed, the pantry was bare, except for some spuds. Not wanting a hungry croc on his hands, Paul sliced the spuds thickly and fried them in the camp oven. By the time the spuds were cool the lizard was getting toey, so he threw a couple at her - she loved them. From then on it was vegetarian crocodile, a little gravy, a few leftover peas in the bowl and everything was Humpty Doo. I was told that she liked TV snacks. Yeah? And I'm gunna believe that!

Anyway! We had a mob of local bird watchers out for the weekend, they called themselves the Scrub Fowls, which actually suits them. "G'day Denise." They brought everything that was nice to eat including chocolate mud cake. Casey had finished dinner, I thought we might like desert.

Now, a croc, usually, just chomps and swallows. Casey, picked up the mud cake and left her mouth open while the cake dissolved, then actually seemed to savour the taste and swallow it gently. If a croc's tongue wasn't welded to its lower jaw, I'm sure she would have licked her lips. TV snacks get the same reaction, plus they're easier to keep.

So, you're thinking "What a crocodile!"

I'm say'n, "well yeah. She is!" You don't believe me do you? Well I have photos. During his time on the island Steve became quite attached to Casey, and in true bushy-style he even wrote a poem about her.

Copyright by Club Marine Limited.

Crocodile - one fascinating find.

The Alabama Red-bellied Turtle


Red-bellied Turtle: The Red Profile by John E. Marshall

Alabama is home to one of the richest and most diverse herpetofauna in the United States, especially in regards to turtle species. Not counting sea turtles, at least 22 species of chelonians reside in the Heart of Dixie.

Three species - the black-nobbed "sawback" or map turtle (Graptemys nigrinoda), the flattened musk turtle (Sternotherus depressus) and the Alabama red-bellied turtle (Pseudemys alabamensis) - are endemic to the state.

The Alabama red-bellied turtlehas the most limited distribution of the endemics. It's restricted to the rivers and swamps of coastal Alabama (near Mobile) and possibly adjoining southeastern Mississippi. It is one of the least-studied emydid turtles in North America. Until recently, little was known about its biology and ecology. Not until the 1990s, when it finally became apparent to both state and federal agencies that this species was not only endangered but rapidly heading toward extinction, did significant funding become available for in-depth research.

Description of the Red-bellied Turtle

Red-bellied turtle species are large: Adult females attain carapace lengths of 12 inches and weigh 2 to 4 pounds. Males are slightly smaller with carapaces around 10 inches. The skin and carapace are a dark olive green or brown. The carapace is oval, high doomed and usually has serrations toward the rear edge.

The species is named for its usually reddish plastron, although there is considerable variability in this color, especially between the sexes and between adults and juveniles. The plastrons of female turtles tend to be duller and more yellowish, especially in older animals. This may be the result of abrasions from sandy soils acquired during nesting season. Male and juvenile red-bellied turtle species display the more intense red or reddish-orange coloration.

Plastral markings in both sexes vary widely from plain to ornate dark bars or spots. Bars, spots and mottling on the plastron are most common in hatchling and juvenile turtles and least common in adult females.

The Alabama red-bellied turtle exhibits a variety of other sexually dimorphic features, including longer front claws and more concave plastrons in the males.

The toothlike notch or mandibular cusp, on the anterior of the upper jaw, is one of the more distinctive characteristics that distinguishes these turtles from others in the region. This feature is apparent in hatchlings and adults and tends to be more pronounced in males.

Taxonomic Quandary

The mandibular cusp and red plastron are obvious features of these turtles, but these are not sufficient to convince all scientists that Pseudemys alabamensis deserves full species status.

The actual taxonomic status of P. alabamensis has been the subject of ongoing debate among herpetologists for years. Many believe it is just a a subspecies of the Florida red-belly turtle (P. nelsoni) or P. floridana (itself recently relegated to subspecies status - P. concina floridana - by Seidel, 1994). Others argue it is distinctive enough and isolated enough from Florida red-bellied turtle groups to warrant designation as a separate species. The argument is likely to continue until the respective DNA can be compared.

Many Benefactors

The Alabama red-bellied turtle has the dubious distinction of being one of the most endangered turtle in the United States. It has been listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services since 1987. In recent years, the USFWS, the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, the Mobile District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program have funded research studies on behalf of the Alabama red-bellied turtle to better understand its basic biology, habitat requirements, distribution and estimated populations.

Dr. James Dobie, a retired professor of zoology at Auburn University, studied this species for many years and was the first to identify the primary nesting site, population distribution and precipitous decline. Dobie's research provided the basic information used by the USFWS in designating the Alabama red-belly turtle as endangered.

This research also provided the foundation upon which David Nelson, with the University of South Alabama, built his own work. From 1994 until 2000, Nelson and numerous graduate and undergraduate students conducted extensive research on red-bellied turtle movements, population and age structure, habitat and diets.

Alabama Red-bellied Turtle's Amazon

The preferred habitat of the Alabama red-bellied turtle are shallow, backwater areas off of the main river channels and smaller bays adjacent to Mobile Bay. They are especially abundant in the area known locally as the "Delta." The Delta is a huge complex of largely undisturbed wetlands stretching from the northern edge of Mobile Bay to the convergence of the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers.

This Alabama "Amazon" is comprised of over 250,000 acres of swamps, marshes, rivers and oxbow lakes. The majority of Alabama red-bellied turtles appear to be found around the Tensaw, Blakely and Apalachee rivers in the central part of the Delta and around the Causeway, an artificial land bridge that runs across the northern edge of Mobile Bay.

These fresh and mildly brackish water environments provide an abundance of both submergent and emergent vegetation that turtles utilize for escape, cover and food. Nelson's studies indicate that red-bellies rarely venture into salt marshes, brackish waters (e.g., the lower portion of Mobile Bay) or small freshwater streams that are not adjacent to Mobile Bay. Apparently, these environments do not provide the dense associations of aquatic vegetation red-bellies prefer for feeding and hiding from predators.

