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View Full Version : minimum husbandry standards across the world... are we doing enough?



MdngtRain
05-18-2013, 11:42 AM
I have long felt that my animals always would benefit from bigger and better enclosures. I feel the same way about my geckos and my snakes. I also feel it cruel to not take dogs out of the house or off the property regularly... So I was wondering if we could have an intelligent and respectful conversation on the pros and cons of various standards.

I know they differ greatly around the world, and even within the US community... I think a lot of it comes from seeing reptiles as pests and less deserving than many other animals... I think that reptile enthusiasts are generally rare among most populations. And here in the US, I think a lot of people see their animals in terms of potential income... I know most keepers invested enough to go onto forums see their animals as more than just dollars waiting to be made, but sadly there are a ton of people that only see them as income... What would happen if we took a look at the psychological impact of taking an animal and cramming it into a stimulus-free environment that we work so damn hard to keep sterile? I have come across so many people who cringe at the fact that I take my reptiles outside to play and get sun (and pics). I know which animals I can safely take outdoors without losing them. I would never intentionally put them in danger, but I don't think keeping them away from anything that may or may not be an issue is just wrong... They are wild animals that we have chosen to bring into our lives... we take away all they have known and restrict their movements and food supply... It kills me when people say any animal benefits from smaller spaces. I think the fear felt by that animal can be overcome with more cage furniture, more hides, more cover... Of course they will be shy in a large empty space... give them something to help them feel secure, but don't necessarily cut down on their space.
I read a thread somewhere a while ago about keeping tokay pairs in 10g tanks because they stopped showing signs of aggression (as opposed to being very aggressive towards each other in a 40g environment). Later on, the person realized (or it was pointed out to him) that the aggression was not present because they could not establish territory, forget about fighting for it... I think that speaks volumes to the psyche of these animals we take into our care. They gave up because there was no hope of getting space. I have seen countless animals become listless and lethargic in smaller vivs because they have no space to move about normally... Take that same animal and give them a larger viv, suddenly you see their true behaviors and their feeding response picks up again.
I think you can maintain an animal in the bare minimum, but is that really for the best of the animal? I know convenience and space are limiting factors, but then it should limit the number and types of animals we choose to get, not necessarily the space we provide each animal...
Ideally, I would have vivs no smaller than 2x2x4 for a single crested gecko, and even my L. williamsi... I would ideally have an enclosure that spans an 8' wall for my tokays, and the same for my vorax... My snakes would all have large vivs also. I plan on doing this as soon as I settle in a house of our own, and we have some money to do it with. In the mean time, I am all about giving animals progressively larger terrariums/viv, and I strive to make them as "exciting" as I possibly can. I am a huge fan of naturalistic vivs with opportunities for hunting, foraging, and climbing. People laugh at me when I say a cage with only 18" clearance is not enough for my carpet python, and he needs places to climb and stretch... I don't have that for him yet, but the parts are slowly accumulating in the garage and I will build one soon. I would Ideally keep my white-sided rat cross in at least a 75g that is heavily planted with many opportunities for climbing and burrowing and exploring... One day this will all happen...
But again, I get laughed at as the norm for keeping rat snakes is a sweater-box rack... I like to see my animals moving about and interacting with their environments... why can't this be the norm in the US?

Marauderhex
05-18-2013, 02:31 PM
Personally, I don't believe in half-assing things, especially when it comes to the animals in my care. If something's worth doing, it's worth doing right. Minimum standards are just that, minimal. Minimal stimulus, minimal space, minimal life expectancy. I like my animals to thrive, not just survive. I handle and allow supervised free roaming of all of my animals that will tolerate it. Obviously some animals, like my tigrinus geckos, are kept in their enclosures as it is quite dangerous to allow them out of their enclosures.

acpart
05-18-2013, 09:41 PM
Really interesting question. The difficult thing is to distinguish between documented animal's behaviors and needs in the wild, the changes that captivity can make on the animal's needs (more about that below), and our own projection of what we think the animal needs because of our own make-up. For example, an animal may need a certain range in the wild based on food availability. If food were more abundant in the wild, it may come to utilize less of a range. If food in captivity is available even more easily, that could affect its range even if the space is available. Then the question is whether the animal continues to explore the environment because it "gets bored" or "needs stimulation" or whether we're just projecting our own needs on the animal. I'm not saying that an animal doesn't "need stimulation", just that I don't know for sure. Let's keep thinking and brainstorming.

