Monday, October 30, 2006

Breeding Success for Rare Snake (UK)

Baby Jamaican boas
The snakes can grow to 2m in length
Source: BBC News

Keepers at a Birmingham Nature Centre are welcoming the arrival of 12 baby Jamaican Boa snakes. The babies are part of a captive breeding programme at Birmingham Nature Centre and it is the first time their mother has given birth.
The snakes, an endangered species, are currently just 1cm (0.3in) long, but can reach 2m (6ft 7in) as adults. Their native habitat is moist limestone forests, caves and trees. Accurate numbers in the wild are not known. The nature centre, near Birmingham city centre, is home to more than 130 different species.
More info on Jamaican Boas:

The Coqui Frog - A Continuing Saga in Hawaii

What creature is no bigger than an American quarter – and has a piercing continuous chirp, rivaling the sound of a chainsaw, from dusk until dawn? It’s the coqui frog (Eleutherdactylus coqui), a tree frog native to Puerto Rico, that made its way to Hawaii as an accidental passenger on imported plants. These frogs have come into Hawaii and they’ve produced population explosions. They get densities up to three times what have in their native habitat of Puerto Rico. Densities like two to three frogs for every square yard of forest, says biologist Bill Mautz at the University of Hawaii in Hilo.
Mautz says the coqui devour huge numbers of spiders and insects. And he worries about their potential to compete with birds and other critters who depend on the same food sources. The majority of Hawaii’s native forest birds are partially or entirely dependent on insects for food. If coqui and greenhouse frogs spread to forest bird ranges, the frogs could out-compete native, endangered species.
At peak densities in Puerto Rico, coqui frogs, with their voracious appetites, can consume 47,500 prey per night per acre. Because these frogs consume such an abundance of insects, biologists are also concerned that they could lead to the extinction of Hawaiian arthropods like native spiders, which have already been negatively affected by the establishment of other invasive predators.
Caribbean tree frogs (such as the coqui and the greenhouse frog) are primarily nocturnal, seeking shelter during the day in moist areas covered by brush or debris. They prefer hot, humid environments that receive lots of rain. Since first being seen in Hawaii in 1992, the coqui frog and the greenhouse frog (E. planirostris) have been a threat to the state’s agriculture, tourism, and native ecosystems. With its tropical climate and a lack of natural predators, Hawaii has become a perfect second home to these invasive species. Both species are light-brown to dark or reddish in color and have variable patterns, including light stripes down the back.
The coqui frog, known for its piercing chirp, is much easier to detect than the quieter greenhouse frog. Coqui have been reported at more than 320 locations covering approximately 2,000 acres on the islands of Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, and Kauai.
Mautz said coqui frogs are extremely loud. "We’ve measured sound pressure levels up around 73 decibels. That’s around like a loud party. You’ve got to raise your voice to have a conversation in the middle of that." Beginning at dusk and continuing until dawn, male coqui frogs move into the trees and call “ko-kee” over and over to attract females. Many residents and tourists have experienced sleepless nights as a result of the incessant chirping of the male coqui frog.
People have tried various frog remedies to alleviate the problems caused by the coqui. There’s research going on regarding other means of chemical control -- including hydrated lime to control coqui frog populations. There’s research on possible biological control methods. But so far there’s no magic bullet on the immediate horizon.
In an effort to protect Hawaii’s natural resources and preserve the islands’ inherent tranquility, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working to develop environmentally sound strategies to manage coqui and greenhouse frog populations. Scientists at APHIS’ National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) Hawaii field station in Hilo, in cooperation with the State Department of Agriculture and the University of Hawaii’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, have already discovered several promising new methods.
The product currently being tested is commonly used as a soil amendment to reduce acidity. It is called slaked lime or calcium hydroxide. It is cheaper and in some ways easier to use than the other common coqui frog-control chemical, citric acid, said Kyle Onuma, the state Department of Agriculture weed specialist in Hilo, Hawaii. Onuma figured out that hydrated lime might work. He used lime when he grew ginger commercially, and recalled that if it got on his skin, he would feel a burning sensation if he sweated. Since coqui frogs have moist skin, he though it might work against the animals. It did. Both citric acid and hydrated lime attack the frogs' skin and cause death within a short time, he said.
Whatever the end result, conservationists need to be aware of the effects of the coqui -- and the effects on coqui populations.
Original source: Earth and Sky
Other Coqui Resources:
ScienceNews - "Hawaii's Hated Frogs"
University of Hawaii at Manoa - Coqui research - Coqui Information
Honolulu Advertiser - Coqui article - Coqui Flyer (pdf)
To Puerto Rico - Coqui Info

Sunday, October 29, 2006

URGENT: Adenovirus in Bearded Dragons

Cheri Smith of The Reptile Rooms posted the following on their website a few days ago. After reading the article, it has been included here -- as a resource for correct information regarding the adenovirus affecting bearded dragons.

