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Neptune the Chameleon

Ep 216: Chameleons in Social Media

Today I talk with the creative force behind the Neptune the Chameleon show on YouTube and Tik Tok. We talk about what it takes to put on  show in good chameleon husbandry and what insights she has to the state of chameleon education on the frontier edge of social media platforms.

I highly recommend checking out the Neptune the Chameleon content. You can easily search for Neptune the Chameleon in YouTube, TikTok or Instagram. Or else click here

Neptune the chameleon
Neptune the chameleon on tiktok
Neptune the chameleon Instagram

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chameleon cages

Ep 212: Chameleon Caging Decisions pt 2 – Glass Caging

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Good morning Chameleon Wranglers! Today we are continuing our conversation about chameleon cage type. Today we talk with Dr. Chris Anderson who shares his experiences in a wide range of conditions and why selecting glass sides enclosures was right for him.

glass chameleon cages
glass chameleon cages

Good morning Chameleon Wranglers! Today we are continuing our conversation about chameleon cage type. We chameleon keepers can select between screen and solid sides depending on how much air flow we need for our situation. The more screen sides we have the closer our cage interior will be to the ambient conditions in the room. The more solid sides you have the more you will be able to have control over raising the humidity and/or the temperature inside your enclosure. A combination of screen and solid sides is called a hybrid cage. In the chameleon community we do a subspecies type arrangement here where the PVC sided enclosures are called hybrid cages and cage’s with mostly glass sides are called “glass cages”. Today’s glass terrariums that have screen vents are technically hybrid cages, but we need to treat them differently because of the situation in the chameleon community where glass cages have been specifically stigmatized…inaccurately.

Dr. Chris Anderson is returning to share how he uses glass sides cages to house common chameleon species and breed the rarest.

As we touched on at the end, we, and others in the community, have been having this discussion for literally decades. The obsession with screen cages has proven difficult to shake. Screen cages have their place. Hybrid cages have their place and Glass cages have their place. It should not be an advanced skill to be able to choose which is most appropriate for your situation. That is a basic requirement of proper chameleon husbandry. If you are listening to 45 minutes of chameleon cage theory then you are in the upper levels of dedication. Make it a point to take your care sheet and compare it to your ambient conditions and decide, from that, whether you need more control over the enclosure environment. That is basic chameleon husbandry. That is the core skill and concept that has been so elusive to so many people wanting to be advisors. I encourage you to develop that skill for the sake of your chameleon.


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hybrid cages

Ep 211: Chameleon Caging Decisions pt 1 – Hybrid

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Deciding on a cage type for your chameleon can be confusing. You hear that chameleons have to be in screen cages but you have all these advanced users using hybrid or even glass cages. Today I am talking with Jonathan Hill of iPardalis about why he chose to use hybrid caging for his breeding program.

Links discussed

panther chameleon

Jonathan Hill runs iPardalis. The special value he offers is panther chameleons individually raised. Click the link to see his availability!

One of the early articles discussing the issues with focusing on screen cages only.

Tall Hybrid

Although the cages Jonathan referenced in this episode where the Dragon Strand Nursery Cages, the most common hybrid cage used for single adult chameleons is the Tall Hybrid Cage System.

Parsons Chameleon

This links to a podcast episode that discusses keeping chameleons in hybrid cages.

Transcript (more or less)

If you have been around chameleon keeping for any length of time you will hear that chameleons need to be housed in screen cages or they will die. Though if you have listened to this podcast for any length of time you will probably run into me saying this isn’t true. So, what do you do when so many of your social media people can’t see beyond screen cages and say anything else is for experts? Well, I have presented frequently that the cage type you select should depend on the ambient conditions. The closer your ambient conditions are to the conditions on the care sheet for your species the more screen panels you use. The further away they are the more solid sides you use. So, if your conditions will sustain chameleon life then use a screen cage. I use screen cages extensively for my outdoor keeping. But indoors I need some modification of the conditions. There is no way for me to effectively get the humidity close to 100% at night. I can put a fogger on the cage and give my chameleon a small cone of fog to find a way to sleep in, but that situation begs for a better solution. A hybrid cage is a cage that incorporates solid panels to block airflow and screen panels to provide airflow. By strategically positioning these you can provide enough ventilation to provide an effective exchange of air and drying out of the surfaces during the day while still maintaining enough control over ventilation to keep your fog in at night. To go further in the hybrid direction you can utilize appropriately sized glass enclosures.

I have done may episodes where I talk about cage selection theory. But the use of hybrid cages and especially glass caging is still considered for experts by most of the community. While there are more elements to watch out for, it is because you are giving a more complete husbandry to your chameleon. You cannot say that a full screen cage is just as good if you are disregarding the humidity and hydration requirements of your chameleon.

I am going to take a different approach this time. This is a two part series in which I interview two breeders that made choices to use specific caging. This episode I will be talking with Jonathan Hill of iPardalis who started off using screen cages, but transitioned to the hybrid caging style. We will learn about how he started and the decision process he went through to switch his entire operation to hybrid cages.

Before I bring him on, I’d like to make it clear. This is, in no way, saying everyone should be using hybrid cages. The cage type used, screen, hybrid, glass, or whatever is dependent 100% on how close your ambient conditions are with your target environmental conditions. The reason why I have such a focus on hybrid and glass enclosures on this podcast is not to get everyone to use them. It is to educate the community on the different applications of screen, hybrid, and glass enclosures so you can make the right choice for the right reasons.

Honestly, we shouldn’t still be having this conversation. We are literally having the same conversation. That we were having in 2002 when I published the article “Up North” Caging in the chameleonnews.com  website. The fact that so many social media voices have so tightly embraced old information and will not move forward is disappointing.

And now, I’d like to bring on Jonathan Hill from iPardalis. Perhaps there are parallels in the process he went through that may be helpful to you today.

There we have one breeder’s experience. I specifically chose Jonathan because I know he went through the thought process of balancing out the needs of his chameleons with the environmental conditions. He went through the exact decision process that many people should go through. Although I say my intention is not to push any one cage type over the other, the fact is that most households will better be able to provide proper chameleon husbandry with a hybrid cage. The major indicator is with humidity levels. Measure them day and night and if they are not what the care sheet says then you need to adjust your chameleon’s environment. A hybrid cage allows that. A screen cage does not. So when would a hybrid cage not be appropriate? If you have naturally high humidity and warm weather then you will want to have a screen cage. A hybrid cage holds in humidity and heat. If you already have it then you don’t need to hold it. But, remember, you have to measure what is in the room. If it is hot and humid outside, but you heavily air condition inside, then you may not have screen appropriate conditions. And for a deeper discussion into these aspects I invite you to join me for part two of this series where I bring back on Dr. Chris Anderson where I discuss deeply his use of glass caging from Florida to South Dakota.

If you are interested in learning more about the gorgeous panther chameleons produced by Jonathan You can drop by ipardalis.com or check out the show notes where I will link to his website.

Thank you for joining me here. And, mostly, thank you for being so interested in learning and moving yourself forward that you’ll hang out for 30 to 45 minutes listening to these deep dives into our community. An educated community is a strong community. And it is great to have you along on this journey of growing in the art of chameleon husbandry. Take care of yourself, take care of your family, and take care of those chameleons!  I will see you in two weeks for part two of this topic.

 


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Gecko people

Ep 210: Four Pillars of a Strong Reptile Community

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The reptile community needs to be strong. And to accomplish that we need to be strong in our smaller communities. Whether chameleon, bearded dragon, green tree python, tarantula, or dart frog or all the others we need to maintain a strong specialized community while, at the same time, realizing we are part of a larger national and still larger global community. Today I am going to talk about what it takes for us to make our specialized communities strong.

Transcript (more or less)

Good morning chameleon wranglers! I am sure, by now, you have noticed at the end of almost every podcast episode I close with the words “take care of each other and keep us strong.” Nice words, but what does that mean? What does a strong community look like? And, really, how do you measure strength?

I have been a part of and watched our reptile community for over 40 years. And I have noticed some patterns that I would like to share. For the purposes of this episode, the term “Reptile community” is used loosely to cover the wide variety of ectotherms that are gathered together under the umbrella of the word reptile as far as the pet community is concerned. These include reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates such as insects, spiders, roaches, bugs, isopods, crustaceans, and anything else that is cold blooded and not fish. And, carnivorous plants, you are big enough to do your own thing, but you are welcome to play in our yard any day. Those other things are not reptiles, but until you guys get big enough to have your own shows you are adopted by the reptile community and you can be part of us as long as you would like. Just know that, for this episode, if I say “Reptile community” I mean all the cold blooded odds and ends that make this world so incredible.

A community is only as healthy as its members allow it to be. If the recognized leaders maintain a strong example of how we should conduct ourselves the community will follow. You can have healthy community even with all the requisite human ego flare ups, personality conflicts, and disagreements if a core foundation of four pillars is maintained.  The four pillars are

  • Accurate Science Based Husbandry
  • Experienced Members
  • Community Size
  • Commerce

 

This is the Chameleon Academy Podcast and I specialize in chameleons. But this episode is 100% applicable to every other reptile, amphibian, or invert community from the huge bearded dragon and ball python communities to the budding draco and jumping spider groups. My home specialized community, chameleons, is somewhere in the middle. Everything I talk about for our specialized groups applies to the national and global community as well. And even if I give examples from the chameleon community, I suspect you will have direct parallels in whichever community you are from. Humans tend to be consistent in their habits.

 

First Pillar: Accurate Science Based Husbandry

The first is Accurate Science based husbandry. This is important because making what we are doing about the quality of life of the animal justifies us doing this at all. Our general standard for care today is much higher than it was 20 years ago. And it is lower than it will be ten years from now. A scientific approach implies that what we accept as proper husbandry is as accurate of a representation of what they need from their environment as possible. As we are still learning what that is, science based husbandry implies that we are constantly studying their activity in the wild, challenging everything we think we know with the new information we get, and testing any ideas in a reproduceable manner. This can be shown in the shift in keeping animals from viewing them as automatons where we give them the right carbon based input and they produce a lifespan to today where we are exploring their emotional health and recognize their importance as life on Earth.

A common vision of providing the most naturalistic captive environment possible will unite the community regardless of country or culture. By using nature as our highest authority we can bypass popularity politics. You know how humans like to form clans behind the loudest or charismatic personality? And when you join certain communities you are now one of them and you have other tribes you are against? I don’t know how to change that part of human nature! But I do know if those leaders have a common goal of the best husbandry that we can still have all those tribes and maybe get our deep need for conflict out by arguing how to pronounce the Latin names instead of the core basics of husbandry.

 

We can achieve this Accurate Science Based husbandry by applying critical thinking to the husbandry we embrace and the people we listen to. Challenging a new thought can simultaneously be critical and respectful. Leaders in the community should expect to be challenged when providing a new idea. And, on our part, the challenges we present to them should be meant to extract the truth in the statement and remove the chaff. This is not a pass/fail, but a sharpening exercise.

 

When I say science based I do mean what we work with comes from a study of the reptile’s natural habitat, but I also mean the application of critical thinking to our discussions as we study, challenge, and test ideas. It means we consider all ranges of hypothesizes and judge them based on their merit. I want to specifically bring that up because one way to link our diverse views, cultures, and perspectives is in a common way in which we will test and come to husbandry conclusions.

The scientific method is one that works and we can all agree on. It is a strategy that people of any country can use and understand.

