Enrichment for reptiles

Discussion in 'General Reptile Discussion' started by Iguana, Jan 4, 2018.

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  1. Iguana

    Iguana Well-Known Member

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    Curious on what peoples opinions are on 'enrichment' (enhancing the quality of captive animal care by providing the stimuli for psychological and physiological well-being) for captive reptiles, do you think they benefit from it?
    I feel lizards, especially monitors would, and i'm curious to hear if anyone uses 'enrichment' for their lizards, if so, what do you do?
    I'd like to maybe try and get my Pink tongue exploring his tank a little more, I change the setup every once and awhile but he eventually seems to get 'bored'.
    Any ideas/opinions on enrichment?
    Thanks!
     
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  2. Wally

    Wally Subscriber Subscriber

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    Outside time under the big light globe in the sky is what I like to do for my reptiles.
     
  3. Flaviemys purvisi

    Flaviemys purvisi Very Well-Known Member

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    Turtles definitely need a captive environment as close to their wild environment as possible. Without that natural stimulation they become bored and destructive and will literally start to disassemble their aquarium from the inside out. They also need to be taken outside for sunlight a minimum of 5 times/week for 30 mins.
     
  4. Imported_tuatara

    Imported_tuatara Well-Known Member

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    sounds like parrots. except parrots can fly and will destroy everything if pissed off badly, and make ungodly loud sounds.
     
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  5. Yellowtail

    Yellowtail Well-Known Member

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    Pythons are ambush predators that are happy to remain in a very small area provided they get heat and food.
    I don't keep turtles and lizards for that reason and monitors especially need a rich, large environment.
     
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  6. Flaviemys purvisi

    Flaviemys purvisi Very Well-Known Member

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    Turtles will tear basking docks apart, pull heaters off the glass, rip the suction cups up, pull the strainer caps off filter intakes, bite at and tear the silicon beads off the inside of an aquarium, etc... it's basically just displacement rage. They need to be kept as natural as possible and highly stimulated with a lot of aquatic plants, assorted pieces of driftwood, river sand substrate and a lot of aquatic tank mates like snails, fish, shrimps, blackworms, yabbies, etc.
    --- Automatic Post Merged, Jan 4, 2018, Original Post Date: Jan 4, 2018 ---
    My indoor turtles are kept as naturally as possible in 600 litre heavily planted aquariums.
    1388438339465.jpg 1388438413503.jpg

    My pythons are kept in sistema tubs on paper towel with an empty paper towel cardboard tube hide and a ceramic bowl for a water dish. Simple but all they require to be happy.
     
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  7. Yellowtail

    Yellowtail Well-Known Member

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    I used to breed black cockatoos and still have a few, they trash their environment if bored, turn 4 inch thick perches into wood chips in a few hours, throw bowls on the ground and can chew holes in aviary mesh.
    I spend a lot of time in the bush collecting fresh banksia cones and hakea nuts which keep them busy plus I feed them lots of whole almonds, pecans and walnuts that take mental and physical effort to crack open. This also keeps them quiet.
     
  8. MANNING

    MANNING MANNING

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    In my opinion, Murph has this-
    -covered perfectly:)
     
  9. Flaviemys purvisi

    Flaviemys purvisi Very Well-Known Member

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    Frogs probably aren't as demanding so I sort of go to a little trouble to give them a nice habitat with their basic needs met, a few vertical sticks for climbing, large area for soaking, a heated spot via a heat mat under one corner of the enclosure for them to regulate their body temp and a few large leafed plants to climb on and provide shelter.
    2013-11-15.jpg
     
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  10. Pauls_Pythons

    Pauls_Pythons Power Seller Power Seller

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    Thought about getting mine an iphone or a ps4 but couldnt work out the hands free controllers.
     
  11. Yellowtail

    Yellowtail Well-Known Member

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    iPhone X, tap it with their nose and facial recognition takes over, just have to train them to hiss hey Siri.
     
  12. Imported_tuatara

    Imported_tuatara Well-Known Member

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    they can make faces with poop emojis too...also could message you when they're hungry and want the iphone 100
     
  13. Flaviemys purvisi

    Flaviemys purvisi Very Well-Known Member

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    Just get them a few ladders... They can play snakes&ladders... ;)
     
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  14. Yellowtail

    Yellowtail Well-Known Member

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    They can look at photos of sexy snakes or cute rats.
     
  15. Imported_tuatara

    Imported_tuatara Well-Known Member

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    horny ones could look at snakes shedding.
     
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  16. Buggster

    Buggster Well-Known Member

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    No wonder my Stimmie is always trying to scroll through my phone when I have him and my phone out! He wants his own, obviously...

    And on a more serious note:
    For my Stimmie, I do change things up and let him have a roam around every few days. Giving him a range of perches, ground hides, arboreal hides and fake plants keeps him entertained.

    My Woma loves to burrow, and every few days I do destroy established tunnels so he is able to re burrow and make use of all the space.

