Monday, March 29, 2010

Caring for Green tree monitors Varanus prasinus

So recently many people have contacted me asking all sorts of questions about my green tree monitors. About the care I provide and how I got mine to be so tame and interactive with me.

First off I want to say I have done a lot of research over the years gathering small bits of info here and there from books, the internet and people. This has all contributed to the way I care for this species. So far how I care for them has resulted in 2 very healthy adults who have now just started to breed for me. The next adventure will be finding fertile eggs, incubating them and hatching them out to be healthy babies.

Care of my monitors:
Cage: 6ft tall x 4ft wide x 2 1/2 ft deep. Back wall and sides are covered in cork sheets so they can climb up and down the walls (these monitors are very active and need this). There is no screen but 2 vents for air flow. This is so the cage traps in heat and humidity. Screen is also bad because these monitors will rub their noses raw on it trying to get out. I have a nest box with a perch placed up high in a corner for sleeping and nesting filled with damp moss. These are aboreal monitors that live in trees so they prefer hides up off the ground rather than on or under the ground. There is a tree I made out of large branches and ficus sprays for climbing, vines and plants. I also have a large cork tube in the tree they like to go in and out of.

Watering/humidity: I have a large water dish big enough for them to soak in but they never get in it and rarely ever drink from it. They drink every day when I mist them. I manually mist them when I am giving them water to drink in the morning and I also have an automatic mister that sprays the cage every hour for 1 minute. Before the automatic mister I hand misted them generously at least 5 times a day for humidity and drinking. I keep humidity at 70-100%. I plan to add a fogger and stop using the automatic mister so much as the motor on it wears out quick:(

Heat/lighting: I use a 5.0 UVA/UVB light and 2 basking lights during the day. The UVB is used so they can make vitamin D3 (for calcium absorption) through vit D synthesis in the skin. The UVA also benefits because it allows them to see the full spectrum of their vision. Reptiles have 4 cones in their eyes vs a humans 3 cones and so they see more colors than us and need UVA to see them. Without UVA reptiles are essentially color blind. The basking area temps are between 110-120 degrees. The cool side and night time temps never go below 70 degrees. The warm side is 85-90 degrees. I use a heat emitter for night time heat. I use this because it does not let off any light to disturb their sleep/night cycle. All lights are on a 12 hour day/night cycle.

Diet/feeding: I have offered my monitors every type of insect but the only ones they will eat are lobster roaches, crickets and superworms. Mostly crickets and roaches. I have offered both pinkie mice but only the female will eat them. Since this species in the wild eats mainly insects and hardly ever eats rodents I only feed the female a pinkie once or twice a month as a treat. I read in a study that 30 something tree monitor's stomach contents were examined and only one, a large male, had rodent content in his stomach. All the rest of stomach contents, in all the monitors, were insects and a few other invertebrates. Since these monitors have a very high metabolism I feed them every day as much as they will eat. Usually this is around a dozen insects a day. I dust insects with plain calcium once a week(since they get most of vit D3 from the UVB light) and dust with multivitamins with added vit D3 once a month(since no UVB light is as good as natural sun). All insects are gut loaded with fruits and veggies before feeding. I have 2 food bowls in the cage, one on the bottom and one mid way up their tree that they eat out of. I also take them out and hand feed them. Occasionally I will offer raw egg which they LOVE.

Substrate: I use a bottom layer of fine cypress mulch with a layer of moss on top. This helps hold humidity in the cage. It's several inches deep on the bottom.

Handling: I handle my monitors every day, sometimes more than once a day because they always want to come out. I only hold them for 10-15 minutes at a time because my house is not near hot or humid enough for them and I don't want them to get sick. From day one I have never grabbed or constricted these monitors. Doing this causes them to fear you as they see that as being predatory. The CB male was a tiny baby when I got him and was never really afraid of me. All I had to do was stand still and let him check me out by crawling on me. He was very curious, more curious than afraid. The very day I got him he has always wanted to come out of the cage and be held or explore. The WC female was a juvie when I got her and in a week she was just as curious and unafraid as the male. Again I just let her crawl on me and check me out. She would try to get to a place to jump off of me but I would turn my body and so she had to turn and walk across me again. I would do this as I let her crawl on my shoulders. To get her out of the cage to do this the first week I would stick my hand in the cage and wait till she got curious and flicked her tongue on it. Then I would slowly slide my hand under her and lift her out and let her crawl on my shoulders. After that first week she would come to the front of the cage wanting to come out. I would stick my hand in there and she would climb up my arm herself, just like my male has always done. I used to hear that these monitors were a very shy and skittish species. I do not believe that to be true at all. I think it's just how you handle and interact with them that makes the difference. Mine are the most curious and outgoing reptiles I've ever seen. They exhibit behaviors I have never seen in a reptile before. They truly like being interacted with and it is not a food response. They always want to come out when they see people. They crawl in my clothes, ride on my shoulder or head, follow me around and come after me, sit with me outside, etc. They never try to run away from me or anyone and seem to like people. They honestly act more like a mammal than a reptile. They are so curious they have to check out new people whenever they meet one. They jump on the new person and crawl all over them and sometimes in their clothes investigating them. Very funny to watch people's reaction to this:)

Vet/health care: When I first got both monitors I quarantined them away from each other in separate cages. They both went to my vet's office for a health check and fecal exam. After the first fecal I waited 2-3 weeks and had a fecal done again and then another 2-3 weeks later had another done. All 3 fecals came back clean and they showed no signs of illness so I introduced them and kept them in a larger cage and they have been living together ever since. The reason for the 3 fecals in a row is so I was sure they were parasite free and I didn't happen to miss anything or have anything develop that might have been incubating. It is very important to do this in wild caught animals because they are usually loaded with parasites and or illness. It should also be done as a precaution in captive bred or born animals because you honestly do not know what the supplier's methods for cleanliness are and they could have been exposed to another reptile with illness or parasites or come into contact with something a sick reptile touched/lived in or on. Not many suppliers or petstores sterilize cages before putting in new reptiles:( A great book to read to find out more is "Understanding reptile parasites" by Roger Klingenburg. There are so many parasites and protozoa infections in reptiles that go unnoticed until too late, this book I highly recommend reading. There are also many illnesses like bacterial, viral and fungal infections so it is always important to quarantine new reptiles before putting them in with healthy established ones.

Breeding: Well I guess these monitors can breed at one year of age because mine have just started breeding. My female is a year and a half and my male a little over one year old. There is little info available about gestation and incubation temps so when I get to that point and experience it myself (try out things I've read and heard) I'll let you know what worked for me.

Interesting facts: They have a fully prehensile tail and sometimes they hang upside down with them while climbing and jumping around. They are quite the little acrobats! They protect this tail instead of using it like other monitors when threatened. Other monitors whip their tails and try to hit you but these tree monitors curl them up closer to their bodies like a chameleon but to the side instead of underneath. They have on the bottoms of their feet black rubbery feeling pads that help them grip onto branches and trees while climbing. Some things I've read, in the wild they live in a group consisting of a dominate male, a few adult females and juvenile offspring of both sexes. Females lay eggs in termite nests high up in tree cavities and when the eggs hatch the babies eat all the termites.

Well that's it for now:) Wish me luck on getting some babies!


Christian Yambao said...

It's my first time owning a green tree monitor. Do you have any tips on their attitude or temperament? I live in a humid country and the sun is always happy. Hahaha love your blog. Goodluck on your project.

Christian Yambao said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christian Yambao said...

It's my first time owning a green tree monitor. Do you have any tips on their attitude or temperament? I live in a humid country and the sun is always happy. Hahaha love your blog. Goodluck on your project.