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1 JOURNAL OF THE VICTORIAN HERPETOLOGICAL SOCIETY POST PRINT APPROVED PP MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December, 2000 VOL. 11 No. 1 December, 2000 $10.00 Aust. 1

2 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December,2000 Monitor Journal of the Victorian Herpetological Society Vol 11(1) December, 2000 VHS Committee President: Simon Watharow Secretary: Peter Mantell Treasurer: Steven Comber Executive: Doug Wintle Executive: Scott Eipper Monitor ISSN Editor/Producer Simon Watharow Asst Editors Ray Hoser, Peter Mantell, Steven Comber and Scott Eipper. Monitor is published by The Victorian Herpetological Society Inc, Copyright Apart from any fair dealing, as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced or stored by any process with out permission. Enquires should be directed to VHS secretary. Any views or opinion are entirely those of the relevant author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Victorian Herpetological Society Inc. CORROSPONDENCE Editor PO Box 1016, Research, 3095, Victoria Secretary of VHS Po Box 523, Somerville, Victoria PHONE: Emal: CONTENTS My Say by Barbatus 2 3. A Record of Albinism in Lowland copperhead (Austrelaps superbus) by Steven llwellyn. 4 5 A Breeding History of a Captive Children s Python, (Antaresia childreni) by Neil Sonneman 6 8 The Thick Tailed Gecko (Underwoodisaurus milli) in Captivity by Steven Comber The Swamp Skink (Egernia coventryi) A Review of the Biology and status - by Nick Clemann Egg Incubation and Juvenile Dispersal of Eastern Brown Snakes (Pseudonaja textilis) - by Simon Watharow How Much Can A Bearded Bare? Multiple clutches in Bearded Dragon Pogona vitticeps by Peter Mantell PHOTOS Observations of the Black Snake Genus (Pseudechis) in Captivity by Scott. C. Eipper Croakings - by Hopper Whats News Mate HerpHealth by Brendan Carmel HerpTips by Tigger 40 Book Review by Mike Swan Membership form 43 Photo Cover: Spotted Black Snake (Pseudechis guttatus). Photo Ray Hoser Back Cover. Thick Tailed Gecko (Underwoodisaurus milli), Bendigo region, Victoria. Photo Simon Watharow Photos are captioned with author, where no name is given the editor is the photographer. Articles can be submitted to VHS enquire via PO Box 1016, research 3095 Victoria or Photos are continually sought for the journal. If you wish to contribute photos in slides or print form please contact the editor. 2

3 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December, 2000 My Say By Barbatus We particularly would like to encourage new authors. After a year spent dormant the Victorian Herpetological Society has emerged with a new committee and perspective. It is our aim to rebuild the membership and continue to produce the best herpetological journal in Australia. Also to encourage the further positive advances in herpetoculture and conservation of herpetofauna in Australia. Brian Barnett has been in charge of the VHS since 1977 with a few years off in between. This is obvious to many of us who have been in the group for a long period of time. He has clearly invested a lot of his time and experience into the society. How many people have rang Brian for help, contacts or his opinion? The committee has unanimously awarded the life membership to Brian and Lani Barnett, for their contributions and dedication to herpetology and the Victorian Herpetological Society. Putting this monitor together was a challenge and required help from numerous people. Ray Hoser has given me much help with help how to use the magazine production software. In addition I have used some of his photos to supplement the articles. I will further be seeking other interested photographers work to display in the upcoming journals. I have produced this journal at another publishing firm to reduce the cost of previous productions by excessive left over issues. Quality has been downgraded to save nearly 9,000 dollars a year on production. Avenues will be explored to upgrade the magazine the following year. Other news from the society committee meeting room include designing and planning an up to date website which will include herp photos, field trips and basic husbandry etc. A new logo is also been drawn up to be used as a letter head and for business cards etc. The August meeting went very well, with around 160 people that turned up to hear two excellent speakers. I thank James Smith (Life History of Bearded Dragons) and Russell Grant (Python Breeding and Husbandry) for donating their time for the two talks. The live displays were a success and are intended for all future events. Followed by the December meeting which we again had a solid turn out 120 people who listened to Rodent production for a food source by Mr. Stephen Marshall and Keeping reptiles happy by Dr. Jim Greenwood. VHS thanks both these excellent speakers for their time. The new venue has received a thumbs up. The Knox City Council Building provides greater access to climate control, slide projectors, refreshments and a warmer atmosphere. It also allows the use of live animals, which are an excellent benefit to the meeting. The new committee Peter Mantell (Secretary), Steven Comber (Treasurer), Doug Wintle (Exec Comm) and Scott Eipper (Exec Comm) have exceeded expectations and continue to dedicate much of their time to the VHS. Lastly I am aware that my first year as President will be a year spent learning the ropes of managing the society. As such mistakes will be mostly the result of organisational inexperience. I hope that this will be understood by VHS members and a little tolerance shown. We intend to produce Monitor in this format with some changes and experimentation, as ever the input from you to is crucial. pound the Call ears and of comment many herps on issues for stories that are and articles. important to you. We have started to get articles coming from all over Australia and will continue Yours in Herps President of the VHS Simon Watharow 3

4 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December,2000 A RECORD OF ALBINISM IN THE LOWLAND COPPERHEAD (Austrelaps superbus). Steven Llewellyn 8 Maria Drive, Langwarrin, Victoria, 3910, Australia. Phone: INTRODUCTION I present information on the first record of an albino Lowland Copperhead. This sub adult snake was collected on a snake call in Wheelers Hill, Victoria on the 3 rd of May, Snake visits around premises can be due to nearby land clearing or habitat disturbance. Alternatively, foraging behaviour, use of shelter sites or seasonal breeding movement e. g. mate searching in males (Watharow, 1999 and pers. obs). Licensed snake controllers from around the Melbourne areas routinely remove 300 or more snakes a year from various city and suburban residences (Watharow, 1997 and 1999). No current records exist for albinism in Lowland Copperhead (Austrelaps superbus). Australian albino snakes have been seen in elapids Swamp snake (Hemiaspis signata), Eastern Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatus), Boidae Olive Python (Liasis olivaceus) and Carpet Python (Moreila spilota variegata), (Bedford, 1993; Hoser, 1999 and Swanson, 1999). The Lowland Copperhead (Austrelaps superbus) is the most common snake seen and removed from South - Eastern Melbourne Metropolitan region and still has good populations in suburbia. Habitats favoured are usually well watered grasslands or paddocks of tussock grass (Juncus spp, Isolepis spp and Poa spp). Creek banks, dam walls, watercourses including drains, lake margins. But this snake also occurs in moist areas of heathlands, basalt plains and woodland regions (Watharow, 1997; 1999 and pers. obs). DISCUSSION The scalation data in table 1 is consistent with the known scalation of A. superbus. The condition of the snake upon capture appeared normal and the temperament placid. Colouration was a very light tan on the body and an almost cream coloured head, eyes were distinctively pinkish. Upon further inspection I found eight puncture wounds along the sides of the body and one puncture wound to the left eye. Four of the puncture wounds (2 on each side) appear to be the upper and lower canines of a small mammal carnivore. Together with type of environment (urban) the puncture wounds would appear to be consistent with the jaws of a young cat (Triggs, 1997). These injuries I believe, later contributed to the snake s death. REFERENCES Cogger, H.G. (2000). Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia. (6th Ed) Reed Books, Sydney. 775pp Coventry, A.J. and Robertson, P. (1991). The Snakes of Victoria. Department of Conservation and Environment: East Melbourne 70 pp. Triggs, B. (1997). Tracks, Scats and Other Traces a field Guide to Australian Mammals. Oxford University Press, Melbourne. p Watharow, S. (1997). Ecology of Eastern Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatus) and Lowland Copperhead (Austrelaps superbus) within Metropolitan Melbourne. Monitor Journal of Victorian Herpetological Society 8 (3): Watharow, S. (1999). Aspects of Mortality and Natural History in Elapid Snakes from Melbourne, Australia. Monitor Journal of Victorian Herpetological Society Vol 10 (2/3): Watharow, S. (1999). Snake Control and The Benefits for Translocated Snakes. Monitor Journal of Victorian Herpetological Society Vol 10 (2/3):

5 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December, 2000 RESULTS Date: Wednesday 3 rd of May Time: 5.00 pm (GMT AEST). Address: Leon Street, Wheelers Hill, 3150, Victoria. Weather: 15 Celsius, overcast, Light drizzle. Location: The property has an incline slope, SW aspect and is within 400 metres of Jells Park, Wheelers Hill. Habitat: Suburban backyard, creeper growing over back fence several 2 metre shrubs with tall grass underneath bordering the rear fence. Table 1. Physical data on sub adult Albino Lowland Copperhead Austrelaps superbus removed from a residence in Wheelers Hill. SVL TVL WT Anal Sub 416mm 81mm 28gm single 45 single Caudals Ventrals Mid Bodies Photo 1. Albino sub adult Lowland Copperhead (Austrelaps superbus), removed from Wheelers Hill. 5

6 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December,2000 A BREEDING HISTORY OF A CAPTIVE CHILDRENS PYTHON (Antraesia childreni). Neil Sonnemann RMB 2310 Murmungee, Victoria, 3747 INTRODUCTION The following is an account of the captive breeding history of an adult female Childrens Python (Antaresia childreni), between 1984 and Purchased as an adult in December 1984, it has a distinctive scar at midbody and a dark blotched pattern. It is believed to have originated from the top end, Northern territory population. To date this female has produced 98 eggs in 11 clutches. MATERIALS and METHODS At present (October, 2000) it is gravid once again and expected to produce another clutch. Husbandry over the years has been straightforward and uneventful with regards to health problems. Handling is minimal and only for cage cleaning Housing consists of a wooden cage with a glass-fronted door heated by one white 40-watt incandescent globe connected to a room thermostat. Cage temperatures range from 17 deg C in winter to 36 deg C in summer. Daytime heating hours is varied according to the season. No heating is used at night, with cage temperatures falling to ambient room temerature. The cage is quite small, length 60cm, width 40cm and height 30cm. Fine aquarium gravel is used as a substrate, the only other furnishings are a water bowl and a hiding spot in the form of a piece of bark. Water is changed weekly using a fresh disinfected water bowl. Food consists of adult fresh or frozen (thawed) mice on demand. No specific feeding regimens used, the snake generally refuses food from April/May until after egg laying in Sept/Nov. The eggs are removed after laying and artificially incubated at deg C. Following a substrate change to remove the nest odour, the female resumes feeding in Spring and is then offered as much as it will eat until the following autumn. Feeding records are not available but about three adult mice are fed in one meal whenever the snake will eat, at the end of the summer the female is in what could be described as fat condition and has replenished fat reserves used in egg production. Health problems have been virtually non existent, no anti biotics have been used and skins usually sloughed in one piece. Routine worming was done on arrival using Lopatol (Dog worming tablets) DISCUSSION Between the years 1987 and 1999, a total of 98 eggs were laid. Of which 97 were fertile and 95 hatched. A hatch rate of 98% this is considered exceptional as in other clutches of Childrens Python there is considerable variation in hatching rates of successive clutches (Sonnemann in prep. Clutches usually consist of some infertile eggs and a proportion of fertile eggs will die during incubation. The clutches produced by this female have been most fertile and nearly all eggs hatched successfully. The same male was used to produce all clutches (CP Greg), Photo 1. Enclosure used for Scar female Childrens Python (A.childreni). Photo: Neil Sonneman 6

