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How the recession is affecting our exotic pets

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Today we're looking at how the recession is affecting our pets, this is an ongoing issue. This is also a very timely piece as parents will be looking towards Christmas over the next few weeks so it's important that they realize how important it is to educate themselves on the animal before they buy it.

James Hennessy
James opened the reptile village on the 17th of March, 2006. The project took eighteen
months to complete. It was designed and constructed by the owner, James Hennessy,
with help from friends and family. Including his wife, Susan, who helped to lay blocks
and thatch roofs while pregnant!

James' interest in reptiles and amphibians began early. In 1986, at the age of 11, he
organised a frog race for a school open day. In the same year he bought his first pet
turtle, which he still has, on display in Reptile Village Various species of reptile and amphibian have been bred in captivity by James including some rarer, more endangered species. Some of the animals which have had eggs or young include Conehead Iguanas, White-lipped Pit Vipers, Day Geckos, Nile Monitors, Boa Constrictors, Frilled Dragons, Cuban Knight Anoles and Chameleons.

James has had the opportunity to study and observe these animals in the wild, in
many parts of the world, including North Africa, Indonesia, Cuba, West Africa, Canada,
Venezuela, India and across Europe

"Scientists find snake in the Slaney" The Irish Times, 15th September, 2009

This was a story of a python that was pulled from the river Slaney. The python was ten feet in length and was found when the central fisheries board were conducting a survey on the river. Experts believe that the snake hadn't eaten for a long time and was malnourished. Usually pythons can live for up to a year without eating so it's not known how long the python was in the river.

Have you seen an increase in the number of exotic animals being sent into you as a result of the recession?
Since early this year we have rehomed over 40 animals. Some of these have stayed with us, others have been placed in "foster homes" of collegues or contacts. On average we get 4 calls a week from people looking to move on their animals. Thats about twice the amount last year. More worryingly we've had a huge increase in the number of calls from people looking for advice regarding venomous snakes and crocodilians. The sale of caiman crocodiles in Ireland is quite large, most people don't realise how big they get. I've worked with them in Venezuela at up to 10 feet.

Many of those who came to us initially were owners of big collections of reptiles and they realized they wouldn't have the money to continue looking after them, they were then passed onto us. I don't really blame people for not being able to look after reptiles, many of them are not getting great advice so if you are thinking of buying a reptile it's important that you get some decent advice on caring for them.

You've brought in a selection of the reptiles that you've re-homed since February

Green Iguana
He was donated to us after he broke his leg and the the original owners couldn't afford to take him to the vet for treatment. His leg wasn't spinted and the bones never fused back. Normally in this situation his leg would need to be amputated, but as this was a male and is a new member to an established colony, the others probably would have killed him if he looked different and was a genetic threat to the colony.

Yellow Anaconda
A young snake that was starting to get too aggressive for it's owner. It's also starting to grow larger and the owner needed to buy a larger enclosure. At the moment it's about 3 feet long, but will reach an adult size of up to 12 feet. These animals, even at a small size, can inflict serious injuries.

Yellow Bellied slider Turtle

Also called terrapins, slider turtles grow very large, very quickly and need an expensive large aquarium when fully grown. This was the case with the one I'll bring up. The owners couldn't afford to buy a new set up which could cost well over €500 in some pet shops. Fully grown turtles reach 12 inches in length and need a 6 foot long aquarium or
ideally a pond. The animals themselves are quite cheap and can be bought for €30.

Californian Kingsnake

This is a 5 foot long male. He was found wandering around a Nature reserve in Wexford. I was contacted by Parks and Wildlife and asked if I could help. The snake was either released or escaped. Non native animals like this can cause serious problems to our own native species. Snakes are efficient predators and when introduced into an ecosystem where they don't belong, the results can be disastrous. A lot of the North American species of reptiles which are sold as pets, can quite easily survive our winters.

Advice for people who may be thinking of buying / re-homing reptiles

. You can never have enough information. Do as much research as possible before you buy any animal. And make sure the research comes from a reliable source. Books are better than the internet, where anyone with no experience can put information claiming it to be correct. Don't assume that staff in petshops are giving you the correct info.
. Try to see what an adult animal is going to look like. 6 foot on paper might not sound large, but dealing with a 6 foot lizard can be as difficult if not more so than dealing with a large aggressive dog.
. If you can't look after an animal anymore, do not release it into the wild. Try your local petshops first, then possible us at Reptile Village, or try rehoming it on a specialist forum on the internet. The same goes when getting a new animal. See if you can rehome one before you buy one.
. A lot of these animals are long lived, some snakes can live for over 30 years. If your 14 and want a snake, what will you do with it if you go to college or want to travel? Think things through.

For More Information on The Reptile Village visit,