Spreading the Love, Jurassic Parties Style!

Hi ladies and gents! Those of you familiar with the Reptile Zoo and Jurassic Parties know that we are not here to frighten, but to teach! The goal of Jurassic Parties is to further the public’s understanding and respect for reptiles through interactive education that is both fun and meaningful for all guests. We have guests on a daily basis who’ve never seen a snake in person and are horrified by them, who with some exposure and education, gain a new appreciation for reptiles. Recent studies have shown that while primates (especially humans!) instinctively recognize snakelike shapes, the fear of snakes is a learned response. What better way to nip that learned fear in the bud than to give kids positive experiences with our legless friends? Our tried and true Jurassic Parties and one-of-a-kind hands-on learning zone at The Reptile Zoo have given thousands of kids a chance to interact with some of Mother Nature’s less loved species, and now we want to spread the love even further; by going into classrooms.

Animals in the classroom have been shown to be enormously beneficial to a learning environment. Studies have shown that having a class pet decreases tension, increases the children’s sense of responsibility, and gives kids without pets at home a new appreciation for animals. A class pet can be used to teach valuable lessons, not only about science and biology but about empathy, duty, and respect. Snakes in particular make good pets for classrooms as they are quiet, allergy free, and easy to care for. They are inexpensive to feed, simple to handle, and kids find them particularly fascinating. By exposing kids early to snakes, they grow up into adults who respect, rather than fear them.

In an effort to further spread our goals of understanding and respect for reptiles, Jurassic Parties has decided to open up a contest of sorts to the classrooms of California! The prize? One classroom ready California Kingsnake or Cornsnake with full habitat setup!

Make sure you meet all eligibility requirements and then submit your application following the directions below:

Eligibility Requirements:

1) Applicants must provide proof that an animal is allowed in the classroom.

2) Applicants must be 18 years or older who are teachers at a public, accredited, or private school in compliance with the laws of its state of residence and who teach in any grades Kindergarten through 8.

3) Applicants must live and work in California, and be willing and able to come pick up the snake and habitat from The Reptile Zoo in Fountain Valley. (It is against the law to transport California Kingsnakes across state lines).

4) Applicants must be comfortable with snakes themselves and be willing to be the primary caretaker of the animal and assume financial and personal responsibility for its health and well being, including feeding, cleaning, habitat maintenance, and veterinary care.

TO APPLY:

The Application Packet should consist of:

1) A written statement and any other documentation proving that the teacher meets the eligibility requirements.

2) A letter from the teacher explaining why their classroom would benefit from a pet, how the pet would be integrated into classroom life, and what possible lessons could be learned from the pet.

3) A 3-5 sentence written piece from each of the students on why they would like a snake as a class pet. Art or other creative pieces are encouraged but not required.

The Application Packet must be submitted to Jurassic Parties by April 30st. Please address all applications as follows

The Reptile Zoo

attn: Lauren Henry

18822 Brookhurst Street

Fountain Valley, CA, 92708

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More Morphs More Fun!!!

Here at the Reptile Zoo we have a special place in our hearts for showcasing some of our particularly exceptional snake morphs. But what really IS a morph?

Morphs are simply different color variations among the same species of animal. While we select for specific morphs in captivity, Mother Nature makes morphs of her own! Take for example the peppered moth, which comes in a light and a dark morph.

The two most common morphs that Mother Nature produces might be familiar to you. Albinism, or amelanism, is caused by a genetic mutation that causes the cells of the body to be unable to produce the pigment Melanin, which is dark brown in color. This explains why animals with typically brown fur turn white when albino. There is another mutation, called Melanism, which is caused by the overproduction of melanin, which causes a heavily pigmented, much darker animal. A good example of natural melanism is the black panther. Black panthers are actually jaguars with Melanism, not their own separate species. Their fur overproduces pigment, causing them to appear almost entirely black. This mutation worked to their advantage for hunting at night, as the dark colors help them blend in. Here we have examples of Albinism and Melanism in ball pythons with a normal for comparison:

These two mutations are popular genes to reproduce in snakes, as they are the building blocks for many of the designer genes we see today. It’s hard to believe that a rare mutation found in just one or two snakes 20 years ago led to the hundreds of morphs available today. At this point even though no melanistic reticulated pythons have ever been found, there have been morphs created to make incredibly dark snakes. Just check out the awesome variety below!

