Monday, February 2, 2015

Reptiles as pets: tips from reptile keeper Marty Bodsworth

According to Marty Bodsworth, among the biggest misconceptions about reptiles are the beliefs that they are slimy and they all bite. Image used with permission.

Do you have a pet reptile? Do you treat reptiles in your practice? Reptiles are increasingly popular pets. Herpetological societies are a fantastic source of information about reptile care. Hawkesbury Herpetological Society member Marty Bodsworth shared his tips about reptile keeping.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

I work as a Data Manager in two Emergency departments. I am also a reptile keeper and breeder in Sydney west, I have kept lizards for almost 40 years and pythons for 22 years.

How did you become interested in reptiles?

I have been interested in reptiles from as young as I can remember, some of my first were Eastern water skinks, Eastern Bearded dragons, Blue tongues and Eastern water dragons, I had a pit in my parent’s backyard that I housed these in over the years.

I am now a member of the Hawkesbury Herpetology Society with my 9 year old son Guy, he attends most meetings with me and learns so much during the presentations on reptiles, he also loves seeing some of the member’s reptiles when they bring them into show and talk about them, and he loves showing off his own pet reptiles when he gets a chance.

What reptiles do you have and what are their names?

I keep Eastern long neck turtles, central beardies, Blue tongues, Eastern water dragons, Blotched blue tongues, Cunninghams skinks, Land mullets, pink tongue lizards, Diamond Pythons, Coastal Carpets, Central Australian Carpet pythons and Murray Darling Carpets. My favourite lizard is “Big daddy”, the male Eastern Water dragon. My favourite snake is my black Diamond python “Tapanga”, I have had her for 13 years, she is the one reptile I could never give up.

Hawkesbury Herpetological Society
Marty spends a lot of time working on providing the best husbandry for the reptiles in his care.
What are the biggest challenges associated with keeping reptiles?

For a new keeper I would say the biggest challenge would be getting the husbandry correct for the reptile they are keeping, a lot of people obtain their new pet first without any research, simple things like correct enclosure temperature and gradient, enclosure size, types of food, do they need UV?

What is the most common misconception people have about reptiles?

That they are slimy and everything bites, when I show people some of my reptiles and how calm the reptile is, they are amazed.

In your view, what are the three most important things carers can do to ensure the health of their reptiles?

  1. Ensure they have enough room, so a correct size enclosure for the animal you are keeping.
  2. Correct heating and UV if required.
  3. At the first sign of illness, get to your reptile vet, waiting can make the difference between life and death.

What's the best source of information about reptile health?

The best source for animal health for me would have to be my vet Robert Johnson at South Penrith Veterinary clinic, I have been going to him for 21 years and now have his new book “A Guide to Health and Disease in Reptiles and Amphibians” By: Dr Brendan Carmel, Robert Johnson.

A guide to health and disease in reptiles and amphibians
A Guide to Health and Disease in Reptiles and Amphibians is an accessible source of information.
Do you have any tips for vets or vet students who might work with reptiles?

Help educate reptile owners, tell them what you need to know, so the next time they attend the will have the correct information you need to make a correct diagnosis. Things like eating patterns, shedding, temps and general behaviour can help solve problems.

Thank you so much Marty. If you want more info about reptiles and their husbandry, check out the Hawkesbury Herpetological Society’s Annual Reptile Expo on Sunday March 1 at Penrith Panthers Exhibition Marquee on Mulgoa Road, Penrith, from 9am-4pm.


Class 1 and 2 reptiles, exotics, venomous snakes and amphibians will be on display. It’s a great place to pick up a decent reptile enclosure, lighting, accessories and food. There is an entry fee of $10 for adults and $5 for kids. Photography enthusiasts are also welcome.

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