Hawksbill Turtle Project Offering Volunteer Positions!

The hawksbill is quite rare in the Hawaiian Islands. In 1998, only 38 nests were documented on the Big Island. They need volunteers for the 2009 nesting season, which runs from May to December. You will be monitoring hawksbill nests on remote beaches in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and adjacent lands. They prefer stays of 8-12 weeks, but will consider shorter periods.

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Volunteers camp 3-5 nights a week. Duties include monitoring nesting hawksbills and basking green turtles, rescuing stranded hatchlings, excavating nests, and trapping and euthanizing predators (mongooses, feral cats, and rats). Some nesting beaches can be reached only by hiking a 6.6 mile trail over recent lava flows, but others can be reached by 4-wheel drive truck. The weather is hot and very windy.

Shared dormitory-style housing is provided near Park Headquarters at the summit of Kilauea Volcano (4,000 ft. elevation). A small stipend is provided, so you will need some of your own money.

Contact Will Seitz:

Will_Seitz@contractor.nps.gov

Swamp Stroll Gets Dangerous

It started out lovely, as they all happen to do.  Our camping visit to Congaree National Park in South Carolina began perfectly.  The campground was deserted, the mosquito meter was on low, and the temperature was pleasant.  Little did we know that an innocent hike would become potentially life threatening.

anolescongaree

Both of us have been primitive camping and hiking since before we could walk.  We were well prepared with several layers of clothes, first aid, compass, water bottles, map, flashlight, knife, multi-tool, emergency fire making equipment, water purification, extra batteries, a German shepherd, and a gps.

We decided to do a loop known as the Oakridge trail.  Download a trail map here:Congaree trail Map page.

A simple 5 hour hike through the swamp.

Bad Decision #1

It was in the high 40′s with a bit of chilly wind as we were hiking through behemoth cypress and tupelo trees. When a bit of swamp crossed our path.  No problem, just take off your shoes, cross the water, wipe off your feet, and return shoes to proper location. The crossing was slippery, cold, and wet.  The dog didn’t care.  This was our first bad decision. Thus:

Bad Decision #2

Several miles after the short crossing, something a bit larger got in the way.trailmarkers

The other side could not be seen.  The smart thing would have been to turn around now.  We looked at the map and found we had nearly completed the entire loop.  Turning back now would put us back in camp several hours after dark in near freezing temperatures.  We would also be crossing the water in the dark.

It was decided to continue along this mass of water in hopes that we would find a narrower crossing or the other trail that it should meet up with in a half mile.

Continuing North with the water on our left, we came face to face with the major creek running through the park, Cedar Creek.  Several hundred feet wide and over our head deep.  This became impossible crossing number two.  Even in warm weather I would not brave this as swamp mud can sink you down over your head.  A person could become immobilized under water and dead very soon.

That led me to:

Bad Decision #3: Trusting the GPS

My gps claimed the trail crossed to our side of the water about a mile from where we were stading.  This was easy to believe as we had crossed many bridges throughout the day.  I confidently headed straight ahead with Cedar Creek on my left.

Giant wild boars grunted and dashed through the leaves as the sun sank.  We had nearly completed another loop inside the first one made by the trail and should be back to where we crossed the water earlier in the day.  My husband stopped at a creek stretched in front of us insisting the trail was just on the other side of this very steep banked deep water crossing.  I did not believe him as my gps said the trail was somewhere on THIS side of the water.logacrosscongareeA giant tree had fallen across the water, he wanted to brave it.  A fall in would have left a person drenched and exposed to hypothermia on the hike back.  The map said a large bridge crossing was to our south, if we could just get to that we could see it in the dark easily and get back to camp.

I marked the fallen log on my gps and we continued. We were nearly back to were we crossed the water earlier and would find our trail again when, yes another bit of water was in our way.

Trusting Intuition

We could be weaving our way around fingers of water all night long just to get back to the water crossing to be made in the dark and bitter cold. Once found we would have a two hour hike back to camp. My husband mentioned the log crossing. For the first time that day, I made a good decision.  I trusted him.

