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.

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.

Leopards and Beardies


Long considered your best bet if you're a beginner, leopards and beardies remain favorite pets.

By Joe Hiduke and Bill Brant

Younger readers of reptiles may be surprised to know that few captive-bred lizards have been available in the recent past. While there are far more species and specimens available now than there ever have been, those species, that have been with us the longest are still among the best pet reptiles.

Leopard geckos (Eublepharis macularius) and beardies (Pogona vitticeps) rank among the most popular pet reptiles. Both species are easy to care for, personable, and readily available. Leopard geckos are often the choice for a first pet reptile. Their popularity  as a starter herp is due primarily to their inexpensive nature and because they do not require much in the way of equipment to be properly maintained.

Beardies are more expensive and require larger,  more elaborate enclosures; however, beardies tend to reward their owners with a much higher degree of interaction.


By a large margin, more leopard geckos are captive bred in the United States than any other reptilian species.

In addition, for reasons already given, leopards enjoy mass appeal, in part because they come in a wide variety of color and pattern morphs. Some of these are selectively bred, such as high-yellows, tangerines, and melanistics. Other morphs are genetic mutations, including albinos, patternless, blizzards and jungles. Combinations of all the above are also produced.

All leopard gecko genetic mutations are thought to be single gene traits that breed true, but there are multiple strains of albinos that will produce normals when bred together. This is a relatively new area in gecko production and certainly more surprises are on the horizon. Regardless of appearance, all of these geckos have the same captive-care requirements.

The range of leopard geckos encompasses Pakistan, Afghanistan and western India. Almost all animals available today are captive bred, and imports should be avoided by novices. In their native environment, leopards frequent arid areas and are thought to live in loose colonies with considerable cover.

There are several options available for acquiring geckos, including pet shops, breeders and reptile expos. First-time buyers should search for a gecko locally so they can see what they are buying. When selecting a gecko, choose an animal that is alert, active and with a full tail. The tail should expand past the base; geckos with a thin tail may be in poor health.

Hatchling-sized geckos are less expensive and more commonly available. However, they tend to be high-strung and fragile. Until they put on some size, hatchlings should be rarely handled. Sub-adults are very sturdy and are ideal to start with, but they will be more expensive.

If you maintain multiple reptiles, you should always quarantine new arrivals away from existing collection, service them last and use separate equipment. Three months is a reasonable quarantine time; however, some breeders quarantine for up to a year.

Housing Leopards

Housing for leopard geckos can range from plastic shoeboxes to large, elaborate vivariums. Single animals do well in a 10-gallon tank, while a trio can easily be housed in a standard 20-gallon, "long" aquarium. A secure lid is essential. While leopard geckos don't climb glass, they can climb furnishings quite well, and household pets, (such as cats) would love to eat them. Leopard gecko breeders often house there geckos in plastic sweater boxes in rack systems.

The specifics of the cage are not critical, as long as the animal's needs can be properly met. Multiple geckos can be kept together, but do not keep more than one mature male to a cage. Males will fight and can have been known to kill one another.

The substrate is an important consideration. Newspaper is an excellent choice, albeit aesthetically displeasing. Other options include calcium or silica based sand with a fine consistency, mulch, bark chips or cage carpet. It has been said that sand can cause impactions, but if the geckos' nutritional needs are met they are not likely to ingest sand to cause a problem. Small bark chips can become impacted, but using large-chip substrate eliminates this risk. Cage carpets must not have any loose strands because these tend to wrap around gecko feet or legs and can lead to necrosis.

Thermal Gradients

As for all ectotherms, a proper thermal gradient is essential for leopard geckos. They are nocturnal, hence a basking lamp is completely inappropriate. An under-tank heating pad designed for reptiles is the best option. If placed at one end of the cage, this creates a thermal gradient from one end of the cage to the other.

If you use newspaper as a substrate, use caution when using a heating pad; some brands need a deeper substrate to disperse heat, and thermal burns are likely if the enclosure glass gets too hot. We don't recommend heat rocks because they do not provide a gradient.

Ideal leopard gecko cage temperatures are about 95 degrees Fahrenheit at the warm end and the low 80s at the cooler end.

Hide and Seek

Hide areas are important fixtures for any gecko cage. Rock caves, cork hollows, or plastic shoeboxes are all options. These should be provided at both the warm and cool ends of the enclosure, Hide areas need to be large enough to encompass a heat gradient. Use caution when creating a hide area from rocks, as geckos tend to dig and can collapse rock piles with fatal consequences. If you have a natural vivarium, the structures should be siliconed in place.

Hide boxes may also be used to provide a high-humidity area. While leopard geckos come from arid areas, they are still thought to inhabit high-humidity microclimates in their burrows. Even in Florida, captive leopard geckos may experience dry sheds if kept without a humid hide box. Damp vermiculite or sphagnum moss works well to raise the humidity inside a hide box.

Beardies and Leopards: Diet and Nutrition

For the reptile enthusiast with snake experience, gecko nutrition is a whole new challenge. They are insectivores and must have a high-quality diet if they are to thrive. Geckos do well on a diet of mealworms, and can also be given crickets, superworms, wax worms, and pinky mice. Offer your pet leopards as much variety as possible.

Feeder insects must also be fed a quality diet before being fed to your geckos. Lizards receive much of the nutrition from the gut content of their prey. There are many quality commercial insect foods available; these should be supplemented with fresh fruits and veggies for added moisture. Additionally, your geckos' prey should be dusted with a vitamin and mineral supplement several times a week for juveniles, less often for adults. The supplement should contain calcium and phosphorous in at least a 2-1 ratio, high levels of vitamin A, high amounts of D3 and a wide range of other vitamins.

Geckos can be given free access to mealworms. Because loose mealworms will dig into the substrate, place them in a bowl they cannot escape from. Any supplements on the worms will fall off after a couple of hours, so the bowl should contain a shallow layer of food (not enough to cover the worms) to keep their digestive tracts full. Not all geckos will readily accept mealworms, so you will have to monitor the condition of the geckos.

Crickets are also a good dietary component. Hatchling geckos can be fed crickets daily, while sub-adults and adults can be fed every other day. Don't feed any geckos more than they will eat overnight -- squads of uneaten crickets have been known to chew holes in leopard geckos. The crickets should be dusted with a supplement at every feeding for hatchlings and once a week for adults.

Many geckos will also accept superworms as a regular part of their diet. Wax worms are another good supplement but very fatty and should be used sparingly. Pinky mice are another good supplement, but again they should be offered in moderation.

Fresh water must always be available. Hatchling geckos may not drink from bowls and are very prone to dehydration, so they must be sprayed down a couple of times a day until they are drinking on their own.

Breeding Leopards

Many hobbyists who keep leopard geckos eventually become interested in breeding them. Geckos can be bred in a 1-1 ratio up to (at least) a 1-20 ratio of males to females. Remember, only one male per cage.

The first step in any successful breeding endeavor is to make sure that your two breeders are indeed a pair. Adult males are easily identified by their hemipenal bulges, immediately caudal to the cloaca, and the V-shaped row of pre-anal pores just cranial to the cloaca. These can be seen in juvenile geckos but are not well developed until maturity is reached.

Maturity is a function of size, not age, in leopard geckos. A safe breeding size 1.4 ounces, but if raised in mixed-sex cages leopards will breed when they're as small as 0.7 ounces. This frequently leads to serious health problems for the females, however, so growing animals should be separated by sex. Most leopard geckos will reach breeding size when they're about 1 year old.

Many breeders put their geckos through a winter cooling period. This is recommended but not required, with a minor cooling period not lower than 70 degrees Fahrenheit for one to three months. Food should be made available, and the geckos' consumption will decrease over time. During cool-down, males can be kept in breeding groups or separately.

In the springtime, raise the temperature to initiate breeding activity, and reintroduce the males to the females. Breeding generally occurs shortly after they have warmed up.

Females lay clutches of two eggs in a damp nest box at approximately 30-day intervals for around six months. This is a stressful time for females, and they must be closely monitored to make sure they are keeping adequate body weight. This is a good time to add wax worms or pinkies to their diet.

Eggs should be incubated in plastic boxes with a damp medium and little airflow. Vermiculite or perlite in a 1-1 ratio with water (measure by weight) works well as an incubation medium. Incubation temperatures often determine the sex of the offspring and also may impact adult behavior. Temperatures in the low 80s will yield a mix of sexes in the hatchlings. At these temperatures, the eggs should hatch in about 45 days.

Neonates will shed and be ready to start feeding in a day or two. Potential health problems to be wary of include dry sheds, abscesses, injury from cage-mates, nutritional imbalances and internal parasites.

It is important to work with a knowledgeable reptile veterinarian, as reptile medicine is a new and frequently changing discipline. The Association of Reptile and Veterinarians (www.arav.org) is a good source for locating knowledgeable vets. Due to the low cost of leopard geckos, many people tend to view them as disposable pets and refuse to provide proper veterinary care. If this is your attitude, please do not purchase a leopard gecko.


Bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) are Australian agamids. They are a relatively recent addition to the United States pet trade and have become well established due to their hardiness, social behaviors and prolific breeding habits.

Beardies come from very hot, arid areas of Australia, living in social groups where there is lots of cover available. They can be found in natural, wild habitats and have also adapted well to living near human habitation. All animals seen in the pet trade are captive born, as Australia has a long history of prohibiting animal exportation.

Beardies are also available in a wide variety of color morphs. A few of these are single-gene mutations, such as the recently hatched albinos and an established leucistic line. High-yellow, orange and red morphs are all available, with many different names (such as Sandfires). In selecting a good color morph, buy from a reputable breeder, and try to see pictures of the adults if possible.

