Pet Gazette March 2019 - Page 22

22 | PET GAZETTE | REPTILE very easy to place the probe from a thermostat here and therefore monitor and maintain an exact upper temperature. By using a lamp that will generate the terrestrial wavelengths of IR we not only allow the animal to find a direct source of energy, but we also heat the stone itself. It is then the stone that readmits the given energy back into the enclosure via long-wavelength infrared (IR-C) which in turn heats the air. After a short while the system will balance, and you will have created an area from which direct basking but also works via convection to warm the entire enclosure. Also, by heating the rock itself and monitoring that level of energy via a good thermostat and separate non-contact thermometer we provide an usable area of natural belly heat, useful within the natural digestive process. It is over this basking zone that a suitable full-spectrum + UV-B lamp is also placed. The heat lamp and UV lamps are placed side by side so that the beams cross over a common basking area. A lamp should be chosen to provide the optimum target UVI over that portion and at a safe distance between the lamp and the animals back. Generally, this is always 12-15”, we would aim for a UVI of 0.80-2.00 at this point. It is important that our decoration is placed in a way in which the animal cannot climb any higher and thus obtain a level of energy that is greater. Leopard Geckos are a species adapted to use the energy contained within light when the sun is rising or falling, in many cases they will only openly bask for very short periods, if at all. It is therefore the reduced level of energy that is found as the animal descends from this basking zone and positions itself, or more frequently, part of itself within a lower quantity of light. This is still very usable energy and it does not matter if only the tail or flank or even foot is exposed. The same processes within the body will still be maintained towards the manufacture, self-regulation and recycling of the D3 cycle. Yes, the animal may rest in the burrow within a small part of the body having any interaction with light, this is as vital in this species and within its own developmental pathway as full blistering exposure would be for a thick-skinned Desert Agama. This is part of the self-regulatory system. We call this the ‘light and shade method. Suitable live plants and decorative natural branches can be added to further increase the area available for the animal to use. Creating obstacles which will need to be clambered over is indeed as important as providing a range of caves in which they can rest. We need to keep the body moving, improving blood flow, keeping the organs functioning and maintaining muscle condition. This all works together to create an environment which can truly work as a supplier for the animal. I will also clear up any confusion between the descriptors naturalistic and bioactive. A naturalistic enclosure is one that has been designed to resemble the habitats in which a species is found. A bioactive system is one in which live custodians have been added in order to create a functioning ecosystem in miniature. A naturalistic enclosure is not bioactive unless this seeding has occurred and is maintained. It is also certainly true that a truly bioactive enclosure is not always naturalistic. The apex for some would of course be a system that is functioning as bioactive and naturalistic per species. Male Leopard Geckos are very territorial and cannot be kept together, even a male’s male offspring could soon find themselves forming part of overall-nutrition if not separated off quickly enough. Some keepers have kept females together even in quite small enclosures and they seem to have fared ok. I have however now seen evidence of experienced keepers building very large enclosures, 6’ long+ and maintaining a full social group of an alpha male and 3-4 females. I cannot yet suggest that this is safe for all, but with experience and a watchful eye I think that this could be eye-opening to say the least. A functioning group, within its natural hierarchy, fully energised, fed and supplemented naturally, left to interact and to breed in-situ just as they would in the wild habitat would be most exciting, we could learn so much. As you can see, we have come along way since the days of plastic tubs, newspaper, synthetic vitamins and darkness. This level of advancement in the hobby is wholly positive, helping us to learn more about the animals that we adore and showing the hobby to the outside world in a much more favourable and dare is say ethical light. JOHN COURTENEY-SMITH John Courteney-Smith’s new fact-packed book was published in Spring 2018 and is 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/ March 2019