7 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December, 2000 obtained as an adult in 1984 and still looking good. No clutches were produced for the first two years, possibly due to the female settling in to the new environment. Initially clutch sizes were small but increased in the number of eggs per clutch in recent years, ranging from five eggs in 1988 to 12 eggs in The reason for this is unknown, but may reflect better nutrition in later years. Dates of laying range from 21 September in 19991, to 28 November in A spread of nine weeks possibly due to varying cage temperatures, as the dates of introduction of the male was similar in all years. Eggs were incubated at a range of deg C and averaged 52.8 days to hatching. The shortest incubation period was 48 days and the longest was 64 days. The female is housed on its own apart from the introduction of the male for short periods during winter. I believe this to be the main reason for its longevity and fecundity as stress is a major factor in mortality of captive reptiles. The female is quite secretive and hides mostly under the bark, only coming out to feed and bask under the light. Whilst some breeders regard breeding females year after year to be detrimental to their health, resulting in burnt out. The past three clutches have been excellent in terms of number of eggs and percentage hatched. Given adequate nutrition to replenish fat reserves lost in egg production. It appears A. childreni can be an annual breeder in captivity. At present the female is lying upside down under the bark carrying another clutch of eggs. Now and again an animal comes along that seems to live forever and produces clutches of eggs. This female has now been in captivity for 16 years and was an adult when obtained. Assuming an age of at least 3 4years at adult size, this snake could be around 20 years of age. Photo 2. Childrens Python (Antaresia childreni) called Scar in gravid inverted posture typical for this species and most pythons. 7

8 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December,2000 Table 1. Details the reproductive events of a Children s Python ( ) total of 11 clutches. Year No No Date Hatched Date Incubation (d) Eggs Fertile Laid No Hatched Duration Nov 5 10 Jan Nov Nov 5 15 Jan Sept 9 10 Nov Nov 7 31 Jan Oct Nov Nov Dec Nov 9 3 Jan Oct Dec Oct Dec Oct Dec 49 TOTALS Av Photo 3. Scar basking to incubate eggs. Photo Neil Sonneman. 8

9 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December, 2000 THE THICK - TAILED GECKO (Underwoodisaurus milii) IN CAPTIVITY Steve Comber PO Box 523, Somerville, Victoria 3912 INTRODUCTION The Thick - tailed Gecko is a large terrestrial gecko widespread across southern Australia. Often called the Barking Gecko, in reference to its characteristic defensive call, this is one of the most vocal Australian geckos. It is generally dark purplish brown, with lateral surface markings and small white spots arranged in transverse rows or zones (Photo 2). Often found in mallee areas, it is most common in rocky habitats where it utilises a variety of different retreatsites depending on the time of year including loose surface rock, deep crevices and burrows (Photo 3.). It is important to observe their natural habits of any gecko before attempting to restrict them to a small cage. The intentions of this paper are to inform the novice keeper on the care and maintenance of this species, hopefully lead to the reproduction of one of Australia s spectacular geckos. HOUSING I house most of my Thick - tailed Geckos in standard 61 cm (24 inch) aquariums (Photo 1.). The majority of my terrestrial geckos are housed in aquariums, I find aquariums have many benefits. For instance, after the females have laid their eggs I do not have to blindly dig to locate them. This is because most species dig their laying chamber as deep as possible enabling the eggs to be easily located from underneath the aquarium. I find this important when the enclosure has a complete covering of substrate. Another advantage is that because it is glass, no matter how much water is sprayed the enclosure is unaffected. I Photo 1. Enclosure design, an aquarium with soil and sand medium and paving bricks for shelter sites. Used for housing Thick - tailed Geckos (Underwoodisaurus milli) by author. Photo Steven Comber 9

10 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December,2000 No lids are necessary to cover the aquariums because the animals are unable to clime out. Having open tops reduces noise and commotion during feeding time, which often causes the geckos to retreat, and of course provides maximum ventilation. The substrate of my Thick tailed Gecko enclosure is a mixture of peatmoss and sand at a depth of approx. 50mm. I also use fine desert sand in a couple of enclosures, which is just as successful. Flat paving bricks separated by small by small square pieces of wood, provide steady refuge crevices (Photo 1). Two crevices are present, one where the geckos can retreat under the bottom brick to the glass surface as a cool retreat, and one between the two bricks. This provides adequate space for various geckos to avoid each other if desired and provides a temperature gradient. All the bricks can easily be removed allowing total access to all geckos at any time. Generally I house my Thick - tailed geckos in pairs, however I have successfully housed them as one male to two females. In the wild these lizards actively form aggregations and probably have a complex social structure (Kearney in press). Unfortunately the geckos are not exposed to natural light cycles, however the natural cycle is closely mimicked LIGHTING and HEATING utilising a 40w fluorescent tube connected to a digital timer located above the enclosures. During the night the room is lit by a 25w blue globe located on the ceiling. Although geckos have good night vision, I feel that all my geckos benefit from the dim light produced during their active period, aiding them in locating their food items. Other reptile cages in the room raise the ambient temperature considerably. Due to the thick tailed geckos being easily heat stressed, thy are housed at the lowest level within the room. This also enables me to control the heat more easily, and they experience lower temperatures during the winter months. Throughout the summer months the air temperature in the top crevices ranges between c, dropping to the mid to low 20 s throughout the night. The geckos can escape this heat by retreating to the lower crevice to lay on the bare glass. However, the above temperatures seem to be comfortable for them. In the winter months I let the temperatures drop quite low, especially during the night, trying to keep them as natural as possible. The day temperatures still reach up to around 18 c but drop as low as 9 c over the night period. Thick tailed geckos have been observed active in the field with a body temperature of 8 c Photo 2. Thick Tailed Gecko (Underwoodisaurus milli) with regenerated tail in captivity. 10

11 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December, 2000 Photo 3. Typical habitat for Thick - tailed Geckos (Underwoodisaurus milli) in granite rock outcrops in Victoria. (M. Kearney pers. comm.) A strip of self regulating heat tape (8w/ft) runs along the underneath of the front edge of the cage. Individual bricks are placed directly above the heat tape to spread the heat to a mild, even temperature. This raises the brick temperature approximately 4-5 c above the maximum air temperature. The bricks also play a role in preventing egg deposition directly on the heat tape. The geckos quite regularly lie on these bricks during the night, especially after feeding, most importantly when females are gravid they spend a lot of time laying flat on the warmth. This behaviour has been observed in the field on the warm rocks heated by the day s sun ( S.Comber and M. Kearney, pers. obs). The heat tape is on all night throughout September to March, for an hour after dark during April and August, and is switched off completely during May, June and July. FEEDING The main diet is a combination of appropriate sized cockroaches and crickets dusted with Rep Cal calcium and Rep Cal Herptivite. Moths and spiders, as large as Huntsmans are also taken. Hatchlings and young animals are fed the same diet as the adults with the addition of flies. Feeding is carried out while the geckos are active. The females seem to dominate during feeding, so it s important to see all individuals eat, however males don t consume as much as the females. The cage is lightly sprayed one to two times a week leaving plenty of water droplets from which the geckos often lick. A small shallow water bowl is always present but is rarely used. Thick - tailed Geckos are easily sexed due to the obvious hemipenal bulges at the base of the male s tails. the hemipenal bulges are only obvious beyond 6-12 months of age. Prior to this sexes can be distinguished by the shape of the region between the vent and the tail see Diagram 1. Females can lay up to three clutches per season. The first clutches are laid during mid October with the second clutch around 50 days later. I have observed matings in late August and throughout September. Matings can last up to 45 minutes. Upon finishing, the male seems to clean the hemipenes by licking and biting them, which can last up to ten minutes. Once a female is gravid she will not let any male mate her until she lays. I have had females lay at two years of age but the eggs have failed to hatch, however eggs laid in their third season are usually successful. While the females are gravid their food intake slightly increases but refuse food within 6-8 days prior to oviposition. From this time onwards I spray one corner of the cage to keep it moist. The female digs a few test burrows one or two nights prior to laying until the eggs are deposited and the burrow filled back in. Eggs are also often deposited within the lower crevice. INCUBATION The eggs are artificially incubated in a mixture of medium grade vermiculite and water (60g : 55ml) in a sealed container. The container is aired once weekly to supply the eggs with fresh air. The temperature ranges between c, at this temperature the eggs hatch in 64days BREEDING 11

12 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December,2000 Diagram 1. Female ventral surface, note: The large gap between the vent and tail base. Diagram 2. Male ventral surface, note: Vent area is smaller and compressed. (±4days). The eggs are quite large measuring an average size of 24mm x 13mm, and with all the pairs of eggs I have hatched there has been a 1:1 ratio of males to females. HATCHLINGS Hatchlings slough their skin within their first seven days and begin to feed keenly. They are raised with their siblings and maintained and housed in the same conditions as the adults, using smaller cages. ACKNOWLEGEMENTS I thank Peter Comber, Brian Barnett and Michael Kearney for their knowledge and encouragement. REFERENCES Greer, Allen E The Biology and Evolution of Australian Lizards. Surrey Beatty & Sons G.M. Storr, L.A. Smith, R.E. Johnstone, Lizards of Western Australia 111. Western Australian Museum, Perth, Western Australia. Barnett, B Artificial Incubation of Snake Eggs. Monitor 1(2):31-39 Porter, R Captive Breeding and Maintenance of Tryon s Velvet Gecko (Oedora tryoni) Dactylus Vol.3 No.3 Kearney, M., R. Shine, S. Comber, and D. Pearson. In press. Why do geckos group? An analysis of social aggregations in two species of Australian lizards. Herpetologica. Kearney, M. (in press) Postural thermoregulatory behavior in the nocturnal lizards Christinus marmoratus and Nephrurus milli (Gekkonidae). Herpetological Review. 12

