Nature Mikey

Nature Mikey

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Video of the Day: Bug Attack

A hilarious video of a vacation in Puerto Rico gone awry as the vacationers find a huge bug loose in their hotel.

Species of the Day: African Clawed Frog

Scientific Name: Xenopus laevis
Family: Pipidae
Adult Size: Up to 5 inches in length
Range: Native to eastern and southern Africa; introduced to North America, much of Europe and South America
Habitat: African clawed frogs are completely aquatic, although during heavy rain fall they are able to move some distances over land.

    The African clawed frog is a flat-bodied frog who's shape allows them to swim swiftly through the water. These frogs can be yellow to gray in color and have well-established introduced populations in the US, Europe and South America. Many of the introductions in the United States appear to be the result of careless owners and scientific laboratories, the latter of which uses them as a model organism in many biological disciplines. Due to this, African clawed frogs are now regulated in several states and have even been banned, so be sure to check state regulations before looking in to purchasing one.
    African clawed frogs do very well in 10 to 20 gallon aquariums. Frogs are extremely sensitive to the quality of their water and fresh spring water or de-chlorinated tap water (DO NOT use distilled water) should be used in their tanks, along with a high-quality water filter. Although not as visually pleasing, a bare cage bottom works well when keeping these frogs. They have aggressive feeding responses and may ingest gravel or stones used for the cage floor. If gravel is used, make sure it is too large for the frogs to swallow.
    That being said, feeding African clawed frogs is rarely problematic. Tropical fish pellets, frog pellets, small crickets, earth worms and small guppies among lots of other choices will make up a varied and complete diet for your frogs. Any uneaten food should be removed from the cage to maintain water quality.  

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Video of the Day: Playful Doberman

A crazy doberman rough-housing with her owner, while her chihuahua buddy tries to but in and be tough too

Species of the Day: Brazilian White-Kneed Tarantula

Scientific Name: Acanthoscurria geniculata
Range: Forests of northern Brazil 
Type: Terrestrial
Diet: Appropriate-sized crickets and other insects
Adult Size: 7 to 8 inches
Growth Rate: Fast
Required Temperature: 80 to 85 degrees F
Required Humidity: 75 to 80%
Temperament: Nervous; semi-aggressive
Housing: Spiderlings can live in clear plastic deli containers with holes, adults can live in a 10 to 15 gallon tank; floor space is more important than height
Substrate: 3 to 4 inches of peat moss, coconut husk or untreated potting soil
Decor: Half logs, drift wood or cork bark

    The Brazilian white-kneed tarantula is a relatively new and exciting species in the hobby. It is large, and unlike most large terrestrial tarantulas, it is very beautiful. This is a moderately aggressive tarantula, although when disturbed it does not usually bite, but flicks the urticating hairs on its abdomen at you. The hairs behave like microscopic porcupine quills and can cause severe itching or even rashes in some people so beware! This impressive tarantula can be expensive and hard to find, but it is well worth it. Throughout the late 90s the Brazilian white-kneed tarantula was the most popular species and was in high demand. It is still a highly desired species due to its size and beauty. The Brazilian white-knee makes a great display tarantula and is sure to grab the attention of anyone who sees it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Video of the Day: Defensive Cockatoo

Here is a Goffin's Cockatoo showing some defensive behavior to a stuffed singing dog it doesn't like.

Species of the Day: Amazon Tree Boa

Scientific Name: Corallus hortulanus
Family: Boidae
Adult Size: Averages 4 1/2 feet long; occasionally attains 6 to 7 feet in length
Range: Predominantly in Amazonian South America east of the Andes to the Atlantic coast; from central Venezuela, eastern Columbia and the Guyana Shield countries in the north to central Bolivia and central Brazil in the south; in forested eastern Brazil the range extends far southward
Habitat: Besides typical rain forest habitats, this mainly arboreal species also occurs in drier forests and in many grassland habitats. Often seen resting in trees over-hanging rivers

    This Amazon tree boa was overlooked by many reptile enthusiasts for quite a while do to their moody dispositions. Despite this, they are one of the most beautiful display species available in the hobby. Rarely will you see a species that exhibits the divers array of colors and patters that you see in Corallus hortulanus. Once you get around their raspy personality you'll be pleasantly surprised by the relative intelligence displayed by these snakes as well as the ease and rewards associated with proper maintenance. Although they are notorious nippers, a tame Amazon tree boa is not unheard of as many babies can easily be accustomed to handling is enough time is spent with them. Often referred to as the poor man's emerald tree boa, the Amazon tree boa makes a great starter before segueing into the larger, and equally sour tempered emerald tree boa. Their care requirements are basically the same, once you've master these guys you should have no problem moving on to the bigger boys.
    Amazon tree boas differ from their larger cousins in that they are not strictly arboreal in nature. It is not at all uncommon for Amazons to spend more than half of its time on the cage floor. In an emerald tree boa this could be a cause for concern but in the case of the Amazon this is normal behavior. However, they should not be spending all their time on the cage floor. The main reason for an Amazon tree boa spending too much time on the cage floor is that the perches may be inadequate. Unlike emerald tree boas that will utilize horizontal perches, the Amazon likes to have contact on at least three points of its body, which means it prefers forked branches versus just one horizontal perch. Simply putting a multi-branched piece of a tree in the enclosure will keep your snakes happy. As far as cage space goes height is more important that floor space. A cage that's at least 24 inches high, 36 inches wide and 24 inches deep would be the minimum space requirement for a pair of Amazons. As far as cage furnishings go, live and/or plastic plants  can look very nice and can be utilized by the snakes as resting spots. Live plants along with naturalistic substrates can help maintain proper humidity, but take care when feeding your Amazons around these decorations. These snakes have quite an aggressive feeding response and may accidentally ingest some of it.
    Temperatures within the range of 76 to 84 degrees F are ideal for this species, with the ambient humidity being 65 to 70%. Of course babies will need a much higher ambient humidity, as will adults that are in the shedding process. But be sure to try and keep a happy medium, as long-term high humidity can encourage fungal growth that can possibly infect your snakes, and conditions that are too dry can cause respiratory infections and shedding problems. Amazon tree boas usually fall into two categories; they are either picky eaters, refusing almost anything offered, and voracious eaters who will strike at anything that moves. Luckily the bulk of the specimens fund in captivity fit into the latter category. Amazon tree boas are long-bodied, slender snakes and are quite fragile, making pre-killed prey ideal. Small birds make up the majority of an Amazon tree boa's prey in the wild, but captive specimens will accept small rodents, feeder frogs and feeder anoles. Care must be taken to not over-feed, as this can lead to impaction. As a rule of thumb, prey items should be only slightly larger than the thickest part of the snake's body. It's best to feed prey items to communally kept Amazons separately, as there have been instances of snakes attacking and killing each other when trying to go for the same prey item. One must also be cautious when housing babies together, as there have been quite a few account of cannibalism among communally housed babies. Water should be supplied by way of a large bowl covering about 75% of the cage floor, that way the snakes can utilize it to soak in and help with the shedding process. Daily misting is essential for the health and well being of these snakes and they will often drink the beads of water that collect on their coils as well.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Video of the Day: Bully Chicken

A good video demonstrating the establishment of the pecking order among domestic chickens, in where a hen imposes her will upon every chicken in turn in the flock, and then the role of the rooster to come in a put this hen in her place to keep order.

Species of the Day: Chinese Hamster

Scientific Name: Cricetus griseus
Size: 4 to 4 1/2 inches
Origin: Mongolia, Northern China
Average Life-Span: 1 1/2 to 3 years
Temperament: Sweet and generally easy to get along with, the Chinese hamster is willing to interact with people throughout the day, although it is primarily nocturnal. It rarely bites unless handled improperly. Although it is good-natured with people, they can be aggressive to other hamsters as they age, and should be kept solitary.
Varieties: the naturally-colored variety is agouti with a black stripe running down their backs, while some Chinese hamsters can be found in white with small patches of color.

