using natural materials

Captive care and husbandry discussions.

Moderator: Scott Waters

Post Reply
Alex
Posts: 24
Joined: February 20th, 2011, 8:30 pm

using natural materials

Post by Alex » May 3rd, 2011, 5:12 pm

Hello everyone
This forum is very unique in the reptile community since all the animals we see are in the wild. In the wild we find snakes under rocks in between palm fronds and rotting holes in tree trunks.

My question is why don’t we strive to give back natural materials to our captive reptiles? They all know what sand, dirt and leaves feel and taste like.

Most people are worried there captive born reptiles would get a sickness from the materials used but aren’t all reptiles just born with little immunity to disease?

It’s very cheap just buy a rake some bags and a bucket and shovel, everything else is free.

And waste just seems to be eaten away by the microbes in the soil and not to mention all the isopods that swarm it. I still spot clean but never as much as I needed to beforehand.

Just some food for thought and looking for good topic discussion.

Zach_Lim
Posts: 1607
Joined: June 10th, 2010, 7:37 pm
Location: San Francisco, CA
Contact:

Re: using natural materials

Post by Zach_Lim » May 3rd, 2011, 7:24 pm

I have pondered about this before and actually keep all my snakes in "naturalistic" enclosures, opting for cypress mulch, cork bark, sphagnum moss, rocks, etc instead of the aspen, deli cup, etc means of housing. I feel it is aesthetically pleasing for myself, and enriching for a snake.

However, I woluld imagaine that collecting materials from outdoors would bring in loads of nast critters that may have an adverse effect on your captive herps. I bet that mites and ticks can find a way into your collection from leaves, branches, etc you may collect. Maybe even nematodes, etc from dirt (not too sure, but maybe)? I guess that would be the major argument against it.

Another point would be legality of this. Unless it is on public property, isn't removal of anything techincally illegal? Like taking a rock from a state park is illegal.

As for the spot cleaning, I do it out of habit everytime a snake defecates, as the enclosures are in my apartment, and boy can it smell! With the cypress mulch I use (T-rex brand i think?) they usually come with spring tails that seem to help maintain some sort of natural decomposition, so thats a plus.

Good topic!

User avatar
Joseph S.
Posts: 540
Joined: June 11th, 2010, 4:21 pm

Re: using natural materials

Post by Joseph S. » May 3rd, 2011, 8:26 pm

I think that naturalistic materials can be used if they are collected in areas with low densities of herps-or better yet if their are none. I've used branches from manzanita collected in high elevation areas or places that have recently burned with relatively little cleaning.

Zach is correct in saying that all kinds of nasties can be transmitted to your captive reptiles. Wild reptiles for the most part have ways of moving away from a parasite infested area-captives don't and certain parasites(mites, internal parasites) can build up.

Alex
Posts: 24
Joined: February 20th, 2011, 8:30 pm

Re: using natural materials

Post by Alex » May 4th, 2011, 7:11 am

Harlen flea and mite powder would solve that in an instant. One could also use the aerosol spray that kills the eggs.

Reptiles “especially lizards" live in symbiosis with their internal parasites “humans do” and use temperatures to control their symbiotic nematodes. Parasite load only affects severely malnourished and dehydrated reptiles with poor temperature choices.

This is not about aesthetics but more going to the direction of giving back the smells and materials these animals are accustomed to even if they were born in captivity. They’re not domesticated in the slightest way.

I am not saying go to a state park and take a rock but go to a place not owned by anyone and just rake some leaves, find a hallowed log used by ants that any reptile would use.

I hear of dirt being a terrible substrate because it causes impaction of the stomach? ALL
animals know what dirt is and especially reptiles that live their lives in and on dirt.

User avatar
Jason_Hood
Posts: 200
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:43 am
Location: Chicago

Re: using natural materials

Post by Jason_Hood » May 4th, 2011, 7:56 am

I used to have much better access to wild materials in Florida and would constantly toss in live oak leaves from my yard by the handful. The snakes would inspect the entire edge of each leaf. It was a pleasure to grab a beer and a seat and just watch them do their thing. I also used wild drift wood up until I was told that all beach wood was considered "marine habitat". Luckily I was using Australian Pine and there was plenty around to be had elsewhere. I will say that the salt water soaked stuff was much nicer.

Jason

User avatar
Joseph S.
Posts: 540
Joined: June 11th, 2010, 4:21 pm

Re: using natural materials

Post by Joseph S. » May 4th, 2011, 8:15 am

Alex: I think their is just a slight touch of anthromorphism in the idea that they might enjoy or be benefited from natural smells. Based on how readily wild reptiles use artificial habitat types I don't think it makes a huge difference to them. Of course their is nothing wrong with decorating an enclosure for ones enjoyment(or using natural smells to provide enrichment-although again from what I've seen basically any new interesting smelling object attracts attention). Certain reptiles may stress in spartan enclosures provided to other captives and do better in well planted naturalistic enclosures but this is not an issue of natural vs artificial-simply one about not having the correct cover.

As for parasites living in symbiosis-well I have yet to read of such a relationship between a reptile and a parasite being a mutualistic relationship(a paper on this topic would be of great interest-I did read one paper on the mite pockets of certain reptiles hypothesized as a means of damage control-rather than providing the mites with a home). That is why they are being called parasites-they are parasitic. Small numbers may be commensals at best. They decrease the hosts fitness even in the wild-so they are not desireable to have in captive animals(although small numbers of certain parasites are pretty much impossible to eradicate without endless rounds of medication).

