Reptiles, great pets for kids

24 Jul

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By Rhiannon Raphael, Bond University journalism student

Native Australian reptiles are a great low-maintenance pet for kids and having one can help to protect our natural environment, experts say.

Many of the breeders, specialists and business-owners who attended the annual Gold Coast Reptile Expo last Saturday at the Parklands Showgrounds in Southport agreed that more Australians should consider keeping native reptiles as pets.

Dionne from Wild Rangers Wildlife Encounters said that reptiles make great low-maintenance pets for young kids.

“Obviously kids need to be supervised around any kind of animal,” she said, “but reptiles are a good option for the little ones.”

“Lizards are very docile and they’re less work than dogs; all you need to give them is heat, water and somewhere to hide.”

“They don’t need to be fed and walked every day.”

Ben, a snake-breeder at Xtreme Reptiles, says that snakes are more popular than cats now because they are so easy to care for.

“They need enclosures with warm and cool areas, and to be fed and cleaned once a week,” he said.

“You’re looking at about an hour of work each week.”

Ben said that kids can really enjoy keeping a snake as a pet, because snakes have just as much personality as a cat or dog.

“It comes across very strongly when you care for them,” he said.

“It’s in the way they behave towards you and what they do inside of their enclosure.”

“They’re amazing to watch at night because that’s when they go into predator-mode and really come alive.”

Gary and Tam would like to get a native reptile for their son Matthew’s first pet.

“It gets them used to the native wildlife and teaches them to have respect for the environment,” said Tam.

“Those are good lessons for young kids- especially living in Australia.”

Wally the lace monitor has been Michelle’s pet for years.

“He lives in our house, walks around freely and sleeps in a bed with our staffy Axel,” she said.

“He’s a part of the family.”

Rebecca who works at Australian Wildlife Apparel said that if people want to get a native animal for a pet they must make sure they do it the right way, by using the licensing system and making sure the animal wasn’t poached.

“If we make an effort to be closer to the animals in our backyard, we’ll not only be educating ourselves but also our families and friends,” she said.

“This would help promote a better relationship between Australians and our environment.”

Gabrielle Latta is a volunteer at Australian Freshwater Turtles, a charity focused on conservation and providing care for pet turtles.

She said that keeping a native animal as a pet is the best way to get involved in conservation.

“You are more likely to care about something when it’s right in front of you.”

Gabrielle said that native animals should not be bought from pet shops, because customers are often given the wrong information about the living conditions they need to provide for their pets.

“When pet shops stock specialist types of animals it is unreasonable to expect staff to be experts,” she said.

“That’s why the only way native pets should be bought is from specialist breeders.”

Michelle said that most reptiles are easy to look after as long as you do your homework.

“They are very low-maintenance; but each species has its own requirements,” she said.

Gabrielle said that you should know how big an animal will grow and be familiar with its environment and feeding requirements before deciding to buy one.

“Google is a wonderful tool for self-education these days,” she said.

“Don’t jump in and don’t impulse-buy from pet shops.”

Caption: Michelle and her pet lace monitor

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