Meet the Staff: Jon Blakemore – May 2013

by Jennifer Greene

1. So what is your current job position?  How long have you worked at LLLReptile?  What were you hired as?

Currently: Breeding facility manager.  Worked here? Over 10 years, a long time!  Starting position was reptile specialist and clerk and cage cleaner!

2. Which store did you first start shopping at?  Was that the same store you began working at?

At the time I began, we only had the Oceanside store – so that’s where I shopped at, which was in its old location, over at 609 mission avenue.  Because it was the only one, that’s where I started working at.

3. What was your first reptile?  Do you still have it?

Kingsnake, wildcaught California kingsnake, I was in my early teens and caught it.  No, I don’t have it anymore, had to let it go because my mom wouldn’t let me keep it.

4. What do you keep at home now?
Phelsuma klemmeri are currently the only reptiles I have at home.

5. Do you have a favorite reptile?  Why that one?  Has it changed over the years?
I would have to say that I’m very partial to leachianus geckos.  The overall size of them, and the fact that they were so rare to see when we first started got me very interested in them. And they were probably one of the first animals I really started breeding, so they will always have a special place in my heart.

6. What do you do for fun outside of work/reptiles?

I’m a father, constantly in an adventure with my children.  I am also a musician, currently in the band Oceanside Sound System, and I’ve been playing music and touring for the entire time I’ve been a part of LLLReptile!  I also love to surf and skate here in Southern California, and I am a practitioner of the martial art of Muay Thai.

7. What are your favorite bands?  One CD everyone should absolutely listen to at least once?

Open to many genres of music, but I’m a punk rocker at heart.  For me, I think bands like Black Flag are essential if you’re going to be a youth, especially in Southern California.
At least one time in their life, everyone should listen to Bad Brains, Banned in DC.

8. Craziest/funniest work story:

Probably one of the worst ones was cleaning our massive amount of rodents, an employee that was working at the time opened one of the drawers above me and it was full of water that had gotten clogged in the line.  The drawer opened and I was covered head to toe in a liquid mixture of water, feces, and rodent bedding.  I actually had to drive home half naked to change.

9. Are you scared of anything? Any (ANY!) animal you absolutely won’t touch/work with?

I fear nothing.

10. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone new in the hobby? 
Remember why you got into the hobby in the first place – because you have a love for reptiles. Don’t let it just become a job.

Inside the Reptile Industry with Loren Leigh – April 2013

TANZANIA, UNSURPASSED AFRICA

THE LAND OF KILIMANJARO,ZANZIBAR AND THE SERENGETI

 by Loren Leigh

If there is one place that should be on the top of any field herper’s list it is Africa, but more specifically, Tanzania.  An amazing country officially known as the United Republic of Tanzania is located on the East Coast of Africa, south of Kenya, and the country’s shore lines are the Indian Ocean.   Tanzania has some of the most diverse wildlife on earth and on my visit here in 2005, along with friends Donald Schultz and Jeff Lemm, we saw it all.

Loren and Donald in an African village 

Tanzania is the world’s 31st-largest country.  It is mountainous in the northeast, where Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, is situated. To the north and west are the Great Lakes of Africa: Lake Victoria (Africa’s largest lake), Lake Tanganyika (the continent’s deepest lake), and to the southwest lies Lake Nyasa. Central Tanzania comprises a large plateau with plains and arable land. The eastern shore is hot and humid, with the island of Zanzibar lying just offshore.

Tanzania contains many large and ecologically significant wildlife parks, including the famous Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti National Park in the north, the Selous Game Reserve, Mikumi National Park in the south, and the Gombe National Park in the west.  The Gombe National Park was made famous as the site of Dr. Jane Goodall’s studies of chimpanzee behavior.

Black Spitting Cobra seen on the trip.

My adventure began in South Africa in December of 2005.  I meet friends Donald and Jeff, whom had already been herping in Northeastern South Africa, at the airport and we headed off to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.  We arrived in the early evening and began organize our trip.  Time moves very slow in this region of Africa and in a country with power issues, bad phones, no computers getting a car organized and moving throughout the country can prove itself to be very difficult.

Mornings in this part of Africa start early with Mosques playing morning prayers at dawn all over this capitol, no need to bring alarms to this capitol.  But this was a delightful wake up call for us as we were off to make are way across the country.  I trip consisted of a Northwest course across the country from Dar es Salaam to Ngorongoro Crater, and along the way visiting Amani Forest Reserve (Usambara Mountains), Mount Meru, Mt Kilminjaro foothills, Arousha and finally the Ngorongoro crater conservation area.