Nelson's radio telemetry studies of 44 Alabama red-bellied turtles documented that they move more extensively within their known geographic range than previously thought. Some animals moved more than 11 miles from where they were captured and outfitted with transmitters.

Nelson's research has also documented a noticeable retraction of the Alabama red-belly turtle's earlier presumed range, at least in Alabama. Dobie found red-bellies as far north as Claude D. Kelly State Park, along the lower Alabama River. Extensive trapping by Nelson and his students in the lower Alabama River and northern Delta found virtually no Alabama red-bellied turtles and none were captured at the state park site.

The majority of turtles captured by Nelson and his team were in southern Delta and northern Mobile Bay areas, including the Mobile, Tensaw, Apalachee and Blakely rivers. This species appears to be especially abundant around the Causeway, possibly because of the dense mats of floating and submerged vegetation present there. A few animals have been captured in the southern reaches of Mobile Bay and adjacent bays, but appear to be rare in these areas.

Although this species' geographic distribution appears to have shrunk in Alabama, the discovery of a possible population in the Pascagoula River and the Back Bay of the Biloxi River in southeastern Mississippi provides some solace.

For decades it's been assumed that Pseudemys alabamensis was endemic to the lower Mobile Bay drainage basin, and that it was primarily a freshwater turtle. If the turtles found in Mississippi do indeed represent another population of P. alabamensis, it would extend the range west by about 60 miles and into two new drainage basins. These animals primarily inhabit brackish water environments, unlike their Alabama counterparts, which prefer mostly freshwater habitats.

Green Diet

Pseudemys alabamensis is a strict vegetarian. Stomach analyses have found that red-bellies feed almost exclusively on submerged aquatic vegetation, such as coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum), wild celery (Vallisineria americana) and hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata).

Hydrilla, an exotic plant that was introduced by the aquarium trade in the 1950s, seems to be especially favored by Alabama red-bellies. Nelson's research found hydrilla to be the single most prevalent plant in their diets, even in areas where other aquatic plants were more abundant.

Under Siege

Nesting activity typically begins in April, and most nests are laid between May and August. The peak nesting period seems to be in June and July. The average incubation period is about 90 days, and hatchling usually takes place between September and November. Nelson confirmed that some eggs, probably those laid late in the nesting season, "overwinter" and hatch around March or April of the following year.

Clutch size may be as large as 20 eggs but averages about 13. Pseudemys alabamensis appears to lay more than one clutch of eggs (double clutching) during nesting season. Females captured immediately after laying a clutch have been X-rayed and found to still contain eggs.

Most Alabama red-bellied turtle habitat is affected by tidal influences. Nesting females typically select sites above the high-tide level, although nest sites occasionally flood during hurricanes and other periods of heavy rain.

The most commonly used nesting areas appear to be spoils islands constructed from the sediment dredged from the ship channels in the Delta and Mobile Bay. Alabama red-bellies also appear to prefer nest sites that are at least partially vegetated. This may be to help disguise both nests and the movements of female turtles from possible predators. Nest predation appears to be higher in areas devoid of vegetation.

Prior to Nelson's research, over 90 percent of all Alabama red-bellied turtle nest sites were believed to be on just one spoils island in the Tensaw River. Such a large concentration of the nest sites in one small area makes P. alabamensis very susceptible to a wide variety of nest predators, as well as natural disasters like storms and floods. Happily, Nelson found Alabama red-belly turtle nests on several other spoils islands as well.

Nelson and Dobie both documented the incredible level of nest predation faced by red-bellied turtles. Systematic surveys by Nelson during a two year period failed to discover even  one intact nest. Feral hogs, raccoons, fire ants, opossums and fish crows all prey on P. alabamensis eggs, resulting in an estimated nest loss of over 90 percent a year.

Especially destructive are fish crows (Corvus ossifragus), which are known to watch female turtles lay and cover their eggs and then dig up the nests as soon as the turtles leave. If turtles manage to hatch, then they have to contend with the previously mentioned nest predators, plus alligators, large snapping turtles, large-mouth bass and alligator gar.

Alligator populations have increased dramatically in the Delta in recent years. In high-density alligator areas, red-bellies are scarce or absent, either because the turtles avoid these areas or because they don't last long if they wander into them. Adult alligators are probably the only serious potential  predators of adult red-bellies - alligator tooth scars on many carapace indicate indicate this.

Human activities also exact a serious toll. Crab traps and boat props undoubtedly kill turtles, although no one really knows how many. But there is one area of human-induced mortality for which there is data: automobile-related deaths. Nowhere is this more evident than along the Causeway stretch of U.S. Highway 98.

During 2001, Nelson conducted bicycle surveys of the Causeway to look for signs of road-killed turtles. He documented 70 dead Alabama red-bellied turtles between April and November. Ten were adult females (five were carrying eggs), one was a juvenile and 59 were hatchlings. This is a tremendous loss of animals.

Glimmer of Hope

The State of Alabama has purchased Gravine Island and also owns Big Island and Meather State Park (on the Causeway), which protects much of P. alabamensis critical nesting habitat.

The next step is to increase both nesting success and survivability. Dobie proposes controlling fish crows and feral hogs to reduce nest predation. Nelson used predator-excluder covers on a trial bases and gave at least 91 turtles a fighting chance to hatch. He proposes the wider use of excluders as part of a head-start program, similar to those uses in many areas for sea turtles.

Nelson recommends installing a low fence along sections of the Causeway to prevent hatchlings and adults from wandering onto the highway. He also favors getting rid or rip-rap (large rocks used to control soil erosion along the lower Delta). Hatchlings often become trapped in spaces between the rocks.