13 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December, 2000 (This article will also appear in Crocodillian) The SWAMP SKINK Egernia coventryi: A REVIEW of The BIOLOGY AND STATUS. Nick Clemann Fauna Ecology Section Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research Department of Natural Resources and Environment PO Box 137 Heidelberg, VICTORIA 3084 INTRODUCTION The Swamp Skink Egernia coventry is a threatened and apparently declining skink occurring in southeastern Australia. The following is a review of the biology and status of this species in Victoria. The Swamp Skink (Figure 1) is a medium-sized skink with a snout-vent length of about 100mm (Cogger, 2000). It occurs mainly near the coast in south-eastern Australia. Within Victoria, the Swamp Skink occurs across the southern parts of the state, with isolated populations recorded along the coast from East Gippsland to the South Australian border (Atlas of Victorian Wildlife database; Figure 2). Relatively few inland populations have been recorded, although records exist for localities including the Grampians Ranges National Park, Enfield State Forest south-west of Ballarat, Yellingbo and East Gippsland (Smales 1981; Clemann and Beardsell, 1999 and Atlas of Victorian Wildlife database). A very small population was recently discovered in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne (Clemann, in press). Prior to 1978 the Swamp Skink was known as the Mourning Skink (Egernia luctuosa), which is now known to occur only in southern Western Australia. In 1978 the Swamp Skink was defined as a species outright, and named after A. J. Coventry, Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians at Museum Victoria (Storr, 1978). Because most early specimens were captured in traps set overnight for small mammals, the Swamp Skink was once considered nocturnal. Work by Robertson, (1980) greatly increased our knowledge of the Swamp Skink, and it is now known to be a diurnal, basking species. It is active from early September to early May when daily temperatures exceed about 18 0 C. HABITATS The Swamp Skink inhabits wetlands or swampy heaths with dense vegetation, including both freshwater and saltmarsh habitats (Robertson 1980; Smales, 1981; Schulz, 1985 and Clemann, 1997). In freshwater habitats, dominant plant species typically include Paperbarks, Tea-tree, reeds, sedges, and tussocks. In saltmarsh habitats, dominant plant species typically include Beaded Glasswort, Saltbush, rushes and tussock grasses. Within these habitats, the Swamp Skink frequently basks on fallen timber, litter and flood wrack, or in sedges and tussocks where it also forages. It shelters in burrows of its own construction, or those of yabbies and crabs, as well as beneath rocks and logs, or the base of tussocks and sedges (Taylor undated; Robertson 1980; Schulz, 1985 and Clemann, 1997). TRAPPING Due to the shyness of the Swamp Skink, and the dense vegetation it typically inhabits, it is notoriously difficult to detect and capture using traditional techniques. Pitfall trapping is usually inappropriate in wetlands because the pits fill with water, and there is often few rocks and logs to roll to reveal sheltering individuals. Most of the early specimens were captured in Elliott traps set for small mammals, and the use of these traps has become standard during surveys for Swamp Skinks. These traps have traditionally been baited with a mixture of rolled oats, peanut 13

14 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December,2000 butter and honey, although recent investigations have shown that the use of fish baits may be more successful (Clemann et al, 1998 and Clemann and Beardsell, 1999). A recent study (Clemann in press) has shown, however, that Elliott traps do not guarantee captures of Swamp Skinks, even when the lizards are basking within about 5 cm of the traps. DIETARY The Swamp Skink is principally carnivorous and feeds on a variety of small invertebrates, including cockroaches, beetles, flies, moths, caterpillars, snails and spiders; to a lesser extent it also consumes small amounts of plant material and, occasionally, small skink species (Robertson 1980; Schulz 1992; Douch and Clemann, 1997). BREEDING and BEHAVIOUR The Swamp Skink is viviparous (produces live young), producing one to six (usually about three) young in late January or February; mating occurs at the time of ovulation in November. Four neonates in a litter from a female Swamp Skink from the Enfield State Forest had snout-vent lengths ranging from 34 to 37mm (Clemann and Beardsell, 1999). Robertson (1980) suggests a home range of approximately 10m from its burrow, and juvenile dispersal distances of up to 200m. The Swamp Skink is aggressively territorial, and will chase other Swamp Skinks from its territory (authors pers obs.). Even when housed at relatively low densities in captivity, the species frequently fights with and kills cagemates (Taylor, undated, Taylor, 1994). PREDATION The Red Fox is known to prey on Swamp Skinks (Taylor 1994). Other potential predators include a suite of birds, including Ibis and various raptors, snakes such as the Lowland Copperhead, Eastern Tiger Snake, Red-bellied Black Snake, and White-lipped Snake, and feral and domestic cats. Most of these species occur widely throughout Swamp Skink habitats. Vegetation clearance and the draining of wetlands have worsened the isolated nature of many populations of the Swamp Skink. It is presumed extinct at several historical sites, at many more sites the area of suitable habitat is Photo 1. Victorian coastal habitat of Swamp Skink (Egernia coventryi). Photo Nick Clemann. 14

15 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December, 2000 Photo 2. Swamp Skink (Egernia coventryi). Photo Nick Clemann. now so small as to place the long-term survival of populations in doubt, and at many other sites the status of the species is uncertain (P. Robertson pers comm.). At just a few sites (most of which are in East Gippsland), the Swamp Skink is considered potentially secure, provided that management is appropriate. The species is officially listed as Vulnerable in Victoria (NRE, 2000), and Rare or Insufficiently Known nationally (Cogger et al. 1993), and has been nominated for listing on the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act REFERENCES Clemann, N. (1997). Aspects of the biology and ecology of the Swamp Skink Egernia coventryi Storr, 1978 (Sauria: Scincidae). B. Sc. (Hons.) Thesis. Deakin University, Rusden Campus. Clemann, N. (in press). Survival in the suburbs! The (re)discovery of the Swamp Skink Egernia coventryi east of Melbourne, with comments on the failure of Elliott traps in a survey for this species. The Victorian Naturalist. Clemann, N., Brown, P. and Brown, G. (1998). A note on bait selection when trapping the Swamp Skink Egernia coventryi in Elliott traps. The Victorian Naturalist 115 (3): Clemann, N. and Beardsell, C. (1999). A new inland record of the Swamp Skink Egernia coventryi Storr, The Victorian Naturalist 116 (4): Cogger, H.G. (2000). Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia. 6 th Edition. Reed New Holland, Sydney. 15 Cogger, H. G., Cameron, E. E., Sadlier, R. A. and Eggler, P. (1993). The Action Plan for Australian Reptiles. Australian Nature Conservation Agency. Endangered Species Program, Project No Douch, P. M. (1994). Comparative ecophysiology of two species of scincid lizard, Egernia coventryi and Egernia whitii. B. Sc. (Hons.) Thesis. University of Melbourne, Parkville. NRE (2000). Threatened vertebrate fauna in Victoria A systematic list of vertebrate fauna considered extinct, at risk of extinction or in major decline in Victoria. Department of Natural Resources and Environment, East Melbourne. Robertson, P. (1980). ALCOA Portland Aluminium Smelter Environmental Report No. 1: Mourning Skink Investigations. Report by Peter Robertson and Kinhill Planners Pty Ltd. Schulz, M. (1985). The occurrence of the Mourning Skink, Egernia coventryi Storr, in saltmarsh in Westernport Bay, Victoria. The Victorian Naturalist 102 (5): Schulz, M. (1992). The Swamp Skink (Egernia coventryi Storr1978): a review. Report by Martin Schulz, Ecological Horticulture Pty Ltd, to Melbourne Water. Smales, I. (1981). The herpetofauna of Yellingbo State Faunal Reserve. The Victorian Naturalist 98: Storr, G. M. (1978). The genus Egernia (Lacertilia, Scincidae) in Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum 6: Taylor, M. (1994). Rescue plan for a colony of Swamp Skink. Proceedings of the 1994 ARAZPA/ASZK Conference. Taylor, M. (undated). Back to the swamp completion of the Swamp Skink project. Unpublished report by Mike Taylor, Healesville Sanctuary.

16 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December,2000 EGG INCUBATION METHODS and JUVENILE DISPERSAL OF EASTERN BROWN SNAKES (Pseudonaja textilis). Simon Watharow, PO Box 1016, Research, 3095, Victoria. INTRODUCTION Eastern Brown Snakes (Pseudonaja textilis) are a common species in some areas around Melbourne especially Western and North Eastern regions. While particularly abundant in open grassland especially those with large areas of basalt outcrops or loosely scattered rocks. Winter dormancy behaviour is believed to be responsible for aggregations observed in P. textilis (Hoser, 1980, Shine, 1991). On October 17 th!997 in Campbellfield the author was called out to remove 27 juvenile P. textilis from under a plastic sheet in a garden. DISCUSSION Investigation under a large 3 metre square plastic sheet covered by pine bark shavings, leafage and two small low bushes outside a factory. Revealed 8 P. textilis coiled in a loose ball, these were collected as requested. The garden was further dismantled to check for other snakes and three other balls of snakes were found no more than 60cm from each other. All snakes were cold to touch and stirred little when removed. This garden bed was adjacent to a large (8msq) concrete driveway, which the adult snake homesite hole was situated under. Surrounding habitat was disturbed grassland with primarily exotic plant species and basalt type rocks loosely scattered typical of basalt plains habitat. Discussion with factory staff confirmed a large P. textilis was seen in late December basking and retreating into a hole under concrete driveway. It is suspected that a female laid a clutch of eggs that hatched later than expected and young were subsequently stranded in cool conditions unable to disperse. Then remained dormant under the black plastic sheet, which may offer good protection from weather elements. Previously a disused concrete swimming pool wall was used for incubation of P. textilis eggs in Nagambie, Victoria (pers obs). The author was called out to remove juveniles P. textilis that were found basking at entrance of wall or fallen into empty pool. Gravid Eastern Tiger Snakes have used pool concrete surfaces to incubate broods (Watharow, 1999). It appears P. textilis will utilise man made construction to incubate eggs. REFERENCES Hoser, R. T. (1980). Further records of Various Species of Australian Snakes. Herpetofauna 12(1): Hoser, R. T. (198-). An Aggregation of Eastern Brown Snakes (Pseudonaja textilis). Herpetofauna Vol 21(2): 38 Covacevich, J & Limpus, C Two large winter aggregations of tree - climbing snakes in South Eastern Queensland, Herpetofauna 6(2): Shine, R. (1991). Snakes A Natural History, Reed Books 191pp. RESULTS Table 1. Physical data for twenty seven juvenile Eastern Brown Snakes (P. textilis) collected from 16

17 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December, 2000 Photo 1. Juvenile Eastern Brown Snake (Pseudonaja textilis) typical unbanded form. Photo Ray Hoser Campbellfield, Victoria. No SVL (mm) TL (mm) WT(g) / Notes (Typical non banded form) (banded) ( possible post emergence slough remnants) (Typical non banded) (few banded rings) (faint half band rings) (Typical non banded form) Range Mean