Deremensis Chameleon

Our first stop was the Amani Forest Reserve.  There are many rare types of chameleon, lizards, snakes and amphibians within this reserve.  Our focus was Reptiles and on this leg of our trip we discovered African Giant Black Millipedes (Archispirostreptus gigas), Giant Land Snails (Achatina species), Gaboon Viper (Bitis gabonica), and Lots of Amani Forest (Big Eye) Tree Frogs (leptopelis vermiculatus).  This area is very lush sitting almost on the Equator and the frog diversity within just this park was truly amazing.

Loren and Donald with a Black Mamba

Our next stop was Mount Meru and Kilminjaro region.  We did not climb Kilminjaro this a trek in itself taking days and also time to acclimatize but spent our time around the region.  We started in Mt Meru.  On our way up to Mt Meru or guide got a call that a local village had a Black Spitting Cobra (Naja nigricollis)in their village.  Knowing we were on a herp expedition we were quick to go check it out.  In this Village we did have a opportunity to see this snake, and to the amazement of the local village people.  We spent a few days walking the river beds around this area looking for Black Mambas (Dendroaspis polylepis), no luck but did come across some Tanzanian Centipedes (Sometimes referred to as a Electric Blue Centipede) Scolopendra sp,  and some amazing Red Headed Rock Agama lizards (Agama agama).

Gaboon Viper

As we headed out Mt Meru our next stop was to visit a well known reptile keeper and wildlife park owned by Joseph Beraducci.  He, in his many years in Arusha,  has captive produced and assembled the largest collection of Tanzanian Chameleons, Lizards,  Tortoises and many other species.  Of my own particular interest was the amazing amount of Chameleons he was working with.  Rudis, Fishers, Jacksons, Taveta, Giant Monkey Tails, Dwarf just to name a few. 

Fischer’s Chameleon! 

The final leg of ourtrip was to Ngorongoro Crater to see the big game that is on display within the park.  No trip to Africa is complete without seeing Elephants, Lions, Cheetahs, and the many other exotic animals that can be found in the big game parks.  This particular park is unique in that these animals all reside within the caldera at 2000-4000 feet.  Once a volcano, it blew its top 2-3 million years ago and today has a population of approximately 25,000 large animals and has the highest density of mammalian predators in Africa.

Lion at Ngorongoro Crater

Africa is an amazing place, with the diversity of ethnic people, amazing food and most of all incredible sights and animals.  Our 1000 mile adventure was full of amazing times and will always be on the top of my list of places that are a must-see in the world.  Remember the hardest part of a herping adventure is to put it on the calendar and go for it, so get out there and see the amazing herpetofauna the world has to offer.

Loren and some Giant Land Snails

Then and Now: A Look Back at Reptiles on the Internet – April 2013

By Scott Wesley

In the winter of 1996, I was sitting in my college apartment at Chico State University playing “fantasy hockey” on America Online. While in this league one of the really nerdy things we decided to do was set up a website for our own teams. So – I started to research HTML and how things worked. I wanted a “counter” for traffic stats, a link for email with a cool animated graphic, pictures, team logo, etc.  I quickly figured out how to lay out a basic website, and upload it via Netscape.

Meanwhile down in LA – my brother had started a reptile business out of his garage (literally). He was breeding leopard geckos and selling supplies via a printed mail catalog. He called his business “LLLReptile & Supply“.  I had been selling reptiles at my school previously through my brother who was at that time working for a reptile wholesaler – so I was sort of familiar with what he was doing. One night, I took that knowledge and his product catalog and sat down at my computer to create a website for his business. The website address washttp://members.aol.com/L3Reptile/pricelist.html .  I emailed him a link, and asked him what he thought of doing a website?  With our hard work and dedication – the website took off and the rest is history for us.

This was how the LLLReptile website looked 1 year after creation.

When I created the LLLReptile website – there was very little in the way of competition. There were a few places to run classifieds online (ReptilesOnline.com and The Herp Mall were a few that come to mind). These pre-dated Kingsnake.com – which soon followed. Other companies online at that time were Hartford Reptile Breeding Center (pythons.com) and Big Apple Herp.

