Green Tree Monitor

Physical Description

Green tree monitors are a type of lizard that can grow to be about 3 feet long with their tail being about twice the size of their body. They are dark jade to lime green with black crossbands, They have long claws and prehensile tails for gripping tree branches.


Predators

Some predators they may encounter include snakes and birds of prey.


Lifespan

They live an average of 10-15 years.


Reproduction

Females have been known to use termite mounds as nests because they serve as good incubators. The female may lay up to 3 clutches of eggs which will hatch after about 160-190 days.


Fun Facts

  • Green tree monitors are also known as emerald tree monitors.
  • They live in small groups that comprise of a dominant male, several females, a few other males, and juveniles.

Conservation Messaging

In our Reptile and Amphibian (RAD) center you will find many different reptiles and amphibians including venomous and poisonous species of snakes and frogs. Many of these animals fall victim to habitat loss in the wild. Many of the species here are found in South American habitats which are subjected to deforestation, damming of rivers, water pollution, and poor agricultural and management practices.

Shingleback Skink

NOTE: Education Animals are “behind-the-scenes” animals & only appear to the public during Educational events. This includes scheduled events or programs such as daily animal mingles, private onsite programs, and zoo reaches. For more information, please reach out to edureservations@lvzoo.org.


Program and General Information

Shingleback skinks are native to the desert grasslands, shrublands, and sandy dunes of Australia. They are a large lizard with a sturdily built body and relatively large head. They grow to 12-18 inches in length. Coloration differs from light brown streaks to earthy tones and darker coloration. They use their bright blue tongues to hunt prey, ward off predators, and attract a mate. Shingleback Skinks are solitary lizards that only meet in the spring or winter to breed. These skinks are ovoviviparous and females give birth to 10-20 live young about 100 days after reproduction. Skinks take about 3 years to mature. Because of their docile nature and relatively decent size, skinks have become popular pets. By purchasing and owning an exotic animal, you could be supporting the illegal exotic pet trade so be sure to do your research and only purchase from reputable breeders.


Diet

Shingleback Skinks are omnivores that eat a mixture of vegetables and protein, with minimal fruit. In the wild, they eat a variety of bugs, snails, flowers, and fleshy leaves. Under human care, they can eat many types of protein including pinky mice, mealworms, insects, turkey, chicken, and lean beef, as well as most vegetables. Their diets at the zoo include insects, vegetables, and fruits, as well as a mouse every other week.

Much like a snake, skinks will use their tongue to sniff out their prey by tasting the air and using their Jacobson’s organ to determine the location of their prey.

Skinks store fat reserves in their tails to use when food is scarce. They draw upon these reserves during the winter when they begin a hibernation-like period called brumation.


Habitat and Range

Shingleback Skinks live in Australia. They commonly live in semi-desert ecosystems with burrows. They also live in grasslands and shrublands and use leaf litter or logs to hide.

Skinks are ground-dwelling animals and typically use burrows to escape predators and the scorching heat. They bask in the sun early in the day to raise their body temperature, then move off to forage for food. They retreat to their shelter at the end of the day to sleep among leaf litter or under rocks and logs.


Common Physical Features

The Shingleback Skink is a large lizard reaching up to 12-18 inches long. They have a sturdily built body and relatively large head. Coloration differs from light brown streaks to earthy tones and darker coloration. The Shingleback Skink has a stumpy tail that is typically the same color as its body and closely resembles the head. Their scales are supported by bony plates called osteoderms that give them extra protection from predators. Their unique scales not only add extra protection, but also help the skinks blend in with their environment since they look just like pinecones!

Adaptations: Shingleback skinks have unique adaptations that allow them to catch prey and avoid predators. Just like their close relative, the blue-tongued skink, shingleback skinks also have a bright, blue- colored tongue. They use their tongues to sniff out prey, find mates, and escape from predators. Like other reptile species, shingleback skinks have a Jacobson’s organ in the roof of their mouth. They will stick out their tongue in order to pick up scent particles in the air or from the surface of objects. They will then bring those particles into their mouth to the Jacobson’s organ, which will process the information from the scents. This information can help find potential mates, prey, or predators.

Their blue tongue isn’t just for sniffing! Because they are not quick enough to escape potential predators, blue-tongued skinks will employ a few fascinating defense mechanisms. When threatened, shingleback skinks will open their mouths wide and stick out their bright, blue tongue. Bright colors in the wild tend to indicate that an animal is either poisonous or venomous, like our poisonous, brightly colored dart frogs. The shingleback skink is neither poisonous nor  venomous but uses its bright tongue to trick predators into thinking it is.