 

The advantage of the scientific method is that no one has to believe anyone else. If I believe something I create a test and share the results. I also share the test approach so anyone can critique or replicate the test. And that is how we create a core of solid common information for our community. The more in sync we are in solid husbandry concepts, the stronger we are as a community. The responsibility of this one is on people like me and anyone else who is presenting information. And that is the main reason why everything I present has an explanation that you can review enough that you understand it and can test it (if appropriate) and make it your own.

 

And finally, one aspect of the scientific mind is that it is always pushing forward. This aspect of continually growing in knowledge and application gives our community an energy. For example, we are currently revisiting the husbandry of the Veiled Chameleon. Everyone thought it was easy, but we now know they are just extra hardy and can put up with varying levels of poor husbandry. We are learning more about UVB. About hydration. About nutrition. This increases our success with chameleons which makes it a more enjoyable passion. And, thus, one that people will stick with longer. We will get to deep experience and then community size next! All these pillars are intertwined.

 

Accepting a scientific approach that is defined by critical thinking is more than just a good idea, it is the one approach to information that will allow us to move forward in sync.

 

What can you do to make the community stronger? Simple, learn all you can from where ever you land in our community. If you are part of a group then you will be in a sort of echo chamber where the group leaders have directly or indirectly filtered out the information coming to you and you will be hearing the same thing over and over. When you step outside that group you may find the world has wildly different views. Quietly learn the different culture with an open mind. And, yes, this is exactly the same mindset used when you go to another country. Quietly learn their ways before loudly insisting yours is better. The difference between what we are doing and culture is that husbandry that has the purpose of taking care of a chameleon will have, most of the time, a measurable result. So you can respectfully ask questions. You’ll get good answers – or not. Make sure you dig down to the origin of the information to make sure you are getting the best representation of that approach, but the information will be there for you to make a decision as to what aligns with your desired approach.

 

Second Pillar: Experienced Members

The second pillar of a strong community is a deep base of experienced members. When we start off with anything we tend to simple concepts and be black and white about things because we really don’t understand the subject deeply. It is the experienced people that understand the nuances and are able to help our perspective so we understand the reasons and can make our own judgements. Experienced members anchor the community and take us forward in rational steps. They temper flashy trends and can see through simple hype.

 

I do want to mention that all experience is not the same. For example: some keepers have been doing the same thing for ten years while another may have been experimenting with different techniques for ten years. Both have value as long as they speak to what they know and do not over extend. Being an expert in one aspect does not make you an expert in all facets of husbandry. Knowing the difference is critical for your experience to be relevant. And to our poor newcomers who are just trying to piece together this husbandry puzzle which has blow up in proportion compared to what they were told at the pet store, there are many levels of experts and I am sorry that the loudest ones aren’t always the truly experienced ones. It is too easy to get your first chameleon, be enthusiastic enough to memorize and repeat all the talking point until you are the go to person for information. You may be surprised that you can get a social media expert badge in about three to six months. I know you can’t research every name that pops up on your screen giving you advice with 100% confidence. The only way to sort it all out is with time. Just give yourself that time to learn the lay of the land before you pledge allegiance to one thought process or another.

 

So shouldn’t our pool of experienced people simply grow as the community gets older? Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.  There is significant attrition just because of…well, life.

Add to this that being active generally brings conflict. There is always someone who wants to challenge the big gun or be the only voice. So if you are the experienced person in the room you are the target. This is, again, just how humans work. And this is tiring. So they fade away and their experience is lost. Add to this the ability to memorize all the talking points and then have a three month old member of the community be listened to as a reliable source and there isn’t much incentive for the experienced person to duke it out.

 

Podcasting is one way to leapfrog this. On this podcast, I have specifically sought out experts around the world to come on. By listening to their interview you can extract the benefit they offer. Their experience can be recorded and referenced by anyone who wants to graduate from memorized talking points.

 

And that is why I work so hard on how I explain things. When people make their way to the digital doors of the Chameleon Academy I don’t want them to memorize the care summaries. I want them to understand why it is all being said.  And herein lies an aspect of my growth as a chameleon community educator. How well I communicate is just as important as the information I am communicating.  It is a challenge to condense a multi-facetted natural phenomena of which we have 25% understand of into a one sentence package with an infographic picture.

 

Now, a note for the experienced community. I get that you don’t have the time to jump into the chaos that is social media.

The absolute best way to communicate your experience is by example. Show pictures of your set-ups and your animals thriving. Show breeding success and share what you are doing regardless of what the admins or loudest voices are saying and don’t worry about the incorrect sound bites bouncing around. The proof is in the life quality of your reptiles. You may not change the people who are trying to be in charge, but those who see what you are doing will approach you and ask you questions. And that is the most effective use of your limited time. It means only be talking to the people who want to listen.

 

Third Pillar: Community Size

The third pillar of a strong community is the sheer number of members. The math is simple. The more people you have, the higher your purchasing power is and the higher your political power is. The more money the community spends the more services will be built up around that spending. The larger the reptile community the more Exotic veterinarians will be added to vet offices. You know how hard it is to find a reptile vet, much less a chameleon experienced vet? The bigger the reptile community gets the easier that will be. The bigger the community the more business can be supported beyond just critical medical services of an exotic vet. We can now support tour groups to Madagascar. Birders have been doing this for decades. And we can get businesses catered directly for us. Case in point, the chameleon community was big enough that the Dragon Strand Chameleon Caging Company was able to develop. Because of that, an entire new category of hybrid mid and high end chameleon cages was created. Before that it was cheap, screen cages only. So our size benefitted the community by creating product availability that did not exist before. Because of that, the community now has Dragon Ledges which is a patented Dragon Strand product that allows you to mount branches and plants to the sides of screen cages. We are big enough to support innovation that serves us specifically. Even more importantly, we are big enough to support innovation in features rather than in just cost savings. What that means is that a company can dump R&D money into a product to make it perform better and/or to make it cheaper. Mass market cage companies will almost always dump R&D money into making something cheaper. They are catering to the general populace who is not experienced enough to know what quality to look for. So their innovation is to make the product as cheap as possible. Companies from within the community are much more likely to invest money into making a better product. I know that is what I do. The size of our community directly affects the businesses and support that are tailored for our needs.

 

And politics, the reptile world is big enough to have USARK which is a political office that protects our rights to keep reptiles. And they have no down time. Take a look at their website and you can see what is going on all the time. There is a constant onslaught of legislation designed to criminalize reptile keeping. It is community size that generates enough money to keep USARK going and is able to create enough noise that politicians listen. Size is what allows us to fight back in what is literally a life and death fight for our community.

 

So there is huge benefit to us encouraging reptile ownership. Now, I understand that reptile or jumping spider or hissing cockroach keeping is not for everyone and I am not saying we should be out there recruiting. I am saying that when people show up on our social media doorstep that we treat them with as much respect as we can and welcome them into the community. We will always have those community members that need to put down the freshman class to feel like they know something. It is up to us seniors to temper that and be an example as to how newcomers should be treated. Here is where perspective comes into play. Social media has allowed us to sequester ourselves into corners where it seems like our little community is the entire world. And we play out all of our human drama within that confined space. All of the ego fluffing, jealousy, politics, good will, helpfulness, compassion, everything that makes up us as human beings is played out on this miniature stage as if the world around us did not exist. We fight each other because, well, humans fight. If we don’t have a common enemy to join forces against we find an enemy within our community because humans seem to need to always being fighting something. It is those of us who manage groups that have to have the perspective that there is a larger world around us that would like us to disappear. They are doing everything possible to choke us out while we fling mud at each other. It is up to us in the leadership roles to look outside our communities and keep the perspective that the more we work together and the larger our community is the stronger we will be to justify services, specialty products, and political protection.

 

Of course, how we grow is just as important as growing. Growing our community is an important part of our survival. But we must grow it the right way, with the welfare of the reptiles, amphibians, an invertebrates as our primary focus. Because that is growing in strength.

 

Fourth Pillar: Healthy Commerce

Healthy commerce is intimately tied into community size. The bigger the community the more money flows and the more we are catered to. But that is community size. For this last pillar, I want to focus on healthy commerce within our specialty or umbrella reptile community. These are the reptile breeders, the specialty accessory makers, the feeder insect breeders, and yes, the chameleon cage makers. When you spend money within our community it bounces around inside our community. I can tell you that when you buy a Dragon Strand cage, that money then goes to panther chameleon breeders for the subjects of my panther chameleon educational project. It goes to feeder companies supporting our community. It comes right back around and lets me do this podcast and video channel and chameleon academy website. If you purchase what you need from someone in the chameleon community then money stays within our community and strengthens numerous others in our community.  Because where do chameleon people spend their money? With other chameleon people and reptile focused companies! Because, yes, that also goes for general reptile companies.

 

Healthy commerce is also an important component to keeping experienced people in our community. Money is a sensitive subject. But it is highly relevant to the conversation of how we keep experienced people in the community long term. Money is why you have a roof over your head and internet to listen to this podcast. It is why you can create a slice of Madagascar in your living room. And one way to make sure people stay in the chameleon community is to encourage money to be made within the community. If someone loves chameleons enough to put 10, 20, 30+ years into keeping and breeding then how much more do you think they will be dedicated to staying an active part of the community if that passion for chameleons helps to put that roof over their heads?

 

Here is where we shoot ourselves in the foot. We self-righteously bristle whenever someone is making money off chameleons. Have you ever heard the phrase, “well, they are only in it for the money” whenever someone doesn’t get their way? Have a seat for what I am about to say next. Making money, meaning profit, is what makes a viable business. If you are giving away panther chameleons or charging less than it takes to run a breeding operation you are running a charity and your payment is in the community patting you on the back and saying you are such a great person for you giving up of your money so they can keep theirs. Because, in reality, people say “this breeder is only in it because of the money” usually because they themselves what to hold on to money because, you guessed it, they only care about money. It is amazing how many self-righteous statements are simply mirrors. I am harping on this because successful business is a community builder. It is what encourages people to stay in a community long term. How many of those people you know of that are still active in the community after ten years are breeders or have some other thing they sell? Quit a few. Obviously, not all, but I suspect you will find that a large number of 10+ year people who are active on a day to day basis adding to the community have a business tie. Can you guess why this is? It is because the reptile community, like any other animal, or craft, or other community that is composed of human beings, is a rough place to be. Fighting, drama, and back stabbing, oh my. People who stick around need a reason to stick around.

 

And I am not saying everyone gets out of chameleons if they don’t make money! What I am saying is that they fade away from active community involvement and stick to their own quiet, non-drama friends. So why does it matter? Why am I taking you down this winding path? It is because we need to have a healthy concept of money as to how it relates to building a healthy community. People who make money from a community stay in the community because they can justify the time they spend to learn and gain experience. So, maybe an example is in order. And we can make this a personal example. I will talk about me. Why do I do what I do?

I am involved in chameleon education because I love it. I have a passion researching all aspects of chameleon husbandry. And I have a special passion in taking those concepts and finding ways to present them so they are understandable. I love teaching. But there is a financial cost to writing and producing these podcasts, videos, and maintaining care summaries, hand outs, and a website with 259 pages and posts filled with the latest in chameleon information. And, yes, I have to update it on a regular basis to keep it current. That is an enormous amount of work. There is a direct financial outlay and there is a very real opportunity cost. That means there is a cost I pay by choosing to do this with my time instead of something that makes more money. And we make these decisions all the time. A breeder that houses veiled chameleons instead of higher priced panther chameleons is paying an opportunity cost of several hundred dollars per baby. A person spending 8 hours a day breeding chameleons and finds out they are making less than minimum wage per hour is paying an opportunity cost by choosing what they enjoy instead of what makes more money. A person working with chameleons when they have the option to work at a more lucrative job is paying an opportunity cost.