    Diamond I leave alone. He’s crazy xD
     
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  17. Waterrat

    Waterrat Almost Legendary

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    Sorry mate but I totally disagree. It would be a long-winded explanation why, but if you're interested in my opinion read this:
    “Good behaviour! Behavioural enrichment in captive Green Tree Pythons” 2015 Scales & Tails, issue 41, May-2015
     
  18. Yellowtail

    Yellowtail Well-Known Member

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    I remember reading that article back then. I made the reference to pythons not needing a lot of space if their needs were catered for in a small area mainly in comparison to lizards (especially monitors) and turtles. My adult pythons are all in large cages, 1200 - 1800 wide, with hides and perches, heating by CHE at one end, large water bowl at the other. I do use newspaper on the floor as it is the only practical substrate with a large collection. I do not like tubs as favoured by many with large collections, I hear their arguments but cannot accept that any animal will be fulfilled spending it's entire life in a sterile tub. My few GTP's are in large cages up to 1800 high with 2 perches plus a diagonal branch from the floor and one or two large water bowls. I still use newspaper but dress the environment up regularly with fresh branches and new perches as in photos enc. They move around a lot at night and I often feed them near the floor.
    I do not enjoy the tropical climate you have so outdoor enclosures are not an option with these species, I do however keep my Diamonds in large aviaries that were formerly used for Black Cockatoos.
    DSCN5352.jpg DSCN5359.jpg IMG_1854.jpg
     
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  19. Nero Egernia

    Nero Egernia Subscriber Subscriber

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    Here's the link and article for those that don't have Scales & Tails. Good and interesting read.

    *****​

    "Good Behaviour!

    Behavioral enrichment in captive Green Tree Pythons.

    Michael Cermak is a firm believer that a ‘happy’ snake is a healthy snake, and that it is advantageous to promote natural behavior in captivity.

    Behavioral enrichment is nothing new – it has been implemented in zoos around the world for decades. However, it has rarely been applied to reptiles kept in private collections, particularly snakes. This may be because snakes’ behavioral patterns are not as complex as those of higher vertebrates, or perhaps due to the fact that they are more adaptable to captivity and less demanding, or simply because they normally don’t show any obvious signs of discomfort. When they do, it’s usually perceived to be as a result of health issues.

    Why have I chosen Green Tree Pythons as the subject for this discussion? I’ve chosen this species because they are often perceived as lazy, ‘ornamental’ snakes that just sit on a perch looking pretty, and also because, after working with this beautiful species for ten years, I’ve gathered a little bit of knowledge about their behavior. As many of you know, I live in tropical north Queensland where climatic conditions are almost identical to those at Iron Range, the home of Australian native GTPs. This allows me to keep my snakes in outdoor enclosures where they are exposed to natural conditions such as temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, photo-period, UV and variations in weather (including rain, breeze, wind and the occasional cyclone). The enclosures are landscaped with natural materials and incorporated into the design of our tropical garden. The way I approach GTP keeping can be labelled ‘applied ecology’, and this gives the snakes the opportunity to behave in a manner that is as close as possible to the wild (with obvious limitations). This has allowed me to make some interesting observations.

    Studies have suggested that female GTPs travel up to 65m in one night, and males up to 142m, although the averages are somewhat less. In any case, that’s a fair a bit of movement for a medium-sized python, and it needs to be emphasized that this occurs within a three-dimensional space (up into the trees as well as along the ground). While females have established home ranges of about 6.21ha, males don’t have stable home ranges at all; their movements conform to the ‘roaming strategy’. This fact aside, home ranges should not be confused with territories, although they are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Territorial animals defend their territories by physical defense (combat), chemical marking (scenting, urinating, defecating), visual marking (claw marks, digging), audible warnings (roaring, calling, singing), threatening displays (puffing up, etc.), or frequent patrolling of the borders. None of this behavior is exhibited by snakes, because snakes are not territorial. Also, territorial animals tend to be evenly distributed across the landscape, while snakes have a random (sometimes clustered) distribution. In captivity, snakes sometimes strike at a keeper’s hand when the enclosure is open. People will often say the snake is ‘cage defensive’, whereas in fact the snake is protecting itself, not the cage.

    So what does this tell us about wild GTPs? They are certainly not the lazy, ornamental snakes that some of their counterparts in captivity may suggest. In fact, they are quite an energetic species. Considering that they are the most arboreal of all Australian pythons, most of their movement consists of climbing and descending through complex, heterogeneous habitat – an activity that requires much higher energy output than travelling on flat ground. Why do GTPs (and most other species) move from A to B? There are a number of reasons: the search for food, suitable resting spots, potential mates or drinking water; as part of the process of thermoregulation; as a result of disturbance; predator avoidance, and possibly other reasons, none of which are relevant in captivity.

    In contrast, and by default, captive GTPs are confined to very small boxes, usually with relatively homogeneous interiors. They are also regularly fed, and mates are only introduced when the breeder decides it is appropriate. We could surmise that they have no incentive to move much at all. Regular feeding, usually once per week, entrenches our captives into a constant mode of digestion – yet another factor that induces inactivity. I find it particularly interesting and concerning that wild yellow juvenile GTPs travel the same distances as adult males (they don’t have established home ranges, which is a normal strategy for juvenile dispersal), yet we typically keep hatch-lings in tiny containers for fear that they would feel insecure in larger enclosures. I wonder if that has any implications on their subsequent development?

