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 Post subject: Snakes of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo
PostPosted: February 9th, 2016, 5:26 am 
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Joined: January 1st, 2012, 7:14 am
Posts: 369
Location: Pike County KY
It has been some time since I have posted in any real amount.

I have been working at the KRZ for a year now, after transitioning from my job in state government as a biologist. In this past year, I have adjusted well and have expanded my experience in working venomous to exotics of various kinds. A huge difference from the run of the mill viperids that I had been caring for in my previous job. It is a great facility, where four of us maintain 1500-2000 animals. We keep the largest collection of venomous animals in the United States, and although it isn't verified, most likely the largest collection in the world. I thought that I would make a quick post with some of the animals that I am now working.


Gilas are such awesome lizards, and when compared to other species of large lizards, ours are relatively laid back. Polar opposites to our horridum, who live up to their name.
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I am currently raising up around 80 Monocle Cobras for the venom extraction line. They can add a little spice to an uneventful day.
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Cantils are my favorite snakes. They have been since I saw one on National Geographic as a kid. I have two in my care now. Starting with six, five of my early good feeders made their way to a zoo 8n Michigan pretty early in life.
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Three Bushmasters came to us this year, the most impressive being this large female. At seven feet, she still hasn't quite reached her full potential. We treat these snakes with the utmost respect and they reward us by being relatively easy to work and are impressive display animals.
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I also maintain about a dozen siamenensis. As far as spitters, they are horrible at their job and tend to " drool" venom more than they spit. Of course, face protection is always used, and if pissed off badly enough, are fully capable of delivering a good spray.
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We keep quite a few Bitis. Here is a couple photos of the individuals in the building that I oversee.
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And lastly for now, a few arboreals. Our Wetar Island Tree Viper gave birth to this single offspring. We have found that the linger, the babies can stay with mom, the better they tend to do. At least it applies pretty well to live bearing species. Generally, we keep them with mom until they are solidly on large pinkies. With these tiny babies, that can take over six or seven months to reach that point.
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Eyelash Vipers are so variable that I love seeing babies being born. You just don't know what you will wind up with. These three have taken their first large pinkies this week, so I will separate them from mom on Friday.
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 Post subject: Re: Snakes of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo
PostPosted: February 9th, 2016, 5:57 am 
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Joined: May 18th, 2015, 4:35 pm
Posts: 33
Location: Charleston, South Carolina
Beautiful animals! You've got a dream job for many of us!


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 Post subject: Re: Snakes of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo
PostPosted: February 10th, 2016, 5:27 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 3:02 am
Posts: 878
So cool! Great specimens- I'll look forward to seeing more pictures sometime.

Interesting note on the neonates thriving better if kept with the mother. Have yall been officially documenting that or is it just anecdotal right now?

And, interesting meention the horridum and their attitudes. I'd always heard the beadeds were pretty placid. Not so?

--Berkeley


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 Post subject: Re: Snakes of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo
PostPosted: February 10th, 2016, 7:16 am 
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Joined: January 1st, 2012, 7:14 am
Posts: 369
Location: Pike County KY
Berkeley Boone wrote:
So cool! Great specimens- I'll look forward to seeing more pictures sometime.

Interesting note on the neonates thriving better if kept with the mother. Have yall been officially documenting that or is it just anecdotal right now?

And, interesting meention the horridum and their attitudes. I'd always heard the beadeds were pretty placid. Not so?

--Berkeley


We have been taking extensive notes with several of our neonate/mother groups. We hope to expand it over the next few years and really look to see how beneficial it is. We know of some beonate/ mother ineraxtions in the wild with American viperids, but these arboreal species habits are something we are working harder to learn.

As far as the horridum and suspectum, I personally think that it just varies from animal to animal. Our Gilas are very relaxed and tractable, but I know of others in other collections that are much less forgiving. They are much faster than they receive credit for, and a slow, uncommitted hand could easily wind up with vice like jaws chewing on them.


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 Post subject: Re: Snakes of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo
PostPosted: February 13th, 2016, 11:20 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
Posts: 3179
Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Damn. And I thought I had the world's best job! Thanks for sharing!


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 Post subject: Re: Snakes of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo
PostPosted: February 17th, 2016, 12:39 pm 

Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm
Posts: 1652
Glad to hear of your successful transition in work sectors. Congrats.