Aliza

MdngtRain
05-18-2013, 10:32 PM
I think space is always welcomed, even if food is abundantly available in a restricted range. I used to feed my cresteds in the same spot every night just for ease of knowing where to look for dirty dishes. Even with the added space of a 70g planted viv, they always moved all over it. I think movement and range are not necessarily restricted by availability of food once in captivity. Having observed my well-fed animals on feeding days and non-feeding days alike, while they may end up in a certain sleeping spot, they still move about at night (or during the day for my day gecko). The cresteds jump and climb about. Same with my my other geckos. They feed, then explore, then feed again and more activity. I think that is more than just my anthropomorphising their behaviors. Fat animals will often stay sedentary, but that does not mean that they should remain so. Yes, some of my cresteds are lazier than others, but they all change position during the night and make full use of all their vivs. I think in a large room, they may establish territory for prime access to feeding, but still move about for mating and general exercise. While I know mammal brains are not the same as reptile brains, I think the instinctual need for mobility and exercise to stave off depression is present in reptiles too... Maybe I miss-read my reptiles' alertness and activity, but they seem more content with life when they have more space... A lot of these animals did not evolve to be ambush predators, so there is a measure of drive to keep moving... I think when we restrict that movement to the bare minimum that was seemingly randomly assigned, we are hurting our animals... I refuse to believe that they have no capacity for depression and listlessness... I think an animal that gets fat is not necessarily happy, just over-fed... restricting intake for an animal to keep it at a healthy weight because it can't get active as just as bad as over-feeding in my opinion... many have evolved to be active to get food and mates. I think bringing them into captivity needs to allow for similar behaviors...

Marauderhex
05-19-2013, 06:17 AM
Not to get off topic, but I think your '.' key is sticking.

thorrshamri
05-21-2013, 08:18 PM
I have long felt that my animals always would benefit from bigger and better enclosures. I feel the same way about my geckos and my snakes. I also feel it cruel to not take dogs out of the house or off the property regularly... So I was wondering if we could have an intelligent and respectful conversation on the pros and cons of various standards.

I know they differ greatly around the world, and even within the US community... I think a lot of it comes from seeing reptiles as pests and less deserving than many other animals... I think that reptile enthusiasts are generally rare among most populations. And here in the US, I think a lot of people see their animals in terms of potential income... I know most keepers invested enough to go onto forums see their animals as more than just dollars waiting to be made, but sadly there are a ton of people that only see them as income... What would happen if we took a look at the psychological impact of taking an animal and cramming it into a stimulus-free environment that we work so damn hard to keep sterile? I have come across so many people who cringe at the fact that I take my reptiles outside to play and get sun (and pics). I know which animals I can safely take outdoors without losing them. I would never intentionally put them in danger, but I don't think keeping them away from anything that may or may not be an issue is just wrong... They are wild animals that we have chosen to bring into our lives... we take away all they have known and restrict their movements and food supply... It kills me when people say any animal benefits from smaller spaces. I think the fear felt by that animal can be overcome with more cage furniture, more hides, more cover... Of course they will be shy in a large empty space... give them something to help them feel secure, but don't necessarily cut down on their space.
I read a thread somewhere a while ago about keeping tokay pairs in 10g tanks because they stopped showing signs of aggression (as opposed to being very aggressive towards each other in a 40g environment). Later on, the person realized (or it was pointed out to him) that the aggression was not present because they could not establish territory, forget about fighting for it... I think that speaks volumes to the psyche of these animals we take into our care. They gave up because there was no hope of getting space. I have seen countless animals become listless and lethargic in smaller vivs because they have no space to move about normally... Take that same animal and give them a larger viv, suddenly you see their true behaviors and their feeding response picks up again.
I think you can maintain an animal in the bare minimum, but is that really for the best of the animal? I know convenience and space are limiting factors, but then it should limit the number and types of animals we choose to get, not necessarily the space we provide each animal...
Ideally, I would have vivs no smaller than 2x2x4 for a single crested gecko, and even my L. williamsi... I would ideally have an enclosure that spans an 8' wall for my tokays, and the same for my vorax... My snakes would all have large vivs also. I plan on doing this as soon as I settle in a house of our own, and we have some money to do it with. In the mean time, I am all about giving animals progressively larger terrariums/viv, and I strive to make them as "exciting" as I possibly can. I am a huge fan of naturalistic vivs with opportunities for hunting, foraging, and climbing. People laugh at me when I say a cage with only 18" clearance is not enough for my carpet python, and he needs places to climb and stretch... I don't have that for him yet, but the parts are slowly accumulating in the garage and I will build one soon. I would Ideally keep my white-sided rat cross in at least a 75g that is heavily planted with many opportunities for climbing and burrowing and exploring... One day this will all happen...
But again, I get laughed at as the norm for keeping rat snakes is a sweater-box rack... I like to see my animals moving about and interacting with their environments... why can't this be the norm in the US?

