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.

Grand Cayman Island Adventure Part II: Blue Dragons!

I was very lucky…

In February 2008, I went with a group of my friends to the QE II Botanic Park on Grand Cayman Island.  Since I love gardening, I always get excited about touring botanical parks, and this was a GREAT one.  But it was about to get even better!

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Caroline and friend

The QE II Botanic Park is also the home of the Blue Iguana Recovery Program. I knew about the program from my friend Janis (a former Reptiles Alive animal keeper) who now works as a Keeper at the National Zoo Reptile Discovery Center.  The National Zoo is a partner with the Blue Iguana Recovery Project, and maintains a breeding colony of them right here in Washington DC.   A few years ago,  the Zoo sent Janis to Grand Cayman to help out with the iguana program and learn more about Blue Iguana natural history and husbandry.

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Blue Iguana

While touring the Botanic Garden, we came upon the public area of the Blue Iguana enclosures. They were fantastic – the iguanas had tons of room to roam, bask in the sun, dig in the ground and just act naturally. I was thinking things couldn’t get any better when John the Iguana Warden noticed my Reptiles Alive shirt and started chatting. He invited my group into the “behind the scenes” area and we got a great tour of the facility!

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Inside the dragon’s lair

The staff and volunteers are totally dedicated to the care and comfort of these endangered reptiles. From the newly hatched iguanas to the old adults, all the animal receive top-notch care – the Botanic Garden even grows the native plants that the iguanas eat.

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Beautiful Blue Iguana

After the tour, John invited me to come back the next day and spend more time learning about the iguanas. That day, I met the director of the project, Fred Burton. Fred was a total expert on both the iguanas, the plants, and the ecology of Grand Cayman Island. He graciously took time out of his super busy schedule to spend time showing me more of the park and teaching me about the iguanas.

To learn more about the Blue Iguana Recovery Project, visit http://blueiguana.ky

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Fred and the iguana

So, the moral of the story is: Wear your Reptiles Alive shirt when traveling! You never know where it might take you…

First Wildlife Rescue of 2009!

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On Wednesday, January 7, Joanne Fugito found a nearly frozen five-lined skink lizard in her driveway. Lucky for the lizard, Joanne knew just what to do since she is a vet tech at Great Falls Animal Hospital – a veterinary clinic that works with Reptiles Alive and other wildlife rehabilitators to save injured wildlife.

After rescuing the skink from the freezing cold driveway, she did some research and set up a temporary enclosure for it inside of her house. She then called Reptiles Alive and brought the lizard right over. It is the first wildlife rescue we have received in 2009.

The skink appeared healthy, but it could not be released into the bitter January cold. So I set up a warm home with plenty of hiding places for it to live until spring, when we will release it back to its home in Joanne’s front yard.

The heavy rains the day before probably washed the skink out of its hibernation burrow. If the temperature had been 55 or above, I would told Joanne to release the lizard, but the cold air paralyzed the reptile and would have killed the lizard very quickly. After being kept indoors for more than 24 hours, the skink would probably not be able to re-acclimate to going back outside in the winter, so we will wait until April to release it.