This too interests me greatly - from several perspectives:

Quote:
We have found that the linger, the babies can stay with mom, the better they tend to do. At least it applies pretty well to live bearing species. Generally, we keep them with mom until they are solidly on large pinkies. With these tiny babies, that can take over six or seven months to reach that point.


Mainly I'm interested in the practical logistics:

- what are you starting the babies on, and what's your protocol for getting them switched over to pinks - assuming you don't try to start with pink parts (this is often a significant PITA and nocturnal time-suck in my experience, and consequently I've usually just started with something they actually want to eat to get some size on them, then have found them pretty easy to train over once they're big & enthusiastic enough feeders to accommodate whole pinks)

- how do you deal with mom while you're fussing with junior? personally, the thought of exhibiting the patience, immobility, darkness etc required when training neonate arboreals to tong-feed, at the same time and in the same space as a likely high food-drive, long-distance-capable mom, sends cold shivers up my spine - but maybe I'm not visualizing it right!

- this scenario would work a lot better with my "toss stuff in that they want to eat" approach - give them live frogs and geckoes, and don't even mess around with pinky parts until they're champ feeders with a little size on them; but again, maybe I'm not visualizing this right

- have you suffered no cannibalism among littermates? how about by a parent? Over the years I have had various taxa (terrestrial and arboreal) cannibalize now and then, mainly as neonates but sometimes even as adults, e.g., in breeding introductions, she eats him; consequently I developed a pretty hard & fast "1 snake, 1 cage" rule (it's better for people that way too!)

- do you guys culture venustus? for as small as they are ("where pinky hams are your friend"), they're pretty robust at all ages, and awesome little display animals

thanks, and congrats again


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 Post subject: Re: Snakes of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo
PostPosted: February 18th, 2016, 8:33 pm 
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Joined: January 1st, 2012, 7:14 am
Posts: 369
Location: Pike County KY
Jimi wrote:
Glad to hear of your successful transition in work sectors. Congrats.

This too interests me greatly - from several perspectives:

Quote:
We have found that the linger, the babies can stay with mom, the better they tend to do. At least it applies pretty well to live bearing species. Generally, we keep them with mom until they are solidly on large pinkies. With these tiny babies, that can take over six or seven months to reach that point.


Mainly I'm interested in the practical logistics:

- what are you starting the babies on, and what's your protocol for getting them switched over to pinks - assuming you don't try to start with pink parts (this is often a significant PITA and nocturnal time-suck in my experience, and consequently I've usually just started with something they actually want to eat to get some size on them, then have found them pretty easy to train over once they're big & enthusiastic enough feeders to accommodate whole pinks)

- how do you deal with mom while you're fussing with junior? personally, the thought of exhibiting the patience, immobility, darkness etc required when training neonate arboreals to tong-feed, at the same time and in the same space as a likely high food-drive, long-distance-capable mom, sends cold shivers up my spine - but maybe I'm not visualizing it right!

- this scenario would work a lot better with my "toss stuff in that they want to eat" approach - give them live frogs and geckoes, and don't even mess around with pinky parts until they're champ feeders with a little size on them; but again, maybe I'm not visualizing this right

- have you suffered no cannibalism among littermates? how about by a parent? Over the years I have had various taxa (terrestrial and arboreal) cannibalize now and then, mainly as neonates but sometimes even as adults, e.g., in breeding introductions, she eats him; consequently I developed a pretty hard & fast "1 snake, 1 cage" rule (it's better for people that way too!)

- do you guys culture venustus? for as small as they are ("where pinky hams are your friend"), they're pretty robust at all ages, and awesome little display animals

thanks, and congrats again


You raise some great questions! I will try to answer them somewhat for now as I hate typing lengthy responses on my cell lol. In addition, I will try to get some video and photos of our process so you can better visualize what we do.

As far as starting our babies, if we can get them to voluntarily start on rodent parts, that is what we shoot for. This generally begins by an attempt at slap feeding. And if we can get the babies to bite and hold, then we back off and observe until the feeding process has or has not occurred. We start with, as you mentioned, pinky hams. Often just a good bite and hold results in swallowing. If not, plan B.

Plan B is what we refer to as the paint brush method. Using a foam paint brush, we serve the baby's head and physically place the pinky ham in the babies mouth with hemostats. When the ham is in a good position as the rear of the mouth, release pressure of the brush and back off.