18 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December,2000 HOW MUCH CAN A BEARDED BARE MULTIPLE CLUTCHES IN A CENTRAL BEARDED DRAGON (Pogona vitticeps). Peter Mantell PO Box 523, Somerville, Victoria INTRODUCTION The following is in response to a letter written to the VHS by Sheryl Longstaff. The letter refers to an adult, female Central Bearded dragon that was producing an extraordinary frequency of egg clutches. The main concern expressed in the letter was, the possible detrimental effect on the female, by producing so many clutches of eggs. The Dragon is housed together with an adult male both of which share an enclosure that measures 6 x 2 x 2 and is constructed of Melamine. The animals are provided with daytime Ultra Violet lighting. As well as a basking temperature of around 30 to 35 degrees Celsius which is controlled by a simple bellow style thermostat. Both animals are fed daily and are offered range of food including, Crickets, Mealworms as well as a variety of vegetables. Each feed is dusted with calcium and multivitamin powders. The floor of the enclosure is covered with newspaper and a plastic tub containing potting mix is used as a egg laying medium. The female dragon is approximately 3 years old. The following is a list describing the details of each clutch laid. Clutch eggs, All fertile Clutch eggs, 2 Infertile Clutch eggs, All fertile Clutch eggs, All fertile At this time the female was separated from the male to give her a rest. This proved futile as the female continued to lay eggs. The pair remained separated for a total of 8 weeks. Clutch eggs, All fertile Clutch eggs, 11 Infertile Clutch eggs, All fertile Throughout this period the female continued to eat normally and remained in good health. On the female was reunited with the male and naturally, subsequent laying occurred. Clutch eggs, All fertile Clutch eggs, All fertile Photo 1. Enclosure for female Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps). Note egg laying medium in plastic tub. 18

19 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December, 2000 Clutch eggs, All fertile Clutch eggs, All fertile Many people believe that such a lifestyle may be detrimental to the long term health of a dragon. There is no doubt that the dragon in question is of excellent health and is cared for extremely well. There is some concern that providing animals Constant year round high temperatures may shorten the life of this reptile. Only time will tell if this is true in this particular case. It is also worth noting that captive animals generally live longer in captivity any way, so one could argue that such techniques may only keep the life span of an animal to that of those in the wild. More importantly remember that captive animals should never become commodities and should remain pets that deserve a long and fruitful life. It would be recommended that some type of wintering practices should be incorporated into the husbandry of these lizards. By providing both, a small amount of high daytime temperatures with low night time temperatures during Winter, or for a least 8 weeks, you should be able to maintain high levels of breeding as well as numerous clutches of eggs for many years to come. A reduction in feeding is also recommended at this time. In theory this will also prolong the life of most Bearded Dragons. Photo 2. Female Inland Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps) 19

20 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December,2000 Juvenile Inland Bearded Dragons (Pogona vitticeps) bred in captivity. Thick - tailed Gecko (Underwoodisaurus milli), common in several habitats especially granite outcrops. 20

21 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December, 2000 Typical banded form of juvenile (Pseudonaja textilis) widespread across Victoria. Photo Ray Hoser Swamp Skink (Egernia coventryi), restricted to swamp margins with heath associations and often along foreshores along coastal areas. Photo Nick Clemann. 21

22 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December,2000 Albino Lowland Copperhead (Austrelaps superbus), collected in Wheelers Hill, Victoria by Steven llwellyn. Colletts Snake Pseudechis colletti ) a colourful and attractive Pseudechis species that is common in captivity. Photo Ray Hoser. 22

23 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December, 2000 Lowland Copperhead (Austrelaps superbus) removed from Yarra Glen, Victoria. Typical dorsal colouration seen around Victorian residences. Brown Phase juvenile Spotted Black Snake (Pseudechis guttatus). Photo Scott Eipper. 23

24 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December,2000 OBSERVATIONS of THE BLACK SNAKE GENUS (PSEUDECHIS) IN CAPTIVITY SCOTT. C. EIPPER 65 Grange Road, Caulfield East, Victoria, 3145, Australia. INTRODUCTION The black snakes are a large, heavily bodied group of elapids native to Australia, Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya. Information on these snakes is further provided by (Bush, 1995; Bush et al. 1995; Charles et all 1980; Charles, 1983; Cogger, 1992; Ehmann, 1992; Fitzgerald & Pollitt, 1980; Fitzgerald & Mengen, 1987; Gow, 1989; Hoser, 1989; Maryan, 1994; Maryan, 1997; Mengen et al. 1986; O Shea, 1996; Shine, 1978; 1979; 1987; 1991; Shine & Lambeck 1990; Smith, 1982; Weigel, 1988 and Wilson & Knowles, 1988). This paper is intended to help the future keepers of the genus Pseudechis and add more information to the keeping knowledge of this spectacular group of elapids. There are seven (possibly eight) species of Pseudechis with seven in Australia (Pseudechis papuanus) was recently discovered on Saibai Island, which is just off the coast of Papua New Guinea however it is politically Australian (Wilson, 1997). They are all classed as dangerously venomous with known fatalities occurring in Australia from Mulga Snake (Pseudechis australis) and Papua New Guinea the Papuan Black Snake (P. papuanus). The Butlers Snake (P. Butleri), Collett s Snake (P. colletti), Spotted Black Snake (P. guttatus), and Red Bellied Black Snake (P. porphyriacus) are regarded as potentially fatal. All bites should be treated with caution and medical attention sought. Four of the genus is well represented in captivity. The Butler s Snake (P. butleri) and Papuan Black Snake (P. papuanus) are not readily available in captive situations. Most herpetologists and keepers are in agreement that no two separate species should be crossbred to form a hybrid. To my knowledge this has been done once with a P. guttatus and a P. colletti (Watharow pers. comm). These snakes are on the whole are easy to raise, keep and breed in captivity. If all of the basic husbandry rules are followed, common sense is used and records are kept. I also believe that they are the best starting genus of elapids to keep as they are a fairly quiet. Their bites are generally not life threatening, but great care should be taken as their venom can cause necrosis. A crippling condition that may cause a need for amputation of an affected region or sometimes limb. Bites also can be extremely painful. This paper will largely be drawing upon my personal experiences with these elapids. HOUSING As they are dangerously venomous the Pseudechis group should be kept in cages that are lockable and safe to work with. Top- opening cages should be used for these elapids. P. australis, P. colletti, P. guttatus and P. porphyriacus. A large, well-constructed cage is needed, to keep these species successfully. Juveniles are also quite large in comparison to the other similar sized elapids (The Brown Snakes Pseudonaja sp, Tiger Snakes Notechis sp). Click Clack type containers are good to use for juvenile snakes as they have clear lids and are top opening. This minimises the risk of being bitten. The Click Clack containers are best ventilated by the use of a standard soldering-iron rather than a drill as the latter might cause the lid to shatter and crack thus creating sharp edges that could be detrimental to the future inhabitants of the cage. Ventilation is very important, plastic grills usually used for ventilating cupboards are effective for cages holding adult specimens. Each vent should be checked by placing about three kilograms of pressure at the weakest point of the vent with your fingers (this can be checked by using a set of scales to work out how much force is to be used on the vent). Water bowls are standard in the cages however they should be non-spillable but large enough to allow the snake to soak this is especially important to animals nearing sloughing (shedding) and for juveniles, who can die within short periods, if dehydrated. I use absorbent paper towelling as a substrate for juveniles and newspaper for the adults as the cages are kept clean more easily. I change the paper when it is soiled and if not soiled within a week of the last paper change, it becomes changed and fresh paper is put in the cage. After the dirty paper is changed I use a mix of Dettol and water (90 % water and 10% Dettol) to wipe the cages clean. The cage size should be approximately 1.0 metres long by 0.6 metres deep by 0.6 metres high for a pair of adult snakes. If the animals are to be housed individually (which is what I recommend) they can be housed in smaller facilities of 0.6 metres long by 0.5 metres deep by 0.6 metres in height. HEATING 24

25 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December, 2000 The Pseudechis group is found all over Australia except for Tasmania and the south western corner of Victoria (Longmore, 1986). They have two wide-ranging species, P. australis and P. porphyriacus both of which range from colder regions to the warm tropics. Information on where your captive snakes (or its parents) are from is very important; For example I have P. porphyriacus from the Adelaide Hills S. A. and others from Sydney N.S.W. Neither of the animals is given heat during summer but during winter I only heat the Sydney P. porphyriacus. Northern P. australis, P. colletti and Northern P. porphyriacus should be kept in cages ranging from 28 to 31 degrees Celsius. P. guttatus should be kept in cages with range of 26 to 28 degrees Celsius. Southern P. australis and P. porphyriacus can be kept cages with a temperature range from about 24 to 27 degrees Celsius. A heat gradient is very important for adults and juveniles. For the adults I achieve this by putting a heat pad on one third of the cage floor and a 25-watt blue globe up one end of the cage. Both of these heating devices are run off separate thermostats set at the according temperature for the particular snake. For the juveniles a heat mat is placed under half the cage. This creates a heat gradient so the cage occupant can choose between hot spots and cooler spots. This re-creates their natural environment thus minimising the chance of death through over-heating. FEEDING The Pseudechis genera are a large and robust snake. An advantage for keepers as they are large enough to eat pinkie mice from birth. They are easily assist-fed and at times take food voluntarily from day one this unlike some other Australian elapids such as the Death Adders Acanthophis (Valentic, 1998). They are like pigs and once feeding do not look back. Pseudechis get very excited and will strike at any movement. It has been noticed that the other Pseudechis act very similar to each other around feeding. The Black snakes all feed in a similar way, when the scent of the prey item is recognised the individual emerges from its retreat and strikes at the prey item. When the snake has bitten the prey, the snake hangs on until it is satisfied that the prey is dead and then commences feeding in the typical snake fashion. It is noteworthy that unlike some other snakes it may not eat the prey item head first. This can cause problems when feeding fish as some species of fish have spines and these can cause serious damage to the snakes oesophagus. Adults may be fed at a rate of once a week (size of food item and type depends on what the snake is already eating). Juveniles should be offered once every 4 days. They should be fed preferably thawed dead mice or rats depending upon size of the snake. In the wild Pseudechis eat a wide variety of prey with reptiles frogs, mammals and birds making up the Photo 1. Snake enclosure as used for Pseudechis species by author. Photo Scott Eipper 25