    Also known as striped hamsters or Chinese dwarf hamsters, Chinese hamsters are not a true dwarf hamster, but are of a similar size to dwarf hamsters. They are slender, mouse-like hamsters, which makes them all the more able to escape from wire cages, making aquariums a safer choice for housing. Because they are so small and also quick they can be quite a challenge to handle, especially for kids. There is some disagreement among experts as to weather they can be kept communally. As they mature, Chinese hamsters (especially females), may become quite aggressive with other hamsters. However, other hobbyists have had some success in keeping pairs or small groups together by choosing young animals from the same litter and providing plenty of space and retreats. To be on the safe side novices should plan on housing Chinese hamsters separately. Although Chinese hamsters are not commonly bred in captivity and so are a little hard to find, basic care is like that of other hamsters.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Video of the Day: Porsche 928 Review

A short review of my dream car, the Porsche 928

Species of the Day: Aldabra Tortoise

Scientific Name: Dipsochelys dussumieri
Family: Testudinidae
Average Adult Size: 36 to 48 inches long, 350 to 550 pounds
Range: The Aldabra Atoll, with introduced populations on the Reunion, Mauritius and Seychelles islands among other granitic islands of the Indian Ocean.
Habitat: Mostly grasslands and areas of low shrubs

    Aldabra tortoises are found on the islands of the Aldabra Atoll, and they are one of the largest tortoises in the world, second in size only to the giant tortoises of the Galapagos islands. However, it is a male Aldabra tortoise at the Fort Worth Zoo that holds the world record of largest tortoise at an enormous 800 pounds. The tortoises are born a gorgeous black color all over, with shiny, almost obsidian-like shells, although their skin will fade to a darker gray color as they age. Aldabra tortoises are threatened in their natural habitat and so are very rare in captivity, and also very expensive through captive breeders. However, these are very rewarding tortoises to keep and are well worth the money if you can manage to find a captive-bred specimen. Aldabra tortoises are very long-lived, with some animals living past 200 years of age.
    Aldabra tortoises the mornings and early evenings foraging for food, spending the hotter parts of the day under a shady tree or wallowing in a nice, muddy water hole. They are deceptively quick and as nervous babies will go sprinting away if they sense danger, however if they think you have food they will be falling over themselves to get to you. This tortoise is a natural grazer, and will wander about munching grasses, broad-leafed plants and fallen fruit for most of its natural life in the wild. In captivity, they make great lawn mowers as they happily nip away at grasses and leafy weeds such as dandelions. They also will eat chopped vegetables, flowers, cactus, fruits and commercial tortoise diets.
    Naturally these tortoises exist in a wide variety of habitats from grasslands to jungles, all with moderate to high humidity and temperatures. Although adults can easily handle variable amounts of humidity, baby tortoises should be kept humid to ensure smooth and proper growth. They do not hibernate, but will go through a slow-down period during the cooler months. As adults, they can handle body temperatures as low as 45 degrees F at night as long as they are able to heat up into the 70s during the day. Summer highs of up to 120 degrees F can be tolerated as long as they have a cool place to retreat to and a shallow pool to soak in. Because of their size and huge space requirements, it's best to keep Aldabra tortoises outdoors so that they can have access to natural sunlight for proper health and growth. For the colder months a warm tortoise house will need to be built to maintain proper temperatures. Large dog houses work very well for this, and you can supplement heat with lamps and/or large outdoor-use heating pads ("pig blankets").
    Adult Aldabra tortoises are interactive and curious once they are past the nervous baby stage, which lasts for the first few years of their lives. They are usually not aggressive toward each other and can be kept in mixed-sex groups. Despite their large size they are actually not very damaging on their environment, rarely digging holes or pushing against enclosure walls or decor. Most Aldabra tortoises will happily follow their owners around once they are comfortable in their environments. They are smart, personable and very entertaining. Just sitting outside and watching them forage and explore can calm the nerves after the most hectic of days.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Video of the Day: Beardie Attack

Here is the great Steve Irwin, God rest his soul, interacting with a grumpy wild bearded dragon in Australia. Thank goodness that our captive bred beardies are much nicer than their wild cousins!

Breed of the Day: American Rabbit

    The American rabbit is a multi-purpose animal developed for its meat and fur. The American Breeders Association (ARBA) recognized the breed with an official Standard of Perfection in March 1918. First known as the German blue Vienna, this name was quickly changed to the American blue because of WWI. While a number of people were showing interest in the development of an ideal blue breed, it was Lewis H. Salisbury of Pasadena California, who is given credit for producing the American blue. Mr. Salisbury was rather secretive as to which breeds he used to create the American blue. Because of the breed's mandolin-shaped body called for in it's standard of perfection, the blue Vienna, blue beveren, blue imperial and blue Flemish giant are likely the foundation stock for the American Blue.
    While other breeders had also produced an all-blue rabbit, Lewis H. Salisbury's American blues were considered the best in the country for several years prior to 1917. In time, the ideal body type was set and the characteristic deep blue color was fixed. In the early days of development, specimens were often plagued with brown patches and stray white hairs throughout the coat. A white variety was recognized in 1925  that was produced from white rabbits in litters thrown from the American blues and the addition of white Flemish giant genes.
    The popularity of the American rabbit was almost instantaneous, quickly spreading throughout the nation. By 1920, furriers were paying the unbelievable price of $2.00 for a good pelt, and a breeding-age doe would start at $25.00. Both blue ans white varieties maintained a huge following through the 1940s, but by 1950 the interests of rabbit breeders had changed to other new breeds that were being developed and imported into the US. The American rabbit is unique and restricted to North America, and has since become one of the rarest breeds in the country.
    American rabbits are large rabbits with mature bucks weighing 9 to 11 pounds and does at 10 to 12 pounds. They are a hardy breed, docile in nature, produce large litters and are typically good mothers. Meat rabbits used for frying make marketable weight fairly quickly and are easily kept on wire-bottom hutches. The blue variety has the deepest blue variety blue color of any of ARBA's recognized breeds.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Video of the Day: An Owl in the House

Here is a captive born great horned owl chick exploring the house of its foster-humans. This owl now resides at the Birds of Prey Raptor Center and is an educational trained flying bird.

Species of the Day: Argentine Tegu

Scientific Name: Tupinambis merianae
Family: Teiidae
Adult Size: 3 to 4 1/2 feet long
Average Life-Span: 15 years or more
Temperament: Cat-like; tames down very well with regular handling and socialization from a young age 
Range: Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay
Habitat: Rain forests, forest-edge savannas and meadows of temperate climates

    The giant black and white tegus of South America are the most intelligent and highly adapted of all lizards. They typically inhabit forest-edge savannas and adjacent rain forests of Argentina and parts of Brazil and Uruguay. They are largely terrestrial, and spend copious amounts of time in deep burrows which afford them protection from dehydration and shelter from extreme temperatures. As pets, tegus can be the most rewarding of the larger lizard species to keep. Their large size, attractive appearance and cat-like demeanor have quickly propelled them into the herpetocultural spotlight. The most common color you can find them in is a stunning black and white, with babies having a bright green sheen to them that fades with age. Another common color is a lovely brick red which has been gaining in popularity in recent years.
    Tegus are fast-growing lizards, often reaching sexual maturity in 3 years or less. Males are larger than females, sometimes exceeding four feet in length with a solid, muscular build. Females usually grow into the 3 feet range and have slighter features than males. This species can live to be 15 years or more given that close attention is paid to diet and other basic husbandry considerations.
    Hatchling tegus are about 8 inches in length and can be kept comfortably in a 30 gallon aquarium for the first few months of their lives. However these are very fast growers if given the proper nutrition, and will continuously need larger enclosures allowing for proper exercise, burrowing activities and thermoregulation. Young tegus can be housed communally, but be sure that all the animals are the same size and watch for food-related aggression among competitive little piggies. A single adult male should be provided with an enclosure having a foot print of no less than 6 feet X 2 feet. A pair can be housed in a slightly larger enclosure (6 feet X 3 or 4 feet), although separation will be necessary for when the breeding season occurs to prevent aggression. A single female will require less space than adult males (5 feet X 2 feet). Tegus are active and should be given as much space as possible. Converting an walk-in closet or small room into an enclosure should not be considered out of the question. Secure well-ventilated enclosures that allow for deep substrate are highly recommended, as tegus love to dig and burrow.
    As a tropical species, tegus will require warm temperatures during most of the year unless they are being brumated (cooled down) for reproductive cycling. Ambient temperatures within the cage should be between 80 and 90 degrees F during the day, dropping to 5 to 10 degrees cooler at night. During daylight hours, a basking spot of 90 to 100 degrees F should be available. Heat can be provided through the use of under-tank heating pads, standard heat bulbs and ceramic heat emitters. The use of a high-quality thermometer, preferably one each on the cool side and the warm side of the cage, is highly recommended. In captivity the use of a full-spectrum UV light is essential for the long-term health of your lizards. These may be standard fluorescent UV bulbs, or self-ballasted mercury vapor bulbs (such as Zoo Med's PowerSun bulbs) which can double as both a source of heat and essential Ultra Violate light.
    Bark or mulch type bedding are recommended for tegus. Orchid bark, cypress mulch and coconut husk are all acceptable. The substrate should be deep as to allow for digging and maintaining adequate humidity. Tegus tend to like rearranging their enclosures, so elaborately decorated cages are unnecessary and impractical as well. However, providing a few hiding places such as half-logs or cardboard boxes is recommended.
    Tegus of all sizes will require a large, sturdy water bowl, preferably one where the animal can submerge its entire body. In captivity, humidity levels between 60 and 80% are ideal. This can be achieved through humidity-promoting substrates and regular misting of the enclosure with room temperature water. If kept too dry, tegus are prone to shedding problems, most notably with the skin of the toes and tail, making regular soaking a good idea.
    Tegus are typically considered omnivores, although many captive diets do not reflect this tendency. In addition to an assortment of appropriately sized insects (crickets, mealworms, waxworms, roaches), various high calcium fruits should be regularly offered. Willingness to accept fruits will vary from animal to animal, but even a small amount can add a lot of variety and essential nutrients to the tegu diet. Rodents may be offered, though sparingly, as they tend to be high in fat, and tegus are simply not designed to digest large quantities of fur. Instead, a balanced dietary supplement can be created using raw, ground turkey, whole eggs (with shell), and bone meal or an equivalent calcium/vitamin supplement. This mixture has been widely used by zoos and hobbyists and can safely constitute up 75% of the tegu diet. Tegus grow quickly and have very active metabolisms. As such, regular feeding is necessary. There is no rule of thumb as to exactly how much to offer, but tegus should have a filled-out appearance when they are full. Start by offering young tegus food daily (as much as they will consume in about an hour), and adjust quantity and frequency as needed. Calcium and vitamin supplementation is especially important for young tegus. A high quality calcium supplement complete with vitamin D3 should be lightly dusted on all food items. A multivitamin is also highly recommended, and should be added to food at least once a week, less frequently if the diet is exceptionally varied.
    One of the major draws to owning tegus is their typically calm demeanor and ease of handling. Babies should be handled regularly from an early age to ensure proper adjustment to human presence. Argentine tegus rarely bite, but more often will squirm about in your hand, and even this behavior will go away with time as they begin to trust you. Avoid hand feeding, as the last thing you want is a hungry tegu that associates any part of your body with food!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Video of the Day: Another Horror Edition