Like leopard geckos. "beardies" can easily be acquired through reputable pet stores, breeders, and expos. Again, it is a good idea for first-time buyers to buy locally. In addition, beardies are relatively fragile during their first month of life and react poorly to shipping. Purchase animals that are at least 1 month old. They should be active, bright-eyed and feed readily. Avoid any dragons with visibly protruding hip bones or eyes that appear to shrunken in.

Big Houses

Housing for beardies must be spacious. While a juvenile can get by in a 20-gallon, long aquarium, a single adult should have at least 4 square feet of floor space. A trio should have at least 6 square feet. As always, a secure lid is a must. Glass aquariums are not your only option, provided alternatives have enough space and plenty of ventilation. With beardies, floor space requirements are of greater importance than height requirements.

As with geckos, substrate is an important consideration. Newspaper, fine calcium or silica-based sand, mulch, bark chips or cage carpet are all acceptable substrates. Bear in mind that the amount of sand required for a large cage tends weigh quite a bit. As a result, any beardies enclosure and stand must be sturdy enough to support this added weight. Because of their voraciousness, beardies may ingest loose cage carpet fibers, so be sure to check synthetic carpets for loose strands and remove any that you discover. Periodically checking for loose fibers won't hurt, either. Upon entering your dragon's system these carpet strands can cause health problems.

Beardies like the hot spot in their enclosures to be very hot. They are diurnal basking lizards, so a heat lamp is the most appropriate way to provide the extreme temperatures preferred by these hardy lizards. Temperatures around 110 degrees Fahrenheit are perfectly acceptable to beardies. However, the cage should not be this warm. Once again, create a thermal gradient by placing a basking spotlight at one end of the cage and provide good ventilation. The cool end of the cage should be in the mid 80s. If you can't provide this kind of gradient, consider a larger cage, If nighttime lows fall below the mid 70s, then an under-tank heater should be used to provide supplemental heat at night.

Furnishings for beardies should include warm and cool hide areas as well as basking spots. If you are keeping multiple dragons together, make sure the basking spots are large enough for all of them. Large rocks or bricks make good basking spots because they hold heat well. Many dragons, especially juveniles, will also use sturdy branches as basking spots. Make sure all fixtures are firmly in place, as dragons will dig a lot and can undermine furnishings, thus creating potential hazards.

Omnivorous Beardies

Beardies are omnivores, and they need as much variety in their diet as possible. Insects, especially crickets, provide a good staple diet. They must be properly gut loaded and supplemented. Dragons also relish mealworms, superworms wax worms roaches, pinky mice and anything else that moves and will fit in their mouths. Small dragons are prone to mealworm impactions, so wait until the lizards are a couple of months old before offering mealworms.

Vegetables are an important component of the beardies diet. They should receive a wide variety of leafy greens, such as mustard, collard and turnip greens, spinach, kale, and romaine and real-leaf lettuce. Again, the more variety you offer then the healthier your dragons will be. In addition to leafy greens, provide other chopped vegetables such as squash, zucchini, peas, carrots, tomatoes, string beans and peppers.

Commercial beardies foods are also available and make good addition to any dragon's diet (but still offer other foods for variety).

A good feeding schedule for young dragons is a salad mixture every morning and insects every afternoon. Young dragons have ravenous appetites and must be fed daily. Adult dragons should be fed salad three or four times a week and offered insects on a similar schedule. For larger dragons, a bowl of mealworms or superworms can also be made available at all times.

Vitamins and Supplements

Vitamin and mineral supplementation is very important. A high-calcium, high-D3 supplement should be used several times a week for juvenile dragons and breeding females, less often for older non-reproductive animals. Vitamin supplements are less important if a good variety of vegetables is offered, but should  still be provided at least once a week.

Like leopard geckos, juvenile beardies don't often drink from bowls and should be sprayed with water several times per day. This is especially important as many hatchling dragons are reluctant vegetable eaters (apparently they have something in common with human children). Larger animals usually will drink from a bowl and eat their vegetables, so misting them is not usually necessary.


Bearded dragons are easily bred in captivity. Using multiple females with one male spreads the male's attention around and prevents any one female from getting too run-down. Multiple males can be used, but subdominant males will have to be removed periodically.

Sexing dragons is not quite as easy as with leopard geckos, but with practice it is not too difficult. Mature males will have hemipenal bulges caudal to their vents. These extend further back than a leopard gecko's and are positioned closer to the sides of the tail. A split down the middle of this bulge is a good indication that the lizard is a male. In addition, males tend to be larger, have broader heads and necks, and as not as heavyset as females. Femoral pores are also more pronounced in males. Examining the hemipenal bulges is a more reliable sexing indicator than are the femoral pores, which hare a good secondary indicator.

Beardies should weigh between 7.9 and 9.6 ounces before breeding. They will breed if they're smaller than this, but are more likely to experience dystocias (difficult birth), so separate your sexes until they are ready to breed. Most dragons will reach adequate breeding size between 9 and 15 months of age.

Virgin females are generally not cycled, although older animals usually go through a cooling period. Breeders use many different cycling techniques, including length of cooling. Dragons can take temperatures in the mid 50s during their brumation, although most breeders prefer temperatures in the 60s or low 70s. If your dragons are going to be cooled below 70 degrees, make sure they have at least a week without food to purge their gut content. Length of brumation can last from one to three months.

Most breeders also manipulate day and night cycles, giving the dragons anywhere from zero to eight hours of light during brumation, and 12/12 cycles during breeding season.

When your dragons warm up, they will be ready to eat immediately. If you introduce the males at this time, you should observe courtship behavior taking place almost instantaneously. The males will bob their heads vigorously. Females will often respond with hand waving. Eventually, when females are receptive, breeding will occur.

Taking Care of Mom

Gravid females can be difficult to identify. watch for digging activity. When the female is digging, add a pile of damp sand or move her to another deep bin with damp sand. She will generally lay her eggs within a few days.

Eggs should be removed and set up for incubation in the same manner described for leopard gecko eggs. Incubation temperatures in the low 80s are appropriate for beardies eggs. The eggs usually will hatch after about 60 days.

Bear in mind that females that are not bred may still cycle and lay infertile eggs. This can lead to a significant dystocia risk, so owners of unbred female bearded dragons may want to explore having them sprayed.

With proper care, health problems are rare. However, dragons are prone to dystocia, nutritional imbalances, impactions, and internal parasites. Be sure to work with a competent reptile veterinarian when dealing with these problems.

There are now many options available when choosing a pet lizard. As mentioned, two of the best captive-bred choices are still leopard geckos and beardies. Evaluate the needs of these lizards and decide which one is the best choice for you. If you give your pet the care it requires, you will have a happy and healthy leopard or beardies for a long time to come.

Tiger Snake for Breakfast


Tiger Snake: an unlikely breakfast?

Gold Coast naturalist David Fleay recalls the time, collecting snakes for Commonwealth Serum Laboratories anti-venene research, he and his companion hit on the idea of the snake as food.

Moira Lakes upstream from Echuca, along the big bend of the Murray crawls with snakes.

Only droughts knock their numbers back and even these natural disasters serve merely as temporary checks.

I first came across this 'snakiest' place in all Australia in 1926 as a wandering kid on a push bike marveling at first of the river swamps and their mighty flocks of birds.

Those days, local Aborigines had not been pushed into settlements but hunted happily as of yore. They speared cod from hollowed out redgum craft and lived in humpies.

Bu the Tiger Snakes, then as now, dominated the scene -- a fact forcibly noticeable when the snow waters flooded down in October, isolating box ridges and the higher river banks for weeks or even  months at a time.

Then, if so inclined, you didn't need to go on a binge at Barmah Pub to get the horrors.

Landings on flood-girt high spots in the morning sun began an all-pervading series of slitherers, accompanied by the incredible spectacle of the Tigers by the score racing into piled up debris.

Less fortunate snakes sun-basked three, six, 10 or 13 metres above water level in and about the loose bark of ancient isolated eucalypts.

No wonder in later days of antivenene work, we could amass 80 to 100 'milkers' in a morning's work.

One evening, by the camp fire with snake bags full and tied and passing night herons attempting to croak above the mighty roar of amorous frogs, my mate speculated about Burke and Wills.

In their desperate need for some form of sustenance, had they ever  considered snake as food? That did it, for, tough as we reckoned we were, we'd never tested such a possibility ourselves.

Next morning, a passing tiger snake was killed, beheaded, skinned and cleaned.

The fact that our victim carried parasitic nematode worms packed in its stomach almost halted the culinary experiment, but curiosity triumphed and the carcass was then boiled for 15 minutes in salty water.

Finally we fried our quarry in butter and sat on a log for a tiger snake breakfast.

Still not quite convinced we'd removed the very potent venom by decapitation, my mate said his only grace before a meal for the entire trip!

However, almost immediately his apprehensions to eat the tiger snake vanished like the mists of morning.

That fat old Tiger was delicious - a kind of cross flavour between fish, eel and chicken.

It was completely consumed and we didn't even begin to hiss.

Considering that canned Rattlesnake sells from the shelves in USA and crocodile meat has its devotees, why not Tiger Snake fillets or Mulga munchies for Australian gourmets?

What a marvelous idea for the money-spinning entrepreneurs of Surfer's Paradise!

Care Sheet: Water Dragons



This care sheet is for beginners and covers the basic maintenance of the Eastern Water Dragons (Physignathus leseurii).

You should join your local herpetological society, where you can meet others and obtain more detailed information on keeping these lizards. Water dragons are very hardy animals and one of the best dragons for beginners to keep as long as a few important guidelines are followed. These cover cage size, lighting and diet.

Water Dragons Care Sheet 1: Size

hatchlings measure around 15cm in total length. They can grow up to 90cm long although more usually they range from 60 to 70 centimeters.

