Pet Gazette DECEMBER 2018 - Page 21

REPTILE | PET GAZETTE | 21 downward spiral starts once more. I have seen many cases of RTI now, especially in large Boas and Carpet Pythons. My first response is to always question the use of tubs or racks and how these are heated. If the animal has been living in this way I always suggest seeking the advice of a suitable vet but also move the animal to large viv that has extra ventilation and remove all plastics and resins. In this way, prescribed medicine can help deal with the issue as it presents, but also the body can start to heal itself, the immune system to rebuild itself and the respiratory system start to repair. In every case so far, when the snake has been maintained in this method it has seen full recovery and then not had another episode of infection. This is my personal experience in cases where I have advised. I now believe that we can take this even further by seeking to rebuild the body through natural movement and mental stimulation. Royal Pythons of average size can be maintained in the home within vivariums that mimic the wild habitat. A deep natural substrate can be added to allow natural burrowing. Natural branches can be added to create a ‘thicket’, live grasses can be grown, and natural stone can be added to create a basking platform. A healthy animal will use every inch of the space, it will bask when it has need, it will climb when suits it best, it will rest in the burrow when it wants to and it will hunt as and when it desires. All we have to do is to provide enough space, the decoration and the correct heating and lighting to allow it to garner the energy that it needs to function. I am also now starting to see reports of keepers with larger enclosures start to hide food items in the viv in an effort to stimulate the snake into moving to find it. This is a far cry from those day of feeding in cardboard boxes because “the snake can’t feed in a viv or tub”. The same theory applies for every species from every environment. All we as keepers have to do, is to read about or visit these places. Corn Snakes, for example, can be kept in live planted scrubland vivs, with live and dried grasses and if big enough, even small bushes. Small wooden buckets, clay pots or natural trugs could be added to add to the decoration. Rocks should be placed to create a basking area. These snakes are active and will use the whole space is it both explores and self-regulates. The snake will, in time, become fitter as will the owner will start to see more natural behaviour. Garter Snakes are one of the most diverse groups of highly coloured and easy to keep snakes. These will thrive in small groups even if the enclosure is large enough. In this case a deep substrate and grassed area can be provided alongside a natural stone stack from which they can bask and hide. A filtered shallow pool can also be maintained if desired. This is a group that thrive when left well alone. What better way to both see them and to be sure that they are keeping active than to provide a slice of the wild environment? As this group has such a wide wild range and with many different forms, you could even replicate a distinct area from where a specific subspecies if found. One thing is clear, that when snakes are removed from the sterility of boxes and undecorated vivaria and placed within an enclosure that offers them some space and that is both decorated and energised well that they do change habits very quickly and revert back to a more natural state. Our aims as effective and ethical keepers and traders is to see animal welfare levels increase each and every day. I firmly believe that if we include the right sources of energy along a quality source of food and incorporate thoughtful decorative habitats that allow an animal to move, explore and climb, we will push our hobby yet another step forwards. The animals will become more interesting as we start to see daily patterns, they will be able to obtain the energy that they require as and when they require it through self-regulation and they will in turn be exercising their bodies and helping to keep the vital organs function as they should. This should then increase their average lifespan by reducing captive obesity and poor organ function. JOHN COURTENEY-SMITH John Courteney-Smith’s new fact-packed book will be published in Spring 2018 and will be available in all good book shops, online and through the reptile wholesale network at a trade price. This will be a series of four new titles based on the ‘Elements’. To listen to John’s free podcasts visit podcast/ep-55-mbd-uvb-with-john- courteney-smith/ December 2018