In the past week, much misinformation about adenovirus was being circulated in emails and verbally to keepers and breeders of bearded dragons. These erroneous statements continued to grow and became alarming as they were giving dangerously wrong information about something that is affecting some breeder's colonies and can affect the entire population of bearded dragons in the US.
This inaccurate information was also being used by a breeder that was selling adenovirus positive bearded dragons to the public as he felt what was stated, made it an acceptable practice. I contacted the universities and veterinarians that a mass mailings of informational flyers were suppose to be quoting and also names from personal emails to me. In all cases, the veterinarians and universities denied this was information coming from them, anyone on their staff or that these comments were accurate.
Each was provided the same flyer type email that was mass mailed to individuals. Elliot Jacobson, DVM, PhD, DACZM Professor of Zoological Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville was gracious enough to take the time from his very busy schedule to respond in emails, called me to review them and why he feels this is happening. He also provided the following information to be shared with our community in hopes this can dispel some of this misinformation until his staff can complete a page dedicated to this topic in bearded dragons, on their new website. Please read the following letter from him and reprinted with his permission to interested individuals in this industry.
TO: Cheri Smith
FROM: Elliott Jacobson
SUBJECT: Bearded dragon adenovirus

It has been brought to my attention that misinformation attributed to me is circulating concerning adenovirus infection of bearded dragons (BD).
A major problem is that despite our attempts to educate people who call us about this and other health issues of reptiles, those people lacking a medical background have a very real problem understanding what we are saying or may use what we discussed out of context. At times bits and pieces of things are heard and then weaved into something entirely different than what was originally stated.
My own opinion is that adenovirus is a significant health issue and a major effort is needed to eliminate this virus from breeding groups of BD. While we know relatively little about the biology and pathogenicity of this virus in bearded dragons, and that much research is needed to determine its overall health impact, it is my impression from cases that I have seen that this virus can result in severe hepatic necrosis (liver disease) and death. Thus known positive animals should never be sold in the pet trade. It may turn out that there may be different strains of this virus in bearded dragons that cause different degrees of mortality. This eventually needs to be studied. Outcomes of lizards that are infected need to be studied. How long can a BD shed virus? The questions go on and on. Ultimately, transmission studies are needed to show that a specific virus can kill lizards.
But, in the meantime, with more than 30 years of experience working with reptile pathogens I consider the adenovirus we have seen in bearded dragons a pathogen. It may act as a primary pathogen in certain cases while in others it may work in concert with other pathogens. Or, it is possible that a latent infection (one in which the virus is still present in low numbers somewhere in the animal's body) becomes active after "something" suppresses the animal's immune system. Still, the virus is a pathogen and an animal is certainly better off if it is not infected in the first place. The severe necrosis of the liver that is often seen with BDs infected with this virus is similar to the liver disease seen in other animals, including other reptiles, infected with adenovirus.
A similar adenovirus has been seen in boa constrictors having severe hepatic necrosis and transmission studies have been done to show that this virus can result in mortality
(Jacobson ER, Gaskin JM, Gardiner CH. 1985. Adenovirus-like infection in a boa constrictor. J Amer Vet Med Assoc 187:1226-1227). I have seen a similar virus in other snakes dying with severe hepatic necrosis and in lizards other than bearded dragons having various clinical signs of illness and lesions (Wellehan JFX, Johnson AJ, Harrach B, Benko M, Pessier AP, Johnson CM, Garner MM, Childress C, Jacobson ER. 2004. Detection and analysis of six lizard adenoviruses by consensus primer PCR provides further evidence of a reptilian origin for the atadenoviruses. J Virol 78:13366-13369). These reports make it clear that this is not a benign agent.
Frye FL, MunnRJ, Gardner M, Barten SL, Hadfy LB. 1994. Adenovirus-like hepatitis in a group of related Rankin's dragon lizards (Pogono henrylawsoni) J Zoo Wildl Med 25:167-171.
Jacobson ER, Gaskin JM, Gardiner CH. 1985. Adenovirus-like infection in a boa constrictor. J Amer Vet Med Assoc 187:1226-1227
Jacobson ER, Kopit W, O'Brien B. 1996. Co-infection of a Bearded Dragon, Pogona vitticeps, with Adeno- and Dependo-like Viruses. Vet Path. 33:343-346
Julian AF, Durham JK. 1985. Adenoviral hepatitis in a bearded dragon (Amphibolurus barbatus). N Z Vet J 30:59-60.

Kim DY, Mitchell MA, Bauer RW, Poston R, Cho DY. 2002. An outbreak of adenoviral infection in inland bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) coinfected with dependovirus and coccidial protozoa (Isospora sp.). J Vet Diagn Invest 14:332-334.
Wellehan JFX, Johnson AJ, Harrach B, Benko M, Pessier AP, Johnson CM, Garner MM, Childress C, Jacobson ER. 2004. Detection and analysis of six lizard adenoviruses by consensus primer PCR provides further evidence of a reptilian origin for the atadenoviruses. J Virol 78:13366-13369

I hope this provides some useful information.

With best regards,
Elliott Jacobson, DVM, PhD, DACZM
Professor of Zoological Medicine
University of Florida
We [The Reptile Rooms] greatly appreciate the time that went into preparing this statement to the community that was very much needed by someone who is respected for all he has done and continues to do to help reptiles and their keepers. Elliott Jacobson has dedicated his life to research in the viral field and took the time out from working on a much needed grant request that must be completed and turned in next month. If anyone has had to prepare a grant request, you know the time that has to go into it and the pressure to put as much time into preparing them as you can.
We would like to not only thank him, but also show him we also support his work. Reptile Rooms will donate to his viral research and will also give 100% of all donations though this site for the next week to his projects, with accounting and the names of all that also donate. If you found the above information helpful to you or want to help support IBD, paramyxo or adenovirus research, please give what you can by either clicking on the paypal donation button or emailing for directions on sending a check or money order that will be forwarded to his funding account. CheriS (

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Home Sweet Reptile for Alligator Lizards