 

So fine, we got the basic business concept. But why does everything have to be a business and make money? Can’t I do something for fun? Of course. There is no reason for turning everything into a business. In fact, that is the fastest way for it to no longer be enjoyable! What I am getting at, though, is that the majority of people who stick around do have at least some profit from the community. And that, in a way is both an incentive and a trap. If you have a community business then you leaving the community is leaving your business. And if that business truly contributes to the bottom line then you are getting enough benefit to weather a substantial level of social media chaos and craziness. People that have nothing going to the bottom line from the chameleon community tend to take long breaks on a regular occasion the more experienced they become. The point of all of this is not to say you need to develop a chameleon related business, but I am encouraging you to actively support business by chameleon community members. Supporting businesses founded and run by active members of the reptile community is the single best way to make sure we have the right products and technology moves ahead

And, for goodness sake, don’t sabotage community member businesses because of petty social media fights.

This doesn’t mean that you have to pay more because someone in the community sells a more expensive product. Find the right product and right price. But one thing you can do to strengthen our community is to 1) actively support community businesses or, 2) if you just can’t stand the person, simply do not actively sabotage community members. I get it. Not everyone gets along. I have my handful of people I want to have nothing to do with. I don’t think there is anyone that doesn’t have a list of people they just avoid. But if they have a business within the reptile community I will support them, even if that support means I will keep silent when I could hurt their business with a snide comment on social media. A small side business is a very real way that experienced community members have a justification for being actively involved in community building. And that is a good and positive dynamic for us all.

 

And consider our responsibility surrounding where we spend our money. We literally create the community we pay for. Our disgust for inhumane treatment of herps and invertebrates is mere background noise until we speak with our wallet. We must encourage and enthusiastically support companies that are vocal about quality reptile care. We must acknowledge that our community’s past, and, unfortunately, present has reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates treated as throw away toys. It is our responsibility and mission to educate the buying community that this is not acceptable.

 

It costs money to properly take care of and breed reptiles. Do you want a community that has four to six month old captive born Jackson’s Chameleons available for $150 - $200 where they are well started and healthy? Or are the 3 week old babies born in the wild caught holding cell for $50 good enough for you? Do you know how much time me and my team spend on the Jackson’s Chameleon Community Facebook group with people who got a cheap Jackson’s chameleon baby and are asking how to save its life? Most of the time, you can’t. What a tragedy for both the chameleon and the keeper. Now imagine a community where businesses like that couldn’t sell enough chameleons to continue stocking them because too many customers demanded to see the breeding set up and get assurances that the mother had been properly cared for. We can create a community where the responsible breeder has a wait list while the meat market can’t sell. Is that optimistic? Yes, it is. Cheap things will always sell. And so there will always be a market for cheap reptiles. But we can shift things towards responsible breeding if we spend our money in the right places. Patronize breeders that demonstrate quality care for their animals. Be willing to pay for top care given all the way back to the mother when she was a baby. In fact, refuse anything less than a breeder that demonstrates top husbandry practices. It is critical that we see our money as a tool for creating the community we desire. Reptile keeping is a luxury and a privilege that is threatened by both politics and environmental crisis’. Financially supporting community member businesses, political efforts, and environmental healing is a part of taking care of our community in a holistic way.

 

Conclusion.

This podcast episode is for those of us in the reptile, amphibian, and invertebrate communities long term that consider this our home. We are the ones that are setting the tone for the entire community. If we value what we have we need to keep in mind the perspective that how we structure our interactions affects the larger picture. Are we fighting amongst ourselves or organizing donations to USARK or Eden Reforestation to restore the natural environments? Are we back stabbing and sabotaging or actively building up community members that are helping us have commerce that is specific to our needs? If you are a leader or social media influencer, how you conduct yourself will set the tone. People are going to look up to you and follow your lead. You can be a positive influence by making sure what you present is in keeping with pushing your community forward in husbandry. Get as close as you reasonably can to replicating the important parts of their natural habitat and share it as an example. Highlight experienced members that you respect and learn alongside with your audience or group. Show what it looks like to be patient with a newcomer. And verbally support the businesses within the reptile community that you frequent.  You can touch on these four pillars in your day to day interactions whether you are a podcast, video channel, Facebook group admin, Instagram account, or any other social media outlet member. We all have a part we can play to strengthen our local community and in turn contribute to the solid foundation of the entire national and global community.

 

So what now? Well, what is your part? You will have something that you are able to offer. Are you able to offer financial support? From USARK to Eden Reforestation to your local reptile rescue to the patreon account of a content creator that has made a difference in your life the opportunities are plentiful. Are you patient with gently explaining the same thing over and over again? I cannot tell you how much we need you on social media. Can you create videos? Would you like to host a podcast? Do you like to write? Do you understand Tik Tok? The more responsible, naturalistic minded content creators we have out there demonstrating proper husbandry the more reptiles will have a quality life. You don’t have to argue to be effective. Simply show what you do and be an example. Do you have an idea for a product that would make caring for your favorite species better or easier? Consider a side business catering to that small niche of the market. I don’t know what species you are thinking about, but there may be a bigger audience out there than you know. Try it. Do you need someone to bounce ideas off of? If you are truly serious about a product idea, podcast, video channel, or other outreach then email me at bill@chameleonacademy.com. I am not going to steal your idea. I will give you perspective from someone who has been there. I won’t do it for you, but I may be able to help bridge some gaps or brainstorm around stubborn roadblocks. It took me two years to actually start this podcast. I am presently struggling through a product design challenge. I have been there. I know the feelings of doubt and all the voices, real and imagined, that are pulling you down. I believe that the more people who get actively involved in products or content creation the stronger we are as a community. So yes, I will help you. Although don’t talk to me if you want to start a chameleon caging company. That would be a conflict of interest. But otherwise, I know how lonely it is when you don’t have anyone around you that sees your vision. And, generally, people are either good at product or they are good at marketing. It is rare to find both in one person. Believe me. In my professional life I run product marketing departments for consumer electronics companies. Good product marketing professionals are exceptionally difficult to find. So how hard is it to find someone who understands product, understands marketing, and understands the reptile market? I would be happy to provide basic advice, realistic encouragement, and cautions that could help you get passed what is holding you back and avoid pitfalls as you move forward. If you are ready to put it into action and need a little push, a little insight, a little perspective…the email is bill@chameleonacademy.com

 

We deserve the community we create. Whether through our money, time, or energy everything we do adds to or takes away from it. Realize that your contribution to the community, no matter what it is, is greater than the effort in itself. When others see what you are doing it encourages like behavior and your efforts are multiplied. Thank you for joining me here this week for this very important topic. Let’s make a better community.

 


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Veiled Chameleons and Bill

Bill Strand Interview on Animals At Home Podcast

I’d like to invite you to check out the Animals At Home Podcast, episode 92 where Dillon Perron interviews me about the chameleon community, Chameleon Academy, and Dragon Strand.

 

This is a very good interview where we touch on important topics regarding where we are going as a community. We talk about the Panther Chameleon Breeding Lifecycle project I have been working on where I am modelling a breeding model that is specifically designed for optimal chameleon care and breeder happiness/satisfaction. That is the way we can expand and maintain the experience and knowledge base in our community.

 

I got excited about the Animals At Home podcast when I listened to episode 86 with TC Houston where he talked about small batch breeding. This was about keeping your breeding operation purposefully on the small side. Although, if what TC was talking about was “small” then what I am talking about doing is “micro”! Of course, once you have the micro aspect down, scaling up to whatever is appropriate is no problem! But this episode resonated with me and I loved hearing the concepts I had been thinking said out loud by someone else. One of the most powerful discussion topics on this episode was the talk about reaching a critical mass with the size of community. To survive we need to grow. This applies politically, in buying power, and demand for basic infrastructure such as availability of vets with reptile experience. You know how hard it is to find reptile experienced veterinarians? This is because we are coming out of a time period where reptile experience was a side business and something taken on because of the vet’s personal passion. But the vet would have to see cats and dogs to pay the bills. When we grow as a community it becomes possible for vets to be dedicated to reptiles and that makes them better at serving us which makes us more successful and strengthens the community. So it is in our best interests to grow.

 

Next was episode 88 with Chelsea Isdaner where she talked about her breeding operation where she has her breeding group in naturalistic cages. Each breeder is treated as a pet. And this is the next step for us in the chameleon community. I think we have achieved the first step which was to make naturalistic keeping the norm for beginners. And we have achieved that beautifully. Now it is wide spread for chameleon cages to be lush with natural plants. The next step, in my mind, is to bring that into our breeding set-ups. We have done well mass producing panther chameleons in sterile, easy to clean environments. And this is necessary if you have a lot of breeders. I’d like to bring the spotlight to craft breeding where each breeder is set up in a large size cage filled with live plants and treated like a pet. My purpose in this is to raise the life quality of the chameleons and maintain the happiness level of the human. This strengthens our community.

 

So I invite you to listen to these episodes. You can get on the new wave as it builds! I’ll be doing a complete podcast episode fleshing out these thoughts soon so we can continue this conversation.

Ep 92: Bill Strand Interview

Bill strand

Bill’s podcast, YouTube channel, website, and care guides are a staple among chameleon keepers and he has been a catalyst in the movement towards natural keeping and breeding. In this episode, we discuss Bill’s history keeping chameleons, his caging company, Dragon Strand, and of course the Chameleon Academy.

Ep 86: Small Batch Breeding

We must re-think reptile breeding to promote methods that are both respectful to the reptiles we keep and that make our value clear to non-reptile-keeping folk. In this episode, TC Houston and I discuss the concept of small-batch reptile breeding and how it will save herpetoculture from self-destruction.

Ep 88: Breeding Reptiles in Complex Setups

In the episode, we discuss Chelsea's diverse group of snakes, DIY enclosures, and the process of advancing husbandry. She also talks about how she successfully breeds snakes in complex habitats and we analyze the myth that small snakes fail to thrive in large enclosures.

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Female Panther Chameleon

Ep 208: Chameleon Caresheet Confusion

Listen Here!

What do you do when the chameleon experts contradict each other? You just want to set up your chameleon right the first time. Why can't anyone agree on how to do it? In this episode I talk about how to reconcile different experts saying different things.

Link Resources

Transcript (more or less)

Introduction

As many of you know, I just released a video component to the Chameleon Academy Panther Chameleon care summary. If you go to the Panther Chameleon page on the chameleonacademy.com website you will find a .pdf download of the care summary. You’ll find this care summary much different from standard care sheets as this one contains a level more information such as information on the cage interior, the lighting/hydration cycle, feeding quantity, and not only what level of UVB, but distance to the light fixture if you use a certain product. Backing that up is a webpage that explains every parameter on the care summary so you can understand it better. My vision for the Chameleon Academy has been that it would be a multi-media chameleon education experience so there is also a video companion tutorial and a podcast episode for researching on the go. So with this wealth of information you are confidently set to get your panther chameleon! Until, that is, you compare what I say to what your social media group says. And it doesn’t match up. And then your friend gave you a care sheet from the expert they say is 2nd to God in knowledge…and that contradicts both me and your social media group. So you pull up the care page on the website of the breeder from whom you have purchased a juvenile that will be ready in one short month! How can there be so many different opinions….no, not just opinions….deeply embraced convictions on the care parameters of one of the most commonly kept chameleons?

That is what I will discuss today. Even if you decide that you trust my information and want to go with it, we are a community and so you will have to deal with all these various view points when interacting. I am going to highlight the top six debate points you will find during your research into chameleon husbandry and your use of the care summary I just released. I will share the history behind them and the concern level.

