Reptile Awareness Day, October 21, celebrates the diverse group of animals that is reptiles, including turtles, lizards, snakes and even crocodiles.
The Australian Museum notes Australia is home to about 14 percent of the world's reptilian population and has some of the largest known snake and lizard fossils in the world.
While it may be problematic to keep a crocodile as a pet, many Aussies still love their reptiles, with snakes and lizards making up the majority of reptiles housed in Australia according to reptile experts. About three per cent of Australians own a reptile, according to a 2016 pet ownership survey by Animal Medicines Australia, with about half keeping lizards, 30 per cent with snakes and 12 per cent with turtles or tortoises.
In celebration of Reptile Awareness Day, PETstock compiled tips on how to keep scaly pets happy and healthy at home.
It's essential to first check with your local wildlife agency or council as to what permits are required for owning a reptile.
- Reptile houses are called terrariums. In general, they should be draft and escape proof, moisture and heat resistant and well lit. Terrariums can be tall and narrow to accommodate tree dwelling reptiles (e.g. chameleons) or low and wide, suitable for most lizards and ground dwelling snakes. Get the largest terrarium you have space for and can afford. The reduced space requirements make them ideal for apartment living.
- Snakes and lizards are very susceptible to microorganisms and parasites when kept in captivity. Daily cleaning of water and bowls is important. The terrarium itself should be cleaned once a week. Bleaches or alcohol-based cleaners are better tolerated than phenol cleaners such as Pine-o-Clean.
- Diets vary depending on your type of reptile. However, each animal is primarily one of three types: Herbivore (a plant eater), Carnivore (a meat or protein eater), or Omnivores (eat both plant and meat or protein). You should consult specific care sheets for advice and visit your local vet.
- Access to plenty of natural sunlight is the best type of full spectrum lighting.
Scaly fast facts:
- All reptiles are cold-blooded, have scales and reproduce either by laying eggs or giving birth to live young. Some reptiles are aquatic animals, although most live on land.
- The Australian crocodile is the largest living reptile in the world. Also known as the Estuarine or Saltwater Crocodile, adults average 3 to 5 metres in length.
- In July 2019, NT local Ted Plevnik listed his home for sale complete with crocodile enclosure and two pet crocs - Gem and Boris.
- Many people have a fear of reptiles, particularly snakes. However, reptiles are shy creatures and, if given the chance, will escape rather than attack. Most snakes only bite as a last resort and the majority of bites to humans are inflicted while people are trying to catch or kill them.
- Most native reptile species are protected in Australia.
- They are relatively inexpensive to keep although initial purchase costs can be high and, in many cases, permits are mandatory.
REPTILE CHECK LIST
- Appropriate license
- Cage décor
- Heat device
- Incandescent or fluorescent lighting
- Substrate e.g. sand, reptile carpet etc.
- Reptile carpet
- Specific food
- Reptile friendly disinfectant
- Water & food bowl
- Care book specific to your reptile
- Visit your local vet for regular check ups