Although no captive-breeding program is currently in place, one may have to be instituted if other measures fail to bring this species back from the brink of extinction.


In 1990, the Alabama Legislature bestowed upon the Alabama red-bellied turtle the auspicious title of State Reptile. This designation has done little to stop the red-belly's decline, but it has perhaps increased public awareness of its plight. Both federal and state agencies have funded research into the biology and ecology of this species, but much remains to be learned. Strides have been made, and there is now a better understanding of red-belly reproductive success (or lack thereof), movements, habitat preferences and food habits. But sound research awaits, as not enough is known about hatchling mortality, and the status and distribution of the Mississippi population needs to be addressed.

Scientists and natural resource managers are faced with the daunting task of helping Pseudemys alabamensis numbers recover while increasing public awareness. Without decisive action, questions concerning the Alabama red-bellied turtle's taxonomic status, biology and ecology will be moot, as Alabama's state reptile becomes extinct.

The Wonderful World of Water Dragons


Water Dragonsby Michael Spears

In the fall of 1995, I was browsing at a local pet store that had a rather large selection of reptiles (for small town in Mississippi, that is). There were iguanas, bearded dragons, various common geckos, savannah monitors and large constrictors, but one lizard seemed to beg for my attention. It literally came to the front of the enclosure as if to say, "Please buy me." It was an interesting lizard, with a roosterlike crest, half inch spines running from the top of the head to almost the end of the stub tail, big eyes and puffy jowls. This was the first time I'd ever seen the magnificent Asian water dragon (Physignathus cocincinus).

The lizard's color was a light olive green with hints of emerald and blue. It was an adult male that was stunted from being raised in too small an enclosure. I did not purchase the dragon at that time, however; I already had a 3 1/2-foot green iguana that was becoming quite the handful.

Water Dragons Chapter: The First Steps

A couple of months later, while opening Christmas presents, I began to shake a box that I was just handed.

"Don't shake that one!" yelped my mother.

And that was I received my first water dragon. Now named Ziggy, he was the exact dragon that I saw at the pet shop. My mother had been secretly keeping him at her apartment for 2 weeks.

Now I was faced with the task of properly feeding and housing my new friend. I quickly acquired every book I could find and read them from cover to cover, more than once.

Physignathus cocincinus hails from the dense forests of Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and South China. Commonly called the Asian water dragon, it's also known as the Chinese or green water dragon (aptly so, as the normally imported specimens are very green indeed).

Asian water dragons can reach a length  of 24 inches in one year when raised properly, to a total length of approximately 36 inches (this being mostly tail). They react to stress and cool temperatures by darkening their colors, and they can turn almost black when seriously stressed. They can live 10 to 12 years.

Crickets, mealworms, super worms, wax worms, earth worms, and high-grade canned chicken cat food (make sure there's real chicken in it) are all relished. My adult lizards love chicken cat food; most juveniles will only eat insects. Recently, I have experienced great success with fruit-flavored dry lizard and bird pellets. I recommend supplementing the diet with either of these. Red and white grapes, soft pears, figs (native fruit for them) and bananas make up the noninsect portion of my dragon's food pyramid.

I alternate these food items to achieve a balanced variety. All foods should be pesticide free. Feed your dragons each day, though missing a day won't cause any harm. Dust crickets two or three times weekly with top-quality vitamin and mineral supplements that are high in calcium. Gut-loading crickets or worms by feeding them a commercial gut-loading formula or a mash of assorted vegetables an hour before offering them to your dragons will ensure happy, healthy dragons.

After 60 to 65 days, you should have 6-inch water dragons hatching out. Place them in their own enclosure and offer them small amounts of quarter-inch crickets twice daily. Place some pelleted lizard food (iguana food works fine) in the enclosure so stray crickets have something to eat, but don't put in so many crickets that many go uneaten. Mist young dragons daily, and provide them with vertical and horizontal climbing perches.

I hope this article helps everyone interested in the care and breeding of these fantastic pet dragons! Good luck if you decide to try breeding them yourself - the results are well worth the effort!

Mike Spears is the owner of Sapphire Dragon Ranch and has kept many different types of herps over the past 25 years. He began working with them professionally in 1995.

A glimpse to the Water Dragons world truly captures the heart.

Try Some Tree Frogs


By Gerold, Cindy and Walter Merker

Tree frogs can offer entertainment and enjoyment - and, of course, challenge.

From the dry Gran Chaco region of South America to the icy waters of Alaska, frogs and toads have been found in nearly every environment. With nearly 4,000 species - more than 10 times the number of salamander and newt species - anurans are by far the most successful group of the amphibians.

The reason behind this success is that amphibians are the primary vertebrate consumers of invertebrates in many freshwater and moist terrestrial environments (Stebbins and Cohen, 1995). Although salamanders and caecilians also fall within this description, they are not able to survive in the variety of environments that anurans can. For instance, not many have adapted to arboreal environments. Only the climbing salamanders (Aniedes spp.) of North America and the palm salamanders (Bolitoglossa spp.) of tropical Central and South America have done so. The fact that more than 600 anuran species have successfully adapted to arboreal environments accounts for a portion of the vast discrepancy between the numbers of frogs versus the number of salamanders.

Tree frogs have many unique adaptations that have allowed them to become successful in their lofty environment. These adaptations include forms of predator evasion, pursuance of and capture of food, and reproduction. There are many tree frogs (family Hylidae) found around the world.

Old World tree frogs include gliding tree frogs, such as the Chinese gliding tree frog (Rhacophorus dennysi), as well as various members of the family Hylidae. The subfamily Peloryadinae is found in Australia and Indonesia, and it includes species such as White's tree frog (Litoria caerulea).