We crossed in the dark with our amazing german shepherd between us.  The trail markers were less than 50 feet ahead of us.  We were saved.

What We Didn’t Know

We could have died.  It was 30 degrees that night.  My husband was quickly becoming an expert fire maker with his flint and magnesium.  If the trail was not on the other side of that log, my husband was going to make a fire and we would camp for the night.  Hypothermia can kill at temperatures well above freezing.  With a fire, we could live.

What was it that we didn’t know?  That the swamp was in flood stage from rains days before in the mountains to the northwest.  The spot we were stuck in the night before was underwater by the next day.  Our fire would have been drowned, we would have been soaked, lost, and very possibly dead by morning.

tupelo

What We Learned

Gps’s give only a vague idea on where you are.  Do not trust it, but use the information it gives WITH a paper map.  Learn to use a map and a compass.  Note where you are at all times by paying attention to the distance you have walked, your surroundings, the distance you will need to walk back, and reference this with what you see on the map.  As prepared as we were, we were just lucky. Very, very stupid, but very, very lucky.

The Wiki on Hypothermia

 

Pet Reptiles for Christmas

Are reptile pets for Christmas a good or bad idea?  For most people, a pet reptile is probably not the greatest idea for a variety of reasons.

Two reasons not to get a pet reptile are:

1.  Reptiles require specialized care that changes with the species being kept.  For instance, green iguanas require huge (4′X4′X6′) enclosures that can be heated to 80-100 degrees F with high humidity, good ventilation, and full spectrum lighting.  Iguanas also need a specialized diet of calcium rich leafy greens and other vegetables fed to them every day.  A red-eared slider turtle will need a 75-150 gallon aquarium with clean water, a dry basking area, and full spectrum lighting.  Many people don’t think of the space and cost of housing a pet reptile until it is too late.

christmasturtle

2.  Reptiles will never become a companion like a dog or cat will.  Dogs and cats are part of the family.  They liked to be petted, played  with, and cuddled.  Even the friendliest reptile pet will not ever play with you, go for a walk with you, or want to cuddle with you.  Some reptiles will even become ill with stress if they are interacted with too frequently.  So many reptiles become unwanted simply because they are seen as objects that require time and money as opposed to loved members of the family.

More great information to consider before getting ANY pet at Christmas, or any other time, can be found atOrlando Sentinel – Pets as presents: Think long-term

So what to do if your child loves reptiles?

You have many options for budding herpetologists on your Christmas list.  There are some very cool reptile toys out there that I would have LOVED to get at Christmas.  Remote control cobras, anatomically correct rubber reptiles, plush and wooden reptiles and more can be found at many zoo gift stores, nature specialty stores, and science related stores.   Books featuring cold blooded critters are also a huge hit with reptile loving children.

Other exciting gift ideas include:

  • Zoo “adopt and animal” programs.  These programs offer people the chance to sponsor a zoo animal.  Most programs will send you pictures, updates, and natural history information about the animal you “adopted.”  You can also take your child to the zoo (always fun!) to visit his or her animal.
  • Give you child “coupons” for reptile-related family field trips.   Trips to the zoo, nature center, museum, aquarium or park where you can search for reptiles and amphibians in the wild can all be part of the coupon book.  Remember to take pictures of animals you see, but not to touch or bother wild animals. You can then add these experiences and pictures into your nature journal.
  • Subscriptions to reptile magazines and journals or a membership in a nature or reptile related club or society is a great gift for young herpetologists.  Most states and some local jurisdictions have herpetological societies that anyone can join.
  • A gift of a live reptile show performed for your child at a holiday party is a great way to give your child the opportunity to safely interact with live reptiles.  Most areas have at least one professional traveling animal show company, and if you are in the DC area, you should, of course, hire Reptiles Alive!

Merry Christmasssssssss and have a sssssssuper New Year!

giftsnake4

Introduction to Reptiles: a Beginner’s Guide

What is a reptile?