There were lots of “breeders” online – most of the names I forget (some are still around like Ron Tremper at LeopardGecko.com and BHB). Google didn’t even exist yet!  16 years ago doesn’t seem that long – but in the world of the internet – it is a lifetime.

At the end of 1997 – we decided to really upgrade and buy the domain name LLLReptile.com.  This was a BIG step for us and expensive at the time as well (no .99 cent godaddy names back then).

The late 90’s were really the explosion for reptile websites. Our business grew rapidly – as we had created something that had not existed prior; an all-in-one reptile website for supplies, live reptilesand feeders. Your “one stop herp shop”!

In the late 90’s, Jeff Barringer had taken Kingsnake.com to a new level as well. This was now the premier place to advertise anywhere on the net for the reptile world. His website was the “one stop” for classifieds, discussion forums, law updates via NRAAC and much more.

At one time – Kingsnake.com was the world’s LARGEST “pet” website that existed (and still is the largest reptile website by far today). The big “pet” companies really took a LONG time to find their place on the internet (set aside Pets.com and their 2 million dollar superbowl commercial. #miserablefail).

The reptile world was way ahead of the curve here.  Kingsnake.com literally allowed almost anyone working from home to start up a reptile business and immediately reach a vast customer base. I know for a fact that this website is why MANY reptile companies exist today!

Around the turn of the century we started to see a negative turn for the internet world.  Keyboard warriors found outlets for their disdain of individuals, breeders and companies on several websites that allowed anyone to say anything with literally no facts to back them up. It was also filled with rubberneckers there to watch the gossip and hate. While there is certainly a “need” for this in certain aspects (as there are certainly “bad” people out there) – the lack of monitoring the child-like posts filled with hate and personal attacks was sad and disturbing. Fortunately we have seen the evolution through the last decade through places like Yelp, the BBB and other legitimate feedback websites run in a much more professional manner. While the negativity still goes on to this day – it has certainly seen a draw down from it’s original form. People seem to have realized that these forums are typically filled up with false or unfounded statements posted mostly by children (or adults acting like children).

Around 2005 – We saw the biggest change online for the reptile world since its inception. Social media had turned from a place where kids talked about their music and interests on MySpace to something entirely different. Facebook took over the internet like a wildfire.  It’s hard to imagine what it would have been like to be a 13 year old kid who was totally intoreptiles, who could then make “friends” with others who held the same interests online.  Being able to talk about your interests together, share pictures, and learn so many new things all in one location is pretty cool.  There is a good reason why facebook has and will remain untouchable in this aspect (see google + about that). Even through the endless ads that are now in your newsfeed – it is still the place hundreds of millions go to daily. Now – you can follow the breeders and companies you like, and get direct feedback and answers from most of them (we answer questions on our facebook page every single day at LLL). Facebook allows a much more intimate relationship between a business or breeder and the consumer along with allowing like-minded reptile people to become “friends” as well. Pretty awesome stuff!

Over the last few years – we have seen some really cool new websites in the reptile world.USARK.org comes to mind. The internet (and facebook) makes it so much easier to organize nowadays and USARK is a perfect example this. We can now all see reptile news, upcoming votes on laws in our area or federal, and organize to help protect the reptile community. If you have not checked it out – I highly recommend you do asap!

Another cool new website is The Reptile Report.  The idea behind this website is pretty neat (kind of like reddit). It takes almost all of the really cool reptile discussion forums online, and organizes the most popular discussions all on one website. So if you are a ChameleonForums.com or Ball-Pythons.net fan but don’t have the time that day to look through all the new topics – you can quickly browse some highlighted discussions right here!

Nowadays you can get everything you need for your reptile right on the web. Any supply you can think of, all sorts of feeders, live reptiles shipped right to your door, find out when the next reptile show in your area will be, watch videos instantly of any reptile you can think of, and even start your own business easily with the help of websites like Kingsnake.com and ShipYourReptiles.com to name a few. The evolution of the internet has just begun. We have gone through such huge changes over the last 15+ years online – I can’t imagine what the next 15 will bring!

10 Questions with Philippe de Vosjoli – December 2012

Philippe de Vosjoli

By Scott Wesley

Philippe de Vosjoli is an innovator in the reptile industry, a highly respected author of most of the main care books used in the industry, a breeder and so much more as we will find out in this interview!