26 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December,2000 predominate percentage of the food items ((Nicolson and Mirtschin, 1995 and Shine, 1991). Other animals recorded include invertebrates, fish, and carrion as well as reptile eggs. They have been known to eat unusual food items including eels and quolls (Oakwood and Miles 97). Cannibalistic behaviour (also known as ophiophagy) has been recorded for P. australis, P. guttatus and P. porphyriacus (Torr, 1993). It is suspected that the remainder of the genus also has cannibalistic tendencies. So if these snakes are to be housed communally they should at least be fed separately to avoid accidental cannibalism. Fish has been used in captivity to feed P. colletti, P. guttatus and P. porphyriacus with successful results. (Kortlang, 1990). I found it is possible to also feed juvenile P. australis on a diet of fish (whitebait). In addition to feeding a varied diet, vitamin and mineral supplements are also important. I use Cod- liver oil and Rep-cal mixed in together and injected into the dead food item. The genus Pseudechis are on the whole good shedders unlike some other genera (the Death Adders Acanthophis and the Tiger Snakes Notechis). When they are young they might cause some problems. These are usually resolved with the soaking of the individual in warm water (remember to change the water every 25 minutes, as you do not want SLOUGHING (SHEDDING) your snake to get a chill). The addition of a rough rock or log to the cage will assist sloughing.if the rock can be moved easily by the snake, replace it so there is no risk of injuries. Also when the snake is showing signs of sloughing (milky blue eyes) you should start to mist the cage with water to boost the humidity and help prevent sloughing difficulties. This is done until the snake sheds its skin. Also in the case of juveniles (who are kept on heat mats) I move the water bowl over the heat mat so the evaporation is high thus boosting over all humidity within the cage. LIGHTING Lighting is an important point of captive husbandry often over-looked. The black snakes have both diurnal and nocturnal species. P. colletti however is predominantly nocturnal, in my experience have access to Ultra-Violet lighting e. g. Daylight mimicking fluorescent tubes. This emulates the natural day light hours during the year. The others of this genus are active when the optimal temperatures are reached regardless of whether its day or night. Lighting is on 10 hours at night and 14 hrs during the day during October to March and 12 hours daylight and 12 hours night from April to Housing for juvenile Pseudechis species as used by author. Photo Scott Eipper. 26

27 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December, 2000 September. This emulates the natural day light hours during the year. MATING Mating in Pseudechis is basically uniform throughout the whole genus (Hoser 89). The act of mating can last from a few minutes to a few hours (Rankin, 1977, Shine et al, 1981). I have witnessed six matings in Pseudechis of three different species. Three of the matings were of P. colletti, one of P. guttatus (blue- bellied black phase) and two of P. porphyriacus. All of the males were cooled during winter and all except one of the matings were after male combat. The mating where no combat was witnessed was unintentional. I was inspecting a pair of P. colletti in the morning of December 5th 1997 at Mr Drew Williams s residence. Outside, it was a warm day approximately 26 0 Celsius. We put down the animals on the lawn the male (1500 mm approx.) Started to develop an interest in the female (1800 mm approx.). The male positioned his vent adjacent to the females vent and started to rub his chin up and down on the dorsal side of the neck region of the female. Then the male s hemipenis everted and mating commenced, during mating the male continued to rub his chin on the female s neck and move his tail in an irratic movements, this lasted for 57 minutes. When we replaced the snakes back into their cages it was noticed that the female was bleeding from the cloaca. This mating resulted in a successful clutch of eggs. The other matings were similar but before the actual mating there was another male in the cage and combat was observed. One of these matings was successful in producing a clutch (P. porphyriacus). INTRA-SPECIFIC AGGRESSION (MALE COMBAT) The act of male combat in Pseudechis genus has been recorded on numerous occasions by (Shine 1986, Mirtschin & Davis, 1992) and in this paper. It has been recorded in the wild and in captivity. The male to male combat involves the two snakes writhing and twisting together with each snake trying to dominate the other by keeping its head on top of the opponent and trying to throw the other off balance. I have personally seen it in my P. colletti, P. guttattus and in my P. porphyriacus, I have also seen it on the Murray River near Echuca, Victoria. Male combat has been recorded in P. australis, P. colletti, P. guttatus and in P. porphyriacus. COOLING Most species of reptiles need to be cooled down prior to breeding in captivity. Cooling is where you drop the temperature in the cage to the point where its inhabitant is not feeding and in a state of semi-torpor. This is essential for males because if they are not cooled to a low enough temperature, they will not be able to produce healthy sperm. So while he might mate with the female, she will not be able to produce fertile eggs or develop embryos in the case of P. porphyriacus. As said earlier in the paper knowing where your snake(s) are from is important. Northern and central P. australis, P. colletti and P. guttatus should be cooled for 4 weeks at 18 0 Celsius. Southern P. australis and P. porphyriacus should be cooled for 5 weeks at 15 0 Celsius. It is not advised to allow under weight, sick, recovering or juvenile snakes the chance to cool as it may kill them. To help induce mating in northern specimens misting every day for about 3 weeks when coming out of cooling may help as it acts as a simulation of the wet and dry seasons of Northern Australia thus making the snake more comfortable. As I live in Victoria I cool my snakes from the 21st of July to the 1st September. The September date coincides with the start of spring in the Southern Hemisphere. When cooling your snakes to do it gradually, drop the temperature by one degree every day. This will not shock your snakes. When warming them up again use the same principle. EGG INCUBATION AND CARE OF GRAVID FEMALES As most species of this genus are egg layers they need a box to deposit their eggs in. This can be made from any material but I advise that either a wooden box or a plastic ice-cream type container filled half-way with coarse grade vermiculite or peat moss (these are available from most garden centres and nurseries), moistened with water to create a humid environment. This should be placed into the females cage about 2 weeks prior to oviposition thus giving the snake time to adjust to the new object in its cage. Once laid, the eggs should be moved into an incubator for incubation. Humidity in the box containing the eggs should be kept high (between 90 and 100%) and constant. One way of doing this is to place the vermiculite in the container and then put the same amount of water in, e.g: 1 kilogram of vermiculite to 1 litre of water. If there is no air holes in the container then the water cannot escape and thus the humidity should stay constant. At the end of laying, the eggs will sink in, this is quite normal. If this happens early on in the incubation period add some water to the incubation medium as it means that it is too dry in the incubation container. 27

28 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December,2000 The care of gravid females is fairly uniform for all snakes. Offer food to gravid snakes even though they may refuse especially in latter stages. Most females will go off their food while gravid. After eggs are deposited or when live young have emerged. This is because her fat reserves are depleted and she is trying to get back to her normal weight. For clutch sizes, gestation periods, lengths of incubation and juvenile lengths see Table 1. CONCLUSION If this paper has helped one person with their snakes I will feel that it has served its purpose. Information on our pets is needed; it all helps us whether it is breeding of Rough- Scaled Pythons Morelia carinata or fighting between Grass Skinks Lampropholis delicata. Write it down and send it in! ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Must thank a few people for providing data on keeping these snakes, Brian Bush, Peter Mirtschin, Roy Pails, Brian Starkey, Craig Stephenson and Drew Williams. Additional information was provided by Brian Barnett. Lastly, to Raymond Hoser, Allen Hunter, Steven Comber, Peter Mantell, Simon Watharow and Doug Wintle for proofing the manuscript. REFERENCES: Bush, B, (1995) Captive Reproduction in Pseudechis australis (Serpentes: Elapidae) From Western Australia and other notes on Pseudechis species, Herpetofauna 25(1), Bush, B., B, Maryan, Cooper, R. B and Robinson, D. (1995) A guide to reptiles and frogs of the Perth region, University of Western Australia Press, 226 pp. Charles, N., Whitaker, P., Shine, R. (1980) Oviparity and captive reproduction in the Spotted Black Snake Pseudechis guttatus (Serpentes: Elapidae), Australian Zoologist, 20, Charles, N., Watts, A., Shine, R. (1983) Captive reproduction in an Australian Elapid Snake Pseudechis colletti, Herpetological Review, 14, Cogger, H.G. (1992) Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, Reed Books, 775 pp. Daly, G. (1992) Prey items of the Red Bellied Black Snake Pseudechis porphyriacus, Herpetofauna, 22 (2) Ehmann, H. (1992) Encyclopedia of Australian Animals- Reptiles, Angus and Robertson, 495 pp. Fitzgerald, M., Pollitt, C. (1980) Oviparity and captive breeding in the Mulga or King Brown Snake Pseudechis australis (Serpentes: Elapidae), Australian Journal of Herpetology 1, Fyfe, G. (1991) Captive breeding of Mulga Snakes (Pseudechis australis) from Central Australia, Herpetofauna 21(2) Gow, G. F. (1989) Graeme Gow s complete guide to Australian snakes, Angus and Robertson, 171 pp. Hoser, R.T. (1989) Australian Reptiles and Frogs, Pierson, 238 pp. Kortlang, S. (1990) An alternative food for Reptiles - Fish, Monitor 2 (1) 5-9. Longmore, R. (1986) Atlas of Elapid Snakes in Australia, Australian Government Publishing Service, 120 pp. Maryan, B. (1997) Is the King Brown Snake an appropriate common name for Pseudechis australis?, Herpetofauna 27 (2) Mengen, G. A., Shine, R. and Moritz, C. (1986) Phylogenetic relationships within the Australasian venomous snakes of the genus Pseudechis, Herpetologica 42, Mirtschin, P. J. (1988) Captive breeding in the King Brown Snake Pseudechis australis from the Eyre Peninsular. 10 th International conference of captive propagation and husbandry, San Antonio, Texas, Mirtschin, P. J. and Davis, R. (1991) Dangerous snakes of Australia-Revised Edition, Ure Smith Press, 208 pp. Nicolson, L. and Mirtschin P.J. (1995) Predation by a Mulga Snake Pseudechis australis on a Western Brown Snake Pseudonaja nuchalis, Herpetofauna 25 (1), Oakwood, M. and Miles, G.F. (1998) Predation of a Marsupial carnivore by an Olive Python (Liasis olivaceus) and a King Brown Snake (Pseudechis australis), Herpetofauna 28 (1), O Shea, M. (1996) A guide to the Snakes of Papua New Guinea, Independent Group Pty. Ltd., 251 pp. Rankin, P.R. (1976) Mating of Wild Red-Bellied Black Snakes Pseudechis porphyriacus, Shaw, Herpetofauna 8 (1), Shine, R. (1978) Growth Rates and Sexual maturation in six species of Australian Elapid Snakes, Herpetologica 34,

29 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December, 2000 Shine, R. (1979) Activity patterns in Australian Elapid Snakes (Squamata: Serpentes: Elapidae), Herpetologica 35, Shine, R. (1987a) Intraspecific variation in thermoregulation, movement and Habitat use by Australian Black Snakes, Pseudechis porphyriacus (Elapidae), Journal of Herpetology 21, Shine, R. (1987b) Reproductive mode may determine geographic distributions in Australian venomous snakes (Pseudechis, Elapidae), Oecologica 71, Smith, L. A. (1982) Variation in Pseudechis australis (Serpentes: Elapidae) in Western Australia and a description of a new species of Pseudechis, Records of the Western Australian Museum 10, Torr, G.A. (1993) Ophiophargy in the Common Black Snake Pseudechis porphyriacus, Herpetofauna 23 (1) Valentic, R. (1998) Notes on rearing Australian Death Adders genus Acanthophis, Monitor 9 (2), Weigel, J.R. (1988) Care of Australian Reptiles in Captivity, R.K.A., 144 pp. Shine, R. (1987c) The evolution of viviparity: ecological correlates of reproductive mode within a genus of Australian snakes (Pseudechis, Elapidae). Copeia 1987, Shine, R. (1991) Australian Snakes - A Natural History, Reed Books, 223 pp. Shine, R. and Lambeck, R. (1990) Seasonal shifts in the thermoregulatory behaviour of Australian Black Snakes Pseudechis porphyriacus, Journal of Thermal Biology 15, Shine, R, Grigg, G.C., Shine, T. and Harlow, P. (1981) Mating and male combat in Australian Black Snakes, Pseudechis porphyriacus, Journal of Herpetology 15, Williams, D.J., Starkey, B.A. (1998) Comments on the genus Wilson, S.K. and Knowles, D.G. (1988) Australia s Reptiles, Cornstalk Publishing, 447 pp. Wilson, S.K. (1997) New information on Pseudechis papuanus, a medically significant addition to Australia s reptiles, Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 42 (1) 232. Captive Colletts Snake in authors collection ( Pseudechis colletti). Photo Scott Eipper 29