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The Reptile Report Reader's Choice Awards!!

Hey Hey Hey ladies and gents! Forget about the Oscars, its time for The Reptile Report People’s Choice Awards! Last year we won for Best Brick and Mortar Store, and this year The Reptile Zoo and Prehistoric Pets have been nominated for FOUR different awards. We need your help to win! Please take a minute to click the links below; you can vote for us in each category once a day, so please, help us win!! This year we’ve had the honor to be nominated for:

Zoo of the Year

The Reptile Zoo turned 5 last year, and since the day we’ve opened we’ve been committed to educating the public on the misunderstood natures of some of the world’s coolest animals. We boast over 320 individual species of reptile, and are even in the process of expanding the zoo to include features like a window to our international python breeding facility, daily feeding demonstrations, and new improved habitats for our larger specimens. In our hands-on learning zone, visitors are welcome and encouraged to interact with different species of snakes and lizards, usually sparking a new appreciation for the cold-blooded denizens of our planet. CLICK HERE TO VOTE FOR US

Python Breeder of the Year!

Prehistoric Pets is regarded in the industry as one of the finest breeders of Reticulated Pythons in the world. Over 50 new morphs were developed in the last two years alone. Our dedication to health, breeding standards, and commitment to providing the best snakes to the best homes makes us a leader in the python breeding world. We have an incredible variety of selection, with easily over 200 captive bred morphs available at any time for purchase. CLICK HERE TO VOTE FOR US

Reticulated Python Photo!

What is better than the world’s largest snakes? SITTING AND READING WITH A BUNCH OF THEM IS! The only way one of our reticulated pythons would kill someone is by cuddling them to death, as evidenced here! Cast your vote for our gentle giants!! CLICK HERE TO VOTE FOR US

Fun Reptile Image

The most fun part of this image aside from the variety of reticulated python morphs is the fact it couldn’t happen just about anywhere but here! You never know what fun reptile hijinks we get up to on a daily basis. What other morphs lie hidden in those racks, waiting to be big enough to show off in pictures like this? Vote now and maybe next year we will see! CLICK HERE TO VOTE FOR US

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REPTILE SUPER SHOW 2015!!!

We just got back from a highly exciting weekend at the Pomona Fairplex where the REPTILE SUPER SHOW was held! This event is always a blast for us; between selling our fabulous reticulated pythons, anacondas, and boas at the Prehistoric Pets booth, showing off our pick of the litter animals on the Reptile Zoo side, and taking paparazzi shots with Frank aka Kipling, we always stay busy and have fun! We saw all kinds of amazingly cool reptiles that we unfortunately had to resist buying and bringing back to the zoo, including some awesome scale-less ratsnakes, a carpet/diamond python cross, and more morphs of more species than we could believe (our retics were the best though!)

Frank was easily the star of the show. Most of the reptiles other vendors were displaying were small and in little display cases, so our big boy stuck out like a yellow and black sore thumb. People would stop dead and exclaim “IS THAT REAL?!” before hurrying over to pet him and coo over how handsome he is. Since Frank has become a huge diva since being on Jessie on the Disney Channel, he lapped up all the attention with his big blue tongue, posing handsomely on his heated rock.

Our Gila Monster and Dwarf Caiman got a lot of attention too. The Prehistoric Pets booth boasted over ONE MILLION DOLLARS of reticulated python morphs on display, and brought easily the biggest snake at the show, our 200 lb Titanium Tiger Female, Rhonda. USARK raised 12,000 dollars in auctions, with two of the lots donated by Prehistoric Pets. One was for a pair of yellow anacondas, the other for a dwarf reticulated python. The money USARK raised will be extraordinarily helpful for protecting reptiles and the people that love keeping them. All in all the show went great. It’s a real treat to be able to meet up and hang out with all of the friends we’ve made through the years, and we look forward to seeing them all again next year!

