Animal Diaries Archive
Reptiles, hot and cold
24 November 2006
Reptiles have been kept in captivity since man stood up on two legs, scratched his back and cracked a stubby. But the question remains, have they always been looked after properly? Does their enclosure take into account all of the animals requirements?
There are many different species and subspecies of reptile found right the way round the globe. They are found on almost every continent, and inhabit some of the harshest environments that this magnificent planet has to offer, from the depths of the oceans and hot desolate sandy deserts, to densest jungles and the deepest darkest caves.
But just because reptiles inhabit all these areas, doesn’t mean they can be thrown in any old box and expected to thrive. It has taken many millions of years for each individual species to adapt or find its perfect environment. Think about it - if an animal could inhabit all climates there would be no need for distribution maps, as all species would inhabit all areas and therefore after millions of years would eventually be distributed over the whole continent.
Now obviously there are many small to large factors that make up the natural environment, and a book could be written on the topic, so I will focus on just one of these. HEAT.
Heat is an extremely important factor in the keeping of reptiles in captivity. Now there are just over 2700 species of snakes alone found around the planet. Some species of reptile sit comfortably at 28 degrees, while some lizards can bask at temperatures above 40 degrees and will do so for a few hours and then move into a cooler area down to about 27 to 30 degrees. Some reptiles don’t even like to get over 20 to 25 degrees and if they are kept too hot will die from heat stress, while at the other end, if heat-loving species are kept too cool they also will eventually become sick and die.
So how do we know exactly how hot or cool an enclosure is? What is the precise temperature gradient? Well we can find this out using one of these very handy pieces of equipment, a heat gun.
Point and shoot, it's as simple as that. If moved along a surface or branch in the enclosure, the gun provides a precise temperature; we then know exactly what is going on with the hot spot, cool spot and all temperatures inbetween, ensuring all our reptiles have their specialist heat requirements.
So there you have it - the heat gun is an extremely important tool for the wellbeing of all our best friends!