 

Caging

First we have caging. There is nothing that controversial with my caging parameters. I do recommend larger cages for females. Many care sheets have males at the 2x2x4’ cage and the females at the 18x18x36”. My care summary has them both at 2x2x4.  Your female chameleon will appreciate the larger 2x2x4 cage usually recommended for males. But, if you set the cage up correctly, the often recommended 18x18x36 will work. Keep in mind, though, that these are all minimum sizes. No breeder will say you shouldn’t get a larger cage so even though what I say is a little different it won’t be controversial. You may run into the random social media expert that read a care sheet and didn’t understand the concept of “minimum”, but, by and large, going bigger is not going to raise any eye brows.

The point where there may be some confusion to work through is that I promote that cage type should be chosen with respect to your ambient room temperature. The closer your temperatures and humidity levels are to ideal the more screen panels. The further they are from what you are trying to provide your panther chameleon, the more solid sides. Because the average household has acceptable temperatures, but the panther needs higher humidity at night than most houses provide, I lean towards hybrid cages with mostly solid sides as my most common recommendation.

So, what do you when your breeder says that chameleons need a screen cage or else they’ll get a respiratory infection and die?

Well, here is another case where you have to choose who to listen to. And then stick with that information source.

Let me explain. There are many ways to get something done. Yes, some ways are better than others, but there are times when different ways can still get the job done even if some of those are better than others. And you have to pick what you are going to make work.

With the Chameleon Academy I am promoting a thoughtful and insightful approach to chameleon husbandry. Much of the husbandry I talk about is a bit more complicated than your standard husbandry advice. It requires more thought. It isn’t necessarily hard, but it does take some understanding. And, I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect that learning chameleon husbandry might take some thought and learning.

A hybrid cage will retain heat and humidity. That is the reason for getting a hybrid cage, of course! But it also means that you are able to over do it. So it requires you to develop the discipline to watch your heat and humidity levels. Well, mostly the heat. In a screen cage most people will struggle to get anywhere near the target humidity levels, but it will be hard to overheat or over-humidify the cage.  Because you are literally using your small heat bulb and humidifier to change the entire room environment. So you get a localized heat or fog cone with it quickly dissipating. And, so it is harder to over do anything. People have adjusted their care to account for screen cages. And this is one reason why you can’t pick and choose care parameters from different places. Someone telling you to use a screen cage will often also be telling you to mist regularly through the day. This is because your chameleon will need to drink during the day to make up for losing moisture during the night because the humidity was low. And this is how we all did it for many, many years. So, yes, it works! But do you see how one parameter was adjusted to make up for a deficiency in another? So, take some time and get comfortable with your information source and don’t be rattled when you run into five other perspectives saying they are the only one. And I will take the unorthodox approach and say between me and your breeder, listen to your breeder. Your breeder is the one that is meant to be there to hand hold you through the process. That is what they are there for. Pass on that only if you have a community or mentor that is willing to take the role of guiding you. And then don’t go back to your breeder and make them unravel everything you have done outside their care parameters. Every group has figured out how to make their method work and they may or may not be able to switch gears in their head. And this isn’t what you want in the first place. You want the person guiding you to come from their place of strength and that would be their method that they have perfected. So, back to cage type, if you are having trouble getting the humidity up with the screen cage your breeder told you to get then have the breeder help you figure out how to get the humidity higher. Though, yes, my care summary has been put together using decades of personal experience and incorporating input from around the world so, if I have done my job right, you will be able to study what I have written and understand it enough to make an educated decision on your own. But remember, this is one of those topics that people take personally. Most people in the community have heard of hybrids and glass and write them off as advanced caging. Some outright say anything but a screen cage will kill you chameleons. So there is a lot of drama surrounding this topic. And if you say you are using a hybrid cage to a person who only knows screen cages get ready for an uncomfortable exchange. It is like putting a Mac computer in front of a person who has used a PC all their life. Some will stumble through it and figure out how to get on the internet and some will just pull out the holy water and wood stake.

 

Basking Temperature and Length

There is a shift going on in the chameleon community which is touching panther chameleon care. We, and I mean we as in the general community are becoming more aware that hotter conditions, combined with high food intake is not healthy for chameleons. This, I think, takes a little history. As we grew up in our chameleon keeping we were desperate to keep them alive. This is in the 1990s. It was exciting to have chameleons live years. Then we went to the next stage of herpetocultural growth and wanted to be able to breed them. This happened quite easily with panther chameleons. So during this time we would be babying them and providing anything that would make them grow quick and large. This was, and still is, a common benchmark. Big is healthy, right? If you saw two panther chameleons and one was twice as big, that is the one you would want. Well, yes, and, back in the early days that would be a very accurate assessment! But now that we have gotten way past the stage of keeping them alive and being gitty that we successfully bred them we are turning our attention to refining their health. And we are finding that bigger is not healthy. Sure size is fine, but bulging fat pads are not. This is demonstrated most dramatically in Veiled Chameleons where over-energizing the females with heat and food makes their bodies overproduce eggs to a life threatening number. You have probably heard of egg binding. A common cause for death from egg binding is females whose fat pads have swelled and egg production is two to four times what it should be. The females become marble bags and have complications. This comes from over energizing the females body through heat and food. Although the condition is not as severe in panthers as it is in veileds, there is still that danger of over-engerizing the panther females. And so you will see care sheets run a wide range of basking temperatures from 100 degree F to 80 F. The higher the temperature the older the care information. This is a husbandry area we are still working on figuring out the right recipe of temperature versus food intake. I have chosen 85F to 90F because it is on the lower side and is well tested. In the coming annual updates I am sure that I will lower the  basking temperatures, but I can’t until I know what is safe. You see, lowering temperatures and food intake too far will produced stunted chameleons. And I need to know where that border is before my care information gets closer to it. I am actively doing extensive work with panther chameleon care parameters so as soon as I am confident I have a regimen that is as simple as possible without getting people too close to the edge I will adjust parameters. But for now, just be aware that there is a shift going on in the community and you will see various basking temperatures. 85-90 is a good safety.

You will also see talk about time that your basking bulb is left on. Reducing the time the basking bulb is on is a strategy employed by some sections of the community to prevent the over energizing of the female. I have been experimenting with basking temperature and lengths. So far, I have found slower growth, but no stunting yet. So there is promise that this is a tactic that can be used. I am not to the point where I think I can recommend this without beginners mis-stepping and having problems so I am still conservative on this tactic. You see, I am not only responsible for the information I provide, but how it is interpreted and executed by the readers. So I am careful how I present new methods. At this time, I advocate leaving the basking bulb on as long as your chameleon needs it. As I said in the care summary, this takes observing your chameleons behavior. In a hybrid cage you’ll probably have to turn it off after a morning warm-up. In an all-screen cage you probably can leave it on all day. But this is a parameter I really want you all to be mindful of. Watch your chameleon. Learn what they use and realize you can turn on and off the basking light as is appropriate for your conditions.

 

Humidity and Naturalistic Hydration.

Another shift in our community is the increased awareness of how humidity plays into our hydration husbandry. Most care sheets do not recognize nighttime humidity needs. This is where we follow the natural cycle of higher humidity, lower temperatures during the night and lower humidity/higher temperatures during the day.  I have called this the naturalistic hydration cycle and this is the prime example of how all care parameters are interlinked. The standard hydration method has been using a screen cage and misting multiple times during the day. This is what you will see from many breeders and social media groups. Since the humidity is standard low human house levels the chameleon loses moisture during the night breathing. This requires misting during the day to rehydrate.

In the naturalistic hydration method we provide high humidity during the night and mist so the chameleon can drink during the morning if he needs to. And this provides what they need so we don’t have to spray them during the day which they hate.

But to do this the fundamental core of our husbandry has to change. To raise the humidity we need to block off the ventilation to the point where we get enough airflow for air exchange and cage drying during the day. That allows our nighttime humidity to build up. And this requires a hybrid cage with solid sides. Then we can create a nice build-up of humidity at night. But a hybrid cage also holds in heat during the day so we now have to be mindful of heat build up from the basking bulb. This means we have to introduce the concept of reducing basking bulb on time and monitoring temperatures. That seems simple in concept, but going on social media you learn that this is for advanced keepers only. So there is a slow shift in understanding towards the naturalistic hydration. It is resisted by many, and not fully understood by others, so be aware that there will be a wide swing of opinions around humidity and when you should mist. Really, the best thing you can do for yourself is understand the different methods and make the decision for yourself. But, if you are still confused then go with the method advised by the person helping you along. Once again, I fully admit that the Chameleon Academy approach can be intimidating at first. I can say I have personally tested the naturalistic hydration over a number of years with many species and it is a better approach than the screen cage/daytime misting approach. I highly encourage you to use it. The naturalistic hydration method should be your end goal, and start here if you can, but it is something you can incorporate later if you wish.

 

 

Supplementation

Next, Supplementation. This is where we add mineral and vitamin powders dusted on the surface of our feeder insect and we add nutrition in this manner. The reason why there is a wide range of supplementation regimens is that we are still figuring out supplementation. We have a fairly good idea of what works, but we are quite primitive as far as understanding how much of what, and in what combination, is needed. And that gray area leads to a wide range of personal interpretations. This means that you are going to be exposed to the supplementation regime your information source tried and their chameleon didn’t get sick. That is the level of certainty we have right now.

The main area of debate is how much vitamin D3 to allow through the diet. In nature, chameleons get their Vitamin D3 from UVB just like we do. The sun’s light hits our skin and we use the UVB wavelengths to synthesize vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is critical because that is what lets us absorb calcium from what we eat. Without Vitamin D3 we don’t get calcium and without calcium our bones get soft and will break. It is called Ricketts in humans and Metabolic Bone disease in chameleons. So we need vitamin D3. For the longest time, both education about UVB and UVB bulb strength was lacking and so we had many horrible cases of Metabolic Bone Disease. This was solved by putting vitamin D3 into the supplements we put on our feeder insects. This was a wonderful solution except that there is a danger of D3 overdose because it is a fat soluble vitamin and excess amounts won’t just flush out of the system. There is a built in stop valve for D3 being generated from UVB, but no stop valve if it comes in from the diet. Therefore, if you give too much in the diet you could get hypercalcemia which means too much calcium in the body and life limiting things like calcium deposits on organs where they shouldn’t be. We want to avoid that. And with present UVB light technology we don’t have to use dietary vitamin D3. The one case where present information suggests we use dietary vitamin D3 is alongside giving preformed vitamin A. Honestly, I am still working through understanding how this works and how it applies to reptiles, but with nutrition that is a common state of affairs for us. Reptile nutrition is not the most funded area of science these days. I’ll link to an abstract about a study in rats where giving Vitamin A decreased the effectiveness of calcium absorption. So this is why more vitamin D is, most of the time, added to supplements with preformed vitamin A.  But, that is leading us down a rat hole, so to speak. Back to different supplementation regimens.

You’ll run into two main varieties of routine. One is the one presented in the Chameleon Academy which is calcium and bee pollen based for every feeding and then a multivitamin with preformed vitamin A every two weeks. You will run into many variations on this approach. The philosophy behind the academy approach is that we give calcium and bee pollen every feeding and simulate a random vertebrate every two weeks that gives a shot of vitamin A. The chameleon gets vitamin D3 from UVB every day as well and, if this is done correctly, there is no need to have D3 in the diet. The D3 in with the biweekly multivitamin is just there to keep the vitamin A company.