Some of my favorite videos are the ones where people are getting the daylights scared out of them, especially when they're set to stock horror music!

Breed of the Day: American Bobtail

    Reminiscent of wild cats, the American bobtail is a medium to large cat native to North America with a naturally occurring short tail. It is a well-muscled, solid cat with the power and grace of an athlete. It has the gaze of a hunter and the rolling gate that, along with its naturally bobbed tail give it the look of a wild cat but with the loving affection of a domestic cat. No two tails are exactly the same so they are truly the hallmark of the individual and are proudly held over the back when the cat is alert, often wagging to express the cat's mood. Developed by nature to survive in its native environment, the American bobtail has above-average intelligence and is a breed of moderation rather than extremes, taking up to three years to reach  full maturity.
    Although the American bobtail has been in the US for many generations, the true development of the breed began in the 1960s. Every breeder of the American bobtail has heard the story of Yodi, the patriarch of the breed. John and Brenda Sanders, a young couple, were vacationing in the south-west. They were driving through an Indian reservation in Arizona when they discovered a brown tabby kitten with a short tail and decided to take it home with them to Iowa. When Yodi came of age, he ended up breeding with the couple's female cat, Mishi, a non-pedigreed domestic color point, and the resulting kittens inherited Yodi's unusual short tail. The kittens soon caught the eye friends, Mindy Shultz and Charlotte Bentley, who saw the possibility of a new breed of felines. Using several of these bobtail kittens and out-crossing to a long-haired color point, they produced the first true American bobtails.
    In 1989, The International Cat Association (TICA) recognized the American bobtail as a naturally occurring breed of cat, as the foundation stock of this breed comes from feral cats possessing a naturally short tail from different regions of the United States and Canada. Most breeders no longer use feral cats in their breeding programs.
    The American bobtail is a great family pet that attaches itself to the whole family, and not just one person. The breed gets along well with children and other pets, even dogs. They like being with their families rather than being alone. They have a subtle personality which is affectionate and loving rather than demanding and in-your-face. Most are moderately active without being either a couch potato or full of high-strung energy. The American bobtail is a particularly intelligent breed and they can easily be taught to walk on a leash and play fetch.
    The American bobtail can come in any color or pattern. This wonderful variety of colors and patterns comes in two coat types; the short-hair and medium-long. The short hair is plush and is comparable to a rabbits pelt. The longer-coated type is actually easy to keep with minimal brushing. Toms weigh on average between 12-16 pounds while queens weigh between 7-11 pounds. The weight should come from the well-muscled and substantial bone of the cat and not from being overweight. Of course, one of the most unusual traits is the cat's shortened tail. The desired length of the tail should be a minimum of one inch and a maximum no longer than the cat's hock. The tail mutation gene is not a controllable gene, resulting in different tail lengths of each kitten in the litter.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Video of the Day: Good Birds Bite

 Apparently this Timneh African gray parrot and his owner are having a disagreement.

Species of the Day: Alexandrine Parakeet

Species Profile:

Genus: Psittacula
Species: eupatria
Adult Size: 58 cm; 22.6 in Adult Weight: 250-260g
Races Including Nominate: P.e. eupatria, P.e. nipalensis, P.e. magnirostris, P.e. avensis, P.e. siamensis

Adult Plumage:
P.e. eupatria: Male-faint black strip from lores to eye; wide black stripe across lower cheeks; broad pink collar around the nape of the neck; dark purple/red patch on inner secondary coverts; green/gray thighs; red bill; pale yellow eyes. Female-duller, with no black under cheeks. P.e nipalensis: overall color in both adults is gray/green; broader black stripe across lower cheeks; occiput and cheeks washed with blue; larger in size. P.e. magnirostris: Male-thin blue stripe on the nape of the neck above pink collar; brighter red spot on wings; larger in size; heavier bill. Female-as in eupatria, but with a larger bill. P.e. avensis: Male-as in nipalensis, but thin blue stripe on the nape of the neck, occasionally absent; yellow/green neck and underbelly; smaller bill. Female-as in nipalensis, but smaller bill. P.e. siamensis: male-as in avensis, but occiput and nape suffused with blue; paler, larger red spot on wings; yellowish face and neck. Female-as in avensis, but with a yellowish neck and face.

Call: Harsh and loud in general; described as ringing, loud, deep and scolding. Shrieks accompany mobbing of predators when alarmed. Flocks will excitedly chorus together.

Care in Captivity:

Pet Suitability:
Can be loud; but can also mimic; playful and energetic. 
Captive Status:
Well established in Australia, less so elsewhere.
25-30 yrs 
Metal and/or welded mesh construction - wood easily destroyed with powerful beak; walk-in aviary, minimum length 4.5m (14.76 ft). 
Fruits such as: apple, pear, orange, banana, cactus fruits, pomegranate, forming about 30 % of the diet; fresh vegetables such as carrot, celery, green peas, beans, fresh corn, green leaves; spray millet and limited mixed seed, cooked/sprouted beans and pulses, complete kibble. 
Swings, bird-safe chewable wood and pine cones, ladders, vegetable tanned leather toys, foot toys, climbing ropes, bathing, push and pull toys.

Status in the Wild:

P.e. eupatria: Sri Lanka and Indian peninsula.
P.e. nipalensis: East Afghanistan, Eastern and Southern Pakistan, Central India to Nepal, Bhutan and Assam to Bangladesh.
P.e. magnirostris: Andaman Islands and nearby Coco Islands, Bay of Bengal.
P.e. avensis: Cachar district of Assam to Soutern Burma.
P.e. siamensis: Northern and Western Thailand to Cambodia, Central Laos, rarely in north; and South-Central Vietnam.
Found in variety of moist and dry forests and woodlands. Also found in cultivated areas and mangroves. Found up to 900m (2952ft).
Occurs in small flocks but forms bigger groups where food is abundant and at communal roosts where birds from a large area may gather in one large tree.
Wild Diet:
Eats variety of wild and cultivated seeds, flowers and flower buds, nectar, grain, fruit and vegetables.
Threat Summary:
Declining in Sri Lanka, is heavily traded in wild bird market.
IUCN Rating:
Least Concern  
CITES Rating:
Appendix II

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Video of the Day: The Parrot and the Spoon

Another example of parrots making toys out of everyday household objects. White-bellied caiques are especially playful in this respect, as we watch this one enthusiastically attacking a spoon. 