Well, well, well...

What follows is mainly taken from my PERSONAL experience and my own feelings about ethics.

I am French, and here just like everywhere, I see the same issues over and over again on forums, on social networks...people making money with geckos is not a problem in itself if it is done wisely. Morphs are a popular thing and many people are unaware of the risks of genetic diseases (albinism for example IS a disease), and that sellers know full well about the morphs they sell being more or less problematic on the long run. The enigma gene in leopard geckos is another example, along with albinism, of something the whole gecko community should NOT encourage in any way. I am also against hibridizing different species together. Who are we to play little Frankensteins in our reptile rooms? In most cases, hybrids are produced to satisfy either the owner's "curiosity" or a demand on the market. I personally completely boycott both hybrids and morphs.

Then you have the too classic story of people buying a reptile without having acquired proper knowledge, coming on forums crying out loud for help, and some of them will resell their pet a month or two after purchasing. Sadly, this is inside the human's nature. People want something they have under their noses no matter how adequate their knowledge and financial possibilities for a proper set-up are.

You also have the story of many people completely stressed out by the well-being of their pets and who will make mistakes by wanting to do too much. Buying each and every accessory available for such or such species is generally not a great idea. Running at the vet for a bad shed, which can be easily solved by modifying humidity and captive parameters, is another example of how to stress a reptile for no reason.

I completely object on the enclosure size question. The bigger is NOT the better. Especially with secretive, not very active, and/or species from some biotopes. You have to be informed about the habits of the species in the wild, their degree of activity, their method(s) to spot and hunt for prey, and so forth. If a given species spends 99% of its time inside a burrow, excess space will provide the crickets, roaches or whatever you use as feeders more options to be unnoticed, to lose their nutritional value if they are eaten a couple of days after having been given to the geckos, and to cause stress by climbing on geckos or disturbing them. Too much space will also somehow make the achievement of a proper thermal gradient more difficult, more expensive, if not technically impossible.

This is just a suggestion: keep a species for, say, 6 months and observe them, providing them the usually recommended enclosure size. if you notice there are wandering, uneaten prey, and/or if you notice the geckos always stay in the same area of their enclosure, reduce the size of the enclosure accordingly.

Most keepers have no idea of the actual and real territory of an individual or a pair of such or such species in the wild. This is one of the reasons why field trips, whenever possible, and conversations with very experienced keepers is always a 100% benefit for you and your pets.

Giving space to f.e. tokay geckos is great. Keeping an adult Halmahera gecko in a 10 gallons will not work. Agreed.

Things also depend on how much decoration you use, especially for arboreal vivs and/or tropical species. Take a small species of day gecko and put it in a 15 gallons overcrowded with plants, branches, fountains...First, crickets will die and rot in no time in fountains, hollow bamboo tubes with water inside, and in addition, even with their great hunting abilities, I am nearly sure that if you give 6 crickets to your animal, 3-4 will remain unnoticed and instantly hide somewhere where they can't be spotted both by the owner and the gecko.

Take a leaf-tail and put it in a 6' high. It works well for many keepers, but, knowing about their very violent jumps, what if they fall from 5' and violently hit a hard branch with one limb? Such things happen in the wild, but we don't want it to happen with our own geckos.


"Sterile environment", eh? This is a mere illusion. Even if you use the stronger disinfectants on the market, bacteria will thrive a few hours later. There is a middle line to follow IMO. Of course, dirty vivs are a no-no. But, by having a kind of cleanliness obsession, you weaken the stimuli of the immune system in your animals. So they become over time more prone to infections. Even de-worming geckos if the parasite load is not heavy and the parasite type not harmful (f.e. a few oxyurans), is not such a great idea. First, de-worming drugs kill parasites, right? All of them have different levels of toxicity on the animal you treat, and well, if you are a little skeptical, try to take deworming pills for yourself at a slightly higher dose than recommended. You will then understand my point. Second, the immune system is also stimulated by this small quantity of worms, and will work better if you happen to feed your geckos insects which are infested with intermediate stages of other more harmful parasites.

Don't take it personally, but I both find interesting the thread you started and I see a big contradiction in it at the same time, unless I have missed some point. You talk about the well-being of their animals and their psychology, but most of your speech is filled with what is called humanocentrism. What I mean is that you expose your thoughts with a very "human" point of view.

Reptiles have basic needs. First and foremost, to feel secure and to feel hidden from predators, even if they live inside a tank in your house. By using appropriate hiding spots to the species, you do a great part of the job. Take a species with a flat body living in very tight rock crevices. It will not work if you provide them with 2" wide shelters, see?