A reptile is a vertebrate animal, they have a bony skeleton just like you and me, breathe through lungs, are covered in scales, are ectothermic, and typically lay eggs.

Cold-blooded

uromstyx8

Reptiles are ectothermic (exothermic) meaning, “outside temperature.” This means the animal’s internal temperature changes with that of the environment. If it is 73 degrees outside, the inside of the snake is 73 degrees. Mammals are homothermic, meaning same temperature all the time. Humans are typically 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit all of the time.

Reptile bodies cannot function when it is too cold or too hot. They rely on their surroundings to maintain their body’s preferred temperature. A cold lizard will bask on a rock in the sun, then move to the shade after he becomes too hot.

Types of reptiles

There are over 8,000 kinds of reptiles split into four groups.

1. Chelonia – turtles, tortoisesrussian_tortoise

2. Crocodilia – alligators, caimans, crocodiles, gavialsgatorsmilecutouthead

3. Rhynchocephalia – tuatara

Tuatara
4. Squamata – amphisbaenians, lizards, snakessunshine_profile-300x200

Scientists do not separate lizards and snakes into two groups, but list them under the group “squamata.” Snakes are considered specialized versions of lizards. Why must the scientists be confusing?

Compare and Contrast: Snakes Vs Lizards

All snakes are legless, but some lizards are legless too!

All snakes have no ears, but some lizards lack ears as well.

All snakes have no eyelids, but some lizards also have no eyelids.

Snakes have forked tongues, but so do many lizards.

Confused yet? Don’t worry, from now on we will discuss snakes and lizards as separate groups. Whew! (and you were worried)

Chelonians – Turtles

shellinsideThere are over 300 different kinds of turtles. Sea turtles fly gracefully through the warm oceans of the world with giant flippers, tortoises lumber across the land with strong elephant like legs, and terrapins paddle with webbed feet in freshwater habitats.

A turtle’s ribs and backbone together form the turtle’s hard shell. It is covered in skin just like your bones are, a turtle’s shell is inside its body.

Sea turtles can hold their breath for over an hour by using the powers of their amazing heart. The heart blocks off blood to the lungs and allows the blood to travel to only parts of the body needing oxygen while under water!

The giant galapagos tortoise, aldabra tortoise, and african spurred tortoise can live to be over 170 years old!

Crocodilia – Crocodiles and family

With beautiful smiles and big strong tails, crocodilians number over 20 different species including crocodiles, alligators, caimans, and gharials. Gharials have very long, narrow snouts studded with sharp teeth.

crocCrocodiles and alligators are a bit more difficult to tell apart. Alligators typically have broader snouts and straight rows of ridges down their backs. Crocodiles have narrower snouts and irregular rows of ridges on their back. When a crocodile’s mouth is closed, its fourth tooth on the lower jaw fits into a notch on the outside of the upper jaw.

There are only two different kinds of alligators; the american alligator and the very endangered chinese alligator.

Crocodilians are very shy creatures feeding on insects, snails, shellfish, frogs, turtles, fish, mammals, and birds. They rarely want to be near any human. We taste terrible!

gatorbackThe eyes and nostrils are located on top of their head to allow the animal to see and breathe above the water’s surface. They are covered in bony armor to protect them from both their prey and predators. It’s almost like having two skeletons!

We still have much to learn from crocodiles. We have found they are immune to some diseases, heal quickly, are intelligent, and are wonderful parents. Alligators even help other animals survive during droughts by digging water holes with their huge body. Sadly, most crocodilian species are in danger of becoming extinct!

Squamates – Lizards

smallestlizard

Lizards are the most diverse group of reptiles. They come in a huge variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. Lizards are split into two clades or groups, the Iguania and Scleroglossa (meaning hard tongue.) Some lizards can grow over 10 feet long like the komodo dragon and Salvadores monitor lizard. Others, like the Jaragua lizard are able to curl up on a dime.