The New World is also home to many unique members of the family Hylidae. Their numbers include the Phyllomedusines, which are know for the photogenic red-eyed leaf frog (Agalychnis callidryas), the bizarre casque-headed tree frogs (Trachycephalus, Triprion and the monotypic genus Pternohyla) and the marsupial frogs (Gastrotheca and Hemiphractus spp.) as well as many of the typical Hyline tree frogs.

The number and variety of tree frogs found in the pet industry has increased dramatically in the last few years, and many unusual frogs have been bred under captive conditions. Hopefully this trend will continue, and captive reproduction will promote the future success of this fascinating group of amphibians.

Tree Frogs: The Captive Care

Maintenance of captive amphibians is inherently different from that of the reptiles. Because amphibians' skin does not prevent the loss of water, a controlled humidity level inside the enclosure is central to their survival. Also, amphibian skin is very permeable, so providing a captive environment that is free of harmful pathogens and chemicals is vital.

Failure to adhere to strict measures of cleanliness frequently results in shortened life spans for captive amphibians. Tree frogs are best kept in cages that are easy to clean. They enjoy tall vivaria that allow them to roost high above the cage floor during the day. A screened lid will help with ventilation, and a secure lid is vital. If frog escapes from its cage, it quickly falls victim to desiccation, perhaps in less than a day, for it is rare that a frog is able to find a place humid enough to allow for its survival.

If you locate an escaped frog but it has become desiccated, place the animal in a shallow bowl of spring water, tipping it slightly so that the head of the frog is not immersed. With a little luck, the animal will still have the strength to reabsorb the water it has lost and will survive. Do not rush to conclusions about the likelihood of survival; we have had a desiccated frog lie motionless in a bowl of water for more than a n hour and still make a full recovery.

Caging Options

Amphibian keepers often use naturalistic vivaria because they are aesthetically pleasing. However, cleaning a naturalistic cage is much more problematic than maintaining frogs under more sterile conditions. We use very simple caging with damp paper towels as a substrate. Paper towels allow a cage to be monitored easily for waste build-up. We recommend unbleached paper towels for captive maintenance of amphibians, but have used white paper towels for many years without problems. White paper towels will also allow you to easily gauge the cleanliness of an enclosure.

Place three layers of paper towels on the base of the cage, then saturate them with spring water. Avoid distilled water completely. When distilled water is concentrated on the outside of an animal whose internal structure contains various compounds (minerals, electrolytes and such), simple diffusion, or osmosis, results in a lethal level of bloating. Spring water does not create this difference in water concentration.

We place a living plant in the cage with several of our tree frogs to provide hiding place. Keep the plant in a planter so you can easily remove it to wipe down the leaves and the outside of the planter, to remove feces or other debris. Once you have cleaned the enclosure and added new paper toweling, return the plant. A branch or a length of PVC pipe can also be placed in the cage, on which the larger frogs can roost during the day. This also can be washed when the enclosure is cleaned. Temperature

In general, frogs require lower enclosure temperatures compared to reptiles. We usually maintain a background temperature of 73 degrees Fahrenheit for our anurans. Our temperate tree frogs are maintained at room temperature with no supplemental heating. Tropical species are provided with an undertank heater in order to ensure that they have optimal humidity and a slightly higher temperature. Using heat tapes requires much more careful monitoring of the cage substrate to ensure that it does not become too dry.

Some animals, such as Chacoan monkey tree frogs (Phyllomedusa sauvagii) and African gray tree frogs (Chiromantis xerampelina), should be provided with a heat lamp for basking. The basking site should reach an optimal temperature of 90 degrees. We have found that if frogs are kept too cool they do not digest their food properly and slowly lose body mass.


The use of full-spectrum lighting over the top of the cage may be beneficial to tree frogs. In the wild, these animals bask occasionally, sitting atop the substrate or plants in which they generally hide. At the very least, full-spectrum lighting keeps the plants healthy and also brings out the best color in animals.

We have used several different full-spectrum fluorescent lights with good results. These light also do not generate the heat of an incandescent light and o not accelerate the loss of moisture in the cage.


Feeding tree frogs is usually very easy. Frogs are cued to feed on anything that moves, and tree frogs are no exception. Many tree frog species have a high metabolic rate and have to eat several times weekly to maintain proper body mass. Failure to feed the frog enough will result in dramatic weight loss and, eventually, death.

We offer our frogs a cricket-based diet. The crickets are approximately the same length as the width of the frog's head. Any larger and our frog experience difficulties during feeding. Before we feed them to our amphibians, our crickets are "super charged" on a diet of a monkey chow, orange slices and various vegetables, including potatoes, red-leaf lettuce and carrots.

We also dust the crickets with a calcium/mineral supplement once or twice weekly. Crickets are placed into a large plastic cup with supplement in the bottom. We leave the crickets in this cup for several minutes so that they pick up some of the powder on their bodies, then place the crickets in feeding bowls. Although feeding bowls prevent the crickets from soiling the paper toweling, if not properly maintained they can be a health risk to the frogs. Wash the bowl after feeding to prevent buildup of supplement on the bottom of the container, which may allow the frogs to absorb an excess vitamins and minerals. This directly affects the kidneys and, ultimately their ability to metabolize.

We occasionally offer other food items, as well. Silk moth larvae are a wonderful alternative. Because these larvae feed on mulberry feeds, which are naturally high in calcium, they provide an excellent source of this vital nutrient. Silk moth larvae are easy to rear and are offered for sale by several companies around the country. They range in size from approximately pinhead-cricket size up to the mass of about 100 adult crickets.