1. We typically start off our interviews with this same general question.  Can you tell us what got you started into reptiles, and what was your first reptile or reptile experience that got you hooked?

 From the time I was very young I always had an attraction to nature. When I was in France, a period where I spent four and half years in a Catholic boarding school, I would stop during my weekend visits to Paris to a little pet store run by a former keeper at the Jardin des Plantes. He had these large mixed species vivaria at the back of his store that housed things like leopard geckos, giant day geckos, flat rock lizards, monkey tree frogs all in the same enclosure. In other tanks he had Malagasy dwarf chameleons, carpet chameleons and other species I can’t remember. Those visits made me realize there’s a wonderful mysterious natural world to be discovered. I was hooked.

2. You wrote most of the original reptile “care” books used by almost every breeder out there today, and care information / research is always changing. Looking back – what were a few things that you maybe had written back in the day that don’t apply today or opinions have since changed on the care, products, etc?

I wouldn’t change much. I think that excess oral vitamin supplementation, particularly vitamin D3, is a problem with many species, such as chameleons, various treefrogs and geckos. I wasn’t as aware of that when I first wrote care books and it took time and experiment to figure that out. I’ve been criticized for advocating feeding any amount of animal protein to green iguanas but I still don’t believe that feeding insects to juveniles and the occasional mouse to adults is harmful. One study showed that in one area adult iguanas were significant predators of juveniles. One of the biggest problems with green iguanas and all larger reptiles is providing enough heat. A proper heat level optimizes metabolic rate which will affect growth, health, and the rate of clearing of uric acid through the kidneys.

3. Personal note from the interviewer. In college – I wrote a paper on the American Federation of Herpetoculturists (AFH) for one of my Poly Sci classes (seriously). Is this something you were glad to part ways with (meaning too much work / not enough reward), or wish it had grown to be the industry leader for lobbying our interests, and have you ever thought about bringing back another industry magazine like The Vivarium?

The AFH and the Vivarium were founded by herpetoculturists whose primary goal was to represent the accomplishments and interests of private hobbyists. It wasn’t a commercial venture and the original founders all worked for free on weekends and in the evenings to get it off the ground. We were the first to publish a nationally distributed color magazine dedicated to the keeping of amphibians and reptiles and tested the grounds for the viability of this kind of publication. We also were involved in fighting unsound restrictive legislative proposals and in developing standards for responsible care. The involvement of large corporations in the pet industry had dramatic effects on the distribution of books and magazines. We were not able to compete against these large entities. I worked part time for free for 13 years as president of the AFH and contributor to the Vivarium and put in tens of thousands of dollars to keep it going. Looking back I’m not sure the effort and the financial and personal costs were worth it. I think Reptile and Herp Nation are doing a good job at filling the herp magazine niche. Starting another herp magazine is out of the question for me.

4. How is the work coming on the New Caledonian Geckos updates – and anything really exciting or new that we can look forward to in these books?

The gargoyle gecko book is now ready to go to press. It should be available at the beginning of 2013. I also have a book co-authored with Frank Fast and Allen Repashy, The Life of Giant Geckos, in the works that focuses on the natural history, social behaviors and herpetoculture of leachianus. I presented some of this information with Allen Repashy on Gecko Symposium at the 2011 National Breeder’s Expo in Daytona, an event hosted by Exo-Terra. The talk can be seen online (http://www.exo-terra.com/en/explore/gecko_symposium_2011.php) but the book contains a wealth of additional information. Chahoua will be the next project we’ll be working on.

5. You are a leader in the captive reptile breeding world. Can you tell us a few of the species that you were the first, or one of the first to work with and breed here in the US?  Also – what species are you most proud of that you were able to produce in captivity?

I bred my first leopard geckos in 1968.  As far as I know I was the first to breed the Malagasy giant water skinks (Amphiglossus waterloti) and reveal they were a species transitional to becoming ovoviviparous. I had bred the Okinawan viper (Ovophis okinavensis) in the 70s, which is another species that is evolving toward being live-bearing. With Bob Mailloux we did several first captive breedings including Chacoan horned frogs, walking frogs (Kassina leonardi, Kassina maculata), Rana ishikawae, Chilean wide mouth frog (Caudiverbera caudiverbera) and more recently Caatinga horned frogs (Ceratophrys joazeirensis). My last cutting edge snake breeding was producing leucistic puff-faced watersnakes (Homalopsis buccata) With Frank Fast we were the first to breed crested geckos, at least in the US. That showed that unlike the museum specimens that all had pointy tail nubs, crested geckos originally hatched with well developed tails.