Sue Bemis is offering room and board for tenants of a cold-blooded nature
By KATHY GRAY of The Chronicle
Photo courtsey of
Sue Bemis is on the hunt for some new friends — of the cold-blooded variety. This week, Bemis built a habitat for alligator lizards in her front yard in The Dalles.
Alligator lizards are a native species to this area, as well as Southern California, where Bemis enjoyed catching them as a child. She has spotted the likely reptiles in her neighbor’s yard and in shrubbery around her own yard.
She hopes to encourage them to take up residency in the cozy home she’s built in her front flower bed out of materials she found around her home, including broken pottery, plywood and insulating straw. She got the idea from “Backyard Habitat,” a program on the Animal Planet cable network that shows how people have established habitat for native animals in inner-city settings.
If you can’t have pets at home, maybe your family can get together and do this,” she said. Bemis owns Sue’s Dog Grooming.
The habitat includes a cozy underground den for safety and for the raising of young, as well as water sources and plenty of places for lizardly sunbathing. “Alligator lizards eat aphids and fruit flies,” Bemis said. She put a piece of banana inside the habitat. The flying insects fly in and can’t get out, creating a ready snack bar for the hungry reptiles.
She invited visitors to come see the new little lizard world she’s created and said she has been writing plans for making the habitats that she will be happy to pass around.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Going Ape Over New Home

By Alice Lindeman
MELBOURNE Zoo's five orang-utans have a new $6.5 million home.
The habitat is the latest part in the zoo's new South-East Asian rainforest exhibit, which includes Sumatran tigers and Asian elephants. The orang-utans, three females and two males, were animated hosts during opening celebrations yesterday. The apes will share their new home with a family of siamangs, a type of gibbon from the forests of Malaysia and Sumatra.
Orang-utans are found only in the wild in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. Adult males grow up to 1.4m tall and they can live in captivity for up to 50 years.
State Environment Minister John Thwaites officially opened the new exhibit. Mr. Thwaites said the enclosure was part of the Bracks Government's $52 million upgrade of Victoria's zoos. "Melbourne Zoo's new orang-utan sanctuary provides visitors with new and unique ways to connect to these magnificent primates," he said. The new exhibit boasts a conservation learning centre and two separate play areas.
Zoos Victoria chief executive Laura Mumaw said the project was a major step in transforming Melbourne Zoo into a world-leading centre. "The sanctuary will provide excellent opportunities for Melbourne's Zoo's one million visitors a year to get unique insights into the world of orang-utans, as well as learning about ways to protect this highly endangered species," Ms Mumaw said.
Fewer than 60,000 orang-utans exist in the wild. Their habitat has been destroyed by logging, mining and forest fires.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Man Pulls Dog From 6-Foot Gator's Jaws

Source: NBC4TV
A Florida school teacher pulled his pet dog from the jaws a 6-foot long alligator. Terry Weaver is a high school teacher in Lee County, Fla. He said his Jack Russell terrier, Scooter, is his best friend. Scooter went for a swim in a canal close to their home and almost became dinner for the gator. Weaver jumped on the alligator's back and managed to wrestle Scooter away from the reptile. Scooter (who ended up with a few stitches) and Weaver are fine, but both will probably stay out of canals now.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Warming Linked To Amphibian Disease

A fungal disease that threatens to wipe out many amphibians is thriving because of climate change, a study suggests.
Researchers studying amphibians at a national park in Spain show that rising temperatures are closely linked to outbreaks of the chytrid fungus. Chytrid fungus is a major contributor to the decline of amphibian populations around the world, threatening many species with extinction.
Details are published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. "We have found an association between increasing temperatures and amphibian disease in a mountain region in Spain," said Dr. Matthew Fisher of Imperial College London. "This is a global emerging amphibian pathogen which is one of the worst vertebrate infectious diseases found so far. It is causing a huge amount of extinction and disease within amphibian populations."
More than 100 species of amphibians are known to be affected by the chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis). Some are very susceptible and die quickly while others which are more resistant are carriers of the pathogen. The disease is already credited with wiping out frogs and toads in large numbers in Australia and South America. Dr. Fisher and his Spanish colleagues uncovered an association between the emergence of the disease and global warming while studying changes in the number of midwife toads in Spain's Penalara Natural Park between 1976 and 2002.
The chytrid fungus, or BD as it is sometimes called, infects the skins of amphibians such as frogs, toads, salamanders and newts and interferes with their ability to absorb water. Dr. Fisher said climate change could be worsening the impact of the disease in one of two ways. Warming temperatures could be reducing the amphibians' ability to mount a successful immune response to the fungus. Amphibians are cold-blooded so their ability to respond to the pathogen could change along with the external temperature. On the other hand, global warming could be increasing the fungus' ability to grow faster on the amphibian and cause more disease.
"This is a wake-up call that we are losing biodiversity fast," Dr Fisher said. "Climate change appears to be changing patterns of disease and previously resistant species are becoming highly infected - even, in a number of cases, becoming extinct." The Global Amphibian Assessment has warned that a third of the world's amphibian species are in danger of extinction, many because of the chytrid fungus.
Source: BBC News

Crocodile Alert in Thailand as Reptiles Escape Farms in Floods

Source: Mumbai Mirror
Bangkok: The Thai Department of Fisheries has warned that crocodiles bred in illegal reptile farms have been escaping from their confinement due to floods encompassing much of the central provinces. It further warned that the reptile — unused to a natural environment — may look for food in all the “wrong” places.
An unspecified number of crocodile farms, both legal and illegal, are located in the flood-ravaged central Thailand provinces, which have been battered by severe floods this year. The escaped reptiles are likely to approach humans because they are used to being fed at the farms, according to Fisheries Department director-general Charanthada Kannasut.
Kannasut advised villagers not to walk or travel by boat in flooded areas at night in order to avoid from being attacked by hungry crocodiles. Those who see crocodiles at large, should inform the authorities immediately, he advised. Meanwhile, he warned that a number of crocodiles from unregistered crocodile farms have escaped from inundated farms and are still roaming free in canals and rivers.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

City Reptile Expert Finds 276th Species of Indian Snake

Suchetana Haldar / Kolkata Newsline
Photo by Ecology Asia
Adding to the list of 275 species of snakes found in India, “Dip Chiti”, or Dipak’s wolf, has now become the newest member after experts could not confirm it as part of the existing reptile tribe. Dipak Mitra, the brain behind Calcutta Snake Park, had stumbled on the new specimen about five years ago. After repeated verifications by several experts failed to get any result, Mitra, a renowned snake expert himself, concluded last year that this indeed was a new species. He named it Lycodon Dipaki after himself.