We also offer wax moths and their larvae. These must be offered only as part of a varied diet because they are high in fat. Frogs will quickly become obese if they are fed too many wax moth larvae. Our smaller anurans are also fed wingless fruit flies (Drosophila). Fruit trees are easily obtainable and are important because they are swallowed easily and can be eaten in large quantities. Health Concerns

Frogs are susceptible to many different diseases and pathogens. Because of their delicate skin, frogs need to be maintained at the utmost level of cleanliness. Because amphibians do not have the disease-resistant skin of a reptile (or you, for that matter), a frog can be invaded easily by pathogens. This is a double-edged sword when it comes to medicating frogs.

Although medications can be placed on the surface of the skin and absorbed by the frog, dosage can be problematic. This may not be a serious problem with less-deleterious drugs. When an accurate dosage is required, it is better to place the medication directly in the frog's gullet. This is accomplished with the aid of a tuberculin syringe for larger frogs and a feeding tube for smaller, more delicate frogs.

Internal parasites are found in many captive frogs, especially if the animals are wild caught. The recommended treatment for internal protozoans is metronidazole (Flagella). Fenbendazole (Panacur) is recognized as the best treatment for nematodes. As with any sick animal, assistance from a qualified veterinarian is helpful for successful treatment of a parasitized frog.

Cage Cleaning

Again, cleanliness is crucial. Usually, we completely clean our frog terrariums every two to three weeks. We spot clean for feces between complete cage cleanings. How thoroughly we clean the enclosures depends entirely on two things: the number of frogs in the cage and how dirty certain animals are. Some species foul their areas more quickly than others. One soon learns how often cages need attention. Because most tree frogs climb the sides of the terrarium, the entire cage must be scrubbed and rinsed thoroughly.

When Cleaning, frogs can be handled safely by using latex gloves moistened with spring water. This will prevent any pathogens form entering the frogs by way of human skin to frog skin contact. Then the frogs are placed in sterile holding containers so that they are not restrained for any length of time. These containers are usually half-gallon, properly ventilated plastic jars. These holding containers are cleaned after each use.

Overall, the handling of frogs should be kept to a minimum to prevent unnecessary exposure to disease and stress, as well as injury that could result from frogs hopping out of their caretakers' hands.

North American Tree Frogs

The name "tree frog" is applied to a wide variety of species found worldwide. Many of these forms are found in pet stores or on the tables of many vendors at the various reptile and amphibian shows around the country.

The United States is home to many beautiful and interesting types of of tree frogs. Most of these species belong to one of the two genera: Hyla and Pseudacris. Pseudacris is rarely seen in pet trade. Some of the most common varieties of North American tree frogs offered for sale include the green tree frog  (Hyla cinerea), the gray tree frog (H. versicolor) and the barking tree frog (H. gratiosa).

We have maintained these three common species for many years on a very simple caging and feeding regime. We keep our more common North American tree frogs in simplistic enclosures. We use caging that is taller than those used for some of our other amphibians, with damp paper towels as substrate. Plants, such as Pothos, can be placed in these cages to provide the animals perch sites and cover. These frogs will climb the sides of their terrariums and sleep on the glass if no plants are provided.

Their diet is cricket-based, but occasionally supplemented by silk moth larvae. Our North American tree frogs are fed every third day. Each animal is fed 3 to 5 crickets that are approximately the same length as the width of the frog's mouth or smaller.

Although the green, gray and barking tree frogs are the most common North American tree frogs seen in pet trade. we have also had great success with some of the less frequently seen tree frogs, such as the Pacific tree frog (Hyla regilla), the California tree frog (H. cadaverina) and the mountain tree frog (H. eximia), using the strategies mentioned above.

Central and South American Tree Frogs

Central and South America are home to nearly 44 percent of anuran species (Cohen and Stebbins, 1995). Many tree frogs inhabit this region, and some are truly exquisite. Numerous species from several genera, including Hyla, Phyllomedusa, Agalychnis and Smilisca, are often offered for sale, including many captive-bred specimens.

We maintain several varieties of tropical Hyline frogs and Phyllomedusine frogs in 10-, 15-, or 20-gallon tall enclosures. We supply many of our tropical tree frogs with undercage heating by placing a heating element beneath a small portion of their cages. This is important to properly maintain temperatures to aid proper digestion. Ensure that the substrate in the cage does not dry out because of this additional heat source; you may need to moisten the paper towel substrate once or twice a day. We also keep a shallow dish of spring water in some cages to allow the animals to rehydrate should the need arise.

Many of our smaller frogs, such as the orange-sided monkey frog (Phyllomedusa hypocondrialis) and the tiger-striped leaf frog (P. tomopterna), are provided perching and hiding sited via hydroponically grown Pothos. We usually feed them every third day, as we do with our North American tree frogs. Because many of these animals are quite large, such as the giant monkey tree frog (P. bicolor), they can be fed larger food items. We feed our adult giant monkey tree frogs 5 to 6 adult crickets or 3 large silk moth larvae per meal. Supplementation is provided to these frogs on the same regimen as previously mentioned.

Many of the Central and South American tree frogs make outstanding candidates for naturalistic cages. the red-eyed tree frog (Agalychnis callidryas) and several varieties of the monkey frogs (Phyllomedusa spp.) make superior display animals in a nicely planted enclosure adorned with tropical plants. If you decided to try a naturalistic approach, be sure to use wide-spectrum lighting not only for the animals, but for the plants as well.

Some monkey tree frogs, such as the Chacoan monkey frog (Phyllomedusa sauvaugii), will benefit from exposure to the sun for a few hours once a week. Use a screen cage (not glass) and ensure that the animal has access to water and shade should it become overheated. This type of frog actually basks in the sun; it has the ability to produce a lipid which it smears over its body to prevent desiccation. This is a necessary adaptation for survival in the arid Gran Chaco region of South America.