Breed of the Day: Afghan Hound

Country of Origin: Afghanistan
Group: Hound group; recognized by the AKC in 1926
Purpose: Hunting
Average Life-Span: 12 to 14 years
Color: All colors permissible, with color combinations being most desirable. Any white markings are undesirable.
Grooming: Must be bathed and brushed frequently
Height/Weight: Dogs; Height: 26-28 inches at the shoulder, Weight: about 60 pounds. Bitches; Height: 24-26 inches at the shoulder, Weight: about 50 pounds

    The Afghan hound is an aristocrat, his whole appearance is one of dignity and aloofness with no trace of plainness or coarseness. He has a straight front, proudly carried head, with eyes gazing into the distance as if in memory of ages past. The striking characteristics of this breed are its exotic, eastern expression, long silky top-knot, peculiar coat pattern, very prominent hip-bones, large feet and the impression of a somewhat exaggerated bend in the stifle due to profuse trouserings that clearly stand out, giving the Afghan hounds the appearance of what he is, a king of dogs that has held true to tradition throughout the ages. They can come in all colors, with color combinations being most pleasing; white markings, especially on the head, are undesirable. While the breed is an excellent hunter, its popularity here has been generated by its spectacular qualities as a show dog.
    The Afghan hound was discovered by the western world in Afghanistan and surrounding regions during the 19th century. As the breed developed in Afghanistan, two distinct types evolved from the western and southern desert regions and the northern regions. During WWI, the breed literally disappeared in the western world. The start of the Afghan hounds we have today dates back to the 1920s, when a group of them was brought to Scotland. With their aloof, dignified and highly individualized personality, Afghan hounds are prized and loved by their owners as companions and members of their families. However, it is important to take into account that their coat requires regular grooming, and their larger size necessitates regular exercise.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Video of the Day: All Lies

Don't believe the tortoise's amiable and slow demeanor! They can be fast when they want to!

Species of the Day: Gerbils

Scientific Name: Meriones unguiculatus
Origin: Mongolia, China and Siberia
Average Life-Span: 3 to 4 years
Temperament: A curious and social animal that is energetic and fastidious about grooming. Although its Latin name translates to "Clawed Warrior", gerbils are actually sweet natured and loves being in the company of other gerbils and their humans.
Varieties: Standard color is agouti; other colors include apricot polar fox, Argente, black, black-eyed white, Burmese, chinchilla, cinnamon, dark-eyed honey, dove, Himalayan, honey cream, lilac, nutmeg, polar fox, red fox, albino, Schimmel, Siamese, silver nutmeg, slate, yellow fox

    Gerbils are native to many parts of the world, but the type of gerbil commonly kept as a pet is the Mongolian gerbil. These busy little rodents grow to a length of about 8 inches including the tail, which is the same length as its body. Pet gerbils are available in a variety of colors, although they usually have white fur on their bellies. Gerbils usually live three to four years if well cared for. Gerbils are very frisky , and can easily escape from a cage that isn't closed securely. Gerbils have rather poor eyes sight, but their sense of hearing and smell are very acute. These gently critters are hardy and seldom bite, and unlike hamsters, gerbils are active during the day, which fits in well with the average owner's schedule.
    Gerbils are social animals, so its a good idea to get two of the same sex, with siblings making the best matches. Gerbils are rodents, and rodents being rodents, they will quickly breed if you put a male and female together. Gerbils can be kept in wire cages or 10 gallon aquariums with wire mesh tops. The cage should be kept away from direct sunlight and drafts, and lined with a good absorbent bedding. Timothy hay and aspen shavings make the best choices, but avoid cedar or pine shavings at all costs as the fumes will harm your pet. Gerbils love to play, so be sure to provide yours with an exercise wheel and toys. Avoid toys made of cardboard or soft plastic as they will almost certainly be chewed to bits and accidentally ingested. Gerbils also like to hide and sleep in enclosed spaces, so small boxes and flowerpots are a must. Gerbils love to dig, so provide yours with plenty of extra bedding. Tunneling is fun for your gerbils too, and small interconnected sections of PVC pipes work great for this.
    Your pets will do well on a commercial gerbil diet with a protein content of about 12%, and a fat content within the 6 to 8% range. Nutritionally complete, commercial gerbil mix is made of pellets, grains, seeds and dried vegetables and is readily available at pet supply stores. Try to avoid mixes including sunflower seeds, as it will lead to your gerbils picking out the tasty treats and leave the more nutritious stuff behind. Offering small amounts of fresh veggies, such as carrots, lettuces, turnips and broccoli, is also a good idea. Sweet fruits such as apples and bananas can be given every other day. Do not give gerbils cabbage, potatoes, onions, uncooked beans, chocolate, candy or junk food. Fresh, clean water should be available at all times via a water bottle that attaches to the side of the cage.
    Remove soiled bedding, droppings and any uneaten food everyday. Clean the cage completely once a week. Its important to provide chewing toys for gerbils, as their teeth grow constantly throughout their lives. Small raw-hide bones for toy dogs, twigs or untreated wood blocks are excellent choices for keeping their teeth in top condition and preventing dental problems. It's also important to get your pets used to you and being handled. The best way to go about this is hand-feeding them their favorite treats. It wont be long before they're allowing you to gently pick them up. Never pick a gerbil up by the tail, as the skin can slough off and cause serious injury. Once you've successfully hand-tamed your pets you can allow them supervised out of cage time for a period of time everyday.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Video of the Day: Mexican Bloodleg Tarantula

Here is a nice video of Aphonopelma bicoloratum, the Mexican bloodleg tarantula, one of the many species of tarantulas that I intend to buy in the future.

Species of the Day: Sugar Glider

Scientific Name: Petaurus breviceps
Size: Adult males weigh from 100 to 160 grams; adult females between 80 to 130 grams. Body length ranges from 325 mm to 420 mm including the tail
Origin: Papua-New Guinea, Tasmania, Indonesia and the east coast of Australia
Average Life-Span: Sugar Gliders live an average of only 5 to 7 years in the wild, but captive-bred animals can live 10 to 15 years
Temperament: Intelligent, playful and social

    Sugar Gliders are a type of small, arboreal marsupial. They inhabit the tree tops and open areas in tropical or coastal forests and drier, inland forests. They possess a membrane of skin which stretches from their front legs to their back legs that they use to glide from tree to tree. Some have been seen gliding distances as long as 100 feet! Sugar gliders are social animals and live in small colonies of up to 10 individuals per hectare (1,000 square meters). Because they are nocturnal they sleep in their nests during the day and then come out at night to forage for food and interact with other sugar gliders.
    Caging requirements for sugar gliders should really emphasize height more than floor space as sugar gliders love to climb. Large wire cages made for finches work very well for this as it allows you to place different types of perches, swings and hanging toys for them to climb and play on. Special sleeping/bonding pouches made for sugar gliders are required for a comfy place for your nocturnal pets to sleep and hide in. A water bottle that attaches to the side of the cage is a must! Sugar gliders are extremely susceptible to dehydration and water MUST be available AT ALL TIMES! Two food dishes my be used; one for fruit and the other for dry food. As for the bottom of the cage newspaper or aspen shaving are the best choices. Never use cedar shavings as the oils can harm your pet. Sugar gliders enjoy temperatures between 75 and 80 degrees F, so keep the cage in a warm area without drafts, and clean it out once a week.
    Sugar gliders are natural omnivores and will eat fruit, nectar such as Leadbeater's mixture, small insects, commercial pelleted diets for sugar gliders and some vegetables. Their diets should be made up of about 25% protein and 75% fruit. Fresh fruits such as apples, pears, peaches, cantaloupe and melon. DO NOT give sugar gliders bananas or any citrus fruits. About three teaspoons of a nectar mix such as Gliderade or Leadbeater's mix should be given once or twice a week. Sugar gliders are commonly affected by calcium deficiency, so a calcium supplement such as Rep-Cal should be sprinkled over their fruit every day. Sugar Gliders love insects when they can get them, and crickets and meal worms make a great treat!
    Sugar gliders will bond to their humans just as well as they will to other sugar gliders in the wild. I recommend getting two if you do not have at least a couple of hours a day to spend with your pet. The best way for your pet to bond with you is to keep it in a shirt pocket or a special bonding pouch during the day time, that way it can sleep safe and warm and get used to your scent. If you are going to be carrying your sugar glider for an extended period of time, be sure to keep a piece of apple or a grape in with it to keep it from dehydrating. Offering treats from your hand is also a great way to speed up the bonding process and make your sugar glider into an active and affectionate pet.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Video of the Day: Monitor Lunch