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Spreading Holiday Cheer (and FEAR!)

It’s getting to be Christmas time, and we’re chock full of warm fuzzy feelings here at the Reptile Zoo. It only made sense to talk about our warmest and fuzziest animals on display: TARANTULAS! We were lucky enough to obtain SIX new species of tarantula here at the zoo, and couldn’t wait to talk about them! Before we get into our new species, lets first go over some tarantula anatomy and husbandry!

Tarantulas are large, heavy bodied, often hairy spiders that belong to the family Theraphosidae. There are around 930 identified species of tarantula, and they can be found on every continent except Antarctica. They have 8 legs, 2 chelicera (also known as fangs!) and a pair of pedipalps, which are used for a multitude of tasks, such as catching and holding prey or for mating purposes. These pedipalps are often confused with an extra pair of legs off the front of the tarantula. The hair (which is actually a form of bristle, only mammals grow hair!) that covers the bodies of tarantulas is used for a multitude of purposes depending on the type. Some hairs are used for sensing vibrations, others are used for making noise Different species of North and South American tarantulas have specialized the hair on their abdomens to be a defensive weapon. When threatened, the tarantula will flick their legs over their abdomen, dislodging the hairs and sending them flying in a cloud to scatter around.

If these hairs make contact with skin or mucus membranes, they will cause whatever they touch to itch, sting, and burn for a good long time. Animals that try and prey on these tarantulas learn a painful lesson that those kinds of spiders don’t make good meals. Old World tarantulas lack this special hair, but make up for it with nasty dispositions, preferring to rear up and bite their perceived attackers.

We obtained both old and new world species, all of which are completely gorgeous. Check them out!

Mexican Red Rump Tarantula Brachypelma vagans

The Mexican red rump tarantula is named for the large portion of reddish brown hair found along the top side of the abdomen on its otherwise black body. They are found in Central America and Mexico, though there is a small non-native population established in Florida. They are avid burrowers that prefer scrubland style habitats. Their venom is actually being researched for its possible applications in medicine.

Mexican Red Knee Tarantula Brachypelma smithi

The Mexican Red Knee tarantula is named for the reddish spots of color on the joints of its legs. They are native to the western side of the Sierra Madre Occidental and Sierra Madre del Sur mountain ranges in Mexico. These heavy bodied spiders can feed on insects, small lizards, and frogs. They are popular as pets since they are so pretty, but are prone to flicking urticating hairs. Like the Mexican Red Rump, these tarnatulas like to form burrows.

Mexican Fire Leg Tarantula Brachypelma boehmei

This species of tarantula is named for its bright orange legs. They prefer a dry, scrubland style habitat, and can be found in the Guerrero state in Mexico, along the Central Pacific coast. They are most active at night but can be seen at dawn and dusk. While their venom is mild, they are prone to flicking urticating hair when threatened. They are more finicky than most tarantulas, and make better pets for people more experienced with keeping tarantulas.

Greenbottle Blue Tarantula Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens

The Greenbottle Blue is a striking species of tarantula, with bright azure legs, a greenish carapace, and vivid orange abdomen. They are native to Venezuela, and are found in arid climates. They are very fast runners, and are recommended as display species, rather than a handling one. They spin their webs in burrows at the base of shrubs, trees, and cacti. This species will also carpet the surrounding area around their burrows with webbing, and use vibrations to detect passing predators or prey.

Orange Baboon Tarantula Pterinochilus murinus

The Orange Baboon Tarantula is an old world species of spider, found in Southeast and Central Africa. They are extraordinarily aggressive, with an extremely painful bite. These tarantulas have several nicknames based off of this aggression, such as the “Orange Bitey Thing” or “Pterrors”, which is a play off their scientific name. While a very attractive spider, these tarantulas are only recommended for very experienced keepers. When we were first feeding our Orange Baboon Tarantula, it sprinted up the forceps we were using to introduce prey, trying to attack us. The forceps were dropped into its cage, and it was agreed that they were the tarantula’s forceps now. They were later recovered by Mandy, who is one of our braver employees.