30 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December,2000 Table 1. List of current known records for Pseudechis mating, egg laying and incubation for four Pseudechis species Mulga Snake P. australis, Colletts Snake P. colletti, Spotted Black Snake P. guttatus and Red Bellied Black Snake P. poryphriacus. Species Fecundity Mating to Birth/ Ovipostion Incubation time(days) /(Temp) Neonate size (mm/g) Reference P. australis NT 16 UK (30 32) 224mm/13g Fyfe 1991 QLD (22-32) 226mm/9.7g Fitzgerald et all 1980 QLD (22-32) 215mm Fitzgerald et all 1980 QLD (22-32) 224mm/7.6g Fitzgerald et all 1980 S.A 15 UK (27) 279mm/16.2 Mirtschin 1988 S.A (27) 295mm/15.7 Mirtschin 1988 S.A 12 Uk (27) 260mm/14.8 Mirtschin 1988 S.A UK UK Mirtschin 1988 W.A (30) 221mm/8.4 Bush unpub W.A (30-32) 224mm/9.4 Bush 1995 P. colletti (27-30) 280mm/24 Charles et all (31) 370mm/25 Charles et all UK (30) UK Charles et all UK 65 (30) UK Charles et all UK UK Present Study P. guttatus B.B.P 7 UK 84(RT) UK Charles et all 1980 B.B.P 10 UK UK 324mm Charles et all 1980 B.B.P 13 UK 54(29) 281mm Charles et all 1980 B.P 12 UK UK 232 Prostamo pers comm P. porphyriacus 8-40 UK N/A UK Cogger, 1992 UK 182 N/A UK Greer, 1997 Vic N/A 224/11.4 Present Study 4-18 UK N/A 220 Shine, 1989 Legend UK = Unknown, N/A = Not Applicable, mm = millimetres, g = grams Photo 5. Red Bellied Black Snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus) in situ diurnal basking on cool day in Genoa. 30

31 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December, 2000 CROAKINGS Welcome to the latest instalment of Croakings, the VHS guide to what s been happening in the life of Australian frogs. Victorian species will be concentrated on, (for obvious reasons) but from time to time we will venture outside the state to catch up with the other 170 plus Australian species. Recent publications and media interest has focused on the now, well known effects of cytrid fungus. It is important to remember that this issue remains extremely important for the future of not only Australian Anurans, but also frogs worldwide. Rather than get absorbed into tales of devastation, I would rather look at some more positive sides of our frog fauna. Contrary to what some people may have been lead to believe, it is still well worth getting out and about to see what s happening with Victorian frogs. The best way to learn about frogs and other Herpetofauna is to get out in the field and find out the way these animals live. Although it is important to remember not to interfere with wild frogs, a lot can still be learned by environmental observations. When in the field take note of such things as, air, water (where applicable), soil/substrate types and temperature, also, take note of plant species occurring in the area. By observing some of these factors and translating them into your husbandry techniques you are sure to improve the captive environment for your animals. These factors are also more often than not, critical for breeding frogs in particular. This particular instalment will focus on the species occurring in and around the South East of the State. With Summer now upon us, many species of Victorian frogs have already bred and their tadpoles have metamorphosed, but searching for tadpoles is still well worth the effort, but remember to look but don t touch. Winter breeders including the genus Pseudophryne, Uperolia, Crinia and certain tree frogs like Litoria ewingi and Litoria verreauxi will have all but bred and their tadpoles emerged from the water to begin their lives as frogs. Spring breeders such as the Red Groined Froglet Geocrinia haswelli and the Limnodynastes genus, which include the Spotted Marsh, Striped Marsh and the Banjo frog, will have their tadpoles just starting to emerge from evaporating pools. In some cases, if rainfall levels have been kind, this genus of frogs may even still be breeding well into late summer, all be it relatively late in the season. Recent field trips has discovered that winter rainfall has been a little kinder than in the last few years and as a Eastern Banjo Frog/Pobblebonk frog (Limnodynastes dumerili). Photo Peter Mantell. result some species have returned to some sort of breeding normality. One brief trip to East Gippsland in early October found that, some pools that in previous years were dry, were now full of water. These pools (some as simple as roadside ditches) were being utilised by many species. Tadpole species found were, Pseudophyrne semimarmorata and Pseudophryne dendyi some tadpoles of these species were at metamorph stage, almost ready to leave the water. Other species of tadpoles included, Crinia signifera, Litoria ewingi, as well as Litoria peroni many stages of these species were found including spawn of one of the Tree Frog species that was only hours old. A pair of Geocrinia Victoriana in amplexus were found, which is outside the usual period of breeding. Geocrinia haswelli, Limnodynadumerili, Limnodynastes peroni, and Limnodynastes tasmaniensis were 31

32 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December,2000 all heard calling in large numbers. One particular roadside pool contained several spawn of a Limnodynastes species as well as the spawn of 2 Litoria species. Tadpoles of the Dendy s Toadlet, Pseudophryne dendyi and The Common froglet, Crinia signifera also occupied the same pool. This particular pool only measured approx. 1.5 meters in diameter and at the deepest point was about 150mm deep. The pool also contained several species of empty beer stubbies including, VB, and Carlton cold. These particular items didn t seem to interfere with the breeding and development of the local frog fauna although, I think it is important to note that such rubbish the large tadpoles develop through the warmer months of Summer and emerge in late January and February. In the East of the State the Green and Golden Bell Frog who s population numbers are also vulnerable, should benefit greatly from the Spring rain. Both these species of frog breed in sensitive areas such as farm dams and as both species are largely Aquatic they rely heavily on the cleanliness of the water in and around which they live. As long as these dams remain chemical free and free from predatory fish, these species will continue to use these breeding sites for years to come. As much of the naturally occurring breeding sites for these probably doesn t enhance the breeding patterns of frogs. In some of the nearby streams both Litoria phylochroa and Litoria lesueuri were both found, with many calling males of the Leaf Green Tree Frog being heard, particularly those streams with substantial stream side vegetation. With the best rainfall in over 4 years, many of our frog species will recover very well from the previous lenient years. The heavy rains of Spring are sure to be of great benefit to the now vulnerable, Growling Grass Frog, Litoria raniformis. This species breeds throughout Spring and frogs have disappeared over the years, clean farm dams play a very important part in the life of many frogs. We have only touched on the happenings of some of Victoria Frogs, and in future editions we will catch up with some of the rare and endangered species that occur throughout the state. We will also be keeping up to date with the very important breeding programs being undertaken for some of these species such as, the Spotted Tree Frog, the Corroboree Frog and the Baw Baw Frog. Catch you in the next issue Hopper Martins Toadlet (Uperoila martini). Photo Peter Mantell. Perons Tree Frog (Litoria peroni) in amplexus. Photo Peter Mantell. 32

33 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December, 2000 FROG WATCH Articles typed by Angela Reid Provided by Brian Barnett The Daily Telegraph Monday, 22 May 2000 by Simon Benson: Invading Cane Toads Spread Across Sydney Permanent colonies of cane toads are expected to become established as early as this summer with the recent discovery of the pests in suburbs all over Sydney. Twelve toads have been confirmed in the past two months in suburbs of Sydney where they have not before been found. The animals, which were transported from Queensland, were found at Warringah Mall on the northern beaches, Brooklyn, a Miranda shopping centre in the south, Richmond, Dural, Kenthurst and Mt Annan Botanical Gardens. This is twice the number found previously in the same period but confirms their dispersion across the entire metropolitan area. It is a very high number according to Lother Voight from the Frog and Tadpole Study Group. Once they get established that will be it we won t be able to do anything. We could try and delay it but we won t stop it. And if we get a warm wet season then that could happen straight away. At present there is no government funding for cane toad research or funding for programs to prevent them establishing themselves in the Sydney area. Environment Minister Bob Debus said since the establishment of the Cane Toad Clean Up Campaign in March more than 80 phone calls had been received from members of the public. It is now thought that the majority of cane toads are being brought down from Queensland in landscaping material. One, however, was found in a backpack brought in from Fiji. Previously only found in and around Flemington markets, the main produce depot for Sydney, the toads now appear to be moving via other routes, including the transport of building and landscaping materials. The National Parks and Wildlife Service was concerned, however, that people might mistake a number of native frog species and kill them inadvertently. Two species of burrowing frog and the striped march frog are often mistaken for the toad. Cane toads can grow up to the size of a dinner plate, native frogs generally grow no bigger than a human fist. Often people club the wrong ones, Mr Voight said. The cane toad can spawn up to 30,000 tadpoles at a time. Once a breeding pair establishes itself there is little to stop them from proliferating. People who suspect they have seen a cane toad should report it to a local NPWS office or the Frog and Tadpole Study Group on Sydney Morning Herald Thursday, 20 July 2000 by James Woodford: Fungus Alert: Hands Off The frogs From today, NSW children will be warned about a new form of stranger danger - don t pat the frogs! The warning is contained in a set of guidelines prepared by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Hygiene Protocol for the Control of Disease in Frogs. It is for the wellbeing of the amphibians not the kids. In an attempt to halt a fungal disease sweeping the nation s ponds, the parks service is urging youngsters not to handle frogs unless absolutely necessary and to return all tadpoles to their exact place of origin. Schools and TAFE colleges will be given a licence to remove a maximum of 20 tadpoles from one location in their local area for life cycle studies. Each school will require endorsement from an animal care and ethics committee. And a soon as the tadpoles have transformed. They must be returned to their point of capture. The disease, thought to have been introduced to Australia some time in the 1970 s, is considered to be a main contributor to declining frog numbers. Oter factors may include climate change, the diminishing ozone layer and habitat disturbance. Of about 2,000 species of frogs in the world, Australia boasts around of them recorded in NSW. According to the NPWS s threatened species officer, Mr Ross Wellington, the best way to prevent disease is, wherever possible, not to touch frogs and to treat each pond as a separate place. Mixing water and amphibians from pond to pond should be avoided at all costs. Lots of things we used to do when we were kids we need to be a lot more careful about, Mr Wellington said. The guidelines will also halt the practice of returning frogs were the came from interstate when they are found in produce, such as bunches of bananas. These banana box frogs will be treated as if they are carriers of disease and are no longer to be carried 33