Shingleback skinks’ tails closely resemble their heads. This is a defense mechanism used to confuse their predators. If under threat, they will wiggle their tail to draw the attention away from their head. A shingleback’s tail is fat storage. Unlike many other skink species, shingleback skinks cannot drop their tail. If they lose their tail they will not be able to grow it back.


Behavior and Life Cycle

Shingleback Skinks are solitary lizards that only meet in the spring or winter to breed. Males are very aggressive and fight other males for a chance to breed. During copulation, they even tend to bruise females. Shingleback skinks are ovoviviparous which means that females will lay eggs inside their bodies. The eggs hatch inside the body and the mother will give birth to live young. The mother can then reabsorb all of the nutrients left behind from the eggs inside her body. After reproduction occurs, females will give birth to 2-3 live young 100 days later. Several days to a few weeks after birth, baby skinks will begin to explore on their own eating slow-moving insects and licking fruit when available. They take 3 years to mature.


Conservation Messaging

Purposeful Pet Ownership
Although a relatively large-sized lizard, shingleback skinks are incredibly docile and rarely bite unless threatened. This has made them quite popular in the pet trade. Many people don’t realize, however, just how much work goes into caring for reptile species. Reptiles require specific lighting, humidity, space, nutrients, substrate, heating, and if they do not receive the proper care then that reptile’s health can decline rapidly. It can be difficult to find veterinarians that are equipped to care for reptiles if they get sick.

By purchasing and owning an exotic animal, you could be supporting the illegal exotic pet trade. Oftentimes these exotic pets are taken out of their natural habitat to be sold in the pet trade, which can be detrimental to wild populations. One more exotic pet in captivity is one less animal in the wild which is resulting in species population numbers dropping drastically.

What can we do?: Be sure to fully research any pet before buying one. While you may think a reptile would make a cool pet, it’s important to know all of the care that goes into providing that animal with the best possible welfare, and as mentioned before reptiles require a lot of extra care. It is important to make sure that if you do buy an exotic pet that you are buying it from a reputable breeder, someone who knows how to properly care for the animal and hasn’t taken that animal from its natural habitat.

Do not release an unwanted pet into the wild. While you may think that you are doing something good by releasing the animal back into the wild, animals that have been kept under human care often do not know how to survive on their own out in the wild and could end up getting hurt or dying if left to their own devices.


Fun Facts

  • The Shingleback Skink goes by many nicknames, including the “Pinecone Skink”, “Lazy Skink”, and “Stumpy-Tailed Skink”.
  • Skinks may look like snakes, but they have external ear holes and eyelids which makes them lizards.
  • They are threatened by invasive species of feral cats and dogs in the wild.
  • Breeding pair bonds may last a lifetime—the male and
    female reunite each year during mating season but spend winters
    apart.

Bibliography

Angolan Python

NOTE: Education Animals are “behind-the-scenes” animals & only appear to the public during Educational events. This includes scheduled events or programs such as daily animal mingles, private onsite programs, and zoo reaches. For more information, please reach out to edureservations@lvzoo.org.


Program and General Information

Angolan pythons are a non-venomous, constrictor species native to the shrublands and rocky outcrops of Southern Angola to Namibia. They are a moderately sized snake ranging from 3-6 feet in length. These pythons are a reddish-brown to brown (almost black), overlaid with irregular white or cream bands and spots. Their belly is yellowish and their head is covered by a large, reddish-brown triangular marking bordered on the sides by creamy white, black- edged bands. Angolan pythons are carnivores and their diet consists of small mammals, birds, amphibians and insects. Not much is known about this snake, but October is thought to be peak breeding season. Angolan pythons are oviparous and lay small clutches of 4-5 eggs, which hatch after about 70 days.


Diet

Angolan pythons are carnivores. Their diet primarily consists of small mammals and birds, but will also prey on small amphibians and occasionally insects.

They are largely nocturnal preferring to hunt for their food at night. Angolan pythons have five heat sensitive pits on either side of their face allowing them to figure out the distance and direction of warm-blooded prey.


Habitat and Range

Angolan pythons are found in Southwest Africa from Southern Angola to Namibia. These snakes live in the scrublands, grasslands, and rocky areas limited to elevations between 2460 and 5250 feet above sea level.

Little is known about the python’s natural history in the wild due primarily to its isolation within its range, some of which has experienced war and political unrest. From what field observations have been done, Angolan pythons appear to prefer rocky outcrops and drier habitats. Precipitation is rare and populations will concentrate around whatever source of water they can find.