It is funny you bring up the dirt thing. Sometimes it seems people who keep reptiles in captivity have a big disconnect from the species natural history. Good example of this is the keeping of various species on sand-because deserts are entirely sandy, right? Or chunks of wood mulch being called forest floor. Also the rules within the confines of an enclosure for what is suitable is different than in the wild(for aromatic compounds, for example). We have to take ease of cleaning into consideration as well. Some people out there do use topsoil for the keeping of monitor lizards and other lizards that enjoy creating burrows. For certain species that live on hard packed ground in the wild paper towels or newspaper is just as appropriate and easier to clean.

User avatar
monklet
Posts: 2648
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 3:44 pm
Location: Ventura, CA
Contact:

Re: using natural materials

Post by monklet » May 4th, 2011, 9:21 am

Very well stated Joseph. :thumb:

I don't doubt that reptiles are stimulated and perhaps envigorated by new scents etc. but attempting to create a natural environment in a closed system, e.g., a terrarium, is futile. I believe the best we can do is provide all the necessary features, water, hides (dry and moist), temp range, photo requirements, humidity, etc. in an easily cleaned, non-septic environment.

Most of my snakes are calm enough that I can take them outside to "enjoy" a range of new scents. My thinking here is that they may find that stimulating and it may also result in new synapse development to store the information and so is enriching. Their behavior outside, relative to roaming indoors in a confined area, is markedly different and they do appear stimulated as they "sniff" about.

I suspect that we and other creatures enjoy a pleasure response in reward for behaviors and experiences which are to our advantage and increase our overall fitness. The urge to experience and process new environments is a natural inclination and is likely rewarded by the same biochemistry in all animals at whatever level.

Alex
Posts: 24
Joined: February 20th, 2011, 8:30 pm

Re: using natural materials

Post by Alex » May 4th, 2011, 11:31 am

With consideration to artificial cover, animals use whatever is useful to them whether it be a log or a piece of ply board. With that you are certainly correct.

With reference to reptiles that live on hard packed ground let’s say inland taipan living way out in the harsh and dry desert. They don’t live on hard packed ground but live in-between the cracks in the earth and find moisture and soft earth to lay their eggs in.

The key is to understand the microhabitat of what we want to keep in captivity. If one were to keep a knob-tail gecko, they would like to put it in a rocky desert setup. But if it were offered no outlet from the heat and not allowed a humid retreat it would dry up and that would be the end of it.

All and I do mean all muliti-cellular organisms harbor thousands and thousands of bacteria and worms in their digestive track. It is when these internal organisms are not balanced that one must take ownership and intervene with medication.

here is a herp related article
http://www.anapsid.org/parasites1.html

Here are much more detailed sites relating symbios

http://web.uconn.edu/mcbstaff/graf/Sym.html

http://iss-symbiosis.org/

Minded Mites are not symbiotic and need to be taken care of.

The major diffrence between ectotherms and endotherms with their internal parasite load is how they control it. their method is through temperature controls bacteria cannot survive at very high temps.

User avatar
Cole Grover
Posts: 745
Joined: June 8th, 2010, 9:06 am
Location: Montana

Re: using natural materials

Post by Cole Grover » May 4th, 2011, 2:43 pm

Alex,

I think I (and others) get what you're saying, by and large. However, I've got to disagree with several of your points.

Parasitism is one form of symbiosis. True. Symbiosis, however, is fairly broad and ranges from interactions that benefit both organisms (photosynthetic Cniderians, for example, are what we call "mutualistic" or "commensal") to ones that benefit only a single organism (often at the hardship of the other; ALL examples of parasitism). Also, the statement about all multicellular organisms harboring endoparasites is a great overgeneralization. "Multicellular" is a vast grouping and many multicellular organisms simply do not have a dedicated digestive system. In addition, simply because parasites are present in a given wild animal doesn't mean that they aren't having an effect on its overall fitness. It's been shown time and time again that an organism without the burdon of a parasite load (no matter how small) his a statistically significant increase in overall reproductive fitness, which is, afterall, the metric by which we measure "success". A parasite, by definition, is a relationship between two species in which one species benefits at the expense of the other. Intestinal nematodes, cestodes, and trematodes are perfect examples, regardless of their population density.

To address another point, both ectotherms and endotherms attempt control internal parasite loads via temperature. Ask anyone who's ever had malaria whether their temperature rose. It's a built-in part of endotherm immune response to elevate the body temperature - we call it fever. Ectotherms also raise their body temperature when they're ill, but they do it through environmental thermoregulation.

-Cole

Alex
Posts: 24
Joined: February 20th, 2011, 8:30 pm

Re: using natural materials

Post by Alex » May 4th, 2011, 5:39 pm

Cole.

You are entirely right about endotherms using their own body temperatures to control bacterial infections.

But ectotherms take that step a bit farther…… especially high energy reptiles “iguanids, varanids, hydrosaurus” to name a few.

When given a range of temperatures to choose from they can and will control their own parasites.

I diden't want this to get too off topic but it got very interesting.

Post Reply