34 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December,2000 anywhere without permission. They will spend two months in quarantine and undergo an approved disinfection treatment before being transferred to a licensed frog keeper. Scientists who are licensed by the NPWS to work with frogs will be required to comply with the guidelines, which will include provisions such as disinfection of footwear and vehicles. Researchers handling frogs will be required to wear disposable gloves. Meanwhile, the NSW Scientific Committee will son list another of the State s frogs as endangered species. Fleay s barred frog has disappeared in the past five years from its last strongholds in northern NSW. Herald-Sun, 1ST Edition Friday, 21 January 2000 by Michelle Pountney: Frogs Stray A leap Too Far What does a frog do when it wakes to find itself thousands of kilometres from home? Many hitch-hiking amphibians, known as banana-box frogs, take unscheduled trips interstate every year. During fruit or plant harvesting, they are inadvertently packed in crates or boxes and travel to markets, fruit shops and plant nurseries around the country. In the past, the frogs faced an uncertain fate, dying from either Melbourne s chill weather, disease or worse. But now when they are discovered, volunteers from the Lost Frogs Home are on hand. It was launched in 1995 as a joint effort between frog-lovers and conservationists. Volunteer couriers across the state collect stray frogs and take them to the Lost Frogs Home in Coburg. Like its more famous cousin, the Lost Dogs Home, the service cares for its charges until they are adopted out about two months later. Victorian Frog Group director Gerry Marantelli said lost frogs could not be returned to their original habitat because no-one knew where they came from and there was a risk of them contracting diseases. Couriers across the state collect up to 80 frogs a week, mostly from fruit shops who call when unexpected visitors hop in. Our estimate is about 10,000 frogs come into Melbourne each year and about 70 per cent are being chucked in a back yard, Mr Marantelli said. Most weeks the service has several hundred frogs in quarantine awaiting adoption. There is a long waiting list of people keen to adopt a frog, which costs about $10. The home also has a more serious side. As the Amphibian Research Centre, it monitors frogs for research, breeding programs and conservation of endangered species. Our main reason for existence is frog conservation, Mr Marantelli said. The most important conservation risk is frogs that don t belong in Victoria bringing in disease. We thought it was best to control that and stop them getting in to the environment. Border Mail Friday, 7 January 2000 by AAP: Funding Leap For Frogs Declining Australian researchers have won a $400,000 grant from the U.S. to examine the dramatic drop in the world population of frogs and amphibians. Frog numbers have been declining for 20 years and in some areas, such as the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland, frogs have disappeared altogether. The principal research scientist at the CSIRO s animal health laboratory at Geelong, Dr Alex Hyatt, said the grant, from the U.S. National Science Foundation, would fund three years research. He said researchers would focus on viruses and fungi believed to be responsible for killing off frogs, salamanders and other amphibians. Perons tree Frog (Litoria peroni) 34

35 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December, 2000 Articles gratefully donated by Brian Barnett, Martin Baxter and Scott Eipper. Wildlife Regulations Amendment 2001 Amendments to the wildlife regualtions were made by the Governor in Council and came into operation as of 23rd January These include: Addition of The Northern Long - necked Tortoise (Schedule 3B) Southern Angle Headeed Dragon (Schedule 3B) Brush - tailed Bettong (Schedule 3B) Moving of Centralian Carpet Pyuthon from (Schedule 3B to Schedule 2). These changes were made possible by VHS committee member Steve Comber, representing Victorian Herpetologists. Australian Reptile Park needs snakes for anti - venom production Mostly required are Eastern Tiger Snakes but they also need Death Adders (Acanthophis antarticus) preferably adults but will raise juveniles. Help would be gratefully appreciated. Excess stock or troublesome animals welcome. Details contact Rob porter Port Phillip/Caulfield Leader Oct 2nd, 2000 Denis Brown Slippery Thieves Grab Snakes Standing on a table is not exactly standard procedure at a crime scene.butsen - Det Pete carroll said it made perfect sense to a policewoman who was part of team investigating a bentleigh burgalry on Tuesday 19. Sen - det Carroll decsribed the job, investigating the theft of 30 live exotic snakes, as a strong contender for Caulfields CIUs strange crime of the year. police said it was thought two people were involved in the apparently premeditated burgarly at the snake breeders house. Det carroll said that after kicking the back door in, the thieves made straight for a back roomwhere more than 70 snakes were kept in thermo - controlled enclosures The stolen snakes were all juveniles, the longest about one metre. Croc Wrestled At Saltwater A second crocodile has been caught at Saltwater creek, Newell Beach. The 3m salwater crocodile was terieved by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service Officers on Tuesday after it was trapped in the same location as a 2.2m crocodile last week. the trap had been set with feral pig meat, 1 km from the boat ramp. QPWS officer Clayton Enoch said officers would continue to set the trap in the creek Saltwater Creek is in the Trial Intensive Management area and any crocodiles in the area would have to be removed, Mr Enoch said. He said warmer weather was causing crocodiles to start moving. Once it starts getting hot, they tend to look for food and it is coming up to their mating season. he said. The crocodile was the fourth removed from Saltwater Creek since March.One measured 3.7m, while the two others were 2.2m long. In the past 6 months, a trap has also been set in the Mossman river We ve had a few recent sightings of crocodiles there as well Mr. Enoch said. Crocodile sightings can be reported to QPWS on

36 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December,2000 Frankston-Hastings Indepedant Tuesday, 23 May Snake used in Seaford stick up A Man brandished a snake to rob a service station in Seaford shortly before midnight Saturday. The man entered the liberty Petrol Station in Nepean Highway around 11.50pm carrying a snake. After selecting some magazines and a drink he approached the counter. The male attendant placed the goods in a bag and the customer then held the metre long snake towards the attendant in a threatening manner. The man left the store without paying. Police are looking for a man in his 20s. Caucasian appearance, about 173cm(5 8) tall, with a goatee beard and light brown hair. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers on Colac Herald Wednesday, 29th December, 1999 Beware snake - eating snakes! Cannibalism is alive and well among the reptile family if this Brown Snake is any indication. On Thursday night, Dreeite resident Leah Jacob went to pick some beans in her vegetable garden when she spotted the brown snake. It was huge and I yelled to my Husband Mark to come quickly. I d spemnt a night in hospital about 10 years ago after been bitten in similar circumstances and I feared been bitten again she said. Her husband killed the snake with a piece of wire. However when she pulled the snake out from the bag both were amazed to find the 1.6m snake had started to swallow a tiger snake with about 35cm still to go. Mr Jacob said he had never seen a snake swallow another snake before but had seen some that swallowed lizards and small rabbits. The Daily Telegraph Wednesday, 22 December 1999 Death Adder bites man A man was taken to hospital after being bitten by a venomous snake yesterday. The man was at home in Shallow Cres, St Clare at 1pm, when he called 000 and said a death adder had bitten him. An ambulance spokeswoman said it was believed the man kept pet snakes. When paramedics arrived the snake was back in its cage. The spokeswoman said the man remained calm throughout the incident, and apparently administered first aid to himself. Paramedics treated the man and took him to Nepean Hospital. His condition is stable. The Daily Telegraph Saturday, 29 th April 2000 Six Months for reptile Smuggler A German man who tried to smuggle 75 native reptiles out of Australia will spend at least six months in Prison. Ralph Deiter Zeiler, 43 of Frankfurt, was sentenced in the South Australian Supreme Court to 18 months jail after pleading guilty to attempting to export live animals without permission. Justice Wicks ordered that Zelter be released after six months on a good behaviour bond. Justice Wicks said expert opinion was that because of their territorial nature, the animals could never be returned to their environment. That in itself is particularly disturbing. he said. the wildlife of this country is not only unique but also precious. It is under threat and that threat is exacerbated by actions such as yours in removing animals from their native habitats. Zelter arrived in Australia last November. The Mercury Thursday, April 20, 2000 The Chicks that became snakes dinner. A Taranna snake farm operator was yesterday fined $1000 for feeding live chicks to his tiger snakes. Anthony Baden Brain, 37 of Bayfield Rd, Taranna, was found guilty of one count of assisting in the management of premises where animals kill other animals. He was also found guilty of of one count of an act, which resulted in the death of an animal at Tarannas Farm. 36

37 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December, 2000 January 31 last year. About 200 day old chicks were put in the snake enclosure were bitten and eaten by snakes in front of tourists. One of the tourists took photographs of the incident and these were tendered in evidence to the Magistrates Court. Counsellor Peter Warmbrunn said the only reason live chicks were fed to the snakes was to keep the snakes healthy for venom production and research. He said there was no sinister motives behind Brain s actions. Magistrate Michael Hill said he did not dispute that Brain believed his actions were in the best interests of the snakes. However, Mr Hill said this did not outweigh the suffering of the chicks. He said this was not a case that needed a strong deterrent penalty and finned Brain $1000 and six months to pay. AGE Thursday 2 November 2000 Wanted: snake catchers The call has gone out for snake catchers in Victoria s north-east. The Department of Natural Resources and Environment is setting up a network of qualified snake catchers to cope with demand from hundreds of Victorians who want the potentially deadly visitors removed from their properties. Acting regional manager Geoff McLure said the department regularly received calls to remove snakes but often did not have the staff to meet the demand. Mr McLure said snake catchers would be listed on a database. Snakes would be removed at the landholder s expense and released into the wild. The department has run a similar network in the Geelong area since August last year and hundreds of snakes have been removed. A similar network may be set up in Gippsland. The north-east service will operate from the Alexandra district in the south to Corryong in the east and Yarrawonga in the west. The snake catchers will be licensed and those without experience can undergo training in safely trapping snakes and placing them in bags. Fees for removal are likely to be flexible but the going rate is $50 to $60. ABORIGINAL AUSTRALIA Totem promises to turn Top End profit By DAVID HANCOCK Thursday 2 November 2000 For generations, the long-necked turtle has been a favorite bush food of the Aborigines of northern Australia. Late in the dry season they dig them from the caked mud around drying billabongs or scoop them from the waters of paperbark swamps. Now the people from around Maningrida, on coastal Arnhem Land, have set up an industry, collecting pregnant turtles, incubating the eggs and selling hatchlings to pet shops in Darwin. They hope to expand business to southern states next year and eventually overseas. The turtle has been harvested by Aborigines for thousands of years. Apart from being a significant food source, they are important totems and figures in rock art. The Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation, representing about 3000 Aborigines, is working with a scientist from the Australian National University to develop a business management plan. Like many Aboriginal communities, they are under pressure from industries such as mining and tourism but want to retain their integrity. Although they expect a big demand, they want to avoid turning the business into a large-scale Commercial farming venture. We want to use our own harvesting methods, the Traditional way, said Aboriginal ranger Stuart Ankin. Traditional landholders have also become more conscious about controlling the feral pigs and buffalo that kill many turtles. Scientist Damien Fordham expects no impact on wild populations of long-necked turtles as all females are returned to the wild after laying eggs, as are some hatchlings. 37