Angolan pythons can withstand extreme temperatures as high as 122 degrees Fahrenheit and as low as 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Because they live in such harsh environments, these snakes will often seek shelter in caves and rocky outcroppings. Bead-like scales help Angolan pythons retain moisture in their dry environments.


Common Physical Features

Since these snakes live in such a harsh environment and the political unrest and wars surrounding their native habitats make it difficult for researchers to reach them, little information is known about these snakes. The info that we do know is from what few field observations have been made throughout the years. Angolan pythons are a moderately sized snake that can grow up to 3-6 feet. Pythons and Boas, including Angolan pythons, have anal spurs, appearing on each side of the vent. These spurs are important for the mating process, aiding the snakes in clasping onto their mate. The spurs on males are generally longer than those on females.

Angolan python’s coloration form a type of camouflage called countershading where the upper side is dark in color and the underside is light in color.

Adaptations: Being primarily nocturnal hunters, Angolan pythons have adapted to hunt better at night. Above their lip they have heat-seeking pits, which are able to detect wavelengths of light in the infrared spectrum and the signal is processed visually, meaning, they are capable of seeing a thermal image of their surroundings giving them an advantage in hunting in the dark as well as seeking out refuges when temperatures are too hot or cold.

Snakes have an interesting way of sniffing out their prey items. Like other reptile species, Angolan pythons have a Jacobson’s organ in the roof of their mouth. They will stick out their tongue in order to pick up scent particles in the air or from the surface of objects.
Their tongues are forked at the end, splitting in two directions in a V-shape, allowing the snake to pick up scent particles from two different directions. When the tongue is brought into the mouth to the Jacobson’s organ, the organ will process the information and determine which side of the tongue the scents came from. This will inform the snake which direction to go to find that scent. (If it picks up the scent on the left fork, then it knows to go to the left. If it picks it up on the right, then it goes to the right. And then if it picks up the scent on both forks then it knows the scent is coming from straight ahead. )

Angolan pythons are ambush predators; they will sit and wait for their prey to come to them. Like other snakes, they do not have moveable eyelids. Instead, they have a special clear scale that covers the eyes, making them appear to be always awake. Not having eyelids allows the Angolan python to refrain from blinking and keep its cover when it is camouflaged. Once a prey is close enough, the Angolan python will grab the prey and wrap tightly around it.

They have powerful body muscles to squeeze and suffocate prey. Snakes have a highly flexible skull that allows them to swallow their prey whole. Contrary to popular belief, they do not actually unhinge/dislocate their jaws to swallow prey because there isn’t anything to actually unhinge/dislocate! A snake’s jaw is only loosely joined to its skull by ligaments, which allows the jaw to be solid enough to bite, but flexible enough to expand for swallowing. Once prey is inside the mouth, the snake alternate using the left and right sides of the upper and lower jaws to “walk” the prey to the back of the throat where powerful muscles will help force the prey down the rest of the body. To better visualize the movement of the jaw imagine laying on your stomach and crawling using your elbows and knees to move. That is similar to how the snake’s upper and lower jaws work to push the food into the mouth and down the throat.


Behavior and Life Cycle

Angolan pythons are oviparous, laying small clutches of 4-5 eggs. It is not known whether or not the females incubate the eggs as other pythons do. The eggs hatch after about 70 days, and hatchlings are between 10-17 inches long.

Hatchlings are independent from birth and mature around 3 years of age.


Conservation Messaging

Purposeful Pet Ownership
Although a decent sized snake, Angolan pythons are considered fairly docile. This has made them quite popular in the pet trade. Many people don’t realize, however, just how much work goes into caring for reptile species. Reptiles require specific lighting, humidity, space, nutrients, substrate, heating, and if they do not receive the proper care then that reptile’s health can decline rapidly. It can be difficult to find veterinarians that are equipped to care for reptiles if they get sick.

By purchasing and owning an exotic animal, you could be supporting the illegal exotic pet trade. Oftentimes these exotic pets are taken out of their natural habitat to be sold in the pet trade, which can be detrimental to wild populations. One more exotic pet in captivity is one less animal in the wild which is resulting in species population numbers dropping drastically. This is especially harmful for species like the Angolan python whose populations are already hard to get to and study because researchers may not be able to catch a decline in numbers as easily or quickly.

What can we do?: Be sure to fully research any pet before buying one. While you may think a reptile would make a cool pet, it’s important to know all of the care that goes into providing that animal with the best possible welfare, and as mentioned before reptiles require a lot of extra care. It is important to make sure that if you do buy an exotic pet that you are buying it from a reputable breeder, someone who knows how to properly care for the animal and hasn’t taken that animal from its natural habitat.