Water Dragons Care Sheet 2: Caging

Juveniles: Hatchling Water dragons can be kept in a large plastic tube, approximately 60cm long, 40cm wide and 40cm high. The lid of the tub should be placed outdoors to give the little dragons access to ultra violet light. It is very important not to put them out in the sun during the middle of the day. Glass fish tanks should not be used for this purpose as the temperature inside the tank will very quickly reach a level that will kill the dragons. Shade and water must be provided at all time and the dragons checked regularly.

Adults: To keep adult Water dragons in captivity a large outdoor enclosure is required with access to sunlight. Outdoor enclosures can take two forms -- converted aviary style enclosures, or the more typical reptile pits with walls made of sheet metal. It is essential that the walls of the pit are at least 1 metre high and preferably 1.2 metres, as Water dragons are excellent jumpers and will take advantage of any rock piles or or branches inside the enclosure that are placed too near the walls. The walls should extend at least 30cm underground to prevent the dragons from digging out. Alternatively, weld mesh can be sunk beneath the ground. If an aviary is used, it is important to use sheet metal to a height of 1 metre from the ground to prevent the dragons from rubbing their snouts on the wire. Both types of enclosures can be decorated with plants, logs, rock slabs, etc. A pond must be included to satisfy their semi-aquatic lifestyle. Some of the enclosure should be sheltered from the weather. To keep an adult pair of Water dragons, the enclosure must be at least 1.2 metres long and preferably more than 2 metres, with a width of 1 metre. the floor can be covered with bark chips or leaf litter. A pond or at least a water dish large enough for the dragons to submerge themselves is essential. There must be at least one hiding place for each dragon in the form of logs, sheets of bark pipes. Faeces and uneaten food must be removed promptly.

Water Dragons Care Sheet 3: Lighting and Heating

Water dragons require basking spots with high temperatures (up to 45 degrees Celsius) to be kept successfully. Your enclosure must get plenty of sunlight and be sheltered. It must also provide shady spots that the dragons can move to. Basking spots can be created by installing 100W - 150W floodlights at one end of the enclosure. These lizards need UV light to survive, which is why they are best kept outdoors in natural sunlight. If they are kept indoors special UV type fluorescent tubes need to be installed. Before attempting such a set up, you should discuss the placement of these lights with n experienced keeper.

Water Dragons Care Sheet 4: Feeding

water dragons are omnivorous, making them quite easy to feed. A suitable diet for adult dragons would include twice weekly feeding of canned pet food and mixed, chopped fruits and vegetables. They should also be fed a variety of insects such as crickets, cockroaches, meal worms and earth worms. Small mice can occasionally be offered but they should not form a major part of the diet. Once a week the food should be dusted with a calcium/vitamin D powder such as Rep-Cal®, and a multi-vitamin powder such as Herptivite®. Young dragons should be fed every day with as great a variety of insects as possible. Calcium and vitamin powders should be used every second feeding. In general, Water dragons will not accept pet food, fruit and vegetables until they have reached a total length of about 20cm. At this stage these foods can be gradually introduced into their diet.

Water Dragons Care Sheet 5: Diseases/Illnesses

These are outside the scope of this basic care sheet. Any unusual behaviour or signs of illnesses should be discussed with an experienced keeper or with a veterinary surgeon. If you suspect something is wrong, act immediately, don't leave it. Early diagnosis and treatment is important.

Further Reading on Water Dragons (Weigel, J (1988) Care of Australian Reptiles in Captivity, Reptile Keepers)

Eastern Bearded Dragons (Pogona Barbata)


Eastern Bearded Dragons Care Sheet prepared by Sue Davis

The most important thing to remember if keeping eastern bearded dragons outdoors, is to provide an escape-proof enclosure with plenty of high perches and basking spots, offer plenty of food and let lizards do the rest.

Eastern Bearded Dragons belong to the Agamidae family and average snout to vent length in adults is 25 centimeters. They have a well-developed "beard" and a strongly depressed body. The inside of their mouth is usually bright yellow. There are many colour variations from grey, yellowish-brown, brown, to reddish-brown etc. Mature males develop a dark grey to black beard and a pale green to blue tinge on the forehead.

Eastern bearded dragons are found in woodlands and dry sclerophyll forests extending into many urban areas in eastern Australia from Cooktown in Queensland to south eastern South Australia. Their habitat is mostly terrestrial and arboreal, preferring elevated perches such as sumps, fence posts, or rocks. they shelter in hollow logs, shallow depressions beneath vegetation or surface debris.

Eastern bearded dragons (Beardies) regularly display courtship or defense actions such as head bobbing, arm waving, head licking, push ups, pawing of substrate, biting, erection of beard, expanding their body and colour changes. Up to 75 separate display sequences have been observed.

In the wild, beardies forage for insects including ants, spiders, small lizards, flowers (especially low, daisy-like species and pansies or violas), fruits and green shoots.

Mating occurs in the spring and gravid females are found from October to February. Clutches of 8 to 35 (average) eggs are laid in shallow burrows and sometimes 2 clutches are laid per season. Eggs hatch at around 54 - 60 days at 30 degrees Celsius. Bearded dragons usually hibernate in the winter but in captivity it is often wise to maintain hatchlings at around 25 degrees and feed weekly to maintain healthy growth.

In captivity, eastern bearded dragons food should be dusted with calcium and vitamin supplements at least once per week. Good brands are Herptivite® or Rep-Cal®, available at most good pet stores.

Suggested insects to feed captive beardies include crickets, wood roaches, mealworms (only adults), grasshoppers, flies, butterflies, bettles, Garden worms, and pinkie mice are also favourites as well as most soft fruits such as melon, berries, grapes, strawberry, apple, and green vegetables and shredded carrot and sweet corn niblets. Flower favourites include hibiscus, dandelions, carnation, squash, clover, nasturtium and daisy.

Always chop fruit and vegetables into very small (finely diced) pieces.

As hatchlings, beardies will live happily in a 30cm x 30cm x 60cm aquarium with a mesh top but as adults, will require much more room as they like to climb and bask. Newspaper makes the most convenient and hygienic substrate for the floor of the enclosure and should be changed at least per week or more often if necessary.

UVB light is essential for most reptiles. Ordinary fluorescent tubes are useless as they provide light only - not UVB that is required for healthy bone development and assists in th digestion of food. The light will need to be within 30cm of the animals to effective.

Beardies also need to keep warm, especially after eating as they cannot digest their food properly without adequate warmth. Around 25 to 30 degrees through the day and from 20 to 15 degrees overnight.

Bearded dragons are diurnal (active during the day) so if you don't have timers fitted to your lights or thermostat, make sure that you manually switch on the UVB light first thing in the morning and turn it off again at dusk.

Beardies can make excellent pets and are easily "tamed". They respond well to lots of handling (often and short is best). Always support a reptile's belly from below.

Suggested reading:

"Keeping Bearded Dragons" - Warren Green and Ty Larson (Australian)
"The General Care and Maintenance of Bearded Dragons" - Philippe DeVosjoli and Robert Mailloux (American)


Eastern Bearded Dragons like a large, shallow water dish that they can "swim" in.

Eastern Blue Tongue (Tiliqua Scincoides)


Eastern Blue Tongue Care sheet prepared by Sue Davis

Blue tongue lizards are native to Australia and New Guinea and will live happily in your backyard and are helpful by eating snails and other pests in the garden. They will eat canned cat food (not fish varieties), soft fruits, tomatoes, apples, mushrooms, chopped green vegetables, mince meat and thawed frozen pinkie mice. They will also lap water from a shallow dish and like a hollow log or similar hide box to hide in.

Eastern blue tongue lizards can be aggressive if provoked. If you must handle a wild animal, hold it firmly but gently behind the head.

The patterns and colours among eastern blue tongue lizards vary a lot but consist mainly of dark and pale cross-bands. There are 6 or 7 blackish-brown banks on the neck and body and these sometimes branch or end at the midline of the back. The dark bands are usually orange-brown, yellowish or pale grey on the sides. The pale bands are yellowish-brown, greyish-brown or grey and there are 6 or 8 dark bands on the tail. There is an indistinct darker patch on the side of the head.

Ticks are common on the wild animals and can usually be seen around the head and armpits. They can be removed wit tweezers but always remove the tick's head.

Blue tongues can suffer from colds which can develop into pneumonia. Treatment involves keeping the lizard warm (around 25 to 30 degrees C). symptoms are a runny nose, eyes, sneezing, lethargy, and wheezing. Seeking veterinary treatment is wise.

Eastern blue tongue preferred temperature is around 25 to 28 degrees Celsius and most animals will not feed if the temperature drops to below 20 as they cannot digest their food.

Eastern blue tongue species grow to around 60 cm in length. They are ground dwellers so don't need branches to climb on, even though they are quite good climbers and excellent escape artists.

The water bowl should be large enough for the animal/s to bathe in and should be freshed regularly as blue tongues often defecate in their water bowl.

Blue tongues make excellent pets as they tame easily and can be handled by small children. Always wash hands thoroughly both before and after handling.

Tiliqua Scincoides is one of the largest members of the skink family. If kept indoors, the enclosure should have adequate floor space for the lizard to move freely. Enclosures should be at least 1.2 metres (4 foot) long by 35 cm (14 inches) wide and between 12 (30 cm) and 18 (45 cm) inches high. Two to four animals could be kept in an enclosure this size. The enclosure will need a reasonably tight fitting lid to ensure it is escape-proof. Newspaper makes the most convenient substrate as it is easily replaced. Blue tongues tend to be messy. These lizards also require UVB light and a heat source when kept indoors.