Gooty Sapphire Ornamental Tarantula Poecilotheria metallica

This beautiful and exotic species of tarantula can only be found in in a 39 square mile area in Central India, near the town of Gooty. They are an arboreal species of tarantula, spinning their webs in holes in trees. They catch their prey by snatching it out of the air. They are a critically endangered species, with habitat destruction as the main driving force behind their population decline. Their bite is reported to be exceedingly painful even if envenomation does not occur. Their name comes from their gorgeous coloration and patterning.

Well there you have it! Come see these gorgeous spiders in person, now on display right by our hands-on learning zone!

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Right From The Get Go- Lets Talk About Geckos!

Those of you who visit the Reptile Zoo often probably know of the cutest little lizard in existence, Charlie the Crested Gecko!

With his big, off kilter eyes, stubby little tail, and tiny toes that look like leaves, Charlie steals the hearts of hundreds of visitors a year, who will often coo “Can you have these as pets?!” Yes you can! Crested geckos like Charlie are becoming incredibly popular for their ease of care and sweet personalities.

Crested geckos are native to the southern parts of the island of New Caledonia, located between Fiji and Australia. They get their name from the eyelash-like projections over their eyes, which continue down the back, creating a “crest”. They are also referred to as eyelash geckos. These geckos are primarily nocturnal, and prefer to live up high and in trees, but may move lower to the ground to sleep. They are decent climbers, aided by their sticky feet, small claws, and prehensile tails.

Check out that prehensile tail and those sticky feet!

Their feet possess microscopic hairs that will bond (on a molecular level!) to whatever surface they stand on. If you observe one walking, you will actually see them peel their toes up backwards so they can simply take a step! These geckos are able to lose their tails as a defense mechanism, but unfortunately do not grow them back once they have dropped them. While this sounds traumatic, it actually isn’t such a huge deal. The blood vessels running to the tail seal off almost instantly, and will heal over completely in less than a month. It is highly uncommon to see an adult crested gecko in the wild that still has its tail. While most lizards with this ability grow their tails back, crested geckos only get the one tail. If they drop it, it’s gone for good.

Charlie is an example of a crested gecko without a tail.

Another fun thing about this species of gecko is that they are vocal! People usually don’t think of lizards as loud pets, but some geckos can be quite the talkers! Species like tokay geckos are loud and even sound like they’re yelling their name (TO-kay TO-kay is what it sounds like!). Crested geckos aren’t quite so noisy, and make anywhere from a low quiet growling noise to a surprisingly loud harsh bark. They’re known as “the devil in the trees” back in New Caledonia, as their barks can get quite unnerving when a loud chorus starts.

Adorable babies!

Crested geckos have several traits that make them desirable as pets. They do not require a huge amount of space, have fairly simple lighting and heating needs, and can be fed a prepackaged powdered diet and completely thrive on it. Hatchling and juvenile crested geckos do well in a 10 gallon aquarium, and adults can be kept in a 20 gallon tank. Since they are such avid climbers, height and plenty of foliage are more important than length. Reptile Supply companies have actually started to make specific setups just for crested geckos. Combine that ease of care with a gecko that tames very quickly, lives on average 15 years, and is known for its sweet nature, and you have one super awesome Prehistoric Pet!

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Iguana Tell You A Story!

Sorry folks, bad title pun aside, I wanted to sit down and tell you guys the super cool story behind two of our really special red iguanas! Our big male and lovely female red iguanas came to us from a previous owner who was concerned about their breeding.