The snake, a little more than a feet in length, has several distinctive characteristics that separate it from other members of the Lycodon family. First, it inhabits on ground, while the rest of its kind is arborial, dwelling on trees. “Then, unlike other Lycodon snakes, this one is not aggressive,” he said, “it is, instead, more of the crouching type.” But its most striking feature is the flaming band of light yellow at the end of its head, near the “shoulder”. “It appears to have a pale green hue if you see it from a distance,” Mitra said. “But if you look closely, its body is so shiny that it is difficult to ascertain the exact colour.
Mitra first spotted “Dip Chiti” in Badu, near Madhyamgram in North 24 Parganas district, though he confused it with another variety of the Lycodon type. He spotted another one with three eggs the following year but the specimen did not survive. Mitra spotted two snakes the next time around and kept one of them alive by feeding it with termites. He scanned the images and noted down the details, which he then compared with the ones in the existing list.
Mitra next sent the details and photographs to the Zoological Survey of India, and the Wildlife Institute of India. He also sought confirmation of the chairman of Reptile Group of the South East Asian chapter of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources). “All the organisations confirmed that they were not familiar with the variety and that ‘Dip Chiti’ had remained unidentified till date,” Mitra said.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Australia: Snakes On the Move as Drought Worsens

2006 AAP
October 23, 2006 - 6:35PM
Photo by Victoria Museum
Struggling farmers, barren fields and increased food prices are the most obvious signs of drought. But, Top End residents are being warned of an equally serious menace - and it slithers. As temperatures increase, people are being warned to be on the lookout for snakes."This year is expected to be a particularly busy time for us as it has been so dry in the Alice Springs region for many months," said Reptile Centre director Rex Neindorf.
Ten calls were made to a 24-hour emergency hotline to remove snakes last weekend and included the capture and relocation of an eastern brown snake. Although snakes don't need water because they don't sweat, Mr Neindorf said they rely on food to keep their fluids at a reasonable level, meaning more of them were on the ground in search of a meal. "Because conditions have been so dry for such a long time, food is scarce compared to previous years, meaning snakes this year are likely to be more active than in previous years in their search for food," he said.
The larger snakes about this time of year include the mulga and western brown snakes, and Mr Neindorf said their capture was best left to the experts. "When people see a snake and report it to us we recommend they watch the snake from a distance of between five and 10 metres as being adequate," he said. So great is the threat, residents are being urged to program the hotline number into their phones or store it in a safe place above the fridge.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Colombian Frog Believed Extinct Found Alive

Discovery Shows Some Species Can Survive Fungus Decimating Amphibians
Washington, D.C. - Researchers exploring a Colombian mountain range found surviving members of a species of Harlequin frog believed extinct due to a killer fungus wiping out amphibian populations in Central and South America. The discovery of what could be the last population of the painted frog (Atelopus ebenoides marinkellei) indicates the species has survived the fungus, providing hope that other species also might avoid elimination from the epidemic caused by a pathogenic fungus of unknown origin.
Professor Carlos Rocha and a team of researchers from the Pedagogical and Technological University of Boyacá-UTPC supported by Conservation International, the Darwin Initiative and the Fund for Environmental Action and Childhood made the discovery in early May in the deserts of Sarna and Toquilla in Boyacá in eastern Colombia. The painted frog, which is found only in the deserts of Colombia's highlands, was last seen in 1995 in the area of Siscunsi, in the same region as Boyacá. After 11 years without a sighting, scientists considered the species extinct because of a lethal skin fungus, known as chytridiomycosis, and other hazards threatening the survival of a third of all amphibian species around the world.
"The scientific importance of the finding must motivate us to adopt urgent measures toward saving the last of these amphibians, both in the wild and through captive breeding programs," said Fabio Arjona, executive director of Conservation International in Colombia. "That will require a lot of support from the local and international communities." The painted frog is one of 110 species of a diverse group of neo-tropical amphibians that live mostly in Colombia. The country's amphibian population is considered among the most diverse on Earth and key in the conservation efforts to protect amphibian species worldwide. So far, 42 of the 113 species of Atelopus found in the Tropical Andes Hotspot that includes parts of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela have experienced population declines of up to 50 percent.
Frogs provide innumerable ecosystem services by consuming insects and serving as indicators of overall environmental health of an ecosystem. The disappearance of amphibians could cause numerous consequences, including an increase in illnesses such as malaria due to the disappearance of amphibians that feed on mosquitoes carrying the disease. An extinction crisis among amphibians indicates drastic environmental changes caused by human impact such as deforestation and global warming.
The research was conducted as part of the Atelopus Initiative, a regional program that monitors the state of amphibian populations in the Tropical Andes Hotspot. CI will work with partners on extending Atelopus conservation initiatives into Peru and Bolivia under the Amphibian Conservation Action Plan created in 2005 as result of the 2004 Global Amphibian Assessment.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Source: BBC News
Check out the awesome photography that won awards in the Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year. 2006 is the 42nd year of this photo contest, specializing in the beautiful art of wildlife photography. Being placed in this competition is something that wildlife photographers, worldwide, aspire to. Professionals win many of the prizes, but amateurs succeed, too. And that's because achieving the perfect picture is down to a mixture of skill, vision, originality, knowledge of nature and luck.
Each year thousands of entries are received and judged by a specially selected expert panel. The winners are announced at an awards ceremony that takes place each October at the Natural History Museum, London. This year's winners are simply breathtaking! Featured are: a walrus, a Hispaniolan treefrog, flamingos, a Kodiak bear, a coconut crab, spotted hyenas, a snowy owl and penguins.