    The marked contrast between wild and captive GTPs begs a question; should we try to imitate natural conditions as much as possible, or should we not bother? After all, our ‘lazy slugs’ are OK; they eat, crap, slough and reproduce – what more do we want from them?

    There will never be a consensus on this issue and I have no intention to preach one way or the other. I also realize that there are constraints such as lack of space, and maintenance and set-up costs associated with naturalistic enclosures, together with problems creating thermal gradients in cooler climatic regions. However, I would like to share with you a few ideas that I have been putting into practice over the years.

    Snakes have their intrinsic instincts, but to trigger responses, they require stimuli. While I would not advocate attempting to simulate a natural disaster or a predator chase in an enclosure, there are less dramatic ways in which behavioral enrichment can be achieved with relatively little effort:

    • Making minor or major changes to the enclosure’s interior by either rearranging the ‘furniture’ or introducing new items. Rearranging can be undertaken during ‘big clean ups’ and adding items can be as easy and simple as placing a grass tussock, log, branch or live plant material into the enclosure at any time. Snakes instinctively investigate new objects, smells and shapes, resulting in increased activity.
    • Shifting the water bowl to a different part of the floor from time to time, provided this is permitted by the arrangement of the enclosure.
    • Frequently airing the enclosure – open windows and doors in the room, as well as the enclosure itself. Remember to keep a close eye on the inhabitants!
    • Feeding infrequently and at different times, and occasionally using different techniques; for example, using tongs, leaving (dead) prey in the enclosure (either on the floor or draped over a branch), teasing, etc.
    • Taking your GTPs outside (weather permitting) and letting them climb.
    • Putting slough from a different snake into the enclosure. This usually heightens curiosity, particularly in males.
    • Changing diet from time to time (mice, rats, chicks).
    In captivity GTPs, like any other snakes, become creatures of habit after a while and when deprived of the opportunity to exercise their natural behavior and express their instincts, their lives become stereotypical. Anyone who has seen big cats pacing along the fence in a zoo or elephants rocking from side to side would recognize this as being characteristic of boredom. Unfortunately, snakes don’t give such signs of boredom and so it’s easy to assume that they don’t suffer from this condition. Is it possible that diminished activity in captive snakes is, in itself, symptomatic of boredom?

    GTPs are a nocturnal species and we should not place any behavioral demands on them during the day – that includes handling. One thing that’s guaranteed to evoke a lot of exercise in GTPs is the opportunity to climb. To make such provision requires tall enclosures with several horizontal – but also some vertical – branches of different thicknesses. GTPs are canopy dwellers, well-adapted to climbing, and in my opinion not giving them the opportunity to climb is the same as keeping terrestrial species in tall cages full of branches and with limited floor space. My enclosures are spacious and landscaped, with ample room for the snakes to roam. Significantly, I’ve noticed that none of my GTPs kept outside ever hang their tails and they have never been constipated. Yet, if I bring them indoors, into standard enclosures, they often manifest these problems.

    Keeping and breeding GTPs has come a long way in recent years, with some astonishing advancements, but it seems to me that the style of keeping in this hobby is departing further and further from nature, with little regard for the snakes’ well-being. This is probably because a lot of reptile keepers perceive and treat their snakes as pets rather than wild animals, and a common explanation is that, ‘it was born in captivity, so it’s not wild’. That’s true, but natural instincts remain for generations (if not forever) in snakes, and my counterargument would be that captive-born snakes will survive in the wild if released. I have seen and handled long-term captives that felt like flaccid sausages of gross diameter and I have also seen wild GTPs that looked almost emaciated in comparison, but were fit to climb and travel long distances. I have no doubt that the wild snakes are also fitter in the Darwinian sense. I trust my snakes are ‘enjoying’ the conditions they are kept in; besides conveying considerable benefits to the animals concerned, providing behavioral enrichment also stimulates my interest beyond the day-to-day keeping and breeding."
     
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  20. Harry89

    Harry89 Active Member

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    I remember having this discussion on here somewhere before I purchased my little Roughie and was essentially told I'm an idiot, all because I didn't want him in a small plastic box. He has lots of places to roam and perch and has always been offered plenty of hides, hell he loves hanging out in a little hessian hammock I made up initially when the leaf insects were in there to collect their droppings!

    Like any animal, I feel they need more than four walls and a bowl. Everything is going back to the 'closer to nature' feel and really, that should be encouraged. I change up his logs and pot plants on occasion and often have to rummage around to find him as he looks for different places to curl up during the day and since I put the fake rock wall in the back he has been super active at night, I think they actually prefer to have something more stimulating. I do it for all my animals, reptiles and bugs alike, there is nothing wrong with trying to put in some effort to be a little humane, so I feel anyway...
     
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