Old World And Australian Tree Frogs

Numerous tree frog species found in other parts of the world are frequently offered for sale. Perhaps the most common is White's tree frog (Litoria caerulea). These natives of Indonesia and Australia have been bred under captive conditions for many generations, and many of the bright green or blue animals attain lengths of up to 5 inches. These frogs can eat a lot and may become obese if permitted to do so. They do well in either a simple cage or a naturalistic enclosure. We prefer to keep our White's tree frogs in fairly large enclosures to encourage exercise, thus reducing the likelihood of obesity.

Interesting frogs found in other regions of the world include some of the gliding tree frogs of the genus Rhacophorus. We have worked with two varieties of these animals over the years, including the blue-webbed gliding tree frog (Rhacophorus reinwardtii) and the Chinese gliding tree frog (R. denysi). They do exceptionally well and have on occasion been captively bred. Gliding tree frogs are quite large. They have the ability to "parachute" or glide, so it is imperative to provide them with tall, spacious enclosures. They should be fed crickets as the base diet. Larger frogs can be fed up to 5 adult crickets per meal every third day. As with all the frogs mentioned in this article, food items should be dusted with a calcium and vitamin supplement once a week before offering it.

Frogs In Your Future?

Frogs are both beautiful and interesting; however, they tend to be fairly time-consuming as terrariumn pets go. Also, if they become ill or simply never thrive, it can be difficult to diagnose the problem. On the other hand, healthy frogs can become long-term captives. Some of ours have been in captivity for more than 10 years. Those frogs hatched in captivity tend to do comparatively better than wild-caught individuals. However, once de-parasitized and de-stressed, wild-caught individuals can also live many years in a collection.

For the person who enjoys caring for the frogs, nothing is more spectacular than walking into a room occupied by these dazzling creatures, no matter their origins. Sitting or lying in bed in the evening listening to the chorus of the males transports the fortunate listener to a far-away land.


Cohen, Nathan W. and Robert C. Stebbins. 1995. A Natural History of Amphibians. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ. Tree Frogs - green and beautiful.

Carpet Pythons in Captivity and Nature


Carpet Pythons - these Australian beauties weave a spell over all who see them.

Carpet Pythons In The Wild

by Charles Acheson

Australian carpet pythons are unquestionably popular pythons among the general public, and most Australians have at some stage seen one of them in the wild. Usually, these people can recollect seeing one while on holiday - often, unfortunately, as roadkill. Throughout much of Australia, people in the countryside report seeing carpet pythons on ceiling beams in old sheds, in chicken roosts or even draped over their balconies.

As a "Sydneysider", I regularly get calls from people in the suburbs adjoining bushland, asking me to remove diamond pythons (Morelia spilota) from their dwellings. I've found carpets under residents' roofs and even basking at poolside, enjoying the morning sun. Ironically, the majority of herpetologists who live in diamond python areas have seen relatively few in the wild. Like the eastern  blue-tongued skink (Tiliqua scincoides), these pythons are more often seen on the fringes of suburbia than they are when purposely sought in the wild.

Carpet pythons are usually seen in the wild, either basking during the cooler months in an attempt to get warm, or at night during the summer. It is quite common to see carpet pythons in Northern Australia basking in "windows" of sunlight on the forest floor, or with a few coils hanging out of a tree hollow.

Types Of Carpet Pythons

Several species of carpet python have been identified across Australia, including Morelia spilota, M. macdowelli, M. variegata, M. cheynei, M. imbricata, M. metcalfei and M. bredli. The "type species" in the carpet python is actually the diamond python; this is due to its having been first described rather than to any revolutionary theory.

Morelia spilota has a limited range on the coast of New South Wales (NSW), from Port Macquarie on the midcoast to the border of Victoria in the south. Considered by some to be one of the most beautiful pythons in the world, the diamond python varies considerably throughout its range. It inhabits dry and wet sclerophyll forests and sandstone escarpments throughout its range.

In general, it exhibits less patterning in the south, with increasing degrees of mottled pattern as it reaches its northern extralimital range. The juvenile diamond is colored like the carpet python as a neonate and develops its "diamond" pattern as it reaches maturity. Around the midcoast of NSW, the carpet/diamond distinction becomes vague. Often the animals are clearly a mixture of both forms, ranging from predominantly carpet to mostly diamond. This coastal area is officially known to have natural populations of hybrids. These animals are fertile and reproduce readily in captivity.

Morelia macdowelli inhabits southeast Queensland and finds its way down into NSW, to the "hybrid" area of the mid-coast. The "coastal carpet" is the biggest of the carpet python species, occasionally reaching lengths nearing 10 feet and regularly attaining about 8 feet. It is common within its range and does not appear to be secretive like the diamond python. It exhibits a dark, mottled mustard, brown and black pattern, in general, which is an extremely effective camouflage. Once again, these snakes inhabit forested areas.

Morelia variegata, the top-end carpet python, is the most widespread of the carpet pythons, ranging from Cape York in the north of Queensland to the Kimberley Ranges of northern Western Australia. The types of forest that these animals can be found in is variable. Within their range they can be found marauding in most habitat areas. This species' coloration is often lighter and more colorful than its southeastern relative's.

Morelia cheynei, or the jungle carpet python as it is more commonly know, is a very distinctive creature not only because of its striking coloration, but also because of its nature. The jungle carpet comes in two main color phases: the cream and brown phase (less well known) and the spectacular and popular gold and black phase. These animals predominate in the Atherton Tablelands behind Cairns in Queensland, making their way in some areas to the coast. Within most of its range the winter overnight temperatures can be in the low-30-degree Fahrenheit range. Strangely, they are occasionally seen in undulating farmland, as these areas were once regal stands of rain forest. Along with its striking coloration, the jungle carpet is also known for its secretive, sometimes "snappy" nature. Herpetologists have found this snake to be an occasionally finicky feeder, particularly straight out of the wild.