Today's video of the day shows an adorable baby Savannah monitor getting hand-fed tasty scrambled egg treats

Species of the Day: Hedgehogs

Scientific Name: Atelerix albiventrizs
Size: 1/2 to 1 1/4 of a pound; 5 to 8 inches long
Origin: Africa, Europe
Average Life-Span: 4 to 7 years
Temperament: Alert, active and friendly

    Most hedgehogs kept in the US are African pygmy hedgehogs. Most African pygmy hedgehogs available are bred by private breeders or you can look up a local hedgehog rescue and adopt your hedgehog. These cute little pincushions are fun and fascinating. If a hedgehog smells something interesting it will often being foaming at the mouth, contorting itself to lick the foam onto its spines. This behavior is referred to as "self-anointing", and to this day science still hasn't figured out exactly why hedgehogs do it. When a hedgehog feels threatened it snuffles and snorts while tucking its head down as a defense mechanism. This leaves them with their quills protecting their whole bodies while still allowing them to move. This behavior is usually accompanied by sudden lurches forward in the direction of their antagonist in an attempt to give it a good warning prickle. Of course the more your hedgehog gets to know you, the less defensive it will become.
    You may be lucky enough to acquire a very friendly and outgoing hedgehog that will accept you almost instantly, but not all hedgehogs are so adaptable. Getting your hedgehog to become familiar with you will take some patience. The more time you spend with them, the faster they will get used to you and begin to relax. Hedgehogs have rather poor eyesight so their world is one of smells and sounds, and your hedgehog will learn to identify you by your scent and voice. The best way of doing this is to spend time gently holding your hedgehog to allow it to adjust to you. Picking up a hedgehog is difficult, at least until your hedgehog gets to know your smell. Never wear gloves while handling your hedgehog as it will block your scent and confuse it. The best way to pick up a hedgehog is with one hand at each side of it, then bring your hands gently together to support its body. Never grasp your hedgehog in a way that could result in any of your fingers getting caught in the middle should it decide to roll into a ball. As your hedgehog adjusts to being handled, it will come to you with its quills lying flat, allowing you to pet and play with him.
    Hedgehogs are insectivores, and as a result are obligate carnivores like cats, meaning that they need essential nutrients that they can only get by eating a high-protein meat diets. In the wild they snuffle around aggressively as they search for any prey they can overpower, from all kinds of insects to small lizards, frogs and even young mice. In captivity, a high quality cat or kitten food, hedgehog maintenance diets or ferret chow is recommended. Feeding live prey is also recommended, such as crickets, earthworms, meal worms, superworms and the occasional pinky mouse, to give them some exercise, as hedgehogs are prone to obesity in captivity. Small amounts of beta carotene-rich vegetables should also be provided.
    A wire cage, aquarium, or plastic kiddie-pool can make great places to house your hedgehog. A heavy food dish and water bottle attached to the side of the habitat should be provided. Hedgehogs like to burrow so proved a couple of places for them to hide in such as small sections of PVC pipe or a little plastic igloo for guinea pigs. Hedgehogs can be taught to use litter boxes, and bedding should consist of hay, aspen shavings or recycled newspaper bedding. Do not use cedar or pine mulch as the oils can harm your pet. An exercise wheel is also highly recommended, and specially made wheels for hedgehogs made of plastic cylinders can be found from a multitude of sources. Hedgehogs are surprisingly energetic, and need lots of opportunities to expend that energy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Video of the Day: Uh-Oh!

Here is a video of two different macaws, a green-wing and a blue and gold, demonstrating how parrots can make toys out of just about anything

Species of the Day: Brazilian Black Tarantula

Scientific Name: Grammostola pulchra
Range: Grassland areas of Brazil and Uruguay
Type: Terrestrial
Diet: Spiderlings will eat pin-head crickets and other small insects, adults will eat adult crickets, other large insects, small lizards and the occasional pinkie mice.
Adult Size: Five to six inches
Growth Speed: Slow
Preferred Temperature: 75 to 85 degrees F
Humidity: 75 to 80%
Temperament: Docile and calm
Housing: Spiderlings can live in a clear, plastic deli cup with air holes. Adults can live in a 10 gallon tank; floor space is more important than height.
Substrate: 3 to 5 inches of ground coconut husk or potting soil
Decor: Not necessary but you can add a hiding log or cork bark

    The Brazilian black tarantula is often called the best pet tarantula, and with good reason! Brazilian black tarantulas are very docile, impressive and, hence the name, a gorgeous, jet-black spider. They are in the same genus as the Chilean rosehair (Grammostola rosea), but are slightly larger and more active. The Brazilian black, like the Chilean rosehair is known to go on fasts lasting for several months. Despite being very popular they're a litter harder to find and you may find yourself paying a high price for even an unsexed spiderling, but it is well worth it! Females of this species have been known to live for over 20 years. The Brazilian black tarantula is a great spider for the classroom, zoo displays and for any hobbyist!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Video of the Day: Senior Gecko

Here is a video of the former world's oldest leopard gecko, a 28 year old female named Dink, who sadly passed away on May 5th, 2010

Species of the Day: Guinea Pig (Cavy)

Scientific Name: Caviidae porcellus
Size: 8 to 9 inches long
Origin: South America; specifically the Peruvian Andes
Average Life: Span: 5 to 7 years
Temperament: Friendly; active

    Larger than hamsters but smaller than rabbits, guinea pigs can weigh a couple of pounds and generally live 5 to 7 years. The three most common varieties found in pet stores are the smooth-coated, with short, glossy fur, the Abyssinian, with dimple-like rosettes all over in its fur, and the Peruvian, which has long, silky fur. Guinea pigs make wonderful companions. These docile members of the rodent family rarely bite and are known for squealing with delight when their favorite person walks into the room.
    Guinea pigs are social animals and they prefer to live in small groups. It's best to keep two females together, but if you want two males, it’s smart to choose brothers from the same litter. Since guinea pigs, like all rodents, multiply rapidly, keeping males and females together is not recommended. As a rule of thumb, you’ll need to provide a minimum of four square feet of cage space per guinea pig—but please try to get as large a cage as possible. You’ll need a solid-bottom cage—no wire floors, please, as they can irritate your pets’ feet and cause open sores. Plastic-bottom “tub cages” with wire tops also make great guinea pig homes. Never use a glass aquarium as they can cause illnesses due to poor. Always keep the cage indoors away from drafts and extreme temperatures, as guinea pigs are very susceptible to respiratory infections and heatstroke.
Line the bottom of the cage with aspen shavings or some other form of safe bedding, such as grass hay. Do not use cedar or pine chips—the oils they contain can be dangerous to your pets. (P.S. Yes, you can train a guinea pig to use a litter box—but please note that this will require lots of time and patience!) Guinea pigs love to hide and play, so be sure to place cardboard tubes and/or empty coffee cans with smoothed edges in the enclosure for this purpose. Plastic pipes and flower pots are good, too, and bricks and rocks for climbing will be much appreciated. All guinea pigs need a cave for sleeping and resting, so please provide a medium-sized flower pot or covered sleeping box, readily available at pet supply stores.
    Commercial guinea pig pellets should make up the bulk of your pet’s diet. Nutritionally complete, they’re available at pet supply stores, and are made from plants, seeds and veggies. Feed your guinea pigs twice daily, in the morning and in the evening. Offering small amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables to your guinea pigs every day is a great way to bond with them, as the quickest way to a guinea pig's heart is through their stomach! Try grapes, cucumbers, corn, peas, carrots and pears. Half a handful of veggies and a slice of fresh fruit per pig is plenty. You have to watch the treats with guinea pigs and it's not hard for them to become obese. Always make sure to clean up any leftover fresh food before it spoils. You’ll also need to make grass hay available to your pets at all times. It’s great for the digestive system, prevents hair-balls and will also satisfy your pet’s need to gnaw. Just like human beings, guinea pigs cannot manufacture Vitamin C on their own, so you’ll need to ensure that your pets get enough of this essential nutrient every day. A quarter of an orange will do, but you can also include some fruits and veggies that are high in C to their daily ration of fresh foods, such as kale, dandelion greens and strawberries. Fresh, clean water should be available at all times. Use an inverted bottle with a drinking tube, and change the water daily.
     Remove soiled bedding, droppings and stale food from the cage daily. Clean the cage completely once a week by replacing dirty bedding and scrubbing the bottom of the cage with warm water. Be sure everything’s dry before adding fresh bedding. Guinea pigs are rodents and therefore their teeth grow continuously throughout their whole lives. That’s why it is important that you provide yours with something to gnaw on at all times. Branches and twigs from untreated trees will work, as will any small piece of wood that hasn’t been treated with chemicals. Once you have hand-tamed your piggies, you should let them run around in a small room or enclosed area to get some additional exercise every day. You will need to carefully check the room for any openings from which the guinea pigs can escape. These animals must be supervised when they are loose because they will chew on anything in their paths—including electrical wires. Guinea pigs are very conscientious about grooming themselves, but brushing them on a regular basis will help keep their coat clean and remove any loose hairs, plus it feels mighty good! Long-haired guinea pigs should be brushed daily in order to prevent tangles and knots from forming.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Video of the Day: Possibly the Best Video Ever