Friday, October 20, 2006

UK Wildlife Crime Centre Launched

Rare birds eggs
The eggs of rare endangered species are targeted by thieves
A new unit to tackle wildlife crime across the UK has been launched.
Source: BBC News

The unit, based in North Berwick, will tackle the illegal trade in endangered species and will try to prevent the persecution of rare birds and animals. The National Wildlife Crime Unit, which was inaugurated in Edinburgh, is being led by the police but will link up with customs officers and wildlife experts.
It is estimated the worldwide illegal trade in animals, skins and trophies ranges in value from £2bn-£6bn a year. Customs officers have seized nearly 8,000 live birds and animals being smuggled into Britain since 2003. Lothian and Borders Police will host the multi-agency operation, which will gather, analyse and co-ordinate wildlife crime intelligence.
Launching the unit at Edinburgh's Dynamic Earth, biodiversity minister Barry Gardiner said it was about tackling the billion-pound international trade in endangered species, not "saving fluffy bunny rabbits". "We are talking about people who think it is acceptable to kill endangered animals because their fur is a fashion statement, or steal a rare bird's egg because it's one that they don't yet have in their collection, or root out a threatened plant because they know it will fetch a fortune on the black market," he said. "If it was individuals alone doing this that would be a tragic indictment, but it's not. It's organised criminal gangs, it's wholesale criminal organisations in the same way that we talk about people trafficking, the same way that we talk about drug trafficking."

'Impact on lives'
Paddy Tomkins, chief constable of Lothian and Borders Police, said: "
The significance of wildlife crime cannot and should not be under-estimated. It has a direct impact on the economic, environmental and cultural lives of communities, and that is especially true in Scotland where we have some very diverse and critically important wildlife."
In February, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) committed a further £200,000 to the unit, enabling it to expand. First piloted in 2002, it was originally run from within the National Criminal Intelligence Service to gather and analyse national and international intelligence with the support of Defra, the Scottish Executive, the Association of Chief Police Officers, HM Revenue and Customs and the Home Office. As part of its future operations, a team of investigative support officers will also directly support the work of police wildlife crime officers across the UK police forces.
Meanwhile, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has released a list of the worst blackspots in the UK for attacks on birds of prey. The RSPB's crime database revealed that between 1995 and 2006 there were 1,113 confirmed incidents of birds of prey being poisoned, shot at or having their nests destroyed. With 494 incidents, Scotland had the highest total of recorded attacks, followed by England, which suffered 454. S
ome 142 incidents were recorded in Wales, compared to 23 in Northern Ireland.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

There's no "Fear Factor" in owning a creepy crawly

By Brian Quines
There are exotic pets out there for the person who is stretched for time, low on cash and just doesn't have any extra room for a pet.
Millipedes, tarantulas and scorpions might look terrifying, but they are actually good pets to handle, require minimal maintenance, and never get so big that you have to buy a tank over 5 gallons.
"There's a macho factor with people who buy scorpions," said Chris Giacoletti. "But they're harmless, just like any of these other pets." If you're interested in a bad-boy-looking pet, here are a few that are great for beginners.

This scorpion might look menacing, deadly and downright evil, but it's docile by nature and has a sting comparable to a bee or wasp. "You really have to try and "tick" it off to get stung," said Giacoletti, who once buried his 12-year-old son in about 1,000 black emperor scorpions.

These scorpions live 5-8 years and grow to about 8 inches in length.

COST: A young scorpion costs under $20.

CARE REQUIREMENTS: Scorpion diets consist mostly of crickets (one or two every other day), meal worms or night crawlers, and small mice as the scorpion gets older. The crickets should be dusted with a powder vitamin supplement.
For a basic set-up, you'll need a 5-gallon tank, hiding place and bedding – preferably vermiculite or EchoEarth, a type of coconut bedding. That'll cost $20-$30.

CAUTIONS: People who get allergic reactions to bee or wasp stings will have a similar or worse reaction to a scorpion's sting., Incorporated

These millipedes are docile, calm by nature and don't pose any kind of threat to attack. They can live up to five years and are among the largest millipedes in the world – about 7-11 inches in length, with an average of 750 legs. The millipede's defense mechanism is to ball up and secrete a liquid. The liquid isn't dangerous to your skin, but may be harmful if it comes in contact with your eyes or mouth.

COST: Baby millipedes cost about $10.

CARE REQUIREMENTS: Millipedes only feed on vegetation – mainly lettuce and tomatoes. They should be fed once a day and it's suggested that calcium vitamin powder be added to the food.
A starter cage and bedding are needed to house a millipede. A starter kit costs $20-$30 at Reptile Island in Yorba Linda.
The most important part of the enclosure is a moist bedding of peat moss or soil. Millipedes drink the dew of the wet bedding and enjoy burrowing into the ground.

pink-toe tarantula
There are over 800 species of tarantulas, but not all are good pets. Rose hair and pink-toe tarantulas make the best pets. They are docile, OK to handle and are less likely to strike at humans, said Giacoletti. Rose hairs and pink-toes only grow to about 3-5 inches wide. Females live about 10 years. Males only live 3-6 years.