Do not release an unwanted pet into the wild. While you may think that you are doing something good by releasing the animal back into the wild, animals that have been kept under human care often do not know how to survive on their own out in the wild and could end up getting hurt or dying if left to their own devices.


Fun Facts

  • Angolan pythons are one of the rarest snake species in Africa. They are also known as Anchieta’s Dwarf Pythons.
  • Ecological Role of Reptiles: Snakes play an important role as both prey and predator in ecosystems all over the world. They can be very important in regulating the populations of pest species such as rodents which are common around human activity.
  • Angolan pythons are the national snake of Namibia.

Bibliography

Desert Iguana

Physical Description

Desert iguanas are typically 10-16 inches long and have a tail that is about 1 ½ times longer than the length of their body from snout to vent. They are pale, grey-tan to cream in color with a light brown reticulated pattern on their backs and sides.


Predators

Predators they may encounter include birds, foxes, and snakes.


Lifespan

Their average lifespan is 7-10 years though some have been known to live longer in human care.


Reproduction

During breeding season in early spring, the desert iguanas sides become pink colored in both sexes to show they are receptive to breeding. The female will lay 1 clutch of approximately 3-8 eggs which will hatch in early September and will not need any parental care.


Fun Facts

  • Desert iguanas are active during the day and are able to withstand extremely hot temperatures of even up to 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • They will burrow underground to hibernate during the winter when temperatures are too cold for them.

Conservation Messaging

In our Reptile and Amphibian (RAD) center you will find many different reptiles and amphibians including venomous and poisonous species of snakes and frogs. Many of these animals fall victim to habitat loss in the wild. Many of the species here are found in South American habitats which are subjected to deforestation, damming of rivers, water pollution, and poor agricultural and management practices.

Northern Copperhead

Physical Description

Northern copperheads have thick bodies with keeled scales and will grow to be 2-3 feet long. They have copper-colored heads and reddish-brown, copper bodies with chestnut brown crossbands. Heat sensing pits are found on each side of their face near their unusual eyes with vertical pupils.


Predators

Some predators they may encounter include birds of prey, coyotes, and raccoons.


Lifespan

Their average lifespan is 18 years.


Reproduction

The breeding season is typically April-May though there has also been reports of breeding in September. They are ovoviviparous, which means that the female produces eggs she carries and hatches internally and gives live birth. Their gestation will be 3-9 months with 2-10 snakes being born.


Fun Facts

  • Northern copperheads are considered social because they will hibernate in dens during the winter in large groups and will sometimes even bask in the sun in groups.
  • This species is venomous and produces hemolytic venom which causes red blood cells to breakdown; even right after birth, these snakes are capable of injecting venom with the same potency as adults.

Conservation Messaging

In our Reptile and Amphibian (RAD) center you will find many different reptiles and amphibians including venomous and poisonous species of snakes and frogs. Many of these animals fall victim to habitat loss in the wild. Many of the species here are found in South American habitats which are subjected to deforestation, damming of rivers, water pollution, and poor agricultural and management practices.

Amazon Tree Boa

Physical Description

The Amazon tree boa is a more slender snake that can reach lengths of 5-7 feet. They have a wide variety of colors and patterns which can include yellow, gray, red, tan, or black.


Predators

Predators they may encounter include the Harpy eagle and saddleback tamarins.


Lifespan

They live an average of 15-20 years.


Reproduction

This is a solitary species that typically only gets together during the mating season. They are ovoviviparous, which means that the female produces eggs she carries and hatches internally and gives live birth. Their gestation will be 6-8 months with 4-14 snakes being born.


Fun Facts

  • The Amazon tree boa is a non-venomous snake but is known for being very aggressive. They will often hang from trees in an S- shape in order to strike at prey.
  • They have heat sensing pits on each side of their face that they use to sense heat when hunting at night.

Conservation Messaging

In our Reptile and Amphibian (RAD) center you will find many different reptiles and amphibians including venomous and poisonous species of snakes and frogs. Many of these animals fall victim to habitat loss in the wild. Many of the species here are

found in South American habitats which are subjected to deforestation, damming of rivers, water pollution, and poor agricultural and management practices.

Matamata Turtle

Physical Description

Matamata turtles can grow to be 12-18 inches long and can weigh up to 27 lbs. Their heads and necks are large and flat with many protrusions and skin fringes, and they have fleshy jaws unlike other turtles. The carapace will typically be black or brown with some orange, be bumpy and rough, and have keels running down it.


Predators

This species doesn’t encounter too many predators because of their excellent camouflage and protective shells.