Big Popiguana

The female had laid a previous clutch that never hatched, so the iguanas came to us to see if we could provide a better environment and hopefully bring her next clutch to term. When the pair first arrived, we could plainly see that the female was near to bursting with eggs. Aside from her abdomen being fairly swollen, you could actually see the small bumps of the eggs pressing against her sides. We got the pair settled into a roomy cage, and set about trying to find an appropriately sized lay box. Due to her size, we actually had to improvise quite a bit, and actually ended up using a trash can packed with a combination of sand and soil that was wetted down and compacted so that she could dig herself a suitable hole in which to lay her eggs. It ended up doing the trick nicely, as she was only with us for 4 days before she laid her eggs! Based on her size and how inflated she looked, we were expecting a huge clutch, but we were still mightily impressed to see that she laid 50 eggs! We removed the lay box from the cage and placed the eggs into an incubator.

Big Momiguana

While the eggs were “cooking”, we worked on getting to know our newest, biggest breeding pair. The adults took a bit of time getting used to their new enclosure, but with a ton of patience, time, and love they’ve settled in nicely. Both iguanas love to chow down on the leafy greens that are so important to their diets, but they also both go bananas for…. well, bananas. One thing that we’ve noticed is that the male is fairly protective of the female. While she is fairly nice and tolerant of some handling, he will flap his dewlap, puff himself up, and on occasion, chase people who walk past his cage. He has been seen cuddling with her, very tenderly laying his dewlap over her shoulders or head. While they haven’t shown signs of producing another clutch, it’s very dear to see them still so close together.

Just about 60 days passed before we saw signs of movement from the iguana eggs. We were pleasantly surprised and more than a little confused to see that our clutch of 50 eggs had yielded 56 iguanas! Did the Reptile Zoo have its own moment of spontaneous generation? Are we just really bad at counting? No! Turns out we simply had a few batches of twins! While the sets of twins are markedly smaller than their single-egg siblings, they are no less healthy, and are very cute! The baby red iguanas are actually born with a fair amount of green on their bodies. Each time they shed, they lose a little bit of that green pigmentation and get redder and redder as they age.

Little bit of green still showing on this guy!

All of the babies ate within 24 hours of hatching, which is unusual for almost any reptile. Usually there is a bit of a fasting period where they live off the remaining nutrients from what was left of their yolk. The babies must take after their parents when it comes to eating habits. Once we had established they were healthy and doing well, we placed them into an enclosure that closely replicates the environment they’d have in the wild. They have tons of room to climb, with branches and foliage spanning the entire length of their roomy cage. They love to be fed, and will clamber all over each other to get at their greens. We’re so excited to have these little nippers here with us, and hope you’ll come visit them soon!

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Meet Karissa!

If you’ve had the pleasure of having Karissa present at one of your Jurassic Parties, then you’ll know what an absolute sweetheart she is. Her patience and smiles make her excellent with kids of all ages, but underneath that sweet tiny exterior is a core of iron. This girl can haul a 60lb tortoise with the best of our presenters, despite being a head shorter than all of them.

Karissa is currently studying Biology at UC Irvine, and eventually wants a career working with animals. She applied to work at the zoo about a year ago and was THRILLED to receive an interview, and then a job offer. Before she worked for us at Jurassic Parties, Karissa volunteered with all sorts of animals; reptiles and mammals alike. She’s worked local reptile events for kids, and donated her time and energy to animal shelters. Her passion for animals and outreach make her such a fantastic employee.

Reaching out to the chameleons.

Karissa one day hopes to work in the conservation field with endangered animals in Africa. She holds a special place in her heart for big cats, which she hopes to one day work with at a zoo or rescue organization. When not presenting at Jurassic Parties, Karissa is working towards her bachelor’s degree in biology. Her favorite food is pizza, her star sign is Aquarius (just like Forest!), and her favorite animals at the Reptile Zoo are the Dumeril’s boas. The funniest thing that happened to her so far at work was when she was talking to a visitor, one of our chameleons went to the bathroom right above her. She finished answering the question she was asked, and then in true polite and sweet Karissa fashion, excused herself to freshen up.

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Something Wicked This Way It Hops!

We’ve got a new species here at the zoo! While they look fairly unassuming, these new animals are set to make a splash. Everyone, welcome the new cane toads! Worf, Worfina, and Goldie were generously donated by Brian Allen, and are just so special we couldn’t wait to tell you all about them!