COST: Reptile Island sells rose hairs for about $15. Pink-toes go for about $20.

CARE REQUIREMENTS: A starter kit for tarantulas consists of a 5-gallon tank, a shallow water bowl and damp soil. That'll cost $20-$30.
Tarantulas mostly feed on crickets when they are young. When they get big, you might need to feed them small mice.
Change the water every day and keep the bedding moist. It helps the spider breathe and allows it to burrow more easily.

CAUTIONS: Tarantulas can flick hairs that can cause rashes if your sinuses are sensitive.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Frogs & Toads are Good Low-maintenance Pets

By Jessica Peralta
SqueezeOC / (MCT)

Looking for a little companion that won't be quite as long-term as a reptile, but still less maintenance than a cat? Frogs or toads could be for you.
"Frogs are relatively easy to care for and can be kept in small enclosures," said Patrick Powers, manager of Prehistoric Pets in Fountain Valley, Calif. "Their diet is relatively simple, as well, consisting mostly of bugs – crickets or worms." Sounds simple enough. Here's more information to help you decide if these amphibians are for you.

FROG VS. TOAD: Although both amphibian, there are many differences between frogs and toads, said Chris Giacoletti, owner of Reptile Island in Yorba Linda and Rancho Cucamonga, California.
Frogs' back legs are two times longer then their front legs, he said. Most frogs are aquatic and need a damp environment. But toads can live underground when temperatures reach 110 degrees and then come out when it rains. Most frogs have smooth skin, while some toads have rough skin with glands that excrete toxins when something tries to eat them, Giacoletti said.
Most toads and frogs aren't good pets to hold and play with. Frogs and toads in captivity can live between two and 10 years, depending on the species, Giacoletti said.

COST: Generally $5 to about $20, Giacoletti said. Dart frogs and red-eyed tree frogs start at about $50 each and can go as high as $150. Most toads are generally under $20.

CARE REQUIREMENTS: Depending on the frog's size, a basic set-up requires a 5- to 10-gallon tank, orchid bark for bedding, a shallow water bowl, a live or fake plant and a branch, Giacoletti said. You need to spray frogs down once a day and feed them at least every other day.
Toads have pretty much the same set-up requirements, but don't need trees and branches as much as frogs. If you have a 4-inch frog, you don't need a 60-gallon tank. An amphibian set-up will cost you between $40-$60.
Frogs and toads mainly eat crickets, Giacoletti said. Depending on the frog, you can feed them worms, wax worms and night crawlers. Horned frogs and pixie frogs will also eat mice and rats.

FOR BEGINNERS: The best hands-on frog is a dumpy frog or white's tree frog, Giacoletti said. They're really friendly and grow to about 4 to 5 inches. They eat crickets, worms and can even eat baby mice when they get big enough.
You'll need to set up a damp environment with either live trees or branches and fake vines. The frogs need to be sprayed once a day and need a shallow water bowl. They don't require any lighting, but you can give them mild heat if it gets too cool in your house during winter, Giacoletti said. They do best at 75-84 degrees.
Horned frogs make good pets, Giacoletti said. They grow to about 10 inches in diameter. They're not a good handling pet, however. Pixie frogs are also good beginner pets if you don't mind not handling them. (Tiger salamanders, also amphibians, can make good pets, too.) European green toads and Egyptian green toads are good beginner toads. They're hardy.

FOR THE MORE EXPERIENCED: Red-eyed tree frogs and poison dart frogs. Poison dart frogs require more precise temperature and humidity levels, UV lighting and the right amount of food. The frogs do better with live moss and you'll want live plants rather than artificial foliage, Giacoletti said.

MOST POPULAR: Either the red-eyed tree frogs or the dumpy tree frogs, Giacoletti said.

Fire-bellied toads are pretty common amphibian pets. Remember to wash your hands after handling these because their toxins are a little higher than other toads, he said.

CAUTIONS: Red leg disease is a common illness among frogs and toads, Giacoletti said. They get this skin disease if they're sitting in their feces too much or in an unsterilized cage. Amphibians absorb a lot through the skin. So if the cage is not clean, they'll get pneumonia, bacteria and fungus, which can easily kill them.
As with reptiles, wash your hands when handling an amphibian, Powers said.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Wood Turtle Worries in the Green River Hastens Sewer Project