If housed outdoors, blue tongues can be kept in a converted aviary or a pit constructed of solid, smooth material with the walls braced on the outside only if it is to have an open top. Galvanised iron makes good walls as blue tongues can climb brick or concrete walls.

It has been claimed by several noted herpetologist over the years that heating a reptile during winter and keeping it active all year round  could be detrimental to its health. If one considers that it is natural for most reptiles to hibernate during winter, then they should be allowed  to do so in captivity. There are however, exceptions to this rule. Reptiles that originate from tropical areas where there is little difference between summer and winter temperatures should be maintained at or near their natural temperatures. If the winter temperature in the area in which the animal is maintained is considerably lower than that which it would find in its natural habitat, then the enclosure should be heated to the normal winter temperature of the reptile.

In nature, eastern blue tongue lizards require large amounts of Vitamin D for their survival. It is especially essential in their growth patterns and for bone development. Most Vitamin D is obtained from direct sunlight (or UVB tubes if housed indoors). Placing the enclosure near a window WILL NOT help the animal. UV light does not penetrate glass. If an additional heat source is used in  an indoor enclosure then it is wise to also install a thermostat to ensure that the temperature does not get too hot. A Vitamin D (Calcium) supplement should also be added to the animal's diet.

Please not that although meal worms make a tasty treat, they should not be offered to juvenile animals as the outer casque is rather hard and can cause internal damage. Mealworms are also not suitable as a staple diet for large lizards as huge quantities would be required to maintain even one animal.

It is important to also remember that in the wild, reptiles are "opportunistic" feeders and will eat all they can find at one feeding session. In captivity they will tend to eat all that is provided to them and could become obese and sluggish which eventually will cause health problems. If an animal seems to be putting on too much weight then food should be withheld for several days to allow it to absorb what it has already eaten.

Most reptiles will hide while they digest their food and reappear when they are hungry again, to go in search of more food. Use this as a guide to your feeding regime and observe the amount the animal consumes over several feedings to gauge the correct amount of food to offer. Vary the diet with each meal and experiment with different foods to see what your animal prefers. We find that strawberries, snails, and mushrooms are particular favourites.

Mating behaviours often sees the male bite the top of the female's head and neck prior to actually mating. This biting among eastern blue tongue lizards can result in permanent scarring.

Eastern blue tongue lizards usually have litters of between 5 to 25 live young that are born in summer.

Spencer's Monitor


Varanus spenceri or Spencers Monitor

When well fed, spencers monitor can become quite bulky. But when times are lean, Spencers Monitors can tolerate quite severe emaciation. Adults of this species eat lizards, snakes, large insects, and small mammals. Juveniles will eat smaller insects, such as grasshoppers, and small reptiles like geckoes and skinks. Living in the drought-prone Black Soil Plains of arid Australia, these animals have had to become accustomed to a Feast-or-Famine lifestyle - gorging when food is plentiful during a rainy spell, then surviving on their stored fat supplies when the going gets tough.

Spencers Monitors are named after W. Spencer, a past professor of biology from the University of Melbourne. A female will lay from 11 to 35 eggs in a deep burrow that she's excavated in an elevated soil bank. The eggs take about 110 days to hatch, and after emerging, the young monitors will shelter under rocks and stones, or in the deep soil cracks. These cracks provide a home not only for the youngsters, but also for many small insects, meaning that the growing monitors never have to look very far for a quick snack.

Did you know that Spencers Monitor...

  • When well fed, spencers monitor can become quite bulky. But when times are lean, Spencer's monitors can tolerate quite severe emaciation.
  • A female spencers monitor will lay from 11 to 35 eggs in a deep burrow that she's excavated in an elevated soil bank. The eggs take about 110 days to hatch.
  • Living in the arid Australia, these animals have had to become accustomed to a Feast-or-Famine lifestyle - gorging when food is plentiful when it rains, then surviving on their stored fat supplies when the going gets tough.
  • Spencers monitors are named after W. Spencer, a past professor of biology from the University of Melbourne.

Where to find Spencers Monitor in Australia:

Caring For Australian Freshwater Turtles in Captivity


Freshwater Turtles: An Introduction

Turtles are one of the most appealing animals of the reptile kingdom. There are no "effort free" animals to keep as pets, and freshwater turtles are no exception. Along with the pleasure of owning a turtle comes the responsibility to provide the best possible care for it that you can. Their survival is in your hands! If basic guidelines are followed, then your turtle should thrive in captivity and may even breed for you. Freshwater turtles are renowned for their longevity and provided your pet remains healthy, may live thirty to seventy-five years in your care. This point should be taken into consideration before purchasing freshwater turtles to begin with. You may be choosing a friend for life!

Most Australian freshwater turtles are very timid and shy, but within time will loose their fear and become accustomed to you and will recognise where their food comes from. There are many stories of keepers being amused while watching freshwater turtles in their aquatic enclosures, and some go as far to say that they each freshwater turtles have their own recognizable personalities.

I believe that if more people keep our Australian freshwater turtles in captivity, then we can learn more from them and the better equipped we will be to help them. As pollution increases and swamplands are filled in for development, or rivers are dammed all in the name of progress, then we must make a concerted effort to monitor the effects that this is having on the population of our freshwater turtles. The world's most endangered turtle is the Western Swamp turtle whose numbers fell to around thirty in the 1980's. This species is currently undergoing a careful breeding program under turtle expert Gerald Kuchling and the Perth Zoo. Imagine how helpful it would have been if amateur herpetologists were already successfully breeding Western swamp turtles in captivity.

Australia has some thirty described species and sub-species of freshwater turtle and four monotypic genera. They naturally occur in all states excluding Tasmania! There are possibly many undiscovered species of turtle that have eluded the watchful eye of herpetologists due to the elusiveness and subtlety of these fascinating creatures.

The correct zoological classifications that apply to Australian freshwater turtles are Class - Reptilia, Order - Testudines, Sub-order - Pleurodire (all except the Pig-nosed turtle which is Cryptodire). Members of the sub-order - Pleurodire, or side-necked turtles, did not evolve until the Cretaceous Period -some 135 million years ago. Reptiles in this sub-order are closely linked by the fact that their bodies are encased in a hard shell, they curl their heads back into the shell by horizontal movement and their pelvic girdle (Ref. Fig 1) is joined to the shell. Turtles are sometimes described as "living fossils" and in many respects this term is correct.

Turtle, Tortoise, or Terrapin?

The main difference is based on physiology. Tortoises are terrestrial (land dwelling) and possess thick legs and toes and require water for drinking only. There are no tortoises indigenous to Australia.

Freshwater turtles are aquatic and are not capable of swallowing food or mating unless submerged in water. They possess webbed feet or paddle-shaped, flipper-like limbs (as in the case of the Pig-nosed or Pitted-shelled turtle) and will only leave the water to lay eggs, bask in the sun or seek more favorable conditions in circumstances such as food shortage or drought. Freshwater turtles kept on dry land will dehydrate, starve, and die slowly and painfully.

"Terrapin" is merely a synonym for "Turtle" and was derived from the North American Indian word "Terrapene".

Temperature Control (Thermo-Regulation)

Turtles are sometimes incorrectly regarded as "cold-blooded" and cannot produce their own body heat, but instead regulate their body temperature by behavioural means - (Ectothemic). Surprisingly, their body temperature can be higher than that of their environment. On warm or hot days, turtles may leave the water and bask, usually stretching their hind legs out behind them to attain maximum surface area or maximum contact with a warm surface, and will retreat into the water to cool down. Turtles have also been observed floating near the surface in warm water currents with outstretched limbs. Here they are able to capture valuable U.V. and warmth, but with the added security of being submerged. One interesting personal observation has been a turtle's reluctance to sometimes dive back into the water after it has obviously reached its preferred temperature, and occasionally submerges its head and neck in an attempt to cool down. Other turtles sometimes appear to be "crying" and are releasing fluids via the eyes as part of cooling mechanism. Basking also aids in the control of skin complaints such as fungal infections, assists in shedding scutes and helps inhibit the growth of algae on the shell. Freshwater turtles are able to gain heat much quicker than they lose it. The colour of the carapace of a turtle also plays a role in thermo-regulation. A darker carapace will heat up more quickly than a tan or other light coloured turtle, and will be able to reach a higher temperature. Heat gained through basking and ambient temperature allows a turtle's metabolism to increase.

Brumation and Aestivation

In the winter months, turtle, kept in outdoor enclosures will reduce their activity, lose interest in eating and enter a state of dormancy termed brumation. The amount of time spent brumating is governed by environmental factors and some turtles can be seen on warm winter days swimming around or sunning themselves. In colder regions of Australia such as Victoria, turtles will brumate for longer periods than more northern species. Turtles living in warmer climates such as the Northern Territory will not brumate and will remain active right through the year. Turtle's brumate either on land or in water, burying themselves in dirt and foliage or mud and sediment respectively. Those that remain beneath the water are able to absorb oxygen by means of gaseous exchange. Gaseous exchange can be performed through three different processes:

1. Pharyngeal respiration - where an extremely vascularised area at the back of the mouth will take oxygen out of the water.

2. Cloacal respiration - is achieved through thin walled sacs in the cloaca, also absorbing oxygen from the water.

3. Oxygen absorption through the skin.

It is important to note that most species cannot survive under the water for more than 2-3 hours when not in a state of dormancy.

Aestivation is when a turtle buries itself in the mud at the bottom of its waterhole or drinks as much water as it can then leaves the water and buries itself under dirt and foliage to escape drought conditions, or dangerously low levels of water. During this time, a turtle also enters a state of dormancy and slows its body processes down. Here it will remain until the water levels are restored or will perish in the event of an extended drought.

