Creature Feature: Leopard Gecko

Leopard Gecko

Eublepharis macularis

Reptiles Alive Name: “Larry”

leopardgecko

Hisssstory: Larry came to live at Reptiles Alive in April of 2004.  He was already about 5 years old when his owner decided he didn’t want a gecko as a pet anymore.

RA Diet: Larry loves crickets and meal worms.

Natural Diet: In the wild, leopard geckos will eat just about any moving creature that is smaller than themselves, including: insects, spiders, snails, and scorpions.

Range: Northwestern Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.

Habitat: Leopard geckos live in some of the hottest, driest deserts on earth, so they spend much of their time in cool underground burrows.

Size: Leopard geckos can grow 6 to 8 inches long.

Lifespan: Leopard geckos can live 10-20 years or more.

Reproduction: Mating takes place during the rainy season. A female will lay two eggs at a time, but can lay several clutches a year. She can even store sperm from one mating for later.

Conservation: Leopard geckos are commonly sold in the United States as pets.  They are easier to care for than most other reptile species, but they still have special requirements to stay healthy in captivity.  Before getting a pet, whether it is a dog or a gecko, be sure you have done enough research to know how to care for your pet for its entire life.

Cool Facts: Leopard geckos store fat in their tail so they can survive for months without food or water.  Camels, another desert creature, use a similar survival strategy by storing fat in their humps.

Creature Feature: American Alligator

American Alligator

Alligator mississpiensis

Reptiles Alive Name: Dean Martin and B.A. which stands for Bad Attitude, which he has.young-golf-course-alligator-300x199

Hissstory: We received Dean Martin in June of 2003.  He was a wedding “gift” that did not work out!  Dean’s original owner had purchased a baby gator for his new bride and she decided a pet alligator was not what she was looking for.  Not only do alligators bite – they are against the law to own as pets.

B.A. came to live at Reptiles Alive in August of 2004.  He was also an illegal pet that became unwanted.

RA Diet: Our young alligators eat roaches, crickets, fish, and their favorite: dead, defrosted rodents.  Yum-O!

Natural Diet: Alligators are opportunistic feeders; they will eat almost any animal that is nearby including fish, insects, mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles.  Alligators are one of the only animals with jaws strong enough to crush a turtle shell – so they love to eat turtles.

Range: American Alligators live in the southeastern United States from eastern North Carolina south through Florida and west to eastern Texas.

Habitat: Almost any place there is freshwater in the south, you could find a gator.  They live in lakes, rivers, ponds, ditches, golf course water hazards, and sometimes, they try to move in to back yard swimming pools!

Size: Female alligators can grow 8-9 feet while males grow to an average 10-12 feet.

Lifespan: Alligators can live more than 40 years.

Reproduction: Female alligators build a nest out of grass and leaves that measures four feet high by about six feet in diameter.  As the vegetation decomposes, the nest heats up – like a compost pile.  The mama gator then lays up to around 60 eggs.  Unlike other reptiles, mother alligators guard their nest against attacking predators like foxes, raccoons, or even humans.  When the eggs hatch, the baby alligators cry for their mom to come and get them.  The mama gator carries her little babies inside her toothy jaws carefully to the water and will continue to protect them for up to a year.

Conservation: Success story! Populations of alligators were once nearly hunted to extinction for food and leather goods. They were even used as a food source during the Civil War. It is now illegal to hunt, harass, collect, or even feed wild alligators.  Alligator products sold today are from captive farmed populations.

Cool Facts: Alligators have the most powerful jaws in the animal kingdom. Their jaws have a crushing power in excess of 3,000 pounds per square inch! Alligators cannot chew, however, so when they eat large prey, they “death roll” in the water to break food up into more manageable portions.

Alligators do not naturally attack humans – they are usually afraid of us. Sometimes, people illegally feed alligators which can cause the gator to lose their fear of humans and look to them for food.  Feeding wild animals can create a dangerous situation for humans and animals – that is why it is against the law.

Creature Feature: Nile Monitor Lizard

Nile Monitor Lizard

Varanus niloticus

Reptiles Alive Name: “Logan”nile_monitor

Hissstory: On September 2, 2000, a person having breakfast looked out their window and saw a “Komodo Dragon” hanging on their bird feeder.  He called the Wildlife Center of Virginia and explained the situation.  The Wildlife Center was able to capture the dragon, which turned out to be an escaped or abandoned African Nile monitor lizard.  The Wildlife Center called us, and we agreed to provide the monitor lizard with a home.

RA Diet: Logan loves to eat dead mice, roaches, crickets, and sometimes, cooked chicken eggs.

Natural Diet: These huge, carnivorous lizards eat just about anything!  Insects, eggs (including crocodile eggs), snakes, rodents, other lizards, birds, and even baby crocodiles can all be dinner for a Nile monitor lizards.

Range: Most of Africa including northern Egypt to Sudan and south to South Africa.

Habitat: If there is a river or lake or other water source, and you are in Africa, you are probably in Nile monitor habitat.

Size: Nile monitors are one of the largest lizards in the world.  They can grow 5-7 feet long. The record is 8 feet long.

Life span: Monitors can live over 20 years.

Reproduction: Nile monitors lay 10-60 eggs in a nest they dug in the ground. They especially like making nests inside of termite mounds. The eggs will incubate around 9-10 months. When they hatch, Baby monitors are only 6-8 inches long, but they will grow to 20 inches in a year.

Conservation: Threats include habitat loss,  and poaching for bush meat and the skin trade. Nile monitors are protected under CITES Appendix II.

There are several large populations of these lizards throughout Florida. People illegally released them into the wild after they were no longer wanted as pets. Nile monitors eat nearly any animal, making them a threat to native American wildlife. There are no natural predators for them in the United States. Current evidence suggests that total eradication of this species from Florida is no longer feasible and the population may be spreading!

Cool Facts: Scientists have found out recently that female Nile monitors often come back to their nests when the babies are beginning to hatch. She will help the babies by gently digging the eggs and hatchlings out of the ground.

Creature Feature: Sudan Plated Lizard

Sudan Plated Lizard

Gerrhosaurus major

platedliz

Reptiles Alive Name: “Major Gary”

Hisssstory: We rescued Major Gary in September 2001 when he became unwanted by his owner.

RA Diet: Gary devours crickets, meal worms, super worms, roaches, earthworms, greens, vegetables, and fruit.

Natural Diet: Wild plated lizards love insects, especially termites, and vegetation.

Range: Africa

Habitat: Semi-arid grasslands around rock piles and especially in and around termite mounds.

Size: Grows 16 to 28 inches.

Lifespan: Plated lizards can live over 20 years.

Reproduction: Plated lizards lay 2-6 eggs that hatch in three to four months. They will often lay eggs in termite mounds where the temperature stays around 85 degrees.

Conservation: Plated lizards are often captured in the wild and then sold as pets, and sadly, most wild pets do not survive.

Cool Facts: Plated lizards are covered in large scales called osteoderms – scales that have bone in them.  Crocodiles and alligators have similar scales.  Osteoderms protect them from the harsh environment and enemies, kind of like a knight wearing armor.  Plated lizards also have huge ears. Can you seem them in the picture above?