In order of importance, their second need is proper hydration. Then and only then comes feeding and breeding instincts. If the 2 first points are not achieved...your animals may not eat and breed.

People also tend to think the higher the better with vitamins, protein and other nutrients. Take a close look at some threads on this forum in the feeding section, you will understand what I mean.

What is a gecko's brain able of? By knowing the structure, size and function of their different brain parts, there are a few facts about their "psychology".

-Their short-term memory is comparable to a goldfish's one.
-Most of their brain is used for organ functionning and basic perception (sight, smell, vibrations...).
-They have an innate fear of predators, but cannot make any difference about the real danger. In other words, a human will be seen as a threat (so we can easily bring them stress) just like a hedgehog, eagle, rabbit, turky or snake will be mentally assimilated as "something dangerous".
-In very rare cases, parents take care of their own youngs, or don't attack them (ex: in the Ptyodactylus or Tropiocolotes genuses). Otherwise, what is small enough to be eaten and swallowed will do, including their own youngs!
-Territoriality, in males of course, but in some species also in females, through scents, tail movements, inflating bodies...

On a scale of 0 to 100 as regards the level of encephalization, 0 being a stone and 100 a human, geckos are somewhere near 10. Snakes are around 5-6, crocs and monitors around 15-20, foxes around 60, and gorillas near 90. Does that give a clearer picture? ;)

cricket4u
05-21-2013, 10:54 PM
Herve I agree with most of what was said, however this is not necessarily true.

I completely object on the enclosure size question. The bigger is NOT the better. Especially with secretive, not very active, and/or species from some biotopes.

Perhaps this may be an issue for someone who will not put effort into designing a naturalistic enclosure. The basic hotel stay decor with half hides will obviously not help a secretive species feel secure. Placing and enclosure in a high traffic area with humans screaming in the background will also be a problem. In my humble opinion I really believe it depends on the experience of the keeper and how much they're willing to provide.

thorrshamri
05-21-2013, 11:06 PM
How can you agree and say it's not true at the same time? :lol: That's beyond my logic.

cricket4u
05-23-2013, 05:05 PM
How can you agree and say it's not true at the same time? :lol: That's beyond my logic.

Read it one more time.:) Also the statement below can have other explanations such as:

and/or if you notice the geckos always stay in the same area of their enclosure, reduce the size of the enclosure accordingly.


The rest of the enclosure is not warm enough (very common)

The enclosure is too plain, too exposed, lack of furnishing

Again too much traffic in the room

The owner's unwillingness to comprehend the mind of a reptile. Constantly sticking their hands in the enclosure. Freaking out about every single thing/worrywart.:biggrin:

Experience makes a huge difference.

thorrshamri
05-23-2013, 06:57 PM
I precisely underlined at the beginning of my long post it was all about my experience/opinion. I'm not here to show-off and even less to start a fight. Just be aware I have worked with maybe 80-100 species in the past 15 years and have bred many of them.

cricket4u
05-23-2013, 07:41 PM
I precisely underlined at the beginning of my long post it was all about my experience/opinion. I'm not here to show-off and even less to start a fight. Just be aware I have worked with maybe 80-100 species in the past 15 years and have bred many of them.

Herve,

You told me in the other thread to take a look at your post, so I thought you wanted to share opinions. Sorry if you misinterpreted my reply or I misunderstood your purpose.

thorrshamri
05-23-2013, 07:55 PM
As I had developped my opinion into detail about tank size issues in this thread, I just redirected you here to avoid repeating twice the same thing. :)

Ingo
07-03-2013, 02:08 AM
I agree that way too many enclosures are way too small and moreover inappriopriately strucured. Also way too many herps are exposed to frequent stress by unecessary handling.
But on the other hand, laymens perception on natural territories and space requirements in an appropriately structured environment often are misleading.
In the end, one has to aknowledge, that - above a given mimimum size- a very large but sparsely structured tank can be far less appropriate for permanent housing of a given species than a comparably small but intelligently structured one.
Having said that, I want to provide you with a link to the minimum husbandry standards for reptile care provided by the German Society for Herpetology and Herpetoculture (DGHT) in cooperation with the german Federal Ministry of Agriculture (BMELV).
Of course thats all in german, but maybe the sizes suggested for the individual species are still understandable (KRL= snout vent lenght).
This has been critizised to be too far on the small side for some species and too generous for others. Also, it now is already 16 year old and urgently needs to be revisited. But alltogether, it provides a reasonable guidance:
Mindestanforderungen an die Haltung von Reptilien (http://www.thueringen.dght.de/htm/Mindestanforderungen%20an%20die%20Haltung%20von%20 Reptilien.htm)