The other regimen you will run into with a number of breeders is using Repashy Calcium Plus every feeding. This has worked well over time and has been adopted as a much easier to remember supplementation schedule. Different supplementation routines are like fighting words in the chameleon community so prepare for strong feelings when you bring it up. I have linked a podcast episode that goes into the testing done by Kammerflage Kreations for them to decide on the Repashy Calcium Plus regimen. It is a thoughtful and well tested decision. If you are considering this approach then listen to the episode to understand what was behind it. I find myself in the strange position of recommending a different supplementation regimen while defending the use of Repashy Calcium Plus. And the reason why it is important for me to defend using Repashy Calcium Plus every feeding is because the methodical approach that went into showing that this is effective should serve as a model for how we test any supplementation regimen. My defense of using Repashy Calcium Plus is not because that is the supplementation I want to recommend, but I am defending the method used to test it. If we put in that amount of work into any of the things the community presents as facts we would have a much stronger community less able to be swayed by the latest loud voice that comes along. I ask that you take this to heart. I see so many half baked ideas being passed around because there was no critical thought applied to its creation or adoption as a sound bite.

 

Maybe one day there will be some repeatable test that will determine what the danger level is for daily vitamin D3 intake. And then this issue will be laid to rest (well, maybe). But, my message to you, who are just trying to make heads or tails of this subject is that both regimens work. If you want to use your breeder for support then go with the supplementation and UVB regimen that they suggest. If you want to go to a certain social media group for support then use their regimen. Just know you can’t go back and forth. Don’t use the social media regimen and then go back to your breeder if something is off. Get support from the person who you get advice from. If you are following Chameleon Academy advice and want to ask questions then my experienced team and I have camped out at the Facebook group, The Chameleon Enthusiasts to offer support. At The Chameleon Enthusiasts group the team is dedicated to helping across all supplementation routines. We make it a point to understand what is behind the supplements so we can offer an insightful analysis no matter which regime you are using. Just about anywhere else, a different supplementation routine will be blamed for anything going wrong without a critical analysis. And this is, yet again, the reason why you need to use the method understood by the breeder, mentor, or group that you will be interacting with. Understanding supplementation is challenging. One thing I will warn you about is any supplementation regimen that uses calcium plus D3. Both Fluker’s and Rep-cal calciums with D3 are way over the top with D3 and if there is going to be a supplement that tips the scales into overdose, it will be them. If you are told to use either Flukers Calcium with D3 or Rep-Cal Calcium with D3 then it is time to take a step back and re-evaluate.

 

UVB lighting

Next is UVB lighting. The Chameleon Academy care summary uses the T5 HighOutput fluorescent lights. This is the most common bulb used on social media so there shouldn’t be much of note there. ,Use the UVB chart on the Chameleon Academy care summary. If your breeder recommends using a T8 light, using a T5 light will not change anything other than give you better D3 synthesis at a given distance. So using the Chameleon Academy UVB recommendation will not interfere with any other care parameter that you find out there. And it will ensure good D3 synthesis no matter what the supplementations schedule.

There may be some people that are concerned about using a T5 light system with a supplementation regimen such as Repashy Calcium Plus that has vitamin D3 in it. This comes from a lack of understanding of how UVB and D3 works. I’ll try to give a summary example. The body creates only the amount of D3 that the body needs. Say the chameleon needs 10 units of D3 a day. The body will turn on the UVB conversion and make 10 units of D3 and then shut down conversion. It does not matter how intense the UVB light is after that. It cannot turn back on the conversion. If you then give 8 units of dietary D3 through your supplement then the body will only make 2 units from UVB. And it doesn’t matter how intense the UVB is. What I am getting at is that is if you give Repashy Calcium Plus it doesn’t matter if you use T8 lights or T5 lights. You will not cause a D3 overdose from using T5 lights. Now, going too high will cause other problems, but not D3 overdose. And Dr. Gary Ferguson did a study showing that panther chameleons will deliberately bask as long as they needed to get the UVB they need. So, using a T5 as directed on this care summary is compatible with all appropriate supplementation schedules. This, of course, assumes a proper supplementation schedule as discussed above.

So, bottom line, use the Arcadia ProT5 6% UVB on top of a screen cage with the back of your chameleon 6” from the top. Please review the care summary for details and asterisks and such.

 

Feeding

And finally, there is a feeding schedule that has feeding chameleons as much as they will eat until they are adults and then easing off to five feeders every other day. This is another case where we are trying to avoid unhealthy weight. My five feeders every other day is less than most breeders recommend, but still more than some care sheets. This is the exact same case as with the basking temperature where I want to see more cases of how people execute this before I go lower. I have had people stop giving food to chameleons that were behind in growth because of a general schedule meant for chameleons on the standard growth cycle. So I have to be careful and sensitive to how this information is interpreted. Five feeders every other day is effective, yet conservative. But you will see a wide range of advice out there.

 

So I hope that this helps ease you into the community and understand all the different opinions out there. It would be simplest if there was one care sheet we all agreed on and presented. But that isn’t the case. And beginners like to come onto the scene, collect caresheets, and then pick and choose parameters. So there is no way to keep anyone focused on one path. And, that makes sense. When you are new to the community you do not know where the best information is. Instead of telling you to just listen to my one way, I would rather explain why things are the way they are, share the transitions we are going through as a community, and have you understand why you are going in a certain direction. It is okay for you to do something other than what I am advising. Just know the options and know why you have chosen a certain direction. Every situation will be different from different environmental conditions to different social involvement. And all these different parameters go into what is best for you. And the best thing you can do for yourself is to be able to understand the currents, and chose the appropriate captain, and chart your own course.

 

This podcast episode is certainly a stand alone episode that can explain the confusing twists and turns when looking for information in the chameleon community. But from the top view, it is the next step in my project to document the panther chameleon breeding lifecycle. I presented the panther chameleon care summary and this helps you navigate the community while reading the care parameters. We will now slowly get into caging with a mindset for breeding. Though you’ll find I am going to be presenting a somewhat different approach to this breeding group. And I hope it is one that will resonate and, perhaps, inspire a new generation of breeders.

 

I am slowly getting my stride in integrating my podcast with my video channel outreach. I have ambitious videos that take a bit of work and so I am going to try an every other week approach so one week a podcast episode and the next week a video and so on. I appreciate your patience as I work through this new outreach and figure out how I can humanly produce the content on a reasonable schedule! But, so far, I am very happy with how I am being able to fulfill the multi-media vision I have for the Chameleon Academy.

 

And, finally, if you go to the chameleonacademy.com website home page there is a link to where you can pick up some chameleon academy merch. From T-shirts to hoodies and a coffee cup. So you can sport the rainbow panther everywhere you go and share this very special corner of nature that endlessly fascinates us!

And if you think about it, everything we are learning about chameleons and the amazing depth to which we learn it, is a part of nature that few people know exists. This is truly an amazing personal growth we are all undertaking. And, just doing this is a growth experience for me. It is exciting to think where we will be by the end of the year. And, all I can say, is this is a whole lot of fun and I am glad you are doing it with me! Now, let’s see if I can get the video out next week and then I’ll be back here on the airwaves the week after! And, if you snag one of those T-shirts or hoodies, tag me on Facebook or Instagram wearing it and let me know if I can share it on my account!

 

Take care and give your chameleon an extra special treat for me. I’ll see you later!

 


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Female panther chameleon

Ep 201: The Five Most Asked Chameleon Questions

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In this first episode of season six I answer the five questions most often asked by people interested in becoming chameleon keepers. It is important to understand what a chameleon is like before getting one to ensure that you are the right fit for one. If you are excited to allow your chameleon to be what a chameleon is then this can be the start of a long, enriching experience. So, I explain what a chameleon is to allow you to make an informed decision!

Welcome to season six of the Chameleon Academy Podcast!

Transcript (more or less)

Introduction

Welcome to the first episode of season six of the Chameleon Academy Podcast. My name is Bill Strand and it is time to dive in. If you are new to the podcast then you have tapped into the most dynamic and constantly pushing review of chameleon husbandry. We have been doing intense review into a wide range of topics including UVB, supplementation, and the dietary health of veiled chameleons. And in 2021 we will be continuing to expand our understanding. Before we jump into our topic for the day I need to explain how this season is going to work. I’ll make this as short as I can because my new listeners came to hear about chameleons, but this is about the creation of better information resources so it is relevant to the subject.

I have wanted to develop my video outreach for many years. I tried about three years ago and wasn’t able to keep it up because making videos, at least the way I make them, is very difficult to do on a weekly basis if I am doing a podcast and paying a mortgage. So there were some released and then it sputtered. It has come time where that needs to be the top priority. Topics such as UVB and supplementation are great to talk about and have a huge webpage about them, but video will be the most effective medium to communicate those concepts. So I will be wrapping my schedule around the release of the videos. My plan is to do a podcast and video episode release on the schedule that I am able to get them out. I will shoot for every two weeks, but it may become unpredictable until my video production skills hit their stride. But this means each topic will get thorough attention and an effective presentation. The videos will focus on making the topic easy to understand and the podcast will fully flesh out the concepts and the thinking behind them. So the two will be companions. If you are coming to the podcast after watching the YouTube video then you’ll find much more detail and perspective into issues surrounding the points I brought up. In fact there may easily be multiple podcast episodes for each video because I will be talking about the issues surrounding the approach. Nothing is simple and that definitely applies to chameleon husbandry!

 

The take away from this is that now is a very good time to get the free chameleon academy app on either iTune or Google Play. That way you will be notified when an episode is released. This will be very interesting and kind of cool. There has never been a video/podcast/and website combination before for us Chameleon people and I am exciting to make this happen.

 

To start this season off I wanted to begin with the first step. What is a chameleon like as a pet and what do we need to consider when making a decision to bring on into our home? The ideal scenario is that you are doing research for a chameleon you are considering buying in the future. Now is the time to make sure you will enjoy what having a chameleon is actually like! If you already have a chameleon then this will help align some of your expectations. If you are wondering why your chameleon doesn’t want to come out and play even though you are his benevolent caretaker then this episode may shed some light on the situation. I am going to start with explaining what chameleon keeping is like at a high level and then answer the five most asked questions from people interested in getting a chameleon. These questions are taken by the highly scientific method of what I answer most often. I could easily make this the 100 best questions to ask before you get a chameleon! But there are many weeks of content creation ahead of us. Let’s start with the five most common actually asked. But first, I’d like to discuss the very open ended question as to what chameleons are like as a pet. The reason why this is not one of the most commonly asked questions is because people often already have a preconceived notion of what it is like. It is what drives their desire for a chameleon in the first place and this forms the basis of desire so it doesn’t always occur to people to question it. So, I want to start off by examining what a chameleon is so we can determine whether our expectations and reality overlap!

What are Chameleons Like?

Chameleons spend their life looking for things to eat and avoid being eaten themselves.  When you walk by a chameleon’s cage and you see them swivel around the branch they are hiding. When you see them walking in a jerking manner they are trying to hide their movement by looking like a leaf swaying in the wind. All of this is because their defense against predators is to not be seen. They are not fast animals and they don’t have armor so the best defense is not to be detected. They are so effective with this that field scientists studying them don’t bother searching for them during the day.

This is important because we need to understand that a chameleon reacts to us as something that could eat them. And, that makes sense. For millions of years, assuming that animals bigger than them might eat them has been a very successful method to keep them alive to bug zap another day. This idea of being a pet is completely foreign to them and they have to figure out what this situation means for them. This is why you have such a large range of reactions to captivity from chameleons. The good news is that chameleons are intelligent enough to get used to the idea of you being around. Especially if they are captive hatched and you are the one regularly bringing them food. It is not uncommon for them to be there hanging out at their food dish waiting for you to show up.