A typical lizard has external ears, four legs, claws, eyes with eyelids, and tails. Scientists have found that lizards can see color, and some can even see in the ultraviolet wavelengths. Excellent eyesight allows the creatures to snatch bugs out of the air and to see spectacular mating displays.

frilleddragon08 A lizards sense of smell and taste is very acute. Monitor lizards even have a forked tongue like a snake to enhance smelling ability.

Lizards have found remarkable ways to survive. Many are covered in spines, some can stick to trees, most are able to lose their tails, others change colors, a few glide out of trees, and one species can even run across water!

What scientists have learned from lizards has been astounding. They are an amazing group of animals.

Squamates – Snakes

No other animal has been both revered and reviled more than the snake. They are the most widely feared and misunderstood animal on the planet. Very few kinds of snakes are able to harm people.

These slender reptiles have no legs, ears, or eyelids. Snakes are dry, not slimy as scales are made of keratin, the same thing your hair and fingernails are made of.

hognosetongue

A snake’s forked tongue cannot sting or hurt you. A snake that is constantly flicking out it’s tongue is simply interested in its surroundings “sniffing’ like a dog. Chemicals or “scents” stick to the tongue as it waves it around. Then the scent laden tongue is stuck into the neuron studded Jacobson’s organ, a small hole in the roof of the mouth, sending instant messages about what it smells to its brain.

costarint

Remarkable organs known as heat sensing pits light up the night for some lucky snakes. Rattlesnakes, vipers, copperheads, boas, and pythons are able to distinguish in vivid detail differences in temperature allowing them to navigate and catch prey in complete darkness.

All snakes are carnivores. To catch prey, a snake must either bite it with fangs and inject venom, or use its body to subdue the animal using strong muscles. Swallowing the food is a challenge for an animal with no arms or legs! Their jaws are not strong enough to chew their food. Tiny curved teeth hook on to the food item, and allow it to only go in one direction, down the throat!

A snake’s head may appear too small to swallow many food items. Jaws of these animals have a hinge allowing them to open wide. The lower jaw includes two jaw bones connected in the middle with a streatchy ligament, so the mouth can open wide sideways as well. One side of the jaw holds the prey while the other side of the jaw slides forward, walking the food further into their mouth.

The largest snakes in the world are the anaconda and reticulated python, both able to grow over 30 feet long and weighing several hundred pounds. Jewels of this blue planet, snakes come in every color of the rainbow rivaling tropical fish and birds in their beauty.

Rhynchocephalia – Tuatara

Tuatara

A living fossil, the tuatara is an unusual reptile unchanged since the days of the dinosaurs. Although they look much like lizards, tuatara have different skulls, teeth, and pelvic bones. Living only in New Zealand in protected islands, these reptiles prefer lower temperatures than other reptiles. Tuataras live for a long time, probably over 100 years!

Unfortunately, they are highly endangered due to humans, habitat destruction, and introduced predators.

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UPCOMING EVENTS

  1. Alexandria Library Burke Branch Reptiles Alive Rocks! Show

    June 25 @ 4:00 pm - 5:15 pm
  2. Palisades Library Reptiles Alive Show

    June 26 @ 4:00 pm - 4:30 pm
We had a great experience with Reptiles Alive for my daughter’s 6th birthday party. Rachel arrived exactly on time, set up quickly, and immediately engaged the group of curious children. We had an impromptu dance party while waiting for last minute guests and Rachel was very accommodating. The children LOVED the show!! And my soon-to-be 11 year old wants them to come for his birthday! I highly recommend Reptiles Alive for your next event!read more

Kelly Maguire

Kelly Maguire

22:57 12 Mar 18

We just had Reptiles Alive come to our preschool and the kids loved it!! We had 4 shows over 2 days to accommodate all our children and everything went great! Caroline was very easy to work with and quick to respond to all my emails. She was our presenter too and was early each day and ready to go when the kids arrived. She really geared her show towards our audience (2-5yr olds) and had them laughing and answering her questions and touching the animals. It was perfect… we would definitely book them again!!read more