Lifespan

They have an average lifespan of 15 years, though some have been known to live into their 40’s.


Reproduction

Males will court the females by extending their head toward the females and open and close their mouths. The females will build nests near the edge of a forest and lay 12-28 eggs, which will incubate for around 200 days.


Fun Facts

  • These turtles are ambush predators that will spend long periods of time camouflaged on bottoms of muddy, slow-moving, shallow bodies of water.
  • They use their mouths like a vacuum to quickly suck in any prey that swims by and then expel water in order to just swallow their prey.

Conservation Messaging

In our Reptile and Amphibian (RAD) center you will find many different reptiles and amphibians including venomous and poisonous species of snakes and frogs. Many of these animals fall victim to habitat loss in the wild. Many of the species here are found in South American habitats which are subjected to deforestation, damming of rivers, water pollution, and poor agricultural and management practices.

Leopard Tortoise

Physical Description

Leopard Tortoises can grow to be 2 to 2.5 feet long and weigh around 28 lbs, though some have been known to weigh as much as 90 lbs. They get their name from the yellow and black patterns on their shells. These marking are more distinct in younger individuals because they fade as they age.


Predators

Because of their size and protective shell, they do not have many predators as adults. Eggs, however, will be preyed on by a wide variety of smaller predators.


Lifespan

On average, they can live anywhere from 75-100 years.


Reproduction

This species can get very aggressive during mating season when competing for mates. Females will dig a nest and lay 5-30 eggs which will incubate for 240-400 days.


Fun Facts

  • The leopard tortoise is the 4th largest species of tortoise in the world and the most widely distributed tortoise in Africa.
  • To avoid dehydration and excessive heat, they will burrow underground during hot or dry seasons and stay dormant until the weather improves and the rains return.

Conservation Messaging

The Leopard Tortoise is native to the arid savannas of Central and Southern Africa. While leopard tortoises are considered a species of least concern according to the IUCN Red List, they have been heavily exploited by the pet trade. Leopard tortoises are increasingly being bred in captivity, but many are still taken from the wild to be sold as pets. All animals, even tortoises, play an important role in their ecosystem and one more exotic pet in captivity is one less animal in the wild. The easiest way to ensure we’re not supporting the illegal pet trade is by just saying no to exotic animals as pets.

Spotted Turtle

Physical Description

Spotted turtles are semi-aquatic and grow to be 3-5 inches long. Their carapace is smooth and black with yellow spots. Males will have dark pigment on the hard portions of their jaws, while the females will have yellow coloring on their jaws.


Predators

Some of their most common predators are raccoons and muskrats.


Lifespan

This species has been known to live 30 years or more.


Reproduction

Spotted turtles begin breeding in mid-spring, when the males begin pursuing females. The female will search for a meadow or field to dig her nest where she will lay 3-7 eggs which will hatch in 70-80 days.


Fun Facts

  • Hatchlings will only have 1 spot on each scute, while adults will have over 100 spots.
  • Temperature during incubation determines what gender hatchlings will be. Warmer temperatures produce females, while cooler temperatures produce males.

Conservation Messaging

In our Reptile and Amphibian (RAD) center you will find many different reptiles and amphibians including venomous and poisonous species of snakes and frogs. Many of these animals fall victim to habitat loss in the wild. Many of the species here are found in South American habitats which are subjected to deforestation, damming of rivers, water pollution, and poor agricultural and management practices.

Western Pacific Pond Turtle

Physical Description

The western pacific pond turtle grows to be 4-6 inches long and will have a light to dark brown or olive carapace with lighter marbling patterns. They have webbed feet for swimming and long claws for digging in the mud.


Predators

Invasive species like bullfrogs and largemouth bass prey on hatchlings.


Lifespan

In the wild, their average lifespan is 50 years, but in human care, they have been known to live 40-80 years.


Reproduction

During the breeding season from May through August, males will court females by scratching the edge of the female’s carapace. Females will lay 3-12 eggs in June in a nest she digs on land. Hatching will occur in August to September.


Fun Facts

  • Some organizations have been using “head start” programs to help wild hatchlings grow large enough to escape invasive predators before they are released into the wild. This has been helping increase wild populations which are declining.
  • The western pacific pond turtle is the only native species of aquatic turtle in California.

Conservation Messaging

In our Reptile and Amphibian (RAD) center you will find many different reptiles and amphibians including venomous and poisonous species of snakes and frogs. Many of these animals fall victim to habitat loss in the wild. Many of the species here are found in South American habitats which are subjected to deforestation, damming of rivers, water pollution, and poor agricultural and management practices.