So our attitude must be to align our expectations to what they are – NOT to figure out how to bend them to our expectations as to what we want them to be. This is difficult because when we want a chameleon we have a set of expectations. And it is just anti-climatic to re-evaluate our initial desire. What a buzzkill. But there is a living creature involved and that must be respected.

 

Here is the starting block and if we mess this one up the entire chameleon keeping experience will be off. It will either be disappointing for you or/and an early death for your chameleon. Our mindset must be that we are here to provide for them and we need to accept them as chameleons.

The entire theme of my approach to chameleon husbandry is focused on us providing to them, as much as is possible, what they were developed over the millennium to be nurtured by. And we have to deal with the fact that we look suspiciously similar to what would eat them and they have no parallel in their evolution to being held by something big enough to eat them. And, although they can calm down around us once they get to know us, they physically do not have the part of the brain that is used for what we call love.

 

So,

What kind of relationship can you have with a chameleon?

Every chameleon will have a different personality so you can’t predict what one will turn out to be. The species, how you care for them, and how young you receive them will all affect how they grow up. Even picking out the calmest baby is not a reliable method because there are many reasons a baby could be calm that will suddenly change once he gets into his own home and then gets his hormones super charged as he grows up. I am not saying he won’t turn into a calm adult. I am just saying the path to adulthood has many variables that cannot be predicted.

 

 

The most realistic expectation of keeping a chameleon as a pet is that you are creating a slice of nature in your living room. The enclosure is filled with plant life. And you chameleon weaves in and out of all the plant life to warm itself, hunt for food, and fade back for a good night’s sleep. It becomes more of a visual experience. You are the creator of this world and responsible for maintaining it. In return you are able to observe it and your chameleon growing. And that is the ideal chameleon keeping scenario.

You may have noticed that there is no holding or playing with the chameleon in that scenario. And I know that has disappointed a good number of people wanting a chameleon. We humans have a deep need to touch and hold what we love. And this is how we look at the world. But, chameleons are completely different beings. To be successful with chameleons we need to put our desires aside and open our minds to what they need to be happy.

It usually is not really what we want to hear. Especially after watching Pascal in Disney’s Rapunzel. I know I am going out on a limb challenging the authority of a Disney film. Believe me, I would love to tell you that a chameleon can tame down to be a shoulder pet. But, unfortunately, this is not realistic. If it was, I would be first in line for this species. So the best use I can put my 40 years of studying and keeping chameleons to is to help you see what chameleons truly are. If you come into this with realistic expectations you can be fully prepared and both you and your chameleon will have a much better time of it.

Now, I know this is an immediate turn off for many people. We have the advantage on the podcast that the listening audience here is a little more further along on their herpetoculture path. And this isn’t elitist. You have to be further along to 1) find this podcast in the first place and 2) be excited to listen to chameleon talk for 30 – 45 minutes! And so, I am going to break the fourth wall here and let’s talk about the situation and how we in the community can better deal with newcomers. When people come to chameleon keeping they come from a certain perspective. Some come from the naturalist side where they want to study chameleons and what they are. Obviously, a healthy approach and one that perfectly aligns with what we are doing here. Another approach is seeing a cute chameleon in a pet store, falling in love, and making an emotional choice to buy it. All they have to go off of are the chameleons in the movies and whatever the pet store employee tells them. And pet store employees are not allowed to say “I don’t know”. They are expected to be the experts so they will do their best and share what they have been told - just get this convenient kit and you are good to go. We in the community need to realize that when the mew keepers come to us they have done their research. They asked the pet store guy. And there is no indication that they should doubt his word or do further research because they got a simple, understandable, and case closed care summary. Why should they look further? So we have to realize that it falls to us to help newcomers along through the process. And, if you are this newcomer, I am sorry for how confusing things are. Chameleon keeping is not simple. And the problem with distilling it down to a simple sound bite is you lose a lot of the details that are important. So there are a lot of newcomers that only signed up for something as simple as the pet store said it would be and then find out that there is so much more to it. The fact that you are listening to a chameleon podcast means a lot and you are going to be able to get the information you need. But once you get your feet under you and if you decide to become part of the community your experience with the transition will be a valuable asset to help others.

This all begs the obvious question,

If chameleon keepers do not handle or play with their chameleons, what do they do?

Mostly we watch them. It is deeply satisfying to create their environment and watch both the chameleon and the environment grow. We do develop a relationship with our chameleons. And I don’t mean like we would our dogs. It is a unique chameleon relationship. Chameleons will get to know you because they recognize humans. And they will get to know you and drop their guard around you. Many of them will learn that they can get special treats if they eat from your hand. And once they learn that their cage borders are their territory they will have maintain a sense of security as long as the door is closed. They do have the capacity for trust and trust can be built and it can be broken. Anyone who has had to give a medication routine knows that syringes and forced mouth openings can put back the human/chameleon relationship for a long time. The reason why I focus so much on the least common variable, meaning that chameleons do not want to have anything to do with us, is because most chameleons tend towards the shy range and building expectations that your chameleon can be in the top 5% of friendly is just setting you up for disappointment. If everyone went into to chameleon keeping with the expectation that they would be getting a shy animal that does not want to be held, 95% would get a chameleon as advertised. The other 5% would be posting to social media that I don’t know what I am talking about and that their chameleon loves to come out on their hand and play cards with the family. But none of the chameleons will have keepers disappointed in them because of what they are.

 

So, with that very important foundation under us, let’s get to those top five questions are that I am asked by people thinking about getting chameleon.

 

The #1 question is Can I hold my chameleon?

Boy, this one just keeps coming up in various forms!

And this presents an immediate challenge for the experienced chameleon keeper to answer. Our answer would be no, chameleons are not a pet for holding. And that would be the right answer. But we need to go beyond that and address what the beginner will see all over social media. People are holding their chameleons all over the place! And the most experienced keepers and breeders are holding their chameleons. You go on my social media feeds and event he video where I say don’t handle your chameleons and I have them on my hand! So we are obligated to explain the situation. And here is where it gets murky. How to make a complicated subject simple. Good luck. I did an entire extra long podcast episode on stress and now I have to distill it down to a couple of sound bites before the newcomer’s eyes glaze over? Yikes…

 

But, here is the real answer.

Proposition: Handling a chameleon causes stress with that chameleon. True. How much stress depends on the personality of the chameleon and the nature of the handling session.

 

Proposition: Stress kills chameleons. True.

Just like in human beings, stress taxes the immune system and weakens it until a sickness can take hold. Then we, and chameleons, get sick. Sickness in chameleons leads to death more often than in humans because it is difficult to know when a chameleon is sick until it is so far along that the chameleon can’t function.

 

Proposition: If handling causes stress, and stress causes death, then by the transitive property of equality (for all you math nerds out there)- Handling causes death. Only partially true.

 

The reason is that there are two types of stress. There are stress spikes and chronic stress. A stress spike is like when we get cut off in traffic. Adrenaline goes through our body, we say things that we hope our kids don’t repeat, and then we go back to normal. Your immune system does not become depressed from a stress spike. You aren’t going to catch a cold from being cut off in traffic one day.

Chronic stress is something different. This is where your body is stressed so does not get a chance to recover. This is having the air conditioning vent blowing directly on you all day at work. This is knowing that there will be lay-offs at the end of the month and everyone at the office is trying to make everyone else look bad to decrease their chances of being cut. This is being forced to live in and work in a house with a Bengal tiger loose.  Eventually the stress will cause you to get sick. Was the tiger example ridiculous? Well, maybe we can imagine what a chameleon feels when, everyday, they get blown on by the air conditioning vent, then the sun comes through the window and bakes them which brings the house cat to come and lounge by the cage. You can see how things we would never think of could cause chronic stress to a chameleon that has had its options reduced by being in a cage. This is why we have such a high responsibility in this.

So, where does handling fit into all this. Just taking your chameleon out and letting him perch on your hand for a visual examination is a simple stress spike that goes as high as the chameleon is nervous. I have some chameleons that send their time on my hand worried I will eat them and some that see my hand as something that will take them to a good thing to eat. These two chameleons are having completely different stress responses. A trip to a vet is a much longer stress spike, but it too, will be over and not be repeated every day. A photoshoot is a stress spike that is not a health issue. Handling becomes an issue when the stress starts going through the roof. Such as when we play with a chameleon. The hand over hand as the chameleon keeps walking is great fun, except that the chameleon is trying to get away. So to your chameleon it is an exercise in futility that they will do until they give up and decide they can’t do anything to avoid being eaten. They close their eyes and the well meaning human assumes they are tuckered out and trust them enough to sleep on their hand. A chameleon sleeping on your hand is a huge red flag. This is exhaustion, not trust. And this is the problem. If we say you cant handle your chameleon, the beginner who is excited for their Pascal will just go to some YouTube personality that says all those supposed experts are just fuddy duddies and of course you can hold your chameleon You just have to tame him down by handling him every day. It is hard to compete with someone telling someone exactly what they want to hear. All I can do is share what a chameleon is and hopefully it resonates.

So, yes, limited, calm handling is okay. But if handling is an important part of your pet relationship then it is best to look for another type of reptile or pet. That is just not what a chameleon is.

 

Question 2: Will a chameleon bite?

The second most asked question is whether a chameleon will bite. The answer is only if they have to! Chameleons don’t like to bite. They bite to get you to go away. And it is never a secret that they are about to bite. They give unmistakable warning signs. They puff up, they gape, they show their teeth, they make fake lunges to let you know they are serious. And if you ignore all that, yes, a bite is coming your way. And larger chameleons can break the skin. But, no, chameleons will not come after you. The people who get bit most often are those who ignore all the warnings and insist on picking up a chameleon that is not interested in being picked up.

 

The third question is What equipment do I need for a chameleon?

And this is a big question with a very long answer that can easily spread across an entire year of podcasts. And this is why it is so important to have the chameleonacademy.com website to back up both the video and podcast series. In it I can put together build guides that lead the person step-by-step and have purchase links.

If you are a beginner listening to this then the build guides are your best approach. In them you will see how the main components all fit together. Basically, you have a cage, a lighting system, and watering system. The cage needs to be at least 2’x2’x4’ for most of the available chameleon species. Lighting consists of three parts – Daylight for sight, a basking bulb for warming up, and a UVB bulb for Ultraviolet wavelengths that allow the chameleon to create vitamin D3. A full watering system consists of a mister, a fogger, and a dripper. And then there are the plants for the inside. You don’t have to memorize this all right now. You have the links for the build guides on the podcast show notes that lead you step by step.

I have been spending literally years putting together these build guides. And I have to update them every year because products are no longer available or I find better products. And that is why it is a huge advantage to have a website to refer to.

The most controversial part about this build guide will be the hydration system. I do my build guides using a mister, fogger, and dripper. Every influencer or group will have their own approach. This is one of the areas where you want to pick your source and follow one source. If you ask around you will get many opinions. The reason why there can be so many opinions is that the benefits of different watering approaches are subtle and difficult to quantify. We don’t have renal failure on all chameleons using one approach or the other. I am certain that there is a long term effect on longevity, but there is no hard data to prove either way. This question touches on the bulk of chameleon husbandry so any short answer is incomplete. But the important thing for a beginner to take into account, at a high level, is that getting a chameleon means you will have a 2’x2x’x4’ or larger cage in your room with a watering system and a light system. Each of these three will be $100-$200 USD each with the cage going up in price depending on the quality you are wanting.

 

 

Question #4 is What do they eat?