Looks like Gumby's looking a little stiff on this particular Halloween evening.

species of the Day: African Bullfrog (Pixie Frog)

Scientific Name: Pyxicephalus adspersus
Family: Ranidae
Adult Size: Average size is 4 to 9 1/2 inches
Range: East and south from Nigeria, eastern savanna regions, from Somalia to Port Elizabeth, and west to Angola
Habitat: Open grasslands, particularly around puddles if they are to be found

    The African bullfrog, or pixie frog, as it is often called, is one of the largest frogs in Africa. It can measure up to 9 1/2 inches and may weigh over four pounds. It is a rather portly amphibian with a broad head and bumpy, olive green skin. This frog is more of a burrower than a swimmer with only the back feet being webbed and the front feet being strongly clawed. Adult males and females are easy to tell apart. An adult male frog will have a yellow throat while a female will have a creamy-colored throat. The most dramatic difference however is size, with males being much, much bigger than females. These frogs will blow up like balloons as a defense mechanism when frightened. In the wild, they spend much of their time underground and only come out to eat or breed after heavy rains.
    African bullfrogs are not an overly active species and therefore require little space to be happy. A small frog can be maintained in a 5 gallon aquarium, a medium in a 10 gallon aquarium and a large frog in a 20 gallon aquarium. It's no surprise that these frogs are highly prone to obesity, so they will do best in an aquarium that provides a good amount of substrate for them to burrow in for exercise. Moist, untreated potting soil works best for this. A shallow water pan should be placed in one corner for soaking. It is generally recommended that these frogs should be housed alone to avoid cannibalism.
    The diet of these frogs can be a little hairy for the more squeamish, as they have gluttonous appetites and will eat anything they can overpower or fit in their mouths, which includes lizards, large insects, small mammals and even other frogs. Care should be taken when feeding as these frogs do have teeth and can give a nasty bite if it mistakes fingers for food.
    This is another species that is good for people who are looking for a pet that doesn't require much care or interaction. They are easy to care for, fun to watch and make a good conversation piece. But be prepared when you go to buy your cute little pixie frog from the pet store, for it will quickly grow to be a monster of a frog!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Video of the Day: Chihuahua Vs Doberman

You might recognize these two famous pooches from all over the internet and even in some TV spots. They are Ramsey the Doberman and Pablo the chihuahua owned by Chad Dressen. Here's Ramsey enjoying a tasty raw hide chew that Pablo fancies belongs to him, and Pablo, in classic chihuahua-fashion, looks imploringly to his owner to do something about it.

Species of the Day: Rats

Scientific Name: Rattus rattus or Rattus norvegicus
Size: 14-18 inches in length including the tail
Origin: Asia
Average Life-Span: 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years
Temperament: Very intelligent, social and easily tamed
Varieties: Rex, standard, tailless, hairless, satin and dumbo

    The domestic rat is a descendant of the wild brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) and has been bred as a pet for approximately a hundred years. Pet rats are much less fearful than their wild cousins, and when handled gently they quickly learn to enjoy riding on shoulders and napping in laps. The average pet rat is 14-18 inches long including the tail, which is about half the length of the rat's body. These companion rodents come in a variety of coat types and colors, and if well cared for, will live an average of 2 1/2 years. Curious, intelligent and playful, rats can make great pets!
    Rats are very social, but should be kept in pairs at the minimum. A pair of females is recommended for first time rat owners. Males can do well together if they are brought up together from a young age. Do not keep males and females together, as they will breed and breed and breed. The average litter of rats is 12, but there have been litters of as high as 20; it won't take long before you're overrun.
    Rats do best in wire cages because they offer good ventilation. A large cage with a good amount of height and floor space is best. The floor should be solid and plenty of bedding should be provided for making nests. Aspen shavings or pelleted recycled paper should be used. Do not use pine or cedar shavings as he oils can harm your rats. Keep in mind that rats are active and playful, so don't forget the furniture and toys. Rats love to climb and hide in things and are prolific chewers, which makes many of the same toys for parrots perfect for your rats, such as braided rope, swings, vegetable tanned leather and non-toxic non-destructible plastic toys. Rats can be prone to respiratory infections, and are also very susceptible to heatstroke, so be sure to keep the cage out of drafts and direct sunlight. Once your rats are acclimated to your routines, they will enjoy having their cages situated in active areas of the household.
    A rat's main diet should consist of high quality pellets formulated for rodents. Look for a brand where soy meal is the main ingredient. Pellets should be kept available at all times. You can also give small amounts of fruits and vegetables to your rats, but keep the treats to a minimum as rats can easily become overweight . Fresh water should be available at all times, and attachable water bottles the best option.
    Remove droppings, soiled bedding and uneaten food from your rat's cage everyday, cleaning out the whole cage once a week. Like that of all rodents, a rat's teeth grow continuously. Provide untreated pieces of wood, dog biscuits, or raw-hide for your rats to gnaw on. This is crucial to keeping their teeth in tip-top condition and preventing dental problems. Rats are friendly and curious by nature and respond well to people when treated gently. Some rats will even come to you for petting and will snuggle up with you. Out of cage play time is mandatory with rats, and will keep your smart, active pets mentally stimulated and physically fit, but be sure to supervise at all times. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Video of the Day: Musical Cockatoos

This is a video of a Goffin's cockatoo, known as the clown of cockatoos, dancing around while holding a CD in its beak! Too cute!

Species of the Day: African Rock Python

Scientific Name: Python s. sebae
Family: Pythonidae
Adult Size: can get up to 16-20 feet long and weigh between 120 and 150 pounds
Range: Guinea and Senegal on the west coast of Africa, across central Africa to the east coast of Ethiopia, southern Somalia, Kenya and northern Tanzania
Habitat: Prefers savannas and grasslands 