First off, cane toads are considered an invasive species here in the United States. These toads are originally from Central and South America, and were introduced by humans as a pest control measure in sugar cane fields. This happened to spectacularly backfire, as the toads didn’t eat the beetles that they were supposed to, and instead began to reproduce and spread across the southern states. What makes them harmful and invasive instead of just an introduced species is that they out-compete native toads for food; they have been known to eat 20x the amount of food of a similarly sized native toad species. They feed on a variety of insects, but as they grow larger they will begin to eat anything that fits in their mouth, including matter that is already dead. They have no set breeding season and reproduce year round, which is problematic as they can spawn up to 30,000 eggs in a single spawning event. In prime habitat, cane toad populations can reach up to 2,000 toads per hectare. That’s 2 toads every 10 square meters! Aside from outcompeting native toad species, these toads have another nasty trick up their sleeve… poison.

The cane toad has a large gland located behind the eye. When stressed or scared, these toads ooze a milky white liquid called Bufotoxin. This toxin is present in all the life cycles of the cane toad, even down to the tadpoles and eggs. When this toxin comes in contact with skin, it reddens and swells. If it enters a cut on the body or is ingested, the poison affects breathing, blood pressure, and heartbeat. Victims may excessively salivate, vomit, or become paralyzed. This nasty substance has actually been the cause of some controversy; it is considered a class 1 drug in Australia, right up there with cannabis and heroin, as it can also bring on hallucinations if ingested. Before you go getting any ideas, this toxin can also bring on an acute case of dead, so avoid touching/licking/mouthing the toads. Here at the Reptile Zoo we do not play around, and always handle these toads with gloves to avoid any contact with this nasty poison. While there is usually not enough toxin to kill an adult human, children and especially family pets are at risk. Many dogs and cats have unfortunately become victims of cane toad poison.

Check out the little pores in the paratoid gland! That's where the poison comes out

All that nastiness aside, we couldn’t be more excited to have these toads here! You all know we have a soft spot for freakishly large animals, and while these toads aren’t quite there yet, we know that one day they’ll be outstripping our African Bullfrogs in size! So make sure you come by and admire Worf, Worfina, and Goldie in their new home next to our giant python habitat!

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Meet Michael!

Meet Michael!

Those of you who follow our blog and come to the zoo know that, around here, we love our gentle giants. Not all of them are snakes and lizards though! We wanted to formally (and belatedly) introduce you to Michael, one of the fabulous people that make up the team here at the Reptile Zoo.

When Michael isn’t traveling all over Southern California bringing joy and reptiles to people everywhere, he can usually be found at our petting station in the zoo, chatting to visitors about all of the exotic animals we have here. His knowledge of reptiles can only be dwarfed by his impressive stature. He is an information sponge, and has been soaking up reptile facts since he was a little boy. The most common question Michael gets is “Where did you learn all this stuff?” and he cheerfully replies “All self-taught!” Michael began in 2013 as a lot of our employees begin, by working for the zoo in our OC Fair exhibit over the summer.

When not working here at the zoo, Michael likes to relax, hang out with friends, and occasionally go out for a spirited round or two of airsoft. His favorite foods are anything new and exotic. Michael aspires to one day be like Steve Irwin, an ambassador to reptiles and people alike. His favorite animal at the zoo is Harvey, the red panther chameleon living above the photo booth. Like Mandy and Lauren, he too is a Scorpio! He kindly took the time to narrate his funniest moment at the zoo:

“ I was replenishing water to the cages around the zoo. Upon opening the olive python cage, one made a break for it. While I was trying to coil it back up into its cage, the other olive python decided my forearm looked like a good spot to bite. It let go two seconds later, but I was strangely calm and proud of receiving my first big snake bite. It’s a badge of honor around here. Soldiers compare war wounds, we compare animal bites. Jay and Lynda were trying to patch me up, but it wasn’t so bad as it looked. I’m honestly a little disappointed that it didn’t leave a better scar… “

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