6. You are writing a novel as well?  Can you tell us a bit about it, and what inspired you here?

My inspiration came in part from a book I was working on with Terence McKenna before his death.  In a computer model based on information shown to him during an experience with hallucinogens in Peru, we reach an end point where life as we have known it is no more.  He speculated over the years what the end point could be and his views changed from being apocalyptic to the creation of a time machine and toward the end, a technological singularity. The singularity is the point where computing entities exceed human intelligence. As a consequence, what they do becomes no longer comprehensible to us. They are as gods. According to theorists the singularity should occur sometime between 2020 and 2030. My novel is set in this time period. There are no herps in the book but bioengineered Australian blue crayfish (a species I work with) play a mind altering role.

7. You have worked with some really amazing reptiles, and some really common ones too (like pacman frogs). What is your favorite reptile/amphibian you are currently working with (either working with new morphs, or just your favorite) and why that one?

That’s a difficult question because there are so many species I like and I don’t rank them in terms of favorites. If I were to pick one species, the giant gecko/leachianus remains the one species that continues to fascinate me and that I plan on studying and keeping until I die. The way I’m wired it’s one species to which I do not habituate. Every day working with them my mind goes “Fantastic! Fantastic!”

8. How did you come up with the name Pachyforms?  What got you into working with them, and writing best selling books about them as well?

As far as the name, having to describe this group of plants as caudiciforms and pachycauls everytime I talked about them was simply too wordy. A popular name for this group was fat plants, which I thought was too crude, so I came up with a more sophisticated version combining pachy ( which means thick) and form. I have always liked unusual animals and plants. Plants that develop unique individual forms and sculptural bodies to me are the supreme forms of plants as art. Like art most of these plants increase in value with age. After seeing people’s collections of specimen plants at shows and in their homes I couldn’t; believe that there was no printed record of these living works of art. I also realized that if people did not focus on their propagation, they would eventually become extinct, not in the wild but as natural works of art that could be experienced in human society. This was the same motivation that drove me to publish the Vivarium.

9. Can you share with us a few other “industry” people that inspired or helped you out back in the day and why/how?

Although I’ve kept and bred many species of snakes, my focus for the last thirty years has been lizards and frogs. Bob Mailloux and the late Bert Langerwerf were significant inspirations. I’ve learned a great deal from their methodologies using outdoor vivaria.  I’ve also worked with Allen Repashy on various projects. His unique and very practical way of looking at problems and developing methods for commercial herpetoculture has influenced how I keep Rhacodactylus. His diet for keeping these geckos has had a major impact on making species considered among the rarest in the trade to becoming among the most popular.

10. Can you tell me what you see as a few positives, and a few negatives in regards to the direction of thereptile industry today and why?

I don’t think the negative problems with the reptile hobby can be attributed to the industry but more to socio-cultural factors. The Internet, the media technologies and social networking are strong attractors that have drawn people toward a more anthropocentric lifestyle and is a challenge for nature oriented hobbies to survive in this new world. I think we need to find ways to integrate the hobby with the new technology. Intermediating the experience of keeping herps by integrating digital cameras and microphones in setups could be a possible course.

I also think it’s time for us to assess the future of various species , decide which ones we want to establish before a variety of factors makes them no longer available. There are so many idiotic wildlife laws (e.g., listing non native species, such as Jamaican Boas and Black Pond Turtles on the Endangered Species Act) and legislation is so influenced by politics and radical animal rights groups that I  have no faith in the people in charge.  Global warming is another factor. If the predictions of global warming and sea rise are correct then many insular species will become extinct in the future. Some species that have temperature dependent sex determination will have such gender skewed populations that they will be at risk of extinction. We need to ask ourselves are there species that are ethnozoologically valuable enough that they deserve preservation, even if it is only as self sustaining populations integrated in human society. I also think we need to create programs to encourage the general public to get involved in keeping threatened species. The general public spends several hundred millions dollars annually to keep common turtles like red-eared sliders as pets. Just think if all that money could be applied to keeping rarer, less disposable species.

10 Questions with Ton Jones – November 2012

The Reptile Times

Ton Jones

By Scott Wesley

Clinton “Ton” Jones has run a reptile and exotic rescue for years, but is now best known for his starring role on the show “Auction Hunters” on Spike TV.  He is a man of many parts as we will discuss in some of these questions!