Digestion in Turtles

All modern turtles lack teeth. Short-necked turtles use the tough edges of their jaws to tear and dismember food. Here the clawed forelimbs also serve a useful purpose by tearing excess food away while it is firmly clamped by the mouth. Long necked turtles are essentially ambush feeders. They strike with their mouths open, drawing in large quantities of water containing their prey. Food intake of all turtles is subject to availability, and the size and age of each individual. Food intake is also temperature dependent, with most turtles ceasing to feed below 15 deg.C. Temperature also plays an important role in the time food takes to pass through the digestive system. For this reason, it is not recommended to offer food to your turtles for several weeks prior to brumation, as the food may rot in the gut and cause death. Food normally takes around 1 to 2 weeks to be completely digested. At the end of the intestinal tract is the Cloaca (Ref. Fig 2) which is where faecal and urinary waste collects and is passed. Both the male and female genital openings are also located in the cloaca. Food digested that is considered excess to the turtles growth and energy requirements is turned into fat and stored in the abdomen, rather than beneath the skin as in the case of mammals. This may be because fat stored beneath the skin could act as insulation and effect thermo-regulation.

The Shell

A turtle's shell is divided into two sections. The lower section is the Plastron and the upper section is the Carapace (Ref. Fig 1). The two sections are joined together by the Bridges that are located either side of the body, between the fore and hind limbs. The strength of the shell comes from the fused plates (Ref. Fig 1), which are covered by shields called scutes, lamina or scales (Ref. Figures 1+3). These shields are made from Keratin that is produced by the Malpighian cells; located just under the scutes.

Circulatory System

Freshwater turtles have heart (Ref. Fig 2) with only three chambers. Many things including increased activity, temperature and increased pressure during diving affect their heart rate. An increase in ambient temperature will cause an increase in heart rate, thus increasing a turtle's metabolism. As a turtle dive, pulmonary resistance increases and the heart rate decreases. The scientific name for this is "Bradycardia". When a turtle dives, the level of oxygen in the blood decreases as the body uses it. Anaerobic metabolism takes over causing an increase in carbon dioxide. Most aquatic turtles can tolerate extremely high levels of carbon dioxide in the blood. After about 15 minutes of being submerged and the oxygen supply depleted, the brain will divert as previously mentioned, to anaerobic metabolism. Here the brain can continue to function effectively for around 2-3 hours depending on the species and size of the individual.


Unlike the lungs of mammals, a turtle's lungs (Ref. Fig 2) are not maintained at positive pressure. The ribs of a turtle are joined to the shell (Ref. Fig 1). Breathing is performed with help of muscles that are located near the limbs at four corners of the shell. These muscles create a negative pressure in the lungs and respiration takes place. Inspiration occurs due to the difference in pressure. Expiration, however, does take some degree of effort. When a turtle enters the water this situation is completely reversed due to the increase in water pressure. Inspiration now requires muscular activity, and expiration is aided by the water pressure and takes little or no effort. The amount of air in the lungs and the transferral of fluids within the bladder and cloaca control a turtle's buoyancy. Proof that the lungs help control a turtle's buoyancy is clear when watching a turtle with a respiratory infection. turtles suffering from respiratory infection cannot dive and have been observed floating at unusual angles (pers. obs).

Sight, Smell and Hearing

A turtle's senses of vision, smell and hearing are highly developed which is necessary for locating food, avoiding predators and important in finding suitable mates during breeding season. It has been suggested that they possess colour vision and this may be why some turtles show colour preferences when feeding. All freshwater turtles have a thin, transparent third-eyelid, called a nictitating membrane that covers their eye while they are submerged to allow them to see proficiently under water. Their sense of smell is achieved through the nose and also through a specialise structure called Jacobsen's organ. Jacobsen's organ is located in the roof of the mouth. Its function is to detect and identify tiny chemical, scent particles that are floating around in the air and water. The scent particles are moved around the mouth and throat by "gular pumping" (throat movements similar to that of frogs.) We have observed many species of freshwater turtles' gular pumping while submerged. Turtles do not have external ear opening instead they have a tympanum (eardrum) that is covered with skin. The inner ear is surrounded by a bony box-like structure known as the otic capsule. Turtle's hearing is at its best detecting low-frequency vibrations under water and to lesser extent, on land. Their ability to hear medium to high frequency sounds is difficult to determine. All Australian turtles have four scent glands, one on either side of each bridge, near the limb pockets (Refer arrows on Fig.3). The odour produced is used as a defence mechanism against predators, and possibly with other males when they feel threatened while competing for the same female during breeding season.

Keeping Turtles Indoors

It is recommended to keep small turtles up to seven centimetres shell length indoors where they can be easily monitored. A 3-foot or 4-foot long  aquarium is recommended. the aquarium should have 3-4 centimetres of river gravel and be a half to two-thirds full of water. The aquarium should also contain a log that protrudes above the surface of the water, or an artificial platform, so the turtles may leave the water to bask and dry out. Choose a log that has been collected from a creek or steam as dry timber will float and discolour the water. There are some commercially available floating islands like the Zoo-Med "Turtle dock"or the Herp Craft "Floating Land" products that are inexpensive and highly recommended. The "basking areas" should be situated directly below the sides of the aquarium where the glass lids can be removed.

Freshwater Turtles are those pets you can spend with through the years

Mertens' Water Monitor


Varanus mertensi or Mertens Water Monitor

Mertens Water Monitor is an aquatic lizard. The word goanna is often used for these and other Australian species of lizard with a forked tongue. The word Goanna originates from South America. These monitors love to bask on rocks, logs, and branches that are overhanging the water. If the animal becomes alarmed, the water is a close and safe haven for the animal to retreat to. Their tail is flat like a paddle, which is used for swimming, and sometimes herding fish into areas that make catching easy. Mertens Water Monitor can remain submerged for up to 30 minutes.

These monitor lizards are found in coastal and inland waterways right across the northern part of Australia, from Cape York to the Kimberleys. Mertens Water Monitor feed on crabs, frogs, fish, insects, and turtle eggs (when available). These are one of the many Australian animals that have suffered through the introduction of the cane toad. Mistaking the toad for a tasty frog has led to the widespread decline of these animals. Mertens Water Monitor breed throughout the year in the wild, but there is a preference for the dry season. 3 to 12 eggs are laid, taking about 270 days to hatch at 30 degrees Celcius.

Did you know...

  • Mertens water monitor is an aquatic lizard which can remain submerged for up to 30 minutes.
  • Their tail is flat like a paddle, which is used for swimming, and sometimes herding fish into areas that make catching easy.
  • Mertens water monitor feed on crabs, frogs, fish, insects, and turtle eggs (when available).
  • These are one of the many Australian animals that have suffered through the introduction of the cane toad. Mistaking the toad for a tasty frog has led to the widespread decline of these animals.

Where Mertens Water Monitor dwell across Australia

Road Testing Aussie Pythons


A Short Guide To Snake Selection Text & Images (except where indicated): Doc Rock

Australian Pythons: Southern Cross Reptiles


Since I can remember, the late summer and early autumn months have been traditionally the busiest time for python sales in Australia. It is a period when young newly-bred pythons are starting to feed and breeders are keen to reduce their cleaning and husbandry responsibility by selling the fruits of the last 12 months labour.

The aim of this article is to provide a timely and brief overview of the traits, husbandry quirks and personalities of the various types of python as a quick matchmaking guide when faced with the onslaught of options which are presented to the reptile shopper these days.

Types of Australian Pythons

Australian pythons can be split into a number of groups. The largest group is the genus Morelia which includes the carpet pythons, the green tree pythons, rough scales, the Oenpelli python and Australia's largest snake, the scrub python. Carpet pythons are the most popular Australian pythons in captives. They include the coastal, jungle, diamond, in-land, south western, and north western forms, as well as the centralian carpet which is a different species and often just called by its scientific name of "Bredli".

The second most popular type of captive python belongs to the Children's group which includes the spotted python pr maculosus, the large-blotched python pr stimsoni, and the Children's python or childreni. The taxonomy of these snakes has been in perpetual change for decades with various author's placing them in the genus Antaresia, Bothrochilus, and Liasis, so don't be confused if you see any of these names used as the snakes are still the same. These pyhtons are not large animals and include the world's smallest python, the ant-hill or pygmy python (also called perthensis) which is currently uncommon in captivity.

The third group of snakes belong to the genus Liasis which contains the popular olive and water pythons. these quite large and robust snakes are closely related to the Children's group (they used to belong in the same genus.)

The fourth group and final group occupies the genus Aspidites. This genus includes the spectacular black-headed python, often called BHPs for short, and the woma. They used to be uncommon in captivity because of the difficulties in keeping wild caught animals and then in getting them to breed. Today, having passed through a number of captive generations, they are bred in increasing numbers and their popularity is rapidly growing.

Australian Pythons: The Carpet Group

When considering how best to summarise the various forms of carpet pythons for this article, I decided to start with the ones that we have found the easiest to keep and then work through to the ones that can be more challenging to maintain and breed.

Inland Carpet Python Morelia spilota metcalfei

Without a doubt and by almost any yardstick, the inland carpet python (Morelia spilota metcalfei to some) is a stand out captive python among australian pythons. Typically found along the inland river systems and surrounds over the eastern half of inland Australia, they are a medium sized carpet which has a lovely placid nature once adult size and is extremely hardy in captivity. I have captured numerous inland carpets through my involvement in various research projects and I'm always amazed at how placid they are as wild caught adult animals.

We have kept the Murray-Darling form of inland carpet for the last two decades and have found nothing easier to keep and to breed. They handle cold well, not minding if their environment gets down at night to a few degrees in winter as long as they have somewhere to bask for an hour or two during the day. If their cage gets a bit hot, they don't seem to mind either. They are not very sensitive to humidity and providing they have something to drink and the cage is not soaking wet they seem to thrive.

