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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ARE YOU READY TO PARTY?!?

Don't have a boring party! Have a Jurassic Party! Fun, educational, and the experience of a lifetime!

Voted "Best Party in Orange County"  Jurassic Parties brings an exciting “hands-on” presentation with "Prehistoric Pets" from around the globe including giant pythons, lizards, frogs, tortoises, and tarantulas just to name a few. Your host creates an outrageously fun, exciting, and educational experience that you and your guests will never forget. You can join-in on the fun or just stand back, watch, and learn. The presentation is full of photo opportunities and concludes with a group photo with our large python!

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Meet Forest!!!

It’s no surprise that many (read: all) of our employees are carnivores, but nobody here hams it up like Forest. This awesome dude graduated from University of San Francisco with a degree in Biology and minor in Performance Arts and can turn anything you say into a joke. His sense of humor comes in very handy here around the zoo. Aside from being able to laugh at someone telling him to “RUN FOREST RUN” for the millionth time, he kills the crowds at our Jurassic Parties with his lightning quips and funny turns of phrase.

Forest got his foot in the door like so many of our other employees, by working at the Orange County Fair in our traveling zoo exhibit. His incredible energy, passion for reptiles, and drive for work solidified our desire to bring him onto our team as a permanent employee. Forest is a jack of all trades, working both for the front counter helping in sales, delighting kids at their birthday parties with his reptile knowledge, and entertaining visitors at our hands-on area at the zoo. He’s only been an official employee for a few weeks, but he’s always excited and ready to learn something new and help out. While he has been otherwise warmly received, Lauren has perceived him as a threat to her unofficial “best hair” title.

When not working at the zoo, Forest likes to go to Disneyland, play guitar, and especially study acting. His favorite food is super cheap frozen pizza and chubby hubby ice cream, and his star sign is Aquarius. He moved to LA to be a film actor, and his greatest dream is to be nominated for the Oscars and thank the Academy. His favorite animals at the zoo are the green anacondas. His funniest experience here at the zoo was during the filming for KTLA morning news; our giant reticulated python flung itself out of everyone’s arms and hit him square in the forehead. Luckily for him, its mouth was closed!

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Reptile Facts Friday- CHAMELEONS!

This week on Reptile Facts Friday, we’re super excited to introduce you to the 3 chameleon species we have here on permanent display at the Reptile Zoo! Before we get started on specific species though, here’s some fun general facts about all chameleons:

1)Chameleons have the longest tongues to body size in the animal kingdom! These dudes can have tongues up to 2x the length of their bodies.

2)Almost half of the chameleon species in the world are only found on the island of Madagascar!

3)Chameleons don’t actually change color to blend into their surroundings. Scientists have found that chameleons change color based on light, temperature, and mood changes. Some species (such as our own Meller’s Chameleons) even change color to “talk” to each other

4)Chameleons can see in 2 different directions at once and have 360 degree visibility. The only time a chameleon focuses on something with both eyes is when it is about to eat what it’s looking at.

5)Chameleons have prehensile tails just like monkeys. They use these tails to hold onto branches when climbing, and can actually hang from things just with their tails!

We’d like to start with our most flamboyant chameleons, the panther chameleons! We’re lucky enough here at the reptile zoo to have three lovely panther chameleons; Harvey, Pascal, and Guillermo! While all the same species, these lovely little guys are all different localities. Panther chameleons have different colors based on where in Madagascar they are found. Harvey is an Ambilobe chameleon, Pascal is a lovely Nosy Be, and Guillermo is Ampiskiana. Harvey in particular is a favorite of many employees at the zoo for his extraordinarily friendly behavior, preferring to climb on people than his awesome free range habitat. He got his name from an interesting week where half his face was red and the other half was a dark green, giving him a Two-Faced Harvey Dent appearance.

Handsome Harvey

Picturesque Pascal

Gorgeous Guillermo

Next up is the Parsons Chameleon! Parson the Parson’s Chameleon (we get real creative with the names here) is a big handsome male, and an impressive example of one of the world’s largest and heaviest chameleons. These chameleons are a beautiful mint green, and when disturbed they can put on an impressive display of spots and stripes all across their bodies.