1. Let’s stick with reptiles for just a bit before we expand the conversation. What got you into reptiles in the first place and why?

What got me into reptiles was growing up in the desert and after school going out flipping boards chasing snakes and lizards ..great memories of my youth.

2. Besides working with reptiles – I hear you also work with exotics like big cats.  How did you get experience with those guys, and what is your favorite one to work with?

While working with snakes I have met a lot of people in the exotic animal world and I hung out with them and helped out at there sanctuaries after time I learned how to work with a lot of exotics including big cats. My favorite is a black leopard named Zoro .

3. After IMDb’ing you – you have done some weird stuff.  How did you end up on Dr. 90210 in a show called “Boobs, Dogs & Snakes” ?  That is more of a rhetorical question, but expand anyhow….

LMAO lets just say one of my friends was the Dr and another friend was the  producer and after a long night of BBQ and drinks a bet was made and I lost ….

4. Rumor has it you are coming out with a line of Rum bearing your name…  What input do you get to have on a project like this and what will the name be?  Any release date so we can look for it?

I have final say on this project but I do take the advice from my partners on just about everything. The rum will be called TON’s Trading co. Drunken Sailor  It’s a spiced rum. Looking to be released early next year.

5. Besides your TV show schedule – you travel the country doing many of the reptile industry shows as I am sure many of our readers know.  Is it harder to find time to do some of the things you use to do, or do you still manage to do the side stuff that you enjoy?

I have had to learn to manage my time very carefully but I don’t get to go camping and fishing as much as I would like but I’m going to make more time next year.

6. Something I found really interesting in talking to you was where the “stuff” ended up going from Auction Hunters and how much you actually help out a variety of charitable organizations.  Can you give that run-down again for our readers?

We donate to a lot of items such as clothes, dishes, unopened toys and other items to organizations and we recycle a lot of paper and electronics trying to limit our waste to a minimum keeping our carbon foot print as small as possible.

7. You have an amazing rattlesnake collection including Albino Speckled Rattlesnakes. How did you come across those, and what got you into keeping rattlers to begin with?

Over the years I have been lucky enough to work with Joel at Forever Wild exotic animal sanctuary in Phelan and he has the permits to keep hots so I have worked with Joel over the years putting together an impressive collection including a lot of albino rattlesnakes for display in there learning center where we can teach people about them and help get rid of some of the untrue rumors about them.

8. Having known you for years, I found it purely entertaining to watch customers walk by and get almost flustered when talking to you (especially those two girls at the show). Does anyone ever get “too in-your-face”, or do you still enjoy every fan that comes up to you?

It is mostly fun but there is moments where it’s too much.  I have been drenched in beer at ball games from happy drunk fans trying to hug me and I get the random drunk guy that will sit down at my table when I’m trying to eat with friends telling me how much he loves my show while spitting and drooling on my food the whole time 2 inches from my face.

9. Have you made TMZ yet or anything like that?  If not – do you consciously think about what you are doing all the time, or do you just ignore that stuff and live your life like you always have?

I figure it takes too much effort trying to be something other than what I am. I’m still a big kid at heart and love to hangout with friends camping fishing and chasing snakes at night …if people don’t like what I do or how I live my life they can kiss my ass…lol

10. I heard your show was picked up for another 26 episodes (congrats by the way!).  For the fans of your show – do you see yourself doing this for at least a few more years and do you still enjoy it like it was day 1 ?

I still enjoy doing this and I hope for more years of the show and every box I open is as fun as the first  that is what makes my job fun…

10 Questions with Ron Tremper

The Reptile Times

10 Questions with Ron Tremper

By Scott Wesley

10 Questions With Ron Tremper of LeopardGecko.com. Ron is a pioneer in the reptile industry creating some of the most amazing leopard gecko morphs that exist along with breeding ball pythons, tortoises, colubrids and many more. He is also an established author penning several popular reptile care books!

1. Leopard Geckos are what actually got us started here at LLLReptile. What originally got you into the reptile business and why?

My specialty is the captive breeding of amphibians and reptiles.  Back in the 70s, I always had this idea of “reptile ranching”.  Leopard geckos were not the first herps I ever bred, but they held the promise for large-scale breeding and so they became my focus in 1978.