-They eat bugs. Live Insects. Not only that, you need to feed and take care of the bugs so they are nutritious to the chameleon. Just make sure you are good with bugs before starting in this direction. Many chameleon keepers become bug breeders as well to give you an idea of where this often ends up. Chameleons need live insects so any thought of using the freeze-dried bugs can be let loose now. Would it help for me to say that many chameleon keepers take pride in their roach colonies? Did I just complicate your campaign to get your spouse to agree to a chameleon? Well, to try and save the day I will say you don’t have to keep roaches. But it is worth looking at the resources I have in the show notes to get familiar with the eating habits of chameleons and make sure you are totally comfortable with keeping live insects around the house. Once again that is just what chameleons are.

 

And, finally,

Question 5: Will a chameleon just die on me?

We have a long history of chameleons being thought of as fragile. This was fuelled by chameleons being treated roughly during the exportation process and then being kept inappropriately when they get here. Things are much better now over what they were decades ago. The importation process has improved and our husbandry knowledge is world’s better.

 

Chameleons are hardy animals. When set-up correctly they can live 7 to 10 to 15 or more years depending on the species. But we do have to keep them correctly.

If you set any animal up incorrectly they will die. If we were pets for polar bears and they kept us in ice caves we wouldn’t do so well. Chameleons are designed to survive in nature that tries to kill or eat them at every turn. Nature is not nice! I can guarantee you, they are tough creatures! All you have to do is set the chameleon up correctly and he will thrive! And that, of course, is what this podcast is all about.

 

As far as we have gotten there is so much more work to be done. We are lucky to be in a stage of herpetoculture where our focus for the most commonly kept species is no longer just keeping them alive or even breeding them, but longevity. Yes, what we don’t know dwarfs what we do know and we will not establish successful reproductive protocols for each and every species in my lifetime. But for the most common species such as Veiled, Panther, and Jackson’s Chameleons, we are working on refining our husbandry to push their longevity to the ten year mark. And that goal is completely arbitrary. There will be an internal limit to how old they can get. Our goal is to get our husbandry to the point where we find it. So this is actually an exciting time. We are entering into a stage in our discipline where we have the tools to explore longevity as a goal. And I am not talking about isolated incidences. Yes, hearing about some veiled chameleon somewhere that reached a ripe old age is great news, but it really isn’t an accomplishment until we can establish husbandry practices that allow the general community to reach those ages. And this will take time. The general community is still producing veiled chameleons that are overweight and producing unhealthy egg clutch sizes. So there is a lot of work we have to do and with longevity, proving anything can only be done over long periods of time.

Closing

Those are our five questions. Though half the podcast was taken up by the initial question about chameleon nature that I threw in there! The companion video to this episode then went on to discuss a number of dos and donts that I selected as the ones I would pick if I were trying to find the most important points. Once again, I could easily make them 100 dos and 100 donts! But we will take those apart in the next podcast episode.

2021 will be a year where we solidify the basics. The Chameleon Academy only has one term, Basic Husbandry, released. There are actually four terms planned! But there is much more that needs to be done to distill the basics. Video is very important so it is the priority. You’ll see each section in the term being fleshed out and made more robust.

I am very aware of the fact that I produce complicated content. I have struggled with reducing the presentation because I have a hard time leaving out important aspects. Chameleon husbandry is not an infographic! So this is my approach to each topic: I am going to create a solid base of information and work my way up. Once I have a detailed website page and podcast episodes that discuss the topic, explain it , and show the research behind it I will create a video that summarizes it visually. And then I will have an infographic that simplifies it even further to sit on top of that mountain. That way, there is depth for the person who wants to dig.

And then, there is the simple task of updating that mountain of content every time we discover something new! Considering how fast we are moving forward, I don’t think I’ll be bored anytime soon!

Thank you for joining me here. Chameleon keeping has meant more to me than just keeping a lizard pet. Dedicating myself to the discipline of herpetoculture with an emphasis on chameleonology has become a lifelong pursuit and has exposed me to parts of nature I never knew existed. It has been a wonderful experience and I look forward to many more years of personal growth. And, I look forward to sharing the journey with you.

 


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Furcifer minor

Ep 172: Wrapping up the 2020 Chameleon Year

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We have come to the close of Season five of the Chameleon Academy podcast. In this final episode of the season I am going to review 2020 through the eyes of a chameleon keeper.

Transcript (more or less)

Introduction

2020 has been a roller coaster to say the least. We have had some product introductions that have been significant for us and we have had this year to try them out. And it seems like at the end of every season I also leave off with some appeal to critical thinking and bemoan the lack of it in social media. This year is no exception! But let’s start with the results of those product tests.

 

Pro-T5 UVB fixture

One of the products that I most anticipated was the Arcadia Pro-T5 UVB light fixture. I have used and recommended the Arcadia UVB bulbs for years now, but the challenge was helping people use them effectively when the UVB output of the bulb could range wildly depending on the fixture that was used. Different fixtures would over drive or under drive the bulb. Different reflectors would produce different results. And so it was very hard to put together charts for people without solarmeters. I was very excited for the Arcadia Pro-T5 product because it was going to be a quality fixture, designed and approved by Arcadia to drive their bulbs as they should be driven. I am very happy to say that after testing them over this year that they have shown themselves to be everything promised and I will be standardizing all my caresheets and chameleonacademy.com information to center around this product. That is not to say other manufacturer bulbs and fixtures can’t work. In fact, I encourage you to get a solarmeter 6.5 and be able to test your lamp and fixture in real time and dial it in for your particular situation. And then you can use anything you want. But for the purposes of the Chameleon Academy I need a product I can standardize information around. And I need this product to be widely available and have a reasonable confidence that it will continue to be available year after year, because it literally takes me a year to test a product in multiple applications and then go through the laborious process of changing all the website pages and build guides. I not only need something that works – I need a product and company I can rely on! So this has been a perfect solution to my problem and I am going to be switching my information over.

 

Case in point for a product that has been a pain. I used to use and recommend the Odessyea multi-bulb T5 fixture for white light and UVB. Although it certainly worked and I still have some in use today, the quality turned out to not be so great in every case and it is no longer widely available. So now I am having to find a replacement and methodically switch over all the build guides and product links. Luckily, I found a great multi-bulb fixture in the Vivosun brand that is available on Amazon. It is a good quality fixture (as far as I can tell at this point) and each bulb has their own reflector so we don’t lose UVB energy. So I am very glad to be switching everything over to this fixture. As long as they don’t just disappear as a company all is good. They are a horticultural company so that is a relatively stable customer base. Here’s hoping!

Now, there has been another lighting solution that has piqued my interest that I tested this year and that is the Jungle Dawn LED light bar from Arcadia. And this is showing up in some of my build guides because the light is bright and white. It actually plugs into the ProT5 UVB fixture so you can daisy chain them together. The space savings on top of your cage is significant! They are a little more expensive than the T5 multibulb fixtures, but I can tell this is a technology that will be very useful to us chameleon keepers. Stay tuned on this one. I’ll be doing much more testing in 2021. But I can say now that my plant growth has exploded with the LED bar so I am excited to work with this product more.

RevitaliseD3

The other major change in husbandry recommendations is that I am switching the multi-vitamin in my supplementation routine from the Repashy Calcium Plus LoD over to the Arcadia Revitalise D3 product. RevitaliseD3 and Repashy Calcium Plus LoD are multivitamins. They give our chameleons, among other various vitamins, vitamin D3 and preformed vitamin A. We are careful with our recommendations because both of these vitamins are fat soluble so can be overdosed. The difference between these two supplements is the levels of D3 and A. They both give the D3 to A ratio of 1:10 as is accepted by our veterinary community at this time. But RevitaliseD3 is about a quarter of the levels of LoD. So there is a much wider buffer. The question, of course, is is it enough. So that is why I had to take the time to do the testing.

 

And test we do. You’ll notice that the Trioceros ellioti care summary for the Chameleon Academy originally came out recommending Miner-al. And that is because the foremost ellioti breeder, Michael Nash, used that supplement. I did not change the supplementation schedule on the care summary until Michael had used the Arcadia supplementation routine to grow up a female, nourish her through a pregnancy, and then review the health of the babies. Not until he reported back that the babies were very healthy did I change the care guide. Now, to be completely transparent, we can’t do that level of testing with every species. Sometimes we have to guess. Like I made up a care summary for Trioceros johnstoni. It has been decades since I kept this species and they are, as far as I know, gone from the captive community. So I have had to use what we use for the Jackson’s Chameleon. And that is a reasonable conclusion. But I can guarantee you that when they come in I will be testing and collaborating with others and the care summaries will get better each year as more experience is had. In fact, don’t get discouraged if a care summary changes. Be encouraged that you have a community’s worth of experience constantly shaping what is being presented at the Chameleon Academy.

 

I have been recommending the Arcadia EarthPro-A for many years now, but Arcadia did not have a product that provided pre-formed vitamin A. Despite trying to remove preformed vitamin A from the supplementation routine I was just never able to feel completely confident in doing that for my recommendations for the general public. Even though I had been able to raise healthy chameleons without preformed vitamin A in the supplement, the success me and other breeders had with this wasn’t totally reproduceable in the general populace and I can’t explain why. Why can I and other breeders raise generations without supplementing preformed vitamin A and random keepers get vitamin A deficiency? The answer, of course, is that there is something going on we are not aware of. And, honestly, it could be something other than vitamin A deficiency and the increased boost of vitamin A is just medicinal towards helping what ever is really going on. So this is a very complicated subject. And so, at this point, I want to keep some level of preformed vitamin A in the diet. I was excited to try the new RevitaliseD3 from Arcadia for two reasons. 1) The absolute amounts of D3 and A within RevitaliseD3 are about a quarter of what is in LoD. So that allows me to get closer to what we are presently presuming is the preformed vitamin A ingestion in the wild – which would be minimal, but not non-existent. And 2) I like the Arcadia EarthPro-A as the daily supplementation and there is a great advantage to be able to get both supplements from the same place.

And those are material enough reasons to change my recommendation.

Just to be clear. I am reluctant to change any husbandry recommendations. There has to be a compelling benefit to my listeners and readers to do something like that.

 

Now, I just want to clarify the whole idea of giving vitamin D3 in the diet. You have heard me say over and over that diet is not a significant source of D3 in the wild and that D3 in the diet bypasses the body’s natural checks and balances so should be discouraged. And, yet, here I am continuing to recommend it. So here is the scoop. I have said occasional D3 can top off the internal stores, but now I am not really thinking this is a significant benefit. Although D3 is a fat soluble vitamin and so will stick around for a little while, the body has been designed to get topped off with D3 on a daily basis. It wasn’t designed to get a spike of D3 and then ration it over two weeks. So I am no longer saying that. But I have normalized dietary D3 in the diet to accompany preformed vitamin A. And here is a concept that I have been working with this year. Vitamin A and vitamin D3 seem to have an interaction. Unfortunately, the exact relationship is murky, but it seems like they really need to be together. There was a time when I tried to give vitamin A without D3, but that just isn’t holding up with further thought. So I have made it a point to include vitamin D3 whenever I provide preformed vitamin A. So, in my recommendations, the multivitamin is there for the vitamin A, not the D3. And the D3 is there to balance the A, not to actually make up for insufficient UVB.

 

RevitaliseD3 has been tested across a wide range of commonly kept, and rarely kept, chameleon species and has performed well. Thus I will be updating all the species care summaries and Chameleon Academy tutorials.