Happy Parson

Unhappy Parson

They are very hard to take care of, as their needs for space, ventilation, and water are all great. In the wild, these chameleons live in areas of Madagascar that can get up to 150 inches of rain a year, so if you visit there’s a good chance you’ll see one of our employees patiently misting down Parson to make sure he stays good and hydrated. He lives above our photo booth with Harvey the panther chameleon.

Lastly are some lovely chameleons you might already be familiar with, if you are faithful readers of the RZ blog. Our Meller’s chameleons make up the majority of our chameleons at the zoo; we currently have 7 on display in our brand shiny new Meller Manor exhibit.

People often have a hard time noticing these cute little dudes as they blend in so gosh darn well into the foliage we added to their home. We’ve started challenging kids and adults alike to try and find all 7, which is harder than it sounds. Meller’s chameleons are the only truly social chameleons in the world, which is why we can house so many together in such a lovely exhibit, which was sponsored by Brian Allen and ExoTerra. I learned a fun fact the hard way about these chameleons; they have the sharpest nails of any chameleon I’ve ever met. Last time I tried to hold one it looked like I got savaged by a very small cat.

That’s it for this week; we hope you guys learned some fun stuff about chameleons!

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Remembering Thelma and Louise

It has been an uncommonly hard year for us here at the Reptile Zoo. Shortly after the loss of our beloved Twinkie, we found that our dynamic duo, Thelma and Louise had too passed. It seems unfair and tragic that after the loss of such a big part of our team, we must say goodbye to another member that made our little zoo so special. The two-headed Texas ratsnake who delighted kids and adults for the past 14 years has sadly gone on to snake heaven, leaving a two-headed hole in our hearts.

Thelma and Louise was an incredibly special snake. Most polycephalic (that’s science talk for more than one head) creatures are stillborn, and even fewer survive longer than a few days or weeks once born. Our two-headed duo surpassed all odds, surviving to an incredible 14 years. Considering that a normal one-headed Texas ratsnake has a lifespan of 10-15 years we’re ultimately saddened but unsurprised by her passing.

Polycephalic creatures are formed when twin embryos fuse inside the egg or womb they are developing in. Any animal can have two heads, but snakes are one of the few species that can generally survive, or even in special cases like Thelma and Louise, thrive. The ability of a two headed animal to survive generally depends on just how well individual parts and organs formed. Thelma and Louise each had their own throat and windpipe, which joined up to share one stomach and set of lungs. In general, whichever head got to the food first was the one that got to eat. This occasionally led to some funny conundrums, like when Thelma and Louise each had one end of a mouse and wouldn’t let go, leading to a Lady and the Tramp-esqe dinner.

In the end, Thelma managed to wrestle the mouse away from Louise (Louise was the left head) and send it down to their shared stomach. Either way, they were both fed!

Showing off their pearly whites...

Rest in Peace lovely girls, you’ll be sorely missed.

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Reptile Facts Friday- Australia Edition

It’s Reptile Facts Friday!

We’re starting a new blog series here at the Reptile Zoo where we take 3 of our awesome animals and tell you a fun fact about them! This week, we’re highlighting our favorite Australian Lizards and their awesome defense systems!

Let’s start with one of the most charismatic reptiles out there, the bearded dragon! Beardies, as they’re called by enthusiasts, have one of the most obvious defense mechanisms of the lizard world. These little dudes are covered in big spikes all along their neck, cheek, and sides. Smaller spikes stand out from their legs, tail, and head.

Anything that wants to eat a bearded dragon has to think twice, as these guys are like the puffer fish of the lizard world. When feeling threatened, these guys will poof themselves up to almost double their usual body width. That lovely beard of spikes will inflate and turn black, and they will open their mouths and hiss. The overall effect is rather impressive, as you can see.