Inlands are also excellent subjects when learning to breed snakes. They will mate with minimal fuss, their eggs are extremely resilient to ignorant abuse and their babies are generally quick to start feeding. About the only thing negative I could say is that they are snappy as babies (like most pythons), but they quickly settle down.

Australian Pythons: Coastal Carpet Python Morelia spilota mcdowelli

For many years, the most numerous Morelia in captivity were the coastal form of carpet python (Morelia spilota mcdowelli to some). This is probably because they are the most common non-venomous snakes encountered in the wild around densely populated areas and so were easy to source for captivity. Coastals live along the central to northern coast of Australia and can vary markedly in colour and size, but generally they are one of the largest carpets with animals in excess of nine feet not uncommon. In March of 2002, a coastal carpet was collected from the mid-north coast of NSW that had a total length of 3.47 metres (nearly 11.5 feet) and weighed in at 22.3 kilo making it the third heaviest snake caught in Australia!

We have kept many coastals and if I was to try and sum them up, I would have to say "highly variable." I have known some placid beautiful giants and some unattractive, weedy little so-and-sos. While some feed happily in captivity, I have known far too many that are patience-testing nightmares when it comes to being finicky. We have also found that they are less tolerant to extremes of temperature and humidity than their inland compatriots. Similarly, while temperament is highly individual, as a general rule they are also a more nervy and irritable snake. From a breeding perspective, they are not difficult and their eggs are fairly forgiving. One strong point in their favour is that they are about the least expensive pythons on the market.

Centralian Carpet Python Morelia Bredli

A close second to the inland carpet for suitability in captivity would have to be the Centralian python (Morelia Bredli). These carpets tend to grow larger and to be a bit more irritable than the inlands, but on the whole they are a hardy, tolerant species. They can be a bit trickier than inlands to breed too, but still are by no means difficult and their eggs can survive quite a bit of mismanagement. I must confess that they are probably my favourite carpets not only because of their pleasant nature, but also because of their striking appearance with all the earthy colours which mimic their habitat in the red centre around Alice Springs and the McDonell Ranges.

Australian Pythons: Darwin Carpet Python Morelia spilota variegata

The north-western or sometimes NT or Darwin carpet (Morelia spilota variegata) is a medium to small member of the group that is quite slender to suit its arboreal nature. They have a reputation for being an aggressive snake and like many northern species they certainly are inclined to be quite highly strung and assertive in nature. We have kept numerous coastals and most have been willing to bite when given any provocation. The flip side to this coin, however, is that they are generally great feeders and are not terribly difficult to breed.

Darwin carpets like warm humid conditions and will not tolerate prolonged cold. One annoying habit shared by most is their love of soaking in their water bowl so that water is spilt everywhere and the cage is constantly wet. However, they do not handle ow humidity and will have trouble shedding if their cage becomes too dry. Some NT carpets can be very attractive with their bright orangey markings. Recently, we developed the albino form of this carpet which displays bright yellow/gold and white banding. For a reason completely unknown to me, these albino carpets generally have extremely placid natures, even more so than the inlands and Bredli.

Australian Pythons: Jungle Carpet Python Morelia spilota cheynei

When it comes to an irritable nature, few snakes can top a narky jungle python and gold jungle for natural good looks, they can be both the beauty and the beast all wrapped into one. We have been breeding jungles for 15 years now and have been selecting them for colour, pattern, and temperament. While the strain has definitely got more placid over time, it seems that the better looking the snake the greater the tendency for them to be stroppy with their keeper.

Like the NT carpets, jungles require a cage with reasonable humidity to do well. Unlike the NTs, they do not like their cages kept too warm and can become temperamental if not kept in conditions that allow them to escape the heat sometimes. For this reason, we keep all our jungles in the lowest and coolest cages in our main breeding room. To finish on a positive note, jungles are generally good feeders, quick growers and will breed in captivity.

Australian Pythons: Diamond Python Morelia spilota spilota

The last of the carpets I will cover is the Diamond Python (Morelia spilota spilota) which is kept in large numbers in Australia. Diamonds are a medium to large carpet. They are a challenge to breed indoors in captivity and keep healthy and even more of a challenge to breed indoors. Because of this, the majority of diamonds are kept and bred in outside aviaries, or at least in cages that have access to an outside enclosure. When kept inside they tend to suffer from a condition which has become known as "Diamond Syndrome". This syndrome can express itself as problems with feeding and/or shedding, a reduced immune system and in extreme cases neurological and muscular disorders which invariably result in death.

Many years ago, we kept diamonds in our main breeding room only to watch them die one by one. Since then, and after much research and experimentation, we learnt that they cannot handle constant warm conditions. You may hear that they need UV light or that they must live outside, but this is not our experience. As long as you keep them cool most of the time and only provide basking temperatures for short periods during the day, they can thrive. We have kept them for nearly 20 years and they now flourish indoors, although we have been selectively breeding our stock from animals that tolerate the indoor life best. Currently, we have a beautiful female that is 10 years old and breeds regularly indoors (we have a clutch of eggs in the incubator as I write). Needless to say, breeding diamonds regularly indoors is not an activity for the novice though.

Australian Pythons: Water and Olive Pythons

Olive Python Liasis olivaceus

Before describing Olive Pythons (Liasis olivaceus) in captivity, I must declare a possible conflict of interest and confess that my favourite pet snake in the world is my male olive called Brutus. He is big, powerful, alert, inquisitive and as gentle as a snake of his size can be. In my view, a large placid olive python is very difficult to beat as a scaly companion.

However, anyone contemplating buying an olive must allow for the fact that they grow very quickly (still a youngster at 2 metres) and that they can easily reach three to four metres and weigh over 15 kilo in captivity. My wife, Diane, is also fond of Brutus, but will not handle him unless I am within screaming distance just in case he makes a mistake and thinks she is food instead of a friend. Although he is yet to make that mistake, he can get very excited when hungry and he would be a handful if ever he wrapped around a human neck with thoughts of juicy rats on mind.

Not all olive pythons are gentle giants either. We have kept a number and one of them is particular considered that its role in life was to rip the face off anyone that came near its cage - and that's a lot of face ripping snake to control. So to some extent, it is a bit of a lottery when you buy a baby olive. Although by far the majority turn out to be gentle giants, the odd one that doesn't will be a snake to remember.

Unless you live in a place like Darwin, olives can be very challenging to breed, especially if you live in the southern half of Australia like we do. It took as many attempts before we were able to breed them consistently in Adelaide. When we questioned some of the most successful breeders of olives about how they did it, there seemed to be no commonly agreed method and most had little idea why individual snakes bred some years and not others. While I just love olives, they are not an ideal snake for the first time keeper, for a child, for a home without the room for decent cage or for someone to learn how to breed snakes.

Australian Pythons: Water Python Liasis Fuscus

I must also confess that I am rather fond of water pythons (Liasis Fuscus) too, although we don't keep any these days. Compared to other pythons, they are a medium length, heavy bodied snake and are often called "rainbow pythons" because their skin is highly reflective and has a prismatic effect on light. The first species we ever bred was a water python and that is a testament to just how easy they are to breed. We knew nothing at the time about any aspect of breeding and I shudder at the way we incubated the eggs, but in the end half the clutch hatched and we managed to raise a whole lot of baby waters.

Back in this dim, dark past, we learnt that there are two distinct types of water and that they are like chalk and cheese to keep. Firstly, there lovely bright yellow belly which come from Queensland. Then, there are the more brownie coloured ones with white bellies from the Northern Territory. The Queensland ones are usually quite well mannered. In contrast, our experience is that the NT waters are generally spawn of Satin and will bite and scent their keeper (i.e. smear foul smelling tail secretions on you) at the drop of a hat.

Often, I'm asked about python bites and which ones I think are the worst. Putting aside scrub pythons, I would say that for power and determination it's hard to beat a big BHP and for razor sharp teeth and deep penetration it's hard to beat a large GTP. However for all round deep penetrating power and tenacity, there is nothing worse than a large NT water python. I have caught many bites in my life, but remember my few big water python bites above all others.

I do not want to put the reader off his species by talking about bites. Water pythons can be beautiful, well-handling snakes which some argue are much more interesting and active than the Morelia group. However, bloodline is important when buying a L. fuscus, because as the advert goes "waters ain't waters."

Australian Pythons: The Children's Group

Australian Pythons: Spotted Python Antaresia maculosus

When it comes to describing the Children's group of pythons in captivity it is probably best to discuss the spotted pythons (maculosus, or sometimes just maccies) separately from the Children's and Stimson's pythons which are both very similar to keep and to breed.

Maccies are found in the wild from north-eastern NSW to the tip of Cape York Peninsula. Although relatively small compared to other pythons, they are the largest of this group and average about 75 to 90 cm with the biggest reaching well over one metre. On the positive side, spotted pythons are generally good feeders, breed easily, maintain their bold markings throughout their life, are hardy and can thrive in most cage setups. On the negative side, they are generally the feistiest members of the group and often can take quite a bit of work to quieten down sufficiently to stop them constantly snapping and scenting their keepers. However, once settled into their captive home, they can be an excellent snake for responsible keepers of any age or skill level to keep.

Australian Pythons: Children's Python Antaresia childreni


Australian Pythons: Stimson's Python Antaresia stimsoni

Children's pythons are found along the top part of Australia from the Gulf of Carpenteria though to the Kimberly district of Western Australia. Stimson's pythons are found from the West Coast of WA through central Australia to the area east of the Great Dividing Range. They are both small pythons with childreni averaging a slightly larger size than the stimsoni, but with either exceeding one metre often. The colourful patterns on childreni tend to fade more with age than those on stimsoni, so that as adults stimsoni are usually the more attractive snakes.

