Stream Netflix’s Back to the Outback: Dangerously Cute & Free this summer.
If you are thinking of bringing a pet in your family, the first thing that comes to your mind is probably a puppy or a kitten. Chances are you will consider buying from a breeder or visiting your local animal shelter to see if you meet someone special. Once you bring them home, you prepare yourself for months of chewing, peeing, spilling water, stealing shoes, scratching, bouncing, destroying the garden, cuddling, licking. face or purr.
It is estimated that 61 percent of Australian households have a pet. However, if you want to teach your kids about animals and give them responsibilities without having to deal with clutter and noise, there is another option. Have you ever thought about buying a pet reptile? Right now, around 40 percent of pet owners have dogs and 27 percent have cats, but 2 percent have reptiles and that number is growing.
Chad Staples, Director of Life Sciences at Featherdale Wildlife Park, has worked with animals large and small since 1997. He has encountered thousands of animals throughout his career – some cute and cuddly, others scaly and wavy. – and he says there’s a lot to like keeping not-so-furry friends as pets.
“A lot of it has to do with space,” he says. “People live in apartments and townhouses, they have smaller backyards, so it’s less and less possible to keep cats or dogs. There aren’t as many people keeping aviaries for birds either, but aquariums or reptile enclosures can easily be kept indoors.
The list of benefits is long: Reptiles don’t eat every day, they’re very clean, and they’re quiet. Sure, they can be a little intimidating at first, but Chad says they’re absolutely fascinating once you get to know them.
“They might seem a little cold at first – it sounds like a pun – because they’re not hot and fuzzy, but that doesn’t make them any less interactive,” he says. “The recognition depends on the animal, but it recognizes the behaviors and it definitely learns the routine. As long as we make sure their interactions with us are positive, it’s a great experience. The more time you spend with them, the more you will benefit from them.
So where to start ? The most common reptiles that people adopt are snakes, lizards, and turtles.
One species isn’t necessarily easier than the others, but Chad says there are many ways to be successful. First of all, that means investing in an enclosure with a thermostat and a heat source – which will ensure that your cold-blooded friend is always warm, happy, and healthy.
“It takes the guesswork out of it,” he says. “Research the type of reptile that interests you and make sure the habitat will be suitable. The more it happens on its own, the better. A thermostat will make sure it’s neither too hot nor too cold – it really relieves kids when they are taking care of it.
Chad recommends choosing something that won’t get too big too quickly. Choose something with a calmer temperament, to make sure it’s the kind of animal that will accept being held, and avoid any reptiles coming from a complicated environment that will be difficult to breed at home. An easy place to start is to find reputable breeders in your area who will be able to help you with any issues.
At work, he says there are a few reptiles that always elicit funny reactions from kids. For example, there is something fascinating about snakes by nature. It’s natural to assume they’re poisonous if you don’t know what species is in front of you, which opens up some very important conversations, and they all love to look at the size of big pythons. And, of course, they all love to watch crocodiles.
If Chad had to pick a favorite reptile, however, he says it would be the shingle lizard.
“It’s always been fascinating,” he says. “It’s very easy to get people to interact with them, even if they are a little afraid of reptiles. The tail and the body shape are interesting, and there are a few interesting facts to point out that help people get on board. Any animal can bite if threatened or frightened, but it is very calm. Those who have been around people, they are very calm, so it’s a species that I appreciate.
One more thing to keep in mind is that you should never go near a wild animal. If you see a reptile in your garden or local nature reserve, you should either leave it alone or call an expert to come and move it for you. Don’t assume he’s friendly and never take him home and adopt him as a pet. If you are considering adopting a reptile, find reputable breeders or pet stores in your area and go from there.
Back to the Outback is in select theaters in December and streaming on Netflix from December 10.