Sunday, March 1, 2015

What happens at a reptile show?

Central bearded dragon juvenile
Mini-Glenns. Juvenile Centralian bearded dragons on display.
I had one mission this weekend which was to find a suitable winter enclosure for Glenn. Being a Centralian bearded dragon he likes it hot – around 28-35 degrees. A lot warmer than the average Sydney winter.

So I wanted to find an enclosure I could set up to provide a suitable heat gradient and meet all of his needs. Anyway, the morning proved fascinating. It was the first time I'd met a snake with two personal security guards...

juvenile bearded dragons enclosure reptile lighting heating
Another enclosure containing a number of juvenile beardies.
Rather than shopping around town, which alas I have no time for, or shopping online and being unable to see the enclosure in three dimensions before I bought it, I went to the HawkesburyHerpetological Society’s exhibition.

reptile habitats
Complete kits are available for beginners. These contain lighting, heating, food dispensers, thermometers, substrate and all of the bits and bobs one needs to keep a bearded dragon. They may seem a bit pricey but putting together a decent enclosure for a reptile costs money. I don't think any money on good husbandry of any species is ever wasted. It is an investment that minimises the risk of husbandry-related disease and improves the quality of life of captive animals.
I’ve attended and even officiated at cat, dog, rabbit, rat, mouse and guinea pig shows, but this was my first reptile show. It was an education. The show started at 9am and there was already a massive queue snaking out of the door and into the packed car park.

diamond pythons
These diamond pythons were just two entrants vying for, among other titles, the coveted "Best in Show".
Dr Robert Johnson, Belinda White and John Cann, aka "the snake man of La Perouse" after the judging.
For me it was a fantastic opportunity to see other Centralian bearded dragons at various life-stages, as well as view the types of enclosures used for this species and probe keepers about husbandry, environmental enrichment - you know, giving them the best possible life.

Magnificent tree frog Littoria splendida
Magnificent tree frogs were for sale (an amphibian license is required to keep this species in NSW).
It was quite different to a dog or cat show - snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs and other reptiles were on display in various tanks, terrariums and even Tupperware (from which I hope they were rapidly transferred into appropriate enclosures as soon as possible following purchase).

water dragons
These water dragons, bred and displayed by OzReps, are a couple of months old. 
I asked the enthusiastic St John Ambulance volunteers if anyone had been bitten by a snake yet.

St John's Ambulance volunteers were present to provide first aid if required. In NSW alone they treat over 36,000 casualties and provide over 400,000 hours of voluntary first aid and training services. They're at every animal show and public event and their enthusiasm for service is inspirational.
“No,” said Division Trainer John, adding that the venomous snakes were all in locked enclosures. 

"Ah yes, but what if there was an earthquake and all the enclosures fell over?" I probed.

Apparently this possibility was considered by one of the junior volunteers, who suggested that would be a cue to run for the exit. 

I met this stunning four-year-old giant burrowing cockroach and one of her four babies. These critters can live to about ten and they are truly beautiful. You can download free husbandry guidelines here.
snake security
Look closely at this picture. This python, a Pied Stimsoni, is one of (I am told) five inthe world. The men in black are this snake's personal security detail. 
Pied Stimsoni
A close up. One could imagine this snake starring in James Bond movie, opening in a herp expo. Or maybe Indiana Jones. Apparently the python was worth " a lot" of money, enough to fund the appointment of two highly trained men to fend off any would-be thieves.
A lot of people purchased animals on the day, but many came just for a look. Or to find reptile resources.

For those unfamiliar with reptiles it was a good chance to meet them up close.
Sheryll Steele-Boyce with Dr Danny Brown's magnum opus, "A Guide To Australian Lizards in Captivity". This tome weighs several kilograms and has a limited print run, but the detail is staggering.

These books and others were available from Reptile Publications. Publisher Sheryll Steele-Boyce is passionate about producing comprehensive husbandry guides.

Rock scorpions were for sale.
There were also a couple of dinosaurs on display (for those who aren't sure this one is fake). I guess some people are into reptiles (and birds for that matter) because they have much in common with dinosaurs.

It was an amazing and educational few hours. As a recent reptile owner it was helpful to me to source information from the experts - keepers, veterinarians, breeders and biologists - in one spot. It was really helpful being able to see different types and standards of husbandry. As a veterinarian it was useful to see where clients purchase pets and what sort of information they can access. The herpetological societies were extremely helpful and staffed by exceptionally passionate volunteers. I'd recommend anyone with an interest in reptiles or amphibians gets along and has a chat with their local herp society. Hopefully everyone who visited today learned something about how they can enhance the wellbeing of the reptiles in their care.