Both these snakes, and particularly the Stimson's pythons, are more challenging pets to keep and to breed than their maculosus cousins. Many varieties are extremely difficult to establish as feeders when babies. We have force fed non-feeding Stimsons for three years before finally giving up. If they are sold when too young and before they are feeding well, they can go off their feed and be almost impossible to start again. If they get a little too cool in their cage environment (because of the cage itself, or the place they choose to hide), they can stop eating too. So, vital pre-requisites when buying a young Stimson's or Children's python, are firstly to make your object of desire is feeding and growing well and secondly to take careful note of the cage conditions and temperature regime it is being kept under successfully. Providing this advice is taken, then these snakes are a joy to keep. Once grown up, they rarely bite and can become very relaxed even with frequent handling.

The Children's group do not like to bask in the open, but prefer to position themselves in a tight warm hideaway. For this reason, their cages are extremely easy to set up and all they need is thermostatically controlled heat tape, a water bowl and something to hide under which is a warm at one end and cool at the other. A plastic tub with tape under it and newspaper inside as a substrate and for hiding under is all they require to thrive.

One of the other great advantages of the Children's group is that, because they are small and thrive in compact vivaria, you can have lots and lots of them in a small area! These days there is an enormous variety of forms in captivity and a keen collector can have a dozen different forms from a range of habitats on a few shelves instead of the half a house that larger species would require.

Australian Pythons: The Aspidites Group

Australian Pythons: Black-headed Python Aspidites melanocephalus

Black-headed pythons Aspidites melanocephalus are found across the northern third of Australia and would have to be one of the most impressive looking pythons that our country has to offer. Their large size, shiny jet back heads and striped bodies look very imposing and to the average, snake-uneducated member of the general public they are safe, or that there is no food on offer, then they are generally pussycats.

However, the trick with BHPs is getting them into your hands without mistakes. One of their quirks is that they love to sleep on their basking site. When they are touched in this state, they almost jump out of their skin and can go immediately into a full defensive threat display. Once picked up they will usually calm down straight away. Alternatively, sometimes when they are touched, they assume food is on offering - and a hungry snapping BHP is a site to behold. One day I opened the cage of a very large female BHP and upon being woken from a sound sleep she decided that I was food and, rushing out of her cage at head height, she proceeded to try to grab me. She succeeded in forcing me back into the cages behind where upon she nailed my hand (which was protecting my face) and then set about hauling me back into her cage for digestive purposes and without having a say in the matter. "Diane,#$%@# .......Help me,%$#@!"

Research has shown that in the wild BHP prey consists of a high proportion of reptiles. Probably for this reason, frequently they can be nightmares to start feeding as babies. Like the Stimsoni pythons, my strong advice when buying a BHP is to make sure it has been feeding well and consistently for some time. We won't sell ours until they have been feeding well for at least two months and have shed a couple of times.

Summing up BHPs, while they are beautiful snakes and will handle well, they are not for the faint hearted and not to be taken lightly when approaching them in their cages. Once feeding well on rodents, they are easy to maintain in captivity, although they are one of the harder snakes to breed consistently. Also, being natural reptile feeders, they are not a snake you should keep with others of their kind if you wish to avoid accidents.

Australian Pythons: Woma Aspidites ramsayi

The final specie in this short guide to snake selection is the Woma (Aspidites ramsayi). My partner, Diane, adores womas. We have ended up with so many types and forms now that by number they are the most numerous type of snake we keep after carpet pythons.

Womas are found all over central Australia and the coastal region of the Pilbara in WA. They are wonderful captive snakes for many reasons; they are a stocky and compact terrestrial python with very simple cage needs; feeding problems are rare; they are not difficult to breed; they are inquisitive animals and put on great feeding displays with frantic caudal luring and head bobbing behaviours and; they redefine the concept of being laid back. Once they are more than six months old, womas become completely relaxed about captive life. They are a joy to handle and as long as they know there is no food on offer, they are safe in the hands of the whole family.

Diane loves them as babies because "they are so feisty with great threatening displays but don't bite and only head butt you say stay away". Sine Di does 90% of the husbandry care these days, she also likes them because they are amongst the most trouble free of captives.

An ordinary run-of-the-mill woma used to coast about $2,000, but recently they have dropped in price to somewhere between a half and two thirds of this price. This trend is opening up the species for more people to enjoy. The majority of State Authorities (not SA) classify them as specialist animals and place all sorts of restrictions on keeping them. This is understandable given that there were very few in captivity until eight or so years ago and their needs were poorly understood. However, today with 3rd and 4th generation captives readily available, they are one of the easiest and most enjoyable pythons to keep and are less of a specialist animal than BHPs, certainly less than many of the Children's group, and less than some of the Morelia species too. Hopefully, the authorities will catch up with advances in the hobby soon and let them take their rightful place in Australian herp society.

Australian Pythons: The Won't Bite; Cuddly Group

Snakes are predators and obligate carnivores. They don't live in a complex social structure and have had no need to develop affectionate behaviour. As babies most things eat them and so being handled by a human 3.2 million times their weight is not an experience they seek out. With careful attention and patience some pythons can become quite relaxed with captivity. However, there are no snakes that won't bite on occasion and certainly there are none that like to cuddle their keeper. At best, they become indifferent to their handler and enjoy the stimulation removal from their normal cage surroundings and exposure to new stimuli.

It is not uncommon for us to receive e-mails at Southern Cross Reptiles asking which snakes won't bite and would make a lovely pet. recently, a person told us that they had to sell their baby maculosus because it was too aggressive and scared them. They wanted to know if we thought their buying a young olive python was a good idea!!

Hells, bells if you want to buy a snake, but you want it to act like a cat on valium, then be honest with yourself and ask why do I really want to take on custodial responsibility for this animal. If you want a snake to be a cuddly little pet rather than enjoy it as a the magnificent predator for that it has evolved into over the last tens of millions of years, then I recommend you would better off keeping earthworms or sticking with non-biting and cuddly type pot plants.

Australian Pythons: Summary

Pythons can be fascinating and wonderful creatures to care for and observe in captivity. Each species has its own quirks and characteristics and each snake its own unique personality. When buying a new snake you should think carefully about your objectives and be honest about your skills and abilities too. I suggest you spend time doing research about a species pr form or interest so that you know what you are getting into. Many folk that contact us are in a blistering hurry to buy "a snake". Don't be. Part of the unique attributes of snakes is their slow metabolism and the very frugal way they approach life. If you want to experience the full benefit of owning them, you need to slow down when dealing with Australian pythons and take the time to enjoy the acquisition process.

Mangrove Monitor


Varanus indicus or Mangrove Monitor

Did you know...

  • The mangrove monitor is one of Australia's most beautiful goanna species.
  • Mangrove monitor live along the coast of northern Australia.
  • Mangrove monitor lizards are also found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and the western Pacific islands.
  • Mangrove monitor eat fish, crabs, insects, birds, mammals and other reptiles. They will also dig up and eat turtle eggs.
  • Female mangrove monitor lizards will lay their eggs in a burrow in soil, or in the rotting centre of a fallen tree.

Where Mangrove Monitors dwell in parts of Australia:

    Mangrove monitor lizards are excellent swimmers, and will take to the watch if they feel threatened.

    Keeping Advice Sheet

    Northern Death Adder.jpg

    Venomous Snakes

    • Southern Death Adder (Acanthophis antarcticus) -- Maximum length 100 cm. Category 5.
    • Desert Death Adder (Acanthophis pyrrhus) -- Maximum length 75 cm. Category 5.
    • Pilbara Death Adder (Acanthophis wellsi) -- Maximum length 70 cm. Category 5.
    • Western Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatus) -- Maximum length 160 cm. Category 5.
    • Mulga Snake (Pseudechis australis) -- Maximum length 300 cm. Category 5.
    • Spotted Mulga Snake (Pseudechis butleri) -- Maximum length 180 cm. Category 5.
    • Dugite (Pseudonaja affinis) -- Maximum length 180 cm. Category 5.
    • Gwardar (Pseudonaja nuchalis) -- Maximum length 100 cm. Category 5.

    NOTE: All species listed here are dangerously venomous snakes and are listed as Category 5. only the experienced herpeculturalist should consider keeping any of them. One must be over 18 years of age to hold a Category 5 licence. Maintaining a large elapid carries with it a considerable responsibility. Unless you are confident that you can comply with all your obligations and licence requirements when keeping dangerous animals, then look to obtaining a non-venomous species instead.

    Natural Habits of Venomous Snakes

    Venomous snakes occur in a wide variety of habitats and, apart from Death Adders, are highly mobile.

    All species are active day and night.

    Housing of Venomous Snakes

    In all species listed except death adders, one adult (to 150cm total length) can be kept indoors in a lockable, top-ventilated, all glass or glass-fronted wooden vivarium of at least 90 x 45cm floor area. The height should be a minimum of 30cm if front opening and 45cm if top opening. Adult death adders require less room, 50 x 30 cm floor area being adequate, but for safety it is preferable  to use a top opening vivarium to house these rapid-striking snakes. It is recommended that all venomous snakes be housed separately (except during mating) to avoid problems associated with removal for cleaning, or when feeding. Juveniles (less than 40cm long) may be kept in smaller cages be strongly constructed, escape-proof and kept locked.

    Captive Environment of Venomous Snakes

    Furnishings should be kept simple. Try not to clutter up the cage too much. The floor covering should be easily removed for cleaning. Some alternatives are newspaper, pea-gravel, woodchips and indoor-outdoor loop-pile carpet. Do not use sand or soil, as this is unsuitable and will harbour disease-causing pathogens. Provide an enclosed shelter such as a wooden constructed hide box, shoebox or wine cask. The snake must be accessible when hiding, and a means to trap it there can reduce the need for handling when cage cleaning. All that is required for Death Adders is an area of leaf litter 3-4 centimeters deep. Before cleaning the cage, the snake should be removed and placed in a spare enclosure or secure bag.

