Articles, Pet Care, Reptiles
Keeping reptiles as pets in Australia is one of the fastest growing sectors amongst the pet-owning community, with reptiles now often regarded as companion animals. Many reptile owners also own other pets, the growing popularity of reptiles as an alternative pet is due to the fact that they usually require much less care and handling than other more common pets.
Dr Robert Johnson, President of the Unusual Pet and Avian Vets Group of the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) says, “I think more and more people are recognising the beauty of having a reptile,” adding that “Australia has also seen a growth in the number of veterinarians willing and able to offer treatment for people keeping reptiles as pet in Australia.”
About 20 years ago the typical reptile owner was an enthusiast or herpetologist, these days an owner can be a normal pet-lover with a desire for something different from the usual cat or dog.
Keeping reptiles as pets can have a number of benefits, including:
- Their suitability for most age groups
- They can raise awareness amongst owners and their families of the environment and other wildlife
- They are easily transportable
- In high density living environments they are much less likely to disturb the neighbours
- Generally they do not cause allergies
Popular Reptiles as Pets
In Australia, keeping reptiles as pets fall into some popular types, which include:
- Blue-tongue lizards
- Central bearded dragons
- Long-neck and short-neck turtles
- Carpet pythons
- “Children’s python” group of smaller pythons
Caring for a Reptile
Although keeping reptiles as pets is relatively easy, many have unique nutritional and environmental needs that must be met on a daily basis. One of the most important things to remember is that reptiles are ectothermic, they don’t generate their own body heat – so they must have exposure to an external heat source which can be an ultraviolet light, when indoors and the sun, outdoors. It is important to remember that they also usually require an environment with thermal gradients where they can access cooler and warmer spots at will. Reptiles also need an environment where they can find somewhere to hide.
Feeding your Reptile
All reptiles need a regular food source, with some able to feed on many different species of prey, while others feed on a limited number of species of prey. Most reptiles in the wild feed only on living prey, although a few are carrion (dead meat) eaters.
When feeding, care must be taken not only with the type and size of food, but also in the presentation of the food. Proper presentation will help stimulate feeding and also ensure that the food can be safely eaten.
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Handling a Reptile
Reptiles are usually ambivalent to being handled regularly however they can suffer from over-handling. Pythons, for instance, only eat every 1 – 2 weeks and once the food is swallowed, they will retire to a warm spot to digest their meal. Handling them during this digestion period is not advised as they may become disturbed and regurgitate their food.
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When considering having a reptile as a pet, always do your research on your particular reptile’s environment, food, handling and likes and dislikes. Learning and research will make your life, and your new pet’s life, much more enjoyable!
Keeping reptiles as pets in Australia – will I need a license?
In most states and territories of Australia it is possible for amateur enthusiasts to keep a range of wildlife at home. However most states and territories also require the keeper to have a special license or permit to keep reptiles. It is usually the case that any wildlife being held under a private wildlife license must remain at the premises specified in the license, unless going to or returning from a veterinarian, or subject to a legal trade. Rules for the keeping of reptiles vary from state to state, so always check with your local authority before committing to purchase. Penalties for illegally keeping reptiles, some of which are protected, can be very severe and in some cases may involve a custodial sentence.
Keeping reptiles as pets in Australia will require a license, but these are relatively easy and is the first step to take when you are preparing to purchase your first reptile. Applications can be performed online (see state/territory links below) or by post.
Learn about the licensing requirement for keeping reptiles as pets in Australia for each state:
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