38 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December,2000 HERP HEALTH BRENDAN CARMEL B.VSc, MVS (wildlife), MRCVS ALL PETS VETERINARY PO Box 1052, Research, Victoria, 3095, Australia. Phone: Mobile : Fax: Prevention & Management of Thermal Burns in Reptiles Many of you will have been unfortunate enough to witness first hand the effects of thermal burn to reptiles. A classic example is a snake housed in an enclosure that has poor temperature control. The snake then wraps itself around the exposed light globe. Third degree burns can be fatal or result in a hideously scarred reptile after months of healing. These notes will outline procedures you can take to help prevent such incidents occurring, and what to do if one of your reptiles is burnt. Chemical burns & their prevention may be discussed in a future article. Preventing Burns Most of the reptile burns I see in practice are due to poor or inadequate husbandry, in particular poor (too low) enclosure temperature control. Ensure that your enclosure(s) have a temperature gradient, that is, a cool end & a hot end. This will allow the reptile to select its appropriate temperature don t have the same temperature over the whole enclosure. The number of people who cannot tell me what temperature their enclosure is constantly amazes me. The thermostat is set at 28C is not good enough! Buy a digital thermometer with a probe. Take spot temperature readings of different areas of the enclosure & record the details at least weekly. It is best to enclose any heat lamps so the reptile cannot directly contact the heat source. This is accomplished in many enclosures by placing the globe within a wooden box that has small perforated holes. Bare globes are too tempting to wrap around for a cold reptile especially if the globe had blown and was replaced after the enclosure had cooled considerably. Hot Rocks or Heat Pads are a contentious issue. There are dozens of published cases of these heat sources malfunctioning and causing thermal burns to reptiles. As a result most reptile veterinarians, including myself, do not recommend their use. If you must use them do not have them as the only heat source and buy the best quality items possible. I must admit that the heat pads developed recently are a much better and safer product than those used in the past. Be careful of overheating your enclosure by leaving it in direct sunlight. The greenhouse effect within the enclosure will rapidly heat up the air & cook your reptile. Always check and replace any malfunctioning thermostats regularly. It is still unknown why some reptiles do not move away from a burning heat source. Perhaps they cannot feel the developing burn or don t realise that moving away will prevent the burn. Interestingly, I have treated snakes that have lived in the same enclosure for many years without problems then one day decide to coil around a hot globe. 38

39 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December, 2000 Thus there is no guarantee that a reptile will learn from being burnt to avoid future burns. Treating Thermal Burns Massive third degree burns that involve a large percentage of body area are extremely difficult to treat: Take any such cases to your veterinarian immediately. In fact, it is best to get advice from a veterinarian on any suspect burns, as the severity of damage is difficult to assess without expert care. Extensive burns result in fluid loss and the patient is susceptible to overwhelming infections, (which is why sterility is strictly enforced in hospital burn units). You may be able to treat minor dermal (skin) burns yourself. These can be treated as open wounds - healing by secondary intention is the technical term. Apply an appropriate (see below) antibacterial ointment after thoroughly flushing the wound with sterile saline solution. Saline solution is readily available from chemists. Betadineâ ointment or Silvazeneâ cream are excellent antibacterial products. Betadine is available over the counter from the chemist. Silvazene is a prescription antibiotic cream ideal for more severe burns and you would need to take your reptile to the vet to have Silvazene dispensed. After applying the antibacterial product, bandage the affected area if possible. Use a non-stick dressing such as Meloninâ, then apply a bandage such as Elastoplastâ. Recent alternatives, such as human wound sprays like OpSiteâ are excellent and less irritating or difficult to remove. Change the bandage at least every 2 days. Gently bathe the wound in the sterile saline & pick off any dead or scar tissue at each bandage change. The wound area should slowly contract in size as the healing process occurs. Some burns may require a course of antibiotics from your vet. Whilst the wound is healing avoid any enclosure substrate that may irritate the wound. I find newspaper that is changed daily is ideal. The healing may take anything from several weeks to months, after which you may have to assist with removing retained skin from the affected area each time your reptile sheds its skin. Burns like this on a Black Headed python can cause a prolonged and painful death. Avoidable through correct and protected heating and use of low intensity heating globes. 39

40 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December,2000 HERP TIPS By Tigger CAT LITTER AS ALTERNATIVE SUBSTRATE FOR SNAKES AND LIZARDS. A current strategy for substrates that is used by many keepers, involves the use of paper. Butchers paper often bought in rolls is more pleasing to the eye, unlike the more used old newspapers, trading post (after you have squizzed the herp section). Natural like substrates e. g. peat moss, palm peat for semi aquatic lizards like water dragons. While other herps use substrates such as gravel, leaf litter and sand. I started to investigate the suitability of cat litter after a friend started using them for elapids and large skinks. As my blue Tongues have very noticeable odours I changed them to clumping cat litter which made faeces collection easier to notice and remove. The reduction in odour was very noticeable, the smell commonly produced from their diet, which can contain amounts of wet (canned) dog food.. I have not had any noticeable effects apart from excessive dust from a couple of brands, it looked like a collection of albinos. Once this was cat litter was strained it was Ok. Clearly from my perspective I like the pellets of recycled paper. For animals that may require or exist in high humidity enclosures the paper substrates are not as suitable. I did find that when water was spilled. The substrate dried and soaked the water very quickly this would be beneficial for reduction of damp conditions which may trigger disease such as Dermatitis (scale rot) or mite breeding. Breeders Choice: A recycled paper pellet form is currently my preferred choice for the snake and lizards. Down side is it is more expensive, snakes need a thick layer which should be compacted down firmly to allow snakes to move adequately. Potentially small (juvenile or sub adult) Bearded Dragons may try to eat the pellets which look similar to some food types. This may potentially cause stomach blockages in these and other lizards. Clumping Cat Litter: Very good for small skinks and possibly geckoes and for large skinks it works well also. Snakes like Elapids and pythons may also benefit probably allows better surface gripping for movement. However smaller granule could end up under scales of larger scaled snakes. Recycled Cat litter occurs as large flakes which are recycled paper not as suitable for herps as pellets but can be used successfully for Blue Tongues, Cunningham Skinks and Bearded Dragons etc. Cat Litter granules these are semi suitable for all reptiles they have a very powder like granules which also contain sometimes a large amount of dust. Which may give animals a coat of dust over them. This could affect animals by causing respiratory distress. Potentially complicating a slough or eye discomfort to name a few. If you are inclined to use this cat litter, strain the granules through a kitchen strainer will remove the majority of the dust. Detailed below is a table of brands and results with lizards I have used successful. It is only a guide and I am sure enclosure design and ventilation in addition to individuals will play a role in your own use of this substrate. SNAKES Carpet Python Children s Python Olive Python Tiger Snake Copperhead Red Bellied Black Snakes LIZARDS Jacky Dragons Bearded Dragons (P. vitticeps/barbata) Water Dragons Water Skink Whites Skink Stumpy Tailed Lizard Blue Tongues (T. scincoides) 40

41 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December, 2000 BOOK REVIEW MIKE SWAN HERP BOOKS 15 George St, Lilydale, Victoria, 3140 Ph / Fax: PYTHONS OF AUSTRALIA A Natural History Torr, Geordie 2000 Australian Natural History Series University Of NSW Press, Sydney Australia 103 pp. ISBN R.R.P. $32.95 When it comes to keeping snakes in captivity in Australia, the variety of species available is very limited, compared to other parts of the world. Many Australian reptile fanciers do not desire to keep venomous snakes and therefore are restricted to maintaining a few species of Colubrid snakes and pythons. Any book on the subject of Australian pythons is usually not only popular amongst naturalists but also persons interested in the captive management of pythons. This book is the latest in the University of NSW, Australian Natural History series and covers aspects of both ecological, biological and captivity requirements of the approximately 20 species of Australian pythons. The front cover has an attractive photograph showing a distinctively marked jungle carpet python. The book begins with a history of snakes in fossil records with an emphasis on python evolution. It discusses the naming of Australian fossil material Morelia antiqua and the comical Montypythonoides riversleighensis. Chapter 2 takes a look at Anatomy and physiology of snakes, and discusses the senses of snakes, including hearing, vision etc. Also the nature of skin and the process of ecdysis (skin shedding). Chapter 3 is about behaviour and covers courtship and mating, ritualistic combat and home ranges in radiotelemetered Carpet/Diamond pythons. Also locomotion and thermoregulation with aspects of heating and cooling, basking, and habitat use, including shelter sites. Much of the information in this chapter is drawn from field research by Shine, Fitzgerald and Bedford. Chapters 4, Reproduction and life history, 5, Food and Feeding and 7, Captive Care, will be of most interest to herpetoculterists. These chapters cover many aspects of captive husbandry from purchasing a python through to cage design, heating, food and water. Also shedding, diseases, breeding and legal requirements. The section for treating snake mite is standard, without any mention of some of the latest approaches to this old problem, using organic human head lice treatments. There are also chapters on Conservation and Management and Species Accounts. The centre section contains 34 excellent colour photographs of various python species and features the work of well known wildlife photographer Steve Wilson and The Australian Reptile Park s John Weigel. I struggled to find any real criticism of this book and think it is a far better work than Kends, Pythons of Australia published in 1997 and Coborns, Guide To Owning an Australian Python published this year. With Barkers, Pythons Of The World, Vol.1 Australia, now out of print this book will fill an obvious gap. The author Geordie Torr, is a professional writer, presently at Australian Geographic magazine. 41

42 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December,2000 He studied biology at the University of Sydney under Professor Richard Shine and has enjoyed a lifelong interest in herpetology. It is a welcome change to see a book on Australian pythons written by an Australian herpetologist. Barker, G. D & Barker, T.M : Pythons Of The World, Vol. 1. Australia, The Herpetocultural Library, Advanced Vivarium Systems Inc. Lakeside California, 1994 Coborn, J. : The Guide To Owning an Australian Python, TFH USA 1999 Kend, B : Pythons Of Australia, Canyonlands Publishing Group, LC Provo,Utah, USA 1997 TIGGER TOONS by Simon Watharow SLOUGHING DOMESTICS 42

43 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December, 2000 VICTORIAN HERPETOLOGICAL SOCIETYInc MEMBERSHIP Name: Address: Postcode: Ph: (optional) used for future correspondence meetings etc Herpetofauna (Optional) $10 $ Membership 3 Monitor journals $32 $ Donations (Thank you) $ Total $ Make Cheque payable to Victorian Herpetological Society Send to PO BOX 523, Somerville, 3912 Vic $ 43

44 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December,2000 Back Issues Available CONTACT THE VHS for a comprehensive list of back issues for not only Monitor, Herpetofauna (issues from ), Reptiles and Amphibians and Reptillian. Contact SImon VHS, PO Box 523, Somerville,

45 MONITOR - Journal of The Victorian Herpetological Society 11 (1) December,

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