2. Back in the 90’s – Leopard Geckos were frequently imported. How did you end up with ones that produced albinos – was it just complete luck or did you bring them in knowing they had that chance?

In 1996, a shipment of wild caught adult leopards reached a Los Angeles wholesaler and one female produced hatchlings consisting of a normal male and a female albino – the first in the world.

I had already been selling to the two brothers that had this form of random luck and so they eagerly contacted me and sent me a photograph, which I quickly confirmed as an albino.

They did not know who was the mother and so I assisted them with their attempts to breed the two siblings together, but after one year of health problems with the albino female, they accepted my offer to purchase the albino and her brother, which we named Bubba.

When I obtained the albino she was small and under weight for a one year old gecko.  One month later, despite heroic efforts, the albino, named Rosie, died, leaving me only with her brother, which mathematically had a 66.66% of being het for albinism.

So, in the winter of 1997 I bred Bubba to a large number of high yellow, tangerine, striped and reverse striped “designer” geckos in order to test if he was carrying the albino gene.

The following year I bred Bubba to 150 of his daughters, a laborious task to move his daily to the next three females that were ovulating.  The result in the late winter of 1999 was 1200 test eggs.  There was only a 1 in 8 chance that any given egg could be an albino if Bubba was truly an albino het.

In March of 1999, I casually inspected the incubator and there to my astonishment was the first baby to hatch and  IT WAS AN ALBINO !!!!  The math held true for the rest of the eggs.  Out of the 1200 young I got 150 albinos.  I then grew them all to 6” before revealing to the world that not only did an albino leopard gecko exist, but that 100 large albinos were up for sale!!!

The rest is history.

A few years later Bubba sired a gigantic baby measuring slightly over 4.5” at hatching that was the world’s first codominant genetic leopard gecko trait – a super giant leopard gecko.

Sadly, Bubba died of old age on September 6, 2012 due to organ failure.  He had been in decline for a year so his passing was expected, but his legacy will live on as every leopard around the globe that carries the Tremper albino and/or super giant genetics have descended from this one very average looking gecko that was a gift to the industry.

3. One of your passions outside of reptiles is song writing. What genre / style of music do you typically write lyrics for?  Has anything come of it beyond personal satisfaction?

I have never had any music training, lessons and play no instruments, but I have always heard original melodies in my head for years.  At the age of 47 I decided to write my first song and within 48 hours it was on the desk of a music publisher in Nashville.  They said I had a gift and that I should write some more pieces.  I did so and I turned out numerous tunes for my own pleasure.  Soon I was co-writing with Eric Horner, leader of Lee Greenwood’s band, who soon branched out on his own successful career and has some of our joint music on his albums.

Since I don’t play an instrument all of my songs are different.  I have done country, gospel, rock, hip-hop, contemporary and Caribbean pieces.  Its just a good solid outlet for my creative side.

4. You have a brand new book out called “Leopard Geckos – The Next Generations”. What, in your opinion, are some of the biggest changes you have seen for leopard geckos in recent years considering how many morphs were already around?

My first big book, The Herpetoculture of Leopard Geckos, came out in 2005.  At the end of that book I predicted that by 2011 there would be a need for an update.  That prediction was accurate since more leopard genetics were discovered in the last 7 years compared to the previous 30 years.  So, in October of 2011 I began putting together my latest masterwork, which includes contributed photos from my breeders around the world.

The discovery of new morphs and most importantly new codominant forms has led to a mathematical explosion of a myriad of newly formed “combo” morphs.  The White & Yellow, Super Galaxy and others have opened up many new possibilities.  And I can tell you many great things are still to come.

5. Can you share with our readers any new morphs / projects you may be working on with Leopard Geckos that we can look forward to?

As the leopard gecko industry knows, I like to keep my work to myself until things are proven out and ready for sale, but I can reveal that I am working on the first genetically melanistic leo and perhaps a Pied.

6. Does your interest and knowledge in biotechnology help you in the reptile world – either coming up with new morphs, breeding habits or just the general science involved?

Yes.  I keep up with the latest scientific developments.  For instance, the leopard gecko was one of one hundred vertebrate species selected by the World Genome Project to have its DNA revealed.  I supplied the geckos and their genetically related young for that work, which will soon be completed by the team in China.

I also follow recent bio-related patents and keep up on new research on human genetics to watch for things that might be applied to herps.