    The African rock python is a large constricting snake with care requirements similar to the Burmese or reticulated pythons. While many people have satisfactory experiences with this snake, there are a number of cases on record in which people have been attacked or killed. Many of these attacks were due to poor feeding procedures, while others were due to letting the animal roam free through the house. The bottom line is these snakes are wild animals and can be unpredictable. Keeping large constrictors requires a very strict attention to husbandry and safety principals. They should never be allowed free run of the house. These snakes have strong instincts and can attack unexpectedly if they feel threatened or smell food. They have voracious appetites to fuel their large, fast-growing bodies, and holding back food from them to stunt their growth only makes an already ugly-tempered snake even more irritable.
    Rock pythons, which grow to 16-20 feet long, should be respected for their strength and treated accordingly. They should only be handled when necessary, such as when their habitat needs to be cleaned. It is very important for there to be another experienced handler to help, and it is recommended that you have one handler for every five feet of snake. One reason that these snakes can be so dangerous is that their sense of sight is very poor, and they rely primarily on their sense of smell and the heat sensors that line their upper lips to find food. If it smells food on or near the keeper, the snake is likely to assume that the keeper is food. Their instinct to constrict their prey and eat is so strong that it can kill you before it realizes that you are too big to swallow. Experienced snake owners call unsafe feeding practices "Stupid Feeding Errors" or "SFE's." These are almost always involved when there is a report of a large snake attacking its owner. Proper feeding requires that you wash your hands before feeding the snake, and then use long handled tongs to hold the pre-killed prey. Any warm blooded animals, such as cats and dogs, can set off the feeding instinct, and should be kept at a safe distance. 
    In addition to these considerations, the rock python can live for 25 years and requires large prey items such as large rabbits when they reach their adult size. If you get one and find out after a few years that it is more than you can handle, you will not have an easy time getting rid of it. They may seem "cool," but not that many people want the job of taking care of a big snake. The best way to get used to all of these routines is to get your snake while it is very young. This way you can learn how to care for your snake correctly while the risk is still fairly small. Handling a young snake properly will help it be less defensive later on. Correct feeding methods should always be used even when it's small. Never handle the snake when it is in a mood to eat or right afterward. While a 55-gallon aquarium can make a suitable starter enclosure, it won't be long before you'll be forced to build your own large cage. The African rock python is very strong, and can easily escape from most enclosures. Its caging requirements are focused mainly on space and sturdiness, which is why converting a small, escape-proof locked bedroom in your home is the best way to go. Substrate, or floor covering, for the habitat can be newspaper, paper towels, or butcher paper. When you've made sure the snake doesn't have mites and it has settled into its new home, you can use bedding such as commercially prepared cypress bark in the room. Don't use cedar or other wood shavings as bedding though because the oils can adversely affect the python's health. Soiled bedding needs to be removed and replaced with clean material. Also, Astro-turf can be cut to fit the room, and then rolled up and carried out for cleaning. Have two pieces of Astro-turf ready, and you can use one while washing the other. A rock python will appreciate having a hiding place in its enclosure. This can be as simple as a cardboard box with a door cut into the side.  It will also like a large natural rocks and ledges to climb and bask on.
     The temperature inside the snake's enclosure should have a gradient of  80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) to 92 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Celsius). There are a variety of ways to add warmth to the pen. Light bulbs set on 12 hour timers work very well for this, but must be placed accordingly so that the snake will not burn itself. A good option with large snake is large is a veterinary heating pad called a "pig blanket." This rigid fiberglass mat can be equipped with a thermostat and adjusted to the appropriate settings.
A rock python will enjoy soaking in its water bowl. It will need a tub when it gets bigger, and may eventually have to be bathed in the bath tub. Be sure to follow safety precautions if this is necessary, including having a willing partner or two to help handle the big snake. Bathing is particularly helpful during shedding. Make sure you keep the snake's water bowl clean with fresh water always available.
     Your young rock python will benefit by having a short daily period of handling, but keep in mind that these can be very aggressive snakes. Don't start these handling sessions until it has settled into its new home, and never handle it after eating. Always remember it will slither away and escape when it can, so keep track of it. Move gently and never suddenly. If the snake wraps around you, start at the tail end to gently unwind it. Try not to let it wrap around your neck. Keep disinfectant available for the occasional bite most large python owners eventually get.
     While these snakes are awesome beautiful creatures, think twice before adopting an African rock python into your home. They should not be brought into any home with young children or elderly people in residence. The responsibility of keeping a potential killer is tremendous. To keep things in perspective, however, it's worth noting that more people are killed by people's pet dogs than by large pet snakes. Still, getting one is not a decision to be made lightly.



Thursday, March 10, 2011

Video of the Day: Perfect Pekins!

I love chickens! And today's video showcases my absolute favorite breed of chicken, the Pekin! Big, fluffy and adorable with their poofy Big Bird tails, even the roosters are very docile and make perfect pets.

Species of the Day: Ferret

Scientific Name: Mustela furo or M. putorius furo
Size: 13 to 20 inches in length; 1 and a half to 3 pounds in weight (males are usually larger than females)
Origin: Europe or Asia
Average Life-span: 5 to 7 years
Temperament: Ferrets are playful, inquisitive creatures. They are also quite intelligent and can be trained to use a litter-box. In the wild, polecats live in burrows, and the digging/burrowing instinct remains intact in domestic ferrets
Varieties: Seven colors; albino, black, black sable, champagne, chocolate, dark-eyed white and sable. Six patterns; point, standard, solid, blaze, panda and roan

    Ferrets are fascinating creatures that have moved their way into hundreds of thousands of American households over the past several years according to a recent study by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Popular because of their cute appearance, playfulness and friendly disposition, ferrets can be great companions. They do, however, require a lot of care and attention from their owners.
    Members of the Mustelidae family, ferrets are related to minks, polecats, weasels, and otters. It is believed that ferrets were domesticated about 2000 years ago in Europe when they were used for hunting rabbits and small rodents. They are in no way to be confused with the North American black-footed ferret, which is a completely separate and endangered species.
    Ferrets are very dependent on their human companions for survival. Because ferrets require constant care and supervision, potential owners need to evaluate their ability to commit to the huge responsibility that they are. Ferrets my not be the best pets for families with small children. Although ferrets are very social animals, they may bite or nip if mishandled. Children should always be supervised when interacting with ferrets, or any animals for that matter. Ferrets generally get along well with dogs and cats if they are introduced carefully, but they should not interact with birds, rodents or small reptiles. Ferrets are first and foremost carnivores, and I wouldn't put it past them to not try and make a meal of them.
    When selecting a ferret from a shelter, a pet store or a breeder, choose one that is bright-eyed and alert. The presence of crusty eyes or nasal discharge that is full of mucus indicate illness. Whether you select a male ferret, known as a hob, or a female, known as a jill, you should get a spayed/neutered ferret. Breeding is not recommended. Most ferrets from farms or pet stores will already be altered. If not, it is best to have the ferret altered at the age of six months. Spaying is a must for jills because they can develop aplastic anemia when in heat if they aren’t bred, which can result in death. Altering a ferret may actually improve its disposition since it will not be as aggressive or territorial. De-scenting a ferret helps reduce the animal’s musky body odor. This surgery can be performed at the same time as spaying or neutering.
    Ferrets are obligate carnivores which means that they need certain nutrients that can only be found in meat. You can buy specially made ferret kibble at pet stores, and high-quality cat or kitten foods may be used as well. Water is needed at all times, and is best served in a bottle since ferrets may enjoy playing with water in a bowl and making a mess. Food should be available at all times.
    Ferrets require a lot of freedom and exercise, but should be caged when not directly supervised. Wire cages are best and should be a minimum of 2 ft. x 2 ft. x 14 inches for one ferret provided the ferret has plenty of play time outside the cage. For multiple ferrets or if playtime is limited, a larger cage is better. Spacing on the bars must be such that the ferret can’t escape. You can furnish it with hammocks and sleeping tubes for ferrets as places to rest and play in. A covered litter-box will be necessary for them to eliminate in.  The cage may be kept indoors or outdoors. If kept outside, shade should be provided to avoid heat exhaustion. Supplemental heat is needed if temperatures fall below the freezing point.
    Ferrets will jump, run around, slide, do somersaults and play games. They are very curious and like to investigate just about everything. Owners should "ferret proof" at least one room in the house for play time. Eliminate loose boards, open drains or air ducts or other holes that ferrets will investigate.Watch what you leave out in the open while the ferrets are playing, because they can and will steal it and then hide it somewhere in your house. Some ferrets like pens, while others like to collect rolls of toilet paper. You can buy specially made toys for ferrets at many pet stores, but ferrets will make a toy of anything. The best toys for ferrets are made of hard plastic. Don't give them anything that can be pulled apart from chewing.
    Ferrets like dogs and cats are susceptible to rabies and should be vaccinated. They should also be vaccinated for canine distemper virus which can be fatal. Consult your veterinarian for recommended schedules. Ferrets are not immune to health problems, and should receive regular preventative health care through regular check-ups.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Video of the Day: The Proper Care and Feeding of a Porsche 944

A good demonstration from Porsche of how to properly advertise new vehicles.

Species of the Day: African Sulcata or Spur-Thighed Tortoise

Scientific Name: Geochelone (Centrochelys) sulcata
Family: Testudinidae
Adult Size: Over 200 lbs
Range: Found within the Sahel region, which is geographical band in Africa, south of the Saharan desert stretching from Mauritania and Northern Senegal Eastward to Northern Ethiopia.
Habitat: Semi-desert conditions, grassland and woody scrub land

   The African Sulcata is a sandy beige in color throughout most of their body, with some developing a deeper honey color as they age. Large scales on their front legs help them to dig and prevent them from being pulled backwards from their burrows, which is nearly impossible. The spurs on their rear thighs has led to them being commonly called "spur-thighed" tortoise.
    They inhabit hot, dry climates in Africa, but can handle variable amounts of humidity in captivity. All tortoises do best in large, outdoor enclosures where they can get as much natural sunlight as they need to grow properly and be healthy. They do not hibernate, but do go through a winter slow-down period during the cooler months and shorter day-lengths. As adults they can safely handle temperatures as low as 45 degrees Fahrenheit as night as long as temperatures are in the 70's during the day. Summer highs of up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit can be tolerated as long as cooler areas are provided for them to regulate their body temperatures. Dampness is not a problem in hot weather (you'd be hard-pressed to find a tortoise that doesn't enjoy a good muddy water-hole on a hot day), but in cooler weather the tortoises must be kept dry. As babies, they are much less tolerant of extremes, spending much time in washes and and underground burrows.
    This tortoise is a natural grazer, and will wander about nibbling on grass the majority of its life, although succulents like cactus leaves and fruit and flower are greatly relished by the tortoises. In captivity sulcata tortoises will graze on grasses and leafy weeds (dandelions are a favorite). As babies the focus should be on them a wide mix of leafy greens, since they have a tougher time eating the tougher grasses. Fruit should only be given occasionally.
    As pets they are interactive and curious tortoises. They can be aggressive toward each other, particularly when two males of equal size are housed together. Over time, and with careful supervision, they usually can sort out a hierarchy for themselves. Sulcatas are generally not aggressive towards people but sometimes you come across males that have a penchant for head-butting, which can be cute when they're little, but when they quickly grow into 200 pound monsters it can become a problem. They can be very damaging to their environment as they can be prolific diggers and burrowers if no shelter is provided for them. As said before these tortoises can be quite large and need lots of space for them to be happy. Most sulcatas will come eagerly up to their owners looking for food, and some even follow them around, making the sulcata tortoise a most personable pet and joy to keep if you have the space and the time to dedicate to them.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Video of the Day: A Bearded Dragon Moment

Here is a pet beardie, having a classic bearded dragon moment when it is placed on a polished wood surface, and walks faster and faster in an attempt to get moving.

