Reptiles are scaly creatures. They are not nice to touch. Who would want to touch them anyway because we’re talking about dangerous creatures, aren’t we. If they don’t just bite us, they can kill us and sometimes even eat us. This will be some of the tales you will be hearing from young children at school. Or will you? These days, I am inclined to believe that the growing children of today are far better educated than most adults of today, no matter what the adults’ age. In fact, I could just add that in some areas of the world, the older these adults are, the more ignorant they seem to be.
Reptiles are scaly, but the bumps on their skin are sensational to touch. Stroke a lizard gently on his back while he’s soaking up his rare excursion in the sun and he’ll zap his forked tongue in appreciation. The tongue, mind you is nothing more than an appendage to help him sense where his next meal is coming from. It also helps him to sense whether danger lurks. There’ll be no biting at this point, because on his short, scaly and dumpy legs, he’ll be making a quick getaway anyhow. Some brave and knowledgeable kids might be asking their parents whether they can keep this chap as a pet.
Given the ignorance of adults mainly, I would advise against this. There are also laws against keeping such pets at home, but where there aren’t, and you are free to choose your exotic pets, in this case, reptiles; lizards or snakes mainly, make sure you know as much about the source supplier of your rare pets and as much about the creatures as possible. It does not help otherwise and the poor animal will likely die quickly from stress or shock, or simply just escape and run away after an absent-minded keeper has left its cage wide open.
To this group you can add gharials and caimans. The entire species of this group of reptiles can be found across all the habitable continents of the world. There are over twenty different species still in existence today. Distinguishing between alligators and crocodiles has always been confusing because, at a glance, they basically look the same. But not quite. Take a closer look, and I dare you to do this, and you will see that there are distinctive differences. The most common denominator here is that alligators found along the east coast of America are much smaller than their African counterparts, the crocodile.
Crocodiles are more varied and, yes, there is an American crocodile. There’s the famous Nile crocodile too. There’s even a Cuban crocodile. Australia has two distinct species; namely the Australian saltwater crocodile and the Australian freshwater crocodile. The famous South American crocodile is the Orinoco crocodile and its habitat is mainly in the threatened rain-forests of which the Amazon would be the most famous example.
Two common types are found across the world. They are simply known as the American alligator and the Chinese alligator.
This reptile family is divided into two groups, namely lizards and snakes. I won’t be typing its full scientific term out here (it’s too long and won’t be easy to remember), but you could add one more group to this extensive line of species; worm-lizards. While there are only twenty-three known species of crocodiles and alligators (together), there are over eight thousand reptilian species within this group of squamata.
Lizards are the most diverse creatures among all reptile species. Perhaps this is why they may yet survive endangerment and threats from human invasion. They can be lightning-quick if they need to be and they are privileged with a range of specialised skills. This includes tails that break off while predators are trying to catch them and fast-moving tongues used for capturing their own prey. As long as you check with your authorities and are prepared to learn as much as you can about these awesome creatures, I would recommend keeping them as pets any day.
It might be a good idea for exotic pet enthusiasts to spend more time educating their neighbours and even local park keepers about this misunderstood and unfairly feared species of reptiles. The biggest fear, of course, remains being bitten and dying from its highly toxic venom. It goes without saying that keepers of snakes should have the knowledge and preferably the clearance to handle these dangerous creatures in controlled and humane environments. Once knowledge and expertise is the order of the day, newcomers to this trade will be surprised to learn just how easy life with snakes can be, because they are mostly docile creatures.
Among the turtle species in particular, this group deserves a blog all on its own, because it is endangered and no matter which coastline you visit, it is becoming increasingly difficult to spot any turtles coming on shore. Their lives are endangered and today there are many NGOs fighting to help them survive and thrive once more. Altogether, with the shy tortoises, there are over 300 known species from this group.
I found a list of rather eccentrically named turtle species. So, just for fun, I’m naming a few here in no random order. You have your alligator snapping turtle and you have your box turtles. Then there’s the mud turtle and pond slider. You also have helmeted, hawksbill and leatherback turtles. On a more serious note, the leatherback, along with its counterparts, the green sea turtles is on the endangered list, so don’t even think of going out to hunt them. But I dare you to recognise them when out in those areas that they would be familiarly spotted. Perhaps though, you’ll be on board to help save them after learning a thing or two about these precious creatures.
And what about these shy creatures, some of the smaller species would be ideal as garden pets so as to allow them to roam docilely in surroundings as close to their original natural surroundings as possible. The list of surviving tortoises is so long, I’ve only got time and space left to mention just a few familiar ones; namely the African spurred tortoise, the brown Asian tortoise, the desert tortoise and the Cape and South African Star tortoises.