Morelia imbricata, or the southwestern carpet, has, as its name implies an imbricated pattern (that is, its scales appear to overlap, like roof tiles). It is found in Western Australia to the south and on some islands off the southern Australian coast.

Morelia metcalfei, the Murray/Darling carpet, is named after the two rivers that transect the region in which it is found. This species inhabits areas adjacent to these rivers in Victoria, NSW and South Australia. It is a smallish python, rarely exceeding 6 feet, and is known for its good temperament. Its creamy mottled pattern, particularly around the head, is clearly different from its counterparts. This creamy gray coloration continues down the dorsal surface in blotches.

Morelia bredli is a striking python, distinctly different in its coloration. Isolated by thousands of miles of desert and not commonly seen, it inhabits rocky areas and dry riverbeds of central Australia, where it lives in hollows or rock crevices. This snake exhibits some magnificent shades of red and is favourite of many herpetologists.

All the carpet python species eat a variety of food items, including mammals, birds and bats, as well as lizards. Neonates in captivity prefer to eat small lizards, although they can be coaxed into eating pinkies quite readily.

Carpet Pythons: Winter In The Wild

In general, carpet pythons seek north-facing rocky outcrops, tree hollows or fallen timbers in which to spend the winter months. During the overnight drop in temperature they will withdraw into their crevice or hole to retain their body heat as possible.

A common way to see carpet pythons in Queensland is to walk along the "windrows." These are stands of trees that have been felled by property owners in the process of clearing lands. These trees are then bulldozed into rows ready burning. Often, windrows are left untouched for years and become microhabitats for many snakes and other animals.

During winter, one might discover the coils of a carpet python extending out of a burrow within the windrows, soaking up some sun. This lends itself to effective thermoregulation as the snake can simply maneuver itself around from time to time to maintain its exposure and vulnerability. These areas are also a haven for rodents and other mammals that provide food for carpet pythons and a multitude of other predators.

Old barns are another wintertime "hangout" for carpets. In Australia, corrugated iron is still a primary roofing material. Carpet pythons regularly inhabit the roofs of barns where they use the sheet iron as a sort of radiant thermal pad. Many times, I have entered an old shed to see loosely wrapped coils of carpet pythons draped over beams. Usually, these farm sheds are quiet places and harbor a ready supply of rats and bats as food items. Even on an overcast winter day in the Atherton Tablelands of northern Queensland, when the daytime temperature may be only 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, it only takes a few minutes of sun on some sheet iron roofing to allow a carpet python to warm up markedly.

In warmer areas - for example, Darwin, in the top of the Northern Territory, where the overnight lows during winter may only drop to the high 60s and the days may still be over 80 degrees - carpet pythons are more likely to be seen loosely coiled on the forest floor or in hollows.

In spring, most readily found carpet pythons are male, due to their tendency to patrol the forest floor looking for mates during breeding season. Sub-adult specimens are often mobile and easily discovered, as they are yet to establish territories. Females are more sessile in nature, although they will move to various habitats throughout the year to facilitate thermoregulation and egg laying.

Females usually lay eggs on the floor or in hollows and then carefully guard them for the duration of the incubation process. A female may release herself from the clutch in the early morning to bask and then return to her eggs. Depending on the species and the size of the individual, a clutch may number as few as six (in the case of young adult M. cheynei) or more than 20 eggs. While coiled around the eggs, the female can "shiver up" her body temperature above ambient to maintain an optimal temperature for the eggs (as mentioned in the captive care section).

There have been sightings of aggregations of diamond pythons in the spring, where numerous males will collect around a single female in an attempt to mate with her. According to those who have witnessed such spectacles, it can come as quite surprise to an unsuspecting bushwalker, although I must stress that this is not commonly seen.

Generally hardy in captivity, the carpet python is the species that's most commonly kept by Australian hobbyists.

Carpet Pythons In Captivity by Bob Clark

Carpet pythons are slender, medium-sized pythons with prehensile tails. They have proportionately large heads and narrow necks. Carpet pythons have an extensive range across Australia and in neighboring New Guinea and Irian Jaya. Adults range from 4 to 9 feet or more, depending on type. There is also considerable variation in color and pattern among the different varieties and within each type. They make great captives and have become very popular in recent years.

Popular Python

A major reason for their popularity is the carpet pythons seem especially well suited to life in captivity. The very large number of this species currently being kept and bred in this country is a testament to this. I got my first pair of carpet pythons in 1980, but before that time, I'd never seen a live one!

Although most of the non-native reptiles that became established in captivity were, and continue to be, imported in large numbers, this is not true for the carpet pythons. Australia has not allowed the export of its wildlife since the 1960s. The animals in captivity in this country today are descended from only a very few animals that have found their way to America, probably as imports from other countries. The fairly recent availability of the Irian Jaya carpet pythons is more typical of the way new types of pythons become established in captivity. First a few are imported, followed by increasing numbers as the buying public becomes familiar with them. Eventually, some of the animals acclimate well enough to breed and these form the basis for the captive-produced population.

Part of my job as a breeder and seller of snakes is to answer questions and give advice on how to care for animals I sell. I noticed recently that even though I deal with many species of boas and pythons, the information I gave was remarkably similar for all of them. Most members of the family Boidae thrive in captivity under fairly similar conditions. Carpet pythons can be maintained under the same conditions that are suitable for most other boas and pythons.

Enclosure Basics

Let's start with the snake's cage. The enclosure serves several purposes. First, and most obvious, is to keep the snake confined. Second, the cage must comprise an environment suitable for the snake. The enclosure must also allow easy viewing of its inhabitant. As long as the cage fulfills these requirements, the specifics of its construction are not important.