Image © David Kleinert (http://davidkphotography.com/index.php?showimage=370)

Our next Aussie is slightly more subtle but no less awesome. The blue tongued skink gets its name from its main form of defense! These cool lizards have a tongue that is, you guessed it, blue!

When feeling threatened, the skink will puff itself up, hiss, and show off its bright blue tongue. Bright colors in the animal kingdom generally mean that the animal with them is poisonous. While the blue tongued skink doesn’t actually have poison or venom, their attacker will usually fall for the trick and leave them alone.

Image © David Kleinert (http://www.davidkphotography.com/index.php?showimage=323)

If that display doesn’t work, their hard thick scales can protect them from bites. They’re capable of running surprisingly fast for their tiny legs, and can drop their tails at will to distract a predator. Most of the time their snake-like appearance is enough to make anybody think twice about touching them.

The last and possibly most bizarre Australian lizard is the Frill-Necked Lizard, or Frilled Dragon. These little guys get their name from the large flap of extra skin attached to their jawline. The frill is usually kept close to the body and out of the way to prevent damage, giving them a slightly wrinkly appearance.

When threatened, the lizard opens their mouth and extends their frill, showing off the bright colored spots usually hidden in the folds of skin. This rapid increase in perceived size is enough to frighten any predator, but the lizard doesn’t stop there. They will hiss, stand on their hind legs using their tail for balance, and even chase after their attackers to make good and sure they don’t get messed with.

So there you have it! Three Australian lizards with three awesome defenses! That’s all for Reptile Facts Friday this week!

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New Animals!!!!

Boy oh Boy! As the summer winds down the excitement heats up, in the form of some awesome new animals here at the Reptile Zoo!

G’day the Scrub Python:

If there’s one thing people know about Australia’s reptiles, it’s that they tend to be any combination of big, startling, or extremely venomous. In the rough and tumble outback, you have to be well adapted to survive. We were lucky enough to be able to acquire an incredibly handsome specimen of Australia’s largest snake, the Scrub Python! These guys generally grow up to 13-15 feet long, but a record female reached 24 feet long! These pythons are also known as Amethystine Pythons, as their scales give off a beautiful purple shimmer when hit correctly by the light.

Photo from http://www.wettropics.gov.au/reptiles Credit to EPA

G’day is still a little shy, but if you’re lucky you’ll get to see this awesome amethyst shine in person when you visit!

Louie, the Alligator Snapping Turtle:

Louie Louie LOUIEEEEEEE! Louie Louie Louie LOU-AAAAH! This awesome new animal came to us all the way from Louisiana, and takes the record for oldest animal at the Reptile Zoo! Louie is, believe it or not, at least a sprightly HUNDRED years old!! Alligator snapping turtles are the biggest freshwater turtles in the world, and Louie is no exception, weighing in at around 170 lbs. You won’t ever find him out of the water, as this species only goes on land to lay eggs, and since Louie is a boy, that isn’t happening any time soon. It’s rare to even see him above water, as he only needs to come up to breathe once every 45 minutes or so.

“Aaah, fresh air!”

Snapping turtles get their name from the way they catch food. They sit perfectly still on the river bottom, mouths open and ready. On the end of their tongue is a little lure that looks just like a worm when they twitch it. Unsuspecting fish, frogs, and even other turtles swim in to nab this tasty treat, and don’t swim back out. The turtle’s jaws snap shut so fast there is no time to react. These guys have been known to straight up snap a broomstick in half in one bite. Don’t be fooled by his awesome camouflage, you can find this guy chilling with Gomer and Pyle in our Alligator Island!

Salk the Crocodile Monitor:

One of the most frequent questions we get here at the Reptile Zoo is “What could give you the worst bite?” The old reigning champs were most likely our American alligators, but they now have to step aside for our new worst biter: Salk the Crocodile Monitor. These fast and long monitors have ridiculous teeth. Unlike other monitors whose teeth are more peglike, these guys have long, extremely sharp fangs for grabbing, ripping, and tearing apart prey. They’ll eat just about anything they can catch.

Photo Cred: Steve Huskey from Western Kentucky University. Look at those pearly whites!