    Venomous snakes can be ascertained on tail shape, or with probing by a competent herpetologist. Breeding success is improved by allowing a cooling off period in both sexes for a month or so in winter. Mating occurs in late winter to late spring. All the above species, apart from viviparous Death Adders and Western Tiger Snake, are oviparous, depositing eggs 40-90 days after mating. The live bearers give birth 120-210 days post mating.


    Adhered skin after sloughing is common in dry environments when humidity is too low. Try a larger water container. Soaking snake in wet bag for 30 minutes or so will often cause the adhered skin to come away in the bag.

    Lack of appetite may be normal seasonal fasting, but is also caused by a too low cage temperature.

    Regurgitation can also be a sign that the snake cannot get warm enough to digest its food.

    Venomous Snakes Diseases

    A clean artificial environment with the appropriate husbandry mentioned above will usually result in your pet reptile remaining healthy. Quarantine newly-acquired animals for at least a month before introducing them to those already being kept.

    Reptile Mites on Venomous Snakes

    Reptile mites are the scourge of many keepers. They can rapidly multiply and quickly kill a reptile. If an infestation is found, it is imperative that you take immediate action to eradicate it. Although small (a large female may be one-third the size of a pin head) they will be obvious on white paper as miniature black tick-like animals. If you find you have an infestation, it is important to kill it in situ. This can be achieved by placing a Sureguard Ministrip® within the respective cage for at least 8 hours before cleaning. Then follow up with two 8-hour cycles two days apart. DO NOT expose your pet to the pest strip for any longer or you may kill it.

    Ticks on Venomous Snakes

    When first obtaining your reptile, check it for ticks. These are often seen tucked up under the scales. They can be removed using tweezers and the bite site dabbed with antiseptic.

    supported by Western Australian Society of Amateur Herpetologists Inc. (WASAH) and Department of Conservation and Land Management

    Care of Australian Reptiles in Captivity - John Weigel Reptile Keepers Association, Gosford, NSW Understanding Reptile Parasites - Roger J Klingenberg, AVS, USA -

    Further Reading on Venomous Snakes

    Perentie Monitor


    Varanus giganteus or Perentie Monitor

    The Perentie Monitor is Australia's largest, and indeed our largest lizard. Its scientific name, 'Varanus giganteus' literally means 'giant monitor'. As they get to a length of 2.5 metres and a weight of 15 kilograms, it's easy to see why this name is well deserved. At this size, Perentie monitor lizards are able to prey on animals such as rabbits, and even small kangaroos. Their powerful claws make them a formidable predator. Their strong, whip-like tail can also be used as a weapon. As an aggressive display, a Perentie monitor will distend its neck pouch and make a loud hissing noise.

    Female Perentie monitor lizards will lay from 6 to 11 eggs in a long burrow dug under a solid object (such as a rock), and then cover this over. The young are brightly coloured and very nervous. Monitor lizards, otherwise known as Goannas, are named as such because it was thought that they warned of the presence of crocodiles, hence 'monitor'. The scientific name of 'Varanus' comes from the Arabic word 'Waran', which was the name given to lizards from the Arabian Peninsula.

    Did you know...

    • The perentie monitor is Australia's, and indeed our largest lizard.
    • Its scientific name, Varanus giganteus, literally means ''giant monitor'.
    • Young perentie monitor lizards are brightly coloured and very nervous.
    • Perentie monitor lizards can get to a length of 2.5 metres and a weight of 15 kilograms. At large size, perenties are able to prey on animals such as rabbits, and even small kangaroos.

    Where to find Perentie monitor lizards in Australia:

    As an aggressive display, a perentie monitor will distend its neck pouch and make a loud hissing noise.

    Keelback Snakes


    Tropidonophis mairii or Keelback Snakes

    Keelback snakes are non-venomous snakes that love to eat frogs, tadpoles and lizards. Unlike most other Australian animals, keelback snakes can eat baby cane toads. They appear to be immune to low doses of cane toad toxin. This species, also know as the freshwater snake is very widespread, and variable in colour. Keelback snakes shelter and forage under debris, especially fallen timber and bushes; under clumps of vegetation, and even in the water.

    Keelback snakes look very similar to the highly venomous Rough-scaled snake. The keelback snake is the only member of this genus found in Australia. There are 17 other species found throughout Malaysia, Indonesia, and New Guinea. When disturbed, keelback snakes can emit a foul-smelling odour from anal scent glands.

    Did you know...

    • Keelback snakes are non-venomous snakes that love to eat frogs, tadpoles and lizards.
    • Unlike most other Australian animals, keelback snakes can eat baby cane toads. They are immune to low doses of cane toad toxin.
    • Keelback snakes look very similar to the highly venomous rough scaled snake.
    • The keelback snake is the only member of this genus found in Australia. There are 17 other species found throughout Malaysia, Indonesia, and New Guinea.

    Where to find Keelback Snakes in Australia:

    When disturbed, Keelback Snakes can emit a foul-smelling odour from anal scent glands.

    Ridge-tailed Monitor


    Varanus acanthurus or Ridge tailed Monitor

    The Ridge tailed monitor is one of Australia's smaller Monitor species, growing to only 78 cm long, most of which is tail. They are found in the desert areas in Queensland, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia. Their diet includes grasshoppers, cockroaches and beetles. The scales on the tail of the Ridge Tailed monitor are raised and pointed, hence its common name. This helps the monitor anchor itself in the rock crevices it calls home. This anchoring makes it impossible for hungry predators to extract and eat the lizards.

    As with all Monitors the females lay eggs. Ridge tailed Monitor usually lay 4 to 8 eggs per clutch. The female lays her eggs in a nest chamber at the end of a tunnel she's dug into sandy soil. Monitors are more active than most other reptiles, and as such they like to have a higher body temperature. You'll often see monitors basking in the sun on the side of roads, which can unfortunately lead to their untimely demise.

    Did you know...

    • The ridge tailed monitor is one of Australia's smaller monitor species, growing to only 78 cm long, most of which is tail.
    • The female ridge tailed monitor lays her eggs in a nest chamber at the end of a tunnel she's dug into sandy soil.
    • The scales on the tail of this goanna are raised and pointed, hence its common name. This helps the ridge tailed monitor anchor itself in the rock crevices it calls home. This anchoring makes it impossible for hungry predators to extract and eat the lizards.

    Where in Australia Ridge tailed Monitors can be found:

    Monitors, especially the ridge tailed monitor like to have a higher body temperature


    Rough-scaled Snake


    Tropidechis carinatus or Rough scaled Snake

    Rough scaled snake is often confused with the harmless Keelback Snake. Both have rough scales that help them to climb. The Rough scaled snake has relatively long fangs, and a highly neuro-toxic venom. Recipients of a Rough scaled Snake bite often fall into unconsciousness within minutes of being bitten. Rough scaled Snake is closely related to the Tiger Snake group, and Tiger Snake anti-venom will effectively neutralize their venom.

    The Rough scaled Snake species grow up to about 1 metre. They're one of the few venomous Australian snakes that can regularly be found climbing trees.

    To locate their prey a rough scaled snake will actively hunt, or wait to ambush, any small mammals, frogs, birds, or reptiles they can find. As with virtually all snakes, it is a shy, nervous creature that would rather flee than fight, but if provoked it can become quite aggressive. From 5 to 18 large, live young are produced every second year.

    Did you know...

    • Rough scaled Snake is often confused with the harmless keelback snake. Both have rough scales that help them to climb.
    • The rough scaled snake has relatively long fangs, and a highly neurotoxic venom. Recipients of a rough-scaled snake bite often fall into unconsciousness within minutes of being bitten.
    • Rough scaled snake is most closely related to the tiger snake group, and tiger snake antivenom will effectively neutralise their venom.
    • From 5 to 18 large, live young are produced every second year.

    Where The Rough Scaled Snake dwell in Australia:

    Rough scaled snake can grow up to about 1 metre, and they're one of the few venomous Australian snakes that can regularly be found climbing trees.

    Thick-tailed Gecko


    Underwoodisaurus milii or Thick tailed Gecko

    The thick tailed gecko inhabits many environments including wet and dry sclerophyll forest, open grasslands, scrubland and even desert, particularly those areas associated with rock outcrops. It is found in south-east Queensland, and extends down over much of southern Australia except the far southeast and southwest. It is often found in backyards, sheltering under logs and rocks. Its scientific name (Underwoodisaurus) isn't referring to where this gecko likes to shelter. Rather, it is named after a Mr Underwood, with Underwoodisaurus meaning 'Underwood's lizard'.

    If threatened, the Thick tailed Gecko raises itself up on its skinny legs, waves its tail from side to side and lunges at the threat producing a croaky barking sound at the same time, hence its other common name of barking gecko. As with other geckos, only two eggs are produced at a time, usually in spring or early summer. Several clutches may be produced during good seasons, with about a month's interval between each. The eggs incubate for approximately two and a half months before they hatch.

    Did you know...

    • The thick tailed gecko has a scientific name (Underwoodisaurus) that isn't referring to where this gecko likes to shelter.
    • The thick tailed gecko is named after a Mr Underwood, with Underwoodisaurus meaning 'Underwood's lizard'.
    • Thick tailed gecko raises itself up on its skinny legs when threatened, waves its tail from side to side and lunges at the threat producing a croaky barking sound at the same time, hence its other common name of barking gecko.

    Range of Thick tailed Gecko in Australia:

    The thick tailed gecko is often found in backyards, sheltering under logs and rocks.