Pet Gazette March 2019 - Page 21

REPTILE | PET GAZETTE | 21 that are doing so in a much smaller but still effective way. As we saw in the previous issue, the Leopard Gecko is indeed highly developed; it lives within a multitude of ecosystems from dry/arid rocky terrain right through to quite lush and humid emergent scrub forests. They have adapted to thrive within the sections of the day that present as having a lower predator risk, this being within times of lower levels of daylight. This is a species that has adapted to use full-spectrum terrestrial daylight in order to power its body, an ectothermic species that has developed a thin skin, able to be impacted by the full- spectrum of our atmosphere fi ltered sun, even at low levels of illumination. Like all species has developed well in order to continually increase wild numbers, in doing so it is this wild terrain that has set the level of need and become the supplier. I have been happy to see a marked move in the hobby towards providing larger enclosures. Yes, it did used to be common to use very small vivariums, even draws for this species, however it is clear that not only will Leopard Geckos use space, but that this increase in area is indeed needed to be able to correctly build a naturalistic environment in which they can live. I would like to see a time when the typical cage size for a single animal would be at least 30” long, 18” deep and 24” high. In this way a keeper will have the space needed to place and maintain a good depth of natural substrate (3”+), and they will also be able to use natural slate and suitable rocks and indeed branches to create the tunnels and rock networks that will inevitably be used. Substrate choice and depth is key here, the Leopard Gecko, like most reptiles does not live on prime sand. Rather, they live within an area that has a rocky mineral rich soil. This will be ‘sand like’ at the surface with all kinds and grades of weathered rock dust and shale, but it will be more earthy underneath. If we provide a natural base substrate that is proven to be safe and effective, being wild- like, we greatly reduce the risk of avoidable impaction. In doing so however, we greatly increase the animal’s ability to dig and burrow and of course to fi nd higher levels of humidity under the ground within the burrow. To action this safely, we must have a substrate that can be ingested safely, either purposefully by natural geophagy or by incidental ingestion while hunting. This substrate should not easily collapse and should be given at a depth that will maintain a level of humidity below its surface. In our case of course, we have to factor in a level of hand misting to help maintain the soil and cave humidity. Our enclosures are not subject to the action of the nightly cooling that draws water up from the ground, nor is it subject to the early morning mists that are the apex provider of water in arid and semi-arid lands, as such, as the carer, we must step in. In terms of rock provision, a range of natural stones can now be bought to be sold in-store, variety is of course helpful as it will allow keepers to create interesting and usable rock stacks. Dark coloured natural slate is especially useful as it is, by its nature able to absorb, retain and re-admit heat back into the enclosure via convection. Being rather fl at, it can also be stacked and bonded with aquarium sealant to become stable and reduce the risk of rockfall. It is also quite easy to create voids within the stack in which the animal can rest during the day. In this way a further level of natural behaviour can be catered for, and that is partial basking. Some of these voids can also be lined and fi lled with substrate, live plants can then be grown within the enclosure should the keeper wish to do so. There are now groups of keepers that will research the native fl ora and seek to use these species within the enclosure, I think that this is yet another welcome move towards creating naturalistic systems. Rocks can also be drilled, and posts used to add a further layer of stability. We must ensure that both the animal and the keeper is protected from possible harm. It is the rock stack that will form the ‘basking platform’ or ‘basking zone’. We use the word ‘basking’ even for species such as Crepuscular Geckos that may not actively openly bask in high levels of heat and light. But it is from this zone that we will create our energy provision. It is here that we ensure the optimum conditions in terms of heat from infrared and terrestrial UV. Using a heat source, we can create a heated section of rock. This rock/slate will become the epicentre of basking. It is also March 2019