They have specialized aerobic abilities, making it so that they can run faster and longer than other monitors. They are excellent climbers, can stand on their hind legs to look for prey, and can grow as long or longer than a Komodo dragon, though they are much smaller by weight. They are found in Australia, Papua New Guinea, and parts of Indonesia. We’re pumped to have this awesome dude here with us, even if he eats us out of house and home. Don’t be fooled by his size, I saw this guy eat FIVE (seriously, FIVE. How?!) huge chicken breasts in one go!

“Gimme more chicken” -Salk

OCTOMELLERIUM:

We’ve got Meller Madness, yes we do! We love chameleons, how about you!? Thanks to these new additions, we’ve more than doubled our number of in-house chameleons!

Meller’s chameleons are the largest species of chameleon from Africa. Our little beauties could eventually grow to be almost three feet long! These cool chameleons can change from white, to yellow, to green, and even brown and any combination thereof to communicate their moods. Since Meller’s chameleons are one of the few social species of chameleon in the world, this comes in handy. If you’re lucky you’ll see these fun and fancy lizards “chatting” to each other by changing color and body posture! This exhibit was generously sponsored by Brian Allen, Exo Terra, California Driftwood, and Kenny the Printer! See if you can spot them all in their free-range exhibit across from Alligator Island!

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North American Reptile Breeder's Conference!

It’s Christmas in September for Prehistoric Pets and the Reptile Zoo! Yes it is that glorious time of year, the NARBC! That’s right, the North American Reptile Breeder’s Conference! We are so excited to be going back to the Anaheim Convention Center this weekend from Sept 6-7th. This conference boasts THOUSANDS of reptiles, or “herps” as we call them. From the most common of geckos to snake morphs selling for over 50,000 DOLLARS, there is something for everyone to see, and we will be right in the thick of it. If you want to see an extremely specific reptile we don’t have at the zoo, this is the best place to do so! Weekend passes for adults are a measly 15 dollars, so make sure you come on by and see us, as well as all the other amazing breeders that make the herp world go round! If you missed it, we had an amazing time on the morning news with KTLA’s field reporter, Jennifer Gould, giving you a sneak peak at what to expect at NARBC!

The star herself! She could work here; she was so good with the animals!

Several dedicated employees managed to rouse themselves to make it to the zoo in time for the first segment of filming, which began at 5am. Despite bleary eyes, everyone had a smile as we interacted with and showed off some of our biggest and best animals. Darthgator and his honorary little brother, Davey, showed off just how massive gators can get and why they are illegal to own. Later our Jurassic Parties animal crew demonstrated the wide variety of animals we use for parties. All of the animals that we use for our Jurassic Parties make fantastic pets for the right owner, and the best way to figure out which reptile works best for you is to come down to the show and interact with as many animals as you can! You never know what you might fall in love with.

Showing off in front of the news van!

Last of all, for our grand finale, we brought out our biggest Tiger Reticulated Python female to showcase what we do best at Prehistoric Pets; breed beautiful, healthy, exotic color morphs of the longest and sometimes largest snakes in the world. Tons of our gorgeous retics will be for sale and featured at our booth at NARBC, so come on down!

Frank, aka Kipling from Disney’s Jessie will be there to take pictures with adoring fans, along with pythons, tortoises, iguanas, anacondas, frogs, and alligators! The fun didn’t end there however!

The next day we drove up to Los Angeles bright and early to show off our beloved herps on Good Day LA with Mar Yvette. Aside from promoting the NARBC, we wanted to take this opportunity to spread our favorite message: That reptiles are nothing to fear and that with knowledge and education, we can all get along. We brought a green anaconda, Asian water monitor, panther chameleon, and Cuban false chameleon, and more. The biggest guest star of all was Sharon Osbourne, who fell in love with our pretty nosy be panther chameleon. Check it out! Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

Photo by Dano Photography (DRDANO.com)

Photo by Dano Photography (DRDANO.com)

Photo by Dano Photography (DRDANO.com)

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