Photo by Gustav W. Verderber, 2005

By Bonnie Obremski, North Adams Transcript
Article 10/16/2006 03:08:26 AM EDT

WILLIAMSTOWN — Town officials are trying to cover up exposed sewer pipe in the Green River behind Elm Street, as required by the state Department of Environmental protection, but a small reptile on the state's threatened-species list has complicated repairs. Covering up the pipe may disturb wood turtles, according to Misty-Anne Marold, an endangered-species review biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who visited the site recently.
"We're having them do a time restriction," Marold said Friday of the workers who will rebuild a buffer of dirt and rock between the pipe and stream waters. "We didn't want them to work any time past the end of October." Any later than that, and the wood turtles will go into "over-wintering" mode and will not be able to survive anyone disturbing their habitat, she said. It just so happens the area where the pipe is exposed is a perfect winter sleeping spot.
"When bears hibernate, there is the classic image of a bear going into cave and not coming out until spring," Marold said. "Turtles do same thing. They like a slow-moving water area with enough water above them to create a thermally stable environment." That is the exact environment that has formed near the pipe. Marold said she determined this after plunging into the water last week and sifting around in the sand. "They don't know what's natural and what's unnatural," she said, referring to the turtles apparently taking a liking to the pipe.
But they are not sleeping yet so there is still time to work in the area, she said. If workers wait too long, they might have to remove the wintering turtles from the mud, which would jolt the creatures into life-threatening shock, Marold said.
She said the turtles would also be stressed if the sewer pipe should leak, which is what the town is trying to avoid. So, as Department of Public Works employees act quickly to cover the pipe, they will also perform routine sweeps of the area to chase away any turtles gravitating toward the sewer line.
The maintenance work will be an emergency repair, and the town will consult with environmental agencies to hash out a more permanent solution to the problem in the spring, Marold said.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Snake Smuggler Jailed

Source: The Australian
A man who tried to smuggle snakes in cigarette packets into Australia has been sentenced to three months in prison. Gregory John Comans, 49, of Hervey Bay in southeast Queensland, was arrested at Brisbane International Airport after arriving on September 11, 2004, from Singapore with 19 baby pythons contained in cigarette packets in a specially-constructed body vest under his clothing. The Brisbane District Court was told $2605 in foreign currency Comans was paid to import the reptiles also was seized.
He admitted he had been approached in Amsterdam in The Netherlands to courier the snakes but denied knowing Terrence John Quinnell, who was caught the same day donning a vest containing 52 live parrot eggs and has been jailed for three years. The court also heard authorities found Comans' details on Quinnell.
The value of the snakes, which were destroyed by quarantine officials, could not be determined but the court was told they were highly sought-after in the pet market and more importantly, posed a threat to Australia's wildlife. Comans pleaded guilty to the charge of illegally importing regulated live specimens without a permit. Judge Ian Wylie today imposed a three-year sentence, with a non-parole period of 89 days, a $2500 surety and a five-year good behaviour period. The maximum penalties for the offence is ten years' jail or a $110,000 fine.
On Tuesday, defence lawyer Tony Entriken denied his client had sought a commercial profit from the bungled importation, saying he merely “succumbed” to an opportunity to make $2605 as a courier “at the bottom of the (smuggling) chain. It's the first time he has stepped off the straight and narrow (because of) the desperate financial circumstance he found himself in.
He said Comans worked for a building franchise in Bundaberg and a jail sentence would hinder his ability to provide for his wife and a two-year-old child, both whom live overseas. The Australian Customs Service said the sentence handed down to Comans should serve as a serious warning of the penalties possible for people involved in wildlife trafficking.
Queensland's acting regional customs director Andrew Hosking said wildlife smuggling was an extremely serious issue for several reasons. “We need to protect our country from quarantine risks,” Mr Hosking said. "And there are also good conservation reasons – Australia is a signatory to international conventions which outlaw the trafficking of endangered and exotic wildlife. Thirdly, wildlife smuggling is a cruel practice which often results in the death of many animals while in transit.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Snake Rattles Family

Kevin McNelis holds a container with
the eastern massasauga rattlesnake
inside. He and his wife Paula,
right, are concerned their son
Joe, 4, will pick up one of the snakes.
Photo by Josh Kastrinsky.

By Josh Kastrinsky
Joe McNelis now wears his tall boots when playing out in the yard. McNelis, 4, is prone to picking up harmless ring snakes, his father Kevin said, but since they found a venomous rattlesnake in their yard off Ind. 142 near Wilbur Friday, they’ve become much more cautious.
When the family originally found two adult sistrurus catenatus, or eastern massasauga rattlesnakes, in their front yard, they assumed the incident was related to limestone transported into the area. Having found a baby rattlesnake near a pond in their back yard, Paula McNelis said, she is convinced adults are still nearby. “It’s just a baby, so we’re looking for mom and dad,” she said.
With several acres of untouched woodland behind their house, Kevin said there’s certainly a possibility of more venomous snakes being found near them or their neighbors. “The animals have a right to be here, but people need to be aware that they are here,” he said. “It’s definitely changed gardening.”
The eastern massasauga rattlesnake is native to an area that extends north to southern Canada and south to central Indiana. Within that range, the snake is largely endangered because of disappearing wetlands that have been replaced by development, according to information from the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.
Massasauga rattlesnake venom is not often fatal to humans because they only inject a small amount in defensive bites. Humans near wetlands known to house snake populations are advised to wear boots and not to cut a wound or apply ice on a snakebite, should one occur.
State herpetologist Zack Walker said a sighting of the rattlesnake this far south in Indiana is almost unheard of, as the furthest south it has been sighted in the state is north of Indianapolis. Near Wilbur, much of the land is drier and less likely to host the snake species, he said, so there is a good chance the snake was introduced unnaturally and not does indicate a large group. “Chances that it has a good breeding population are very low,” Walker said.
Because of their endangered status, people who come across the rattlesnake should leave it alone unless it poses a threat, he said. Many different breeds of rattlesnakes have a similar anti-venom, he said, but hospitals would probably have to order it in case of a snakebite.
Anyone who sees one of the rattlesnakes is encouraged to call the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife at (317) 232-4080.
Walker said that the massasauga is one of the most misidentified types of snakes, but if multiple confirmed sightings were proven to be the venomous rattlesnakes, the department would act. “If it turns out to be a population - I wouldn’t be too worried - but it would be something for us to look into,” he said.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Australian Survives Five Deadly Snake Bites

© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Sydney - An Australian who picked up one of the world's deadliest snakes in a Sydney suburb, thinking it was a harmless lizard, suffered a heart attack when the startled death adder bit his arm five times. The 50-year-old was in a stable condition Friday in hospital after receiving massive doses of antivenom. He had been rushed to hospital by helicopter after the Thursday night incident at a water skiing centre, an hour's drive from the centre of the city.
Snake expert Rick Shine said bites from the death adder need not be deadly if a victim gets medical care quickly. 'If you get a pressure bandage on and get yourself to hospital you've probably got a day or so before it's going to be desperately life threatening,' he told national broadcaster ABC. The metre-long triangular-headed death adder is the only snake in Australia that stands its ground when approached by humans rather than slithering away.
Drs. Foster and Smith Inc.
Snake Bite Victim Gets More Anti-venom
October 13, 2006 07:58am
Article from: AAP

A SYDNEY holidaymaker has received two doses of anti-venom following five bites from the world's second-most deadliest snake, an NRMA CareFlight spokesman said. The 50-year-old man was attacked by a death adder snake at the Del Rio water ski resort at Wisemans Ferry last night in Sydney's outer north-west.
He was bitten when he picked up the snake in the dark thinking it was a lizard. Other holidaymakers killed the snake and put it in a plastic bag so it could be positively identified by hospital staff.
The man, from Schofields in Sydney's north-west, suffered a heart attack and paralysis from the wounds but an NRMA CareFlight trauma team revived him. They worked for 30 minutes to stabilise the man before placing him on the helicopter's ventilator and flying him to Westmead hospital.
He arrived at 10.20pm (AEST) and has since received two doses of anti-venom and is expected to receive additional doses today, the spokesman said. The man has been moved from the hospital's emergency department to the intensive care unit.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Researchers Find Prehistoric Remains of Giant, Sea Reptile on Arctic Island

The Associated Press
Published: October 5, 2006

OSLO, Norway The remains of a prehistoric reptile that was "as long as a bus, with teeth larger than cucumbers ... in a head that could swallow an adult human whole," have been discovered on an Arctic island, Norwegian researchers said Thursday.
The University of Oslo's Natural History Museum said researchers on the remote Svalbard islands had discovered the remains of a short-necked plesiosaur, a prehistoric marine reptile. It is believe to be the first complete plesiosaur skeleton ever found. The remains of the 10-meter (33-foot) long ocean going predator were found in August.
Fragments of plesiosaur have been found elsewhere, including in England, Russia, and Argentina, but researcher Joern Harald Hurum said the partially fossilized Svalbard find appeared to be the first whole example. "We are quite sure it is complete," he said by telephone about the partially buried fossils. "We have the head, and can see about six meters (20 feet) of vertebrae before it disappears into the ground."
Hurum said the voracious plesiosaurs were like the Tyrannosaurus Rex of the oceans, "expect its head is much bigger. About 2 meters (6 feet 6 inches) long, compared to about 1.6 meters (5 feet 3 inches) for Tyrannosaurus Rex." Hurum said his team plans return to Svalbard, 500 kilometers (300 miles) north of Norway's mainland, to continue excavations next year. Twenty-seven other marine reptiles were also found during a two-week expedition: 21 long-necked plesiosaurs, sea reptiles similar to drawings of the Loch Ness monster, and six ichthyosaurs, reptiles that looked like fish and had fins.
On the Net:

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Thieves Steal Deadly Snake in Sydney

Photo courtesy of
October 18, 2006 - 11:14AM

Thieves who escaped with four snakes from a Sydney wildlife park have been warned to take care, because they stole one of the world's most venomous species. Experts say one bite from the Collett's snake, taken from the Featherdale Wildlife Park at Doonside in Sydney's west, could be fatal.
Thieves slipped into the reptile enclosure at the park about 1.30am (AEST) on Wednesday, police said. Security guards found the roller shutter to the reptile house kicked in and at least four snakes taken from their enclosures. Wildlife park curator Chad Staples said a two metre-long, red and black Collett's snake was missing. "This species is ranked the 18th most venomous snake in the world," he said. "People should use extreme caution and should not approach or handle this species if found. A bite from a Collett's snake, apart from being potentially fatal, is known for being extremely painful and can cause long-term illness."
Two brown Arafura file snakes and a water python, both non-venomous, have also been stolen, Mr Staples said. The Arafura file, a water snake, is very difficult to look after. "This is an extremely bad time of year for the snake to be removed from its environment as it does not handle stress well and any change in temperature, water quality or food will be detrimental to the snake's health, maybe even fatal," Mr Staples said.
The water python, brown on top with a bright yellow underbelly, is also a sensitive breed. Mr. Staples said it appeared the thieves had prior knowledge of the reptile exhibits and were able to forcibly enter and leave the building quickly. The curator has appealed for the return of the snakes, saying there would be no questions asked. "If anyone sees these snakes, please use extreme caution and contact the police immediately," he said.
None of these species are endemic to the Sydney region.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Reptile Related News -- GRAND OPENING!

This blog explores news related to one of my lifetime interests -- animals; specifically reptiles. Since I was a young boy, I have always enjoyed reptiles -- from lizards in the back yard to large pythons and boa constrictors. I've always been a fan of reptiles. Over the last several years, I have had the joy of exploring the animal kingdom with my three children. They have inspired a renewed devotion to exploration, conservation and education regarding animals.
The Reptiles Related News blog will feature reptiles, but will also support news and reviews regarding amphibians, mammals and arachnids. I hope you enjoy reading Reptile Related News. THANK YOU for your support!