Lauren Dolinski

Lauren Dolinski

20:47 01 Mar 18

We booked Reptiles Alive for our son’s 7th birthday party. Miss Rachel put on an amazing show for the 20 kids we had over. The highlight was when my son and I had the chance to hold a long and surprisingly heavy boa constrictor named Sunflower. The show was both educational and fun for the kids, and it kept them captivated for a full hour – priceless!!read more

Rick Jandrain

Rick Jandrain

01:53 06 Feb 18

Rachel is an awesome instructor and very good with many kids. The reptiles were fascinating. This was a great birthday party for my daughter and her second grade class.read more

Robert McKeon

Robert McKeon

23:26 26 Feb 18

We invited Reptiles Alive for our birthday party. Ms. Rachel did a wonderful job to educate the kids about the fun facts of Reptiles and also kept them entertained and focused. It’s not a easy job facing a bunch of 7-year-old boys and 3-year-old preschoolers. We highly recommend Reptiles Alive show. It’s fun and full of knowledge!read more

Tianchan Niu

Tianchan Niu

22:09 17 Dec 17

We had Reptiles Alive join us for a country club event and they did an outstanding job! Ashley was amazing and so professional. She was very interactive with the children and played the role perfectly. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience!read more

Chelsea Barb

Chelsea Barb

20:20 28 Mar 18

We’ve been working with Reptiles Alive for the past 4 years now and they show up and show out every time. Everything from booking to the day of is efficient and friendly. At our past event, presenter Liz did 6 shows back to back for our campers, which is truly impressive and phenomenal. We will continue to work with Reptiles Alive for years to come and really appreciate the work and educating that they do!read more

Lydia Vanderbilt

Lydia Vanderbilt

21:09 05 Apr 18

Reptiles Alive gave an awesome show at our elementary school! The presenter was so much fun and really engaged the children. Very cool reptiles and a great interactive meet and greet at the end. The kids loved it!read more

Jonathan Grau

Jonathan Grau

14:52 07 Apr 18

I am in charge of grade level assemblies at our school and our 3rd grade has RA in for their Rain Forest show every year to reinforce the things they have learned about in class. This is my second year working with them and I have been absolutely thrilled with the interaction to book the event and with the presenters. They engage the kids and help make them a part of the show. I can’t say enough about this wonderful program and the amazing people that work there.read more

Kim Painter

Kim Painter

23:32 07 Apr 18

We love this show at our preschool!! The kids have so much fun and learn a lot! They are very organized and always start on time. We have always had a wonderful experience with Reptiles Alive and can’t wait to have them back again!read more

Melissa Jones

Melissa Jones

15:06 20 Apr 18

Reptiles Alive LLC visited our 1st grade friends and did the “Reptiles Alive!” show. They exceeded all of our expectations and were excellent at keeping the students engaged. The students have talked about it for days after, even repeating some of the facts they have heard! I would highly recommend Reptiles Alive!read more

Brittney Gjorgjievski

Brittney Gjorgjievski

16:12 14 May 18

Reptiles Alive was a MAJOR hit at the Mattie Miracle Walk & Family Festival. Rachel was incredibly professional, engaging, and clearly loves what she does. She made the show and meet & greet fun for both kids and adults. Can’t wait to have Reptiles Alive back next year to our event. We received a lot of positive feedback from our guests and we were thrilled to see how well attended the show was at our event. Thank you Reptiles Alive!!!read more

Peter Brown

Peter Brown

01:58 22 May 18

Caroline did an awesome job for our kindergarten Reptiles Alive performance. She held their attention and told fun stories. The reptiles are so cool! Every time she introduced a new reptile, the kids were amazed. I recommend the “meet and greet” time as well. My students will never forget touching a boa constrictor! Thanks Reptiles Alive!read more

Michelle Baldwin

Michelle Baldwin

03:00 09 Jun 18