I favor some of the plastic cages with sliding glass fronts. These cages are easy to clean, readily available - and someone else has made them already! I'm not especially handy, so the ready-made aspect really appeals to me. Those with ability in this area can construct enclosures from plywood. Paint the wood and seal the joints to help maintain humidity. Allow for ventilation, but be aware that too much ventilation will make it difficult to maintain a proper environment inside.

I like to have a couple of small vents in the sides of the cage, as vents place on the top of the cage can cause the cage to lose heat unnecessarily. Adding additional heat not only wastes energy, but it also dries the cage's interior. Glass aquaria are adequate if they are fitted with a solid top; screen tops are generally not suitable because they do not retain moisture. Act Natural

We keep snakes because we like them. We are interested in their behavior and all aspects of their lives. For this reason, I like enclosures with a large viewing area. The snake's perspective on this, however, may differ a little. In the wild, a snake may not spend much of its time out in the open during daylight. This exposes the animal to predators and makes its search for food less effective. Although our captive snakes are not in the wild, they are still programmed by instinct to behave in and react in certain ways. Departures from a snake's expectations or "programming" may stress the animal and ultimately interfere with its health.

A large viewing area is great for us; for the snake, however, the loss of privacy may be a source of excessive stress. Providing the snake with a place to conceal itself is a compromise that can work for both parties. A snake that feels secure in its cage will be more likely to exhibit normal behaviour, including feeding and even breeding, if given the opportunity. Many husbandry and acclimation problems can be traced back to improper caging.

How Big Is Big Enough?

The size of the cage depends on the size of the snake. But contrary to popular opinion, bigger isn't always better. I start my baby carpets in plastic containers measuring 13 inches by 7 inches by 3 inches. It is easier to maintain a warm, humid environment for the little snakes in small enclosures, and it's more likely that they will have frequent contact with food items during their first few feedings. Larger snakes will require larger cages, of course. Most adult carpets will be comfortable in a cage measuring 48 inches by 24 inches by 18 inches.

As a commercial producer of reptiles, I have objectives different from most snake keepers', but as long as the minimum requirements are met, the snakes do well. At my facility, accommodations are fairly Spartan. Enclosures are the minimum acceptable size and sparsely furnished to say the least: Each size has a water bowl and a hide box, and that's all. Even under these conditions, the snakes will thrive and breed.

Temperature and Humidity

Carpet pythons, like most boas and pythons, are from tropical areas. They require conditions of temperature and humidity that are higher than most of us would consider comfortable in our homes. To keep them successfully in captivity, we need to provide them with the proper conditions. This will, in most cases, require supplemental heat in the enclosure. Cages can be heated by a variety of means, including light bulbs, heat pads or tape, or ceramic heaters. As long as the proper temperatures are provided, the heating method doesn't really matter.

In the wild, snakes can choose a desired temperature. A snake seeking warmth can bask, for example. A snake that wants to cool off can retreat to the shade or to a burrow. We can give captive snakes some choices as well. By placing the heat source on one end of the enclosure it is possible to provide the snake with the maximum thermal gradient. The snake can choose a position near the heat source if it wants to be cooler. A temperature range of 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal.

In some cases, the heat source itself will be much warmer than 90 degrees. The temperature directly over a heat pad or under a light bulb may be much warmer. As long as the snakes can retreat to a cooler place, there is benefit in making the choice available.

Although we must, at minimum, reproduce the essential aspects of a snake's habitat to be successful in maintaining it, reproducing some of the non-essentials might enhance the captive experience for both the keeper and the kept. Carpet pythons will utilize a cage's vertical dimension if given opportunity. Providing branches for climbing makes watching the snakes more enjoyable, and I like to think that the snakes think it's a good thing as well. variously sized branches, logs for hiding and artificial foliage might serve to make the snake's environment more attractive, but they make it more difficult to service the enclosure and keep it clean. Naturally planted vivaria with soil and live plants are nearly impossible to maintain for snakes the size of carpet pythons.

Feeding and Breeding

Captive carpet pythons eat the full range of available warm-blooded food items. Baby carpets can be started on pinkie or fuzzy mice. As the snakes grow, they will eventually take adult mice, small rats and eventually large rats. Some of the larger individuals will take small rabbits.

Generally, if a baby carpet can eat a couple of pinkies it can easily take a fuzzy mouse. If it can eat more than one fuzzy mice it can probably take a weanling mouse and so on, until you are offering the largest rat. I don't worry much about trying larger and larger food items. It it's too big, the snake won't it eat, and no harm done.

Often the snakes don't know either and try to eat something that is too big for them. We all learn as we go.

Breeding carpets is simple and straightforward. As with most boids, they respond well to a slight drop in temperature at night in the fall. Copulation occurs between sexually mature animals throughout the winter. In my facility, carpets lay eggs in April and May; the eggs hatch in June or July. Clutch size varies from 6 eggs to 25 or more. Incubation time is relatively short for pythons, lasting 55 days or less. Carpet pythons are what we humans would classify as "good mothers." Females coil around their eggs during the entire incubation period, leaving only occasionally to bask.

Carpets are able to increase their body temperature during incubation. The process of shivering thermogenesis is similar to shivering humans: Small muscle contractions generate heat that is used to incubate the eggs. Carpet pythons may also bask during the incubation period, absorbing heat from the sun and then transferring it to eggs.

Even though they are cold-blooded animals, female carpet pythons can keep their eggs at a fairly constant temperature throughout incubation. Alternately, eggs can be incubated artificially in damp water vermiculite at 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Good results can be obtained with either method. If the necessary temperature and humidity requirements are met, the eggs will hatch. Hatchling carpets are about 15 inches long.

These pythons make great captive subjects and are becoming increasingly available in the pet trade. Carpets can be obtained in reptile specialty stores or from any of the many breeders of the species. Carpet pythons are interesting and attractive animals.