 

So does the old information just become obsolete? Of course not! Me switching the recommendation does not mean that Repashy Calcium Plus LoD or the older T5 fixtures don’t work. They all work fine! And if LoD is working well for you then there is no reason for you to change! Remember that I always need to push forward in both our husbandry understanding and in simplicity. Although my main goal is the best husbandry, I also have the pressures of explaining it in a way that the widest number of people will understand. So there are a number of forces on me that you don’t have to worry about. So, do not worry if you decide to not follow me on every parameter that has been updated. If what you are doing works then all is good! Just do your best to understand why I am doing the changes I am. Honestly, understanding why is more important than following exactly my path. The greatest gift you can give yourself is the confidence to look at the way five different people are doing something, understand why it works for them, and understand what works best for you. In fact, don’t change what you are doing just because I am changing. Listen to my reasoning and determine whether that reason is compelling in your particular situation. There are many ways to achieve the same result. We don’t all have to be wearing the same uniform.

 

Chameleon Academy end of year updates

So, I will be doing some significant changes in the Chameleon Academy recommendation and care summaries. One change that I want to bring special attention to is the lowering of Veiled Chameleon basking temperature to between 80 and 85 F and drastically reducing the feeding of your female veiled chameleons.

I did an episode about this during the self-isolation daily podcasts. We have an epidemic in our community of female veiled chameleons getting obese and/or having obnoxiously larger clutches of eggs. This all comes from the amount of food and the temperature that energizes the body. The body does need food and heat so we have to be careful how we play with those parameters, but basking temperatures down to the low to mid 80s with just a couple of food items every other day greatly reduces the production of infertile eggs that becomes life threatening. Well, by following these new husbandry guidelines, my female now lays zero infertile clutches. It is possible to have a healthy female veiled chameleon that does not lay infertile clutches.

This is something the advanced community is working to hammer out. So you’ll still run into push back of this from the people trailing the advancement. But this is a serious change. We have veterinarians recommending proactive spaying of female veiled chameleons and a laying bin is standard advice to female veileds just because they exist. I just have to say this is a very bad situation. The fact that the community accepts obese chameleons and female veiled chameleons so full of eggs their life is threatened is a huge red flag that something is wrong. Keep your eye out as we hammer out the specifics. And yes, this is proven. With reduced temperatures and food I have a female veiled chameleon that lays only fertile clutches of between 30 and 40 eggs. That is still too high of a clutch count, but it is down from 68 which I had before I change temperature and feeding. So I actually still have work to do on this myself. Like I said, we are still working on it. But this is one of the things that will save chameleon lives so it is worth getting it out there.

 

Critical thinking

Okay, the moment you are all waiting for. My annual talk about critical thinking. I could make an entire episode ranting and raving at the current state of information acceptance. The base problem is that the community looks for information without filter. The general community has gotten away from fact checking or even requiring that there be an experiment behind it. And I know this because I am on social media and am being constantly peppered with people speaking as if they are experts when I know they just heard this on a Facebook echo chamber started by one person who didn’t test out what they are now spreading. You as the community should ask the tough questions. Where did you get this idea? What did you do to prove it? What about all the data that contradicts what you are saying? Why do people more experienced than you say differently. This is where you get the ubiquitous, I am not stuck in the old ways. And let me tell you, if you accept that you are in for whirlwind of confusion because that is what every inexperienced cracker jack box expert says. When you ask these questions require substance in the answer and not just big words strewn together. Require that the person has actually done a test with real chameleons. Require that it is reproduceable and that the results have actually been reproduced. Remember the quality of your time in the community is 100% dependent on who you accept information from. And be aware that it takes nothing to come up with an idea that you think you are genius to come up with and to broadcast it with all confidence. And this is what happens all the time. This is how youtube researchers feel confident enough to argue with actual PhDs in the subject. It takes a long time and discipline to test something out. If your expert uses anecdotal evidence and case studies that were all over Facebook posts to dispute someone who has tested it out on actual chameleons then you are wasting your time pumping someone’s ego up in exchange for bad information. Only you can stop feeding the pseudo experts. Just ask pointed questions and watch the floundering and the referencing to unreviewable case studies that “everyone knows about”. It is actually kind of fun.

 

I won’t delve too deeply into this. Just keep your eye out. Look for the people that have actually done testing in the physical world. You’ll be amazed at how much less information you have to sort through. Just the simple test of how many experts hadn’t gone through a complete lifecycle and breeding before they started acting like an expert? Start with that and you’ll be amazed at how many names get filtered out. It is meaningless to name names because the names always change. They go away and are quickly replaced. We have to be better at parsing through the data. It is just like eating healthy. Junk food is everywhere and if you aren’t disciplined that is all you will eat. And sugar can be wrapped up in a protein bar wrapper. No one is keeping people from deceiving you. Only you can do that. So, for what it is worth, it is a skill that will only become more necessary as the social media echo chambers become more and more established.

Closing

2020 had some podcast milestones. Because of a time in April where I had a month and a half of doing podcast episodes on a daily basis we have over 70 episodes in season five. This podcast also passed over a half a million downloads. Not bad for a super niche podcast! But it is now time to take a break and spend time with family. You know how when you were growing up your parents always said sappy, ridiculous things like “all I want for Christmas is for us all to be together”. 2020 has been a year where that has hit home. And, this year, that is what means the most to me. Even if it is digitally.

 

In 2021 we will continue the journey. We Chameleon Husbandry Artisans can do nothing less. This is our passion. This is what we do. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for hanging out with me here. I love seeing forest edge, floating garden style cages becoming the norm. I love it when people say they learned it from the podcast or chameleonacademy.com. And I really appreciate you letting me know how much you have learned from this outreach. Please keep letting me know. But what is the most meaningful is when people who don’t listen to the podcast start putting together effective and beautiful chameleon cages in this style. That means enough of you listeners are doing it and sharing it, that it is rubbing off on the non-listeners. And that is the greatest satisfaction I can have.

 

And so I close off this season in a chameleon keeper style. Listening to Christmas ambiance music in the back ground while I catch sight of my baby veiled chameleon across the room snagging a black soldier fly. The dogs are curled up at the foot of the bed and my wife, Yvette, the phantasticus gecko girl, is bringing in the new babies she is so excited to have found hatched. For all the chaos and craziness, stress and worries, there are these little pockets of peace and joy. And we chameleon keepers have a prehistoric, mythical theme to our little pockets of peace and joy. It is a unique twist to life and I love being part of that. In these final weeks of 2020 I ask that you take care of yourself, take care of the people around you, and embrace the honor of being a caretaker of a very special mini tree dragon. I’ll see you in 2021.

 


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crested geckos

Ep 168: Crested Geckos with TikisGeckos

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Crested geckos are common place pet lizards that are available from private breeders all the way to big box pet stores. They are hardy and so are quite popular. If you work during the day and come home right before your chameleon starts to turn in for the night you might find some enjoyment in this nocturnal gecko who is just getting started when the sun goes down! Today I am joined by David and Manny from TikisGeckos who got their start breeding crested geckos and now run one of the prominent reptile captive breeding facilities.

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Jacksons Chameleon with a Temporal Gland Infection

Ep 166: Temporal Gland Infections with Dr. Tom Greek

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If you are a keeper of the Jackson’s Chameleon, you may be familiar with the temporal gland. It is a gland at the corner of the mouth that seems prone to infection. When husbandry is off. This is a significant health issue with Jackson’s Chameleons and one that is worth being familiar with. If you do not have a Jackson’s Chameleon, fear not, the review on bacterial infections can apply to any of our chameleons, temporal gland or not. To review the Temporal Gland Infection, or TGI in abbreviation, I am bringing on Dr. Tom Greek of Greek and Associates Veterinary Hospital in Yorba Linda, CA which is on the edge of Orange County. He is one of those more-valuable-than-gold vets because of his extensive experience with chameleons.  I know this first hand as he has seen my chameleons from the Brookesia Madagascar stump-tailed chameleons to the giant Parson’s Chameleon for over two decades. Let’s bring him on and talk about Temporal Gland Infections.

 

Chameleon keepers are well aware that we need to provide the correct environmental conditions or else our chameleon’s immune system will be compromised, possibly leading to a bacterial infection. This is common to all of the species. Jackson’s Chameleon keepers have an extra area that is prone to these infections, but it shouldn’t be something that keeps you from considering a Jackson’s Chameleon. With all chameleons, proper husbandry will be what keeps them in health with or without a temporal gland. In fact, with the three Jackson’s chameleons I have had an issue with in the last year, they have all been in the lacrimal nasal duct, not the temporal gland. They are all treated the same way. And I know exactly what caused them – temperature spikes due to the recent heat waves. This of course has got me thinking that the days of easy outdoor keeping of Jackson’s Chameleons for me in Southern California may be waning. I used to have two cages for each chameleon – an indoor cage and an outdoor cage and it is time for me to return to that very good policy.

 

As for what you should do. If you have a Jackson’s Chameleon – or any chameleon – look for slight swelling along the lip line. If you catch it early, which let’s hope you do, it will be so slight that you wonder if it is your imagination. This is the perfect tie to go with your gut feeling that something is off. Check the other side and see if there is any difference. See if you can get him to open his mouth so you can see if there is any swelling on the inside. Here is the big problem with chameleon veterinary medicine. The condition is most treatable when you can’t be sure if it is really a problem or not. But if you wait until there is no doubt then your chances of beating it are reduced. So, this is where being laser focused on any subtle changes in your chameleon’s appearance or demeanor pays off. And I always say, I hate wasting money going into the vet, but the best news I can get is that there is nothing wrong. Now there is one caveat. And this is where it is tricky. You have to have a realistic sense of how good you are in determining something is off with your chameleon. A physical swelling is easy. The vet may be even better to diagnose it than you are. And, this covers the TGIs that this episode is about. But if we are talking about infections on a higher level then we are including in our discussion other infection areas. And if you see your chameleon being lethargic, sitting with his eyes closed, or nose pointed in the air he is giving behavioral signs of an infection taking hold. The infection may at such a level that your chameleon will be able to totally mask it at the Vet office. When your chameleon is hyped up on adrenaline he isn’t thinking about acting sick. So he could very well be acting totally healthy when your vet gives him an exam. At this time it may be a blood test that is needed to definitively prove thee is an infection going on. Experienced reptile vets will know how well reptiles hide their sickness and will consider your behavior report an important part of their diagnosis. And the broad spectrum antibiotics have a high level of safety. You definitely do not want to give medications unless they are needed, but the vet, may decide that the minor consequences of giving the antibiotic Baytril on a behavior-based suspicion are usually a better risk than waiting for more definitive physical sign. Once again, in the chameleon world, a reptile experienced, or better yet, a chameleon experienced veterinarian is gold. It is 100% worth it even if you have to drive a distance to get to them.

If you are in the Orange County area of Southern California, you have access the Dr. Greek. He is in the city of Yorba Linda.

 

But even vets that say they see exotics are not always chameleon experienced. So I will be starting a veterinarian list on the Chameleon Academy website of offices that my listeners have verified are good chameleon experienced veterinarians. Not just exotics and not just reptiles, but chameleons. And I am looking for personal experience. I’d like for this to be a global resource so please share your vet names no matter which country you are in!  If you are a vet listening and you are experienced with chameleons please get in contact with me so I can list your office as well. We are constantly helping people around the world find a vet. Bottom line – if you see chameleons please let me know. And I am confident that if you are listening to this podcast you have already shown an above average dedication to chameleons. Whether you are a vet that works with chameleons or a keeper that has a chameleon vet you are happy with, please email names and/ or links to bill@chameleonacademy.com  and I will create this resource for our community.

Thank you Dr. Greek for joining me here today and sharing your experience with the community. And, I personally thank you for the decades of being part of the community. And to you listeners, I thank you for joining me and Dr. Greek for our talk on TGIs. So go out into the world and keep a close watch on the jawlines of those three horned mini-tree dragons….Wow, you know you are part of a ultra-specialized community when that constitutes as a good sign off.

Chameleon Veterinarian

 


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