Species of the Day: Mouse

Scientific Name: Mus musculus domesticus
Size: 4 to 6 inches
Origin: First kept as pets in China
Average Life-span: 2 to 3 years
Temperament: Active and friendly if properly socialized and interacted with
Varieties: Standard, satin, long-hair, satin long-hair, frizzie, frizzie satin and hairless; comes in many colors and patterns.

    Thinking of getting a mouse? Well you're in good company! The domestic mouse, essentially the same species as the common house mouse, and has been caught and domesticated as pets for centuries. A house mouse measures about four to six inches with half that length being the tail. While white (albino) mice are the most common type found in pet stores, fancy mice can be twice the average size and come in a wide variety of coat types, colors and patterns, from curly to long and silver to cinnamon. If well cared for they can live about two to three years. Mice make curious, charming pets and will be active at various times throughout the day. However they are fragile and should be treated gently.
    Mice are very social and females do especially well when kept in small groups. Males can be kept in small groups if brought up together from a young age and provided enough room, otherwise fights will break out. Do not house males and females together as they will breed rapidly and you will quickly become overrun. You can keep two to three mice together in a 10 gallon aquarium with a wire top. There should be several inches of bedding for them to burrow and nest in. You can use either aspen, hard wood shavings or reprocessed paper products. Avoid cedar and pine shavings at all costs as they can lead to health problems for your mice. Don't forget the furniture! Provide small boxes or flower pots for your mice to hide in, and cardboard tubes for them to run through and chew on. You can also add a tree branch for them to climb on. Most mice will enjoy running on an exercise wheel, so be sure to get yours one. Ladders for climbing and PVC pipes for tunneling will also be appreciated by your bright, active pets. Plastic habitats, the kind made for hamsters, will also work for mice, but keep in mind that these are harder to keep clean. I do not recommend wire cages as they are drafty and mice are very susceptible to respiratory disease, not to mention the fact that mice are escape artists and more often then not they can find their way out of wire cages.
    Mice do well on a good, fortified commercial diet, either in block or pellet form. The formula you select should contain at least 16% protein, 18% fiber and no more than 4% fat. You can also offer small amounts of fruits and vegetables as treats. Peas, broccoli, carrots, apples and bananas are good foods to start with, but you may need to experiment to find which are your pet's favorites. Be careful not to overdo it though, as too many green foods can lead to loose stools. Do not give your mice cabbage, chocolate, corn, candy, junk food, uncooked beans or onions. Fresh, clean water should be available at all times, and a plastic water bottle with a drinking tube fastened to the side of the cage is the way to go.
    Remove droppings, uneaten food and soiled areas of bedding from your pet's cage every day. Clean the cage completely twice a week by replacing dirty bedding and wiping down the rest of the cage. Note that male mice will produce more odor than females, so their cages may need to be cleaned more often. Like that of all rodents, a mouse's sharp incisors grow continuously throughout their lives. Provide unpainted, untreated pieces of wood, dog biscuits or safe chew toys for rodents to chew on. This is crucial for keeping their teeth in tip-top condition and prevent malocclusion and other dental problems.
    Mice are very good jumpers, so you need to be careful when you take them out of their cage. You can scoop them up in your hand or in a paper cup to safely transport them. Never grab mice by the middle or end of their tails, as this can cause injuries. If you need to catch a mouse quickly you can grasp them by the base of their tail and lift them up as you cup them in your hand. Mice are smart, and can be taught tricks when well socialized, and can be let out for supervised exercise everyday.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Video of the Day: Sometimes cats can be evil

A video compilation of various cats that seem determined to kill their owners and the veterinary technicians that only have their best interests in mind. Prepare for total meowarchy!

Species of the Day: Brown Anole, Green Anole and Knight Anole

Today's Species of the Day is actually three species of Anoles commonly found in captivity. Since all three require similar care and can be kept in groups of the same species, I've decided to just profile all three. First, the brown anole:

Brown Anole:

Scientific Name: Anolis Sagrei
Family: Iguanidae
Adult Size: 5 to 8 inches
Range: Bahamas. Introduced to peninsular Florida and scattered through urban areas in the Southern United States.
Habitat: Fields and open woodlands, canal banks and open urban areas

    The brown anole is mainly terrestrial, but it frequently climbs trees and vegetation. The terrarium should feature at least one higher promontory point from which the anole can survey the terrarium floor and also bask close to the heat lamp. Brown anoles are active by day and spend nights clinging to the underside of a leaf or stem.
    Small, moving insects are essential as the brown anole's main prey. They are good eaters and will pounce on any small insect they see moving. Insects should be offered a few at a time until the anole no longer shows interest in eating. Loose feeder insects in the terrarium can be a source of stress as they can nibble toes and tail tips. A small water bowl tucked into one corner is fine, but a daily spritz of fresh water from a mister bottle will send the anoles licking droplets wherever they cling.

Green Anole:

Scientific Name: Anolis carolinensis
Family: Iguanidae
Adult Size: 6 to 11 inches
Range: South-Eastern US
Habitat: Prefers lush foliage, especially near water

    This is the common "American chameleon", although its actually not related to chameleons at all. It can change color, but not with nearly the speed and range of colors of true chameleons. In biology, green anoles are much more like miniature green iguanas except that they primarily prey on insects.
    Virtually all green anoles available in the pet trade are collected from the wild, despite their ease of breeding in captivity. This means that many green anoles come into captivity with already established daily routines, and may or may not adapt readily to cage life. Care must be used to make them happy to the best of one's ability to compensate and aid them in adapting. The green anole's nervous nature makes it advisable not to handle them very often.
    If keeping many in the same terrarium, a cage of 20 gallons or larger, with numerous plants lining the back and sides of the terrarium is best. Leave an open space in the front as a place that feeder insects can be dropped in clear view of the hungry anoles. Green anoles like to leap down on potential prey from a high vantage point.
    Provide a heat lamp over the highest plants so the anoles can bask directly below it. Water is best administered through a mister bottle. Wet the leaves so the drops of water can be lapped up by the anoles. A small water bowl is also a good to have present.

Knight Anole:

Scientific Name: Anolis equestris
Family: Iguanidae
Adult Size: 12 to 18 inches
Range: Cuba. Introduced populations in peninsular Florida
Habitat: Very arboreal, preferring large shady trees and craggy rocks

    Temperament-wise, knight anoles are not the happiest campers in captivity. Most knight anoles are captured in Florida and don't adapt well to captive conditions readily. When choosing knight anoles, select the smallest available as their chances of acclimating are better than with older adults that are set in their routines. Make sure all anoles in the cage are the same size as they will happily much on a smaller lizards. Anoles pretty much have a one-tract mind; if it's smaller than you, it's edible.
    A terrarium for knight anoles should emphasize the vertical and be at least three feet tall. Install at least a couple of stout tree limbs from the floor to the top of the cage, plus some horizontal branches for climbing. Position one limb so it allows the anole to bask under a heat lamp to optimize its temperature in a spot it can easily reach and climb down from throughout each day.
    Insects are the favored food, but also leave soft , sweet fruits in shallow bowls where they can nibble them to add variety to their diets. Large adult knight anoles will also take pinky mice. Keep handling to a minimum with this species for it to thrive. The knight anole's shy nature and penchant for biting generally will assure this.

In short, with their bright displays and social behaviors, anoles make great pets to people who just want an animal to observe that doesn't require much handling and attention.