We will use the above methods until the baby is able to handle a newborn pinky head. Generally, by the time we have reached this point, the babies will take to slap feeding very quickly.

How to deal with mommy- first, get her mouth full! We feed females and their young simultaneously. Then we remove said baby and depending on which method we are using to feed and the location of the female, for slap feeding we bring the neonate to a limb nearest to the door and safely out of reach of mom, or is brush feeding, we remove them completely from the enclosure. This is where the interesting interactions come in. When using the brush, once the food item is in the mouth, if you hook the neonate and place it near the mother, a swallowing response quickly begins. We believe that the baby once again feels secure and safe near mom. It relaxes and knows that everything is ok, and enough stress is relieved to encourage feeding.

All of this is done in a lighted room. We have never tried anything in the dark although that is a great idea, and something we can easily accomplish in our windowless buildings.

We have never had an issue with cannibalism. We have kept venustus, insularis and schlegelii in this manner and haven't had an issue.

Hopefully this has helped to answer some questions, and if I didn't hit on certain points, please forgive me and I can try again LOL.


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 Post subject: Re: Snakes of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo
PostPosted: February 26th, 2016, 2:13 pm 

Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm
Posts: 1652
yeah, thanks much, interesting responses to my Q's

I would love a visual on the foam brush method - assist-feeding pink parts is my "plan C" (after A: free-offering metamorph hylids or small geckoes and, failing that, B: tease-offering pink parts) and anything you've got on reducing assist-feeding hazards to animal and man would be nice to see. I have my methods - so far so good - but hey, I'm a lifelong learner.

Very interesting observation/theory about moving the baby with food in its mouth back into the cage. With tease-feeding, the man is quickly trained to not move himself, and to *under no circumstances* touch the baby if the food is still in the mouth! LOL.

More explanation on the darkness, used with plans B and C. The ideal situation is indeed a windowless room containing a low comfortable seat, and a small, rather tall table with 1) a pendant lamp with a red spotlight overhead and 2) a little perch on it (like, a forked vertical stick glued to a brick). Man sticks baby on the perch and sits on the chair, leaning into the light with baby until a grabbing bite is achieved. Then man eases back and - I think this is important - down into the darkness & sits quietly until baby spits up or swallows. The point of all this is to minimize the overall feeding bout duration (babies don't come 1 at a time) and reduce man's exhaustion and frustration. A dozen spit-ups in a row and one starts fantasizing about just crushing the little bastard...especially at 2 in the morning with work the next day.

Again though, I'm intrigued with your "mama's comforting presence" theory. Anything that gets the swallowing started faster sounds good to me. Sometimes they'll just sit there forever with a piece of meat in their mouth...and then spit it out when you scratch your nose! Drive ya crazy, it can.


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 Post subject: Re: Snakes of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo
PostPosted: February 26th, 2016, 2:26 pm 
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Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm
Posts: 3954
Location: San Francisco, California
Not creating visual of larger form from above, be it hand arm or head seems to be important universally in diffusing a derailment from feeding, to a defensive disengagement. This has been useful even in medicating or assist feeding other animals, like chameleons too delicate for travel and handled treatment.

Great post jimi, I could actually see you in the description you provided as if I were an elf on your shoulder lol


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 Post subject: Re: Snakes of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo
PostPosted: March 7th, 2016, 3:14 pm 
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Joined: January 1st, 2012, 7:14 am
Posts: 369
Location: Pike County KY
I will try to get some video of the next time we use a brush. All of mine are voluntarily feeding, but another keeper has some venustus that she is brushing lol. I like the red light idea and will see if I can talk the other keeper into giving it a try.


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 Post subject: Re: Snakes of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo
PostPosted: March 7th, 2016, 3:15 pm 
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Joined: January 1st, 2012, 7:14 am
Posts: 369
Location: Pike County KY
PS- Kelly, here I set, two years out, still waiting on photos of your pic side mounted plants. HAHAHA


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 Post subject: Re: Snakes of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo
PostPosted: March 7th, 2016, 4:08 pm 
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Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm
Posts: 3954
Location: San Francisco, California
Aww man! Ill get that to you soon! Ive got some stuff in my photo bucket, I had thought to do a beginning to end series but its self explanatory when you see the 'wall bush' and its just one way, you might have some material and ideas to do it a way you like. thanks for reminding me - my bad


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