7. You also work with tortoises and from what I can tell – have been since the 80’s. What are some of the species you work with – and do you ever see any really unique “morphs” in tortoises in our future beyond the few that are currently available?

What most people don’t know is that I began my herp interest at the age of six collecting only turtles and tortoises.   I had a huge collection by the time I was 14 years old including a small Galapagos tortoise that I purchased in the Los Angeles area in 1967 when they we still legal and selling for $25 an inch!!!!!!

I have had turtles and tortoises in my life for over 55 years now with Cherry-head redfoots, sulcata, radiata and Manouria impressa being my focus.  My female Impressed tortoise produced the first captive bred young in the world in 2004 and she also holds the longevity record of 26 years 6 months as of this writing.

Morphs in tortoises are possible.  The Cherry-heads I work with develop massive amounts of ivory streaking on the top shell as they grow.   Morphs take more time since most species of tortoises need 3-8 years to go from egg to egg.  Over time more shelled morphs will hit the marketplace.

8. When and why did you originally get involved in Ball Python breeding, and are you working on any “new” morphs with them?

In 2007, a friend of mine got recalled to active military duty and so I bought all his colubrids and ball pythons.  Having more snakes to offer helped round us out as a source for a variety of herps…….. “More Than Geckos”.

9. Is there a Leopard Gecko morph available today that you wish you had thought of first?  If so – which one specifically and why?

I don’t mean this to sound funny, but the answer is no.  It’s not hard to think of all the possibilities and so I have what I want by design and not by omission.

I always knew that with more and more great new breeders getting into the gecko industry there would be a good chance of random mutations showing up.  The Enigma and the White & Yellow are prime examples.

10. What, in your opinion, are the biggest changes we have seen in the reptile industry in the last 25 years – and do you like what you have seen over that span?

The birth of captive breeding began in the United States with primarily corn snake success in the early 70s.  Since that time great strides have been made for captive-breeding nearly every key collectible species on the globe.  Knowledge grew quickly so that anyone getting into the hobby today and easily learn how to keep and breed and even sell herps in a very short period of time.

In the late 90s I did not like seeing all the people that jumped into the industry to just make a “buck”.  Yes, we had a period of rapid growth and interest that made for a “sellers” market, but not many of those same people are still around today.

Bad reputations and economic collapse has weeded out so many marginal sellers, but also rid us of a number of really great folks that just could not sustain their collections.

I believe that the herp community in this country is well on its way to recovery.  I see increased sales in all species for a lot of breeders, so this is clear evidence that not only the reptile market is improving but I see it as an indicator for our nation as a whole.

With increased pressures on restricting wild imports and new laws against herp ownership it is more important than ever that we join together not only to celebrate our breeding successes but also to protect our right to do so.

Inside the Reptile Industry with Loren Leigh

Inside the reptile industry

So as another National Reptile Breeders Expo, NRBE, in Daytona Beach passes it is something I use as a bench mark of the year to come.  It is a chance to see the state of our hobby, where we are at on our legal efforts, what’s hot and what’s not, and how the hobby is functioning as whole.  One thing I can say for sure – Ball Pythons are still hot, and the morphs are amazing.  The amount of floor space taken by Ball Python breeders was at an all time high and they did not disappoint, the color and patterns produced today are amazing.  The show did not stop at just Ball Pythons, though: frogs, lizards, turtles and tortoises were also well represented.

But one thing that I am always in awe of is the auction that takes place and people’s participation.  This year was a record for the auction (Proceeds going to USARK) in which almost $50,000 was made.  This auction is very important financial tool for the reptile industry and it is just awesome to see our hobby step up to the plate and first donate but also take part in bidding and spending the much needed money for the USARK legal fight.  So I wanted to personally take a second and thank every person that took part and every vendor that donated.  Your donation (big or small) to this event will translate into huge things in the years coming forward.

The NRBE, if you have not been, is always a great social event and always proves to be a good time.  Anytime you have 1000’s of die hard reptile folks descending down on a beach front hotel in Florida good times are to be had.  The show, the turtle and frog talks, auction, everything there is a good time to be had.  We at LLLReptile did our part in some good times, had a great show and really enjoyed getting to hang out with fellow herpers.  It was nice to see familiar faces and friends and to meet new ones as well.  Hope to see everyone at show soon in your local cities (We will be there I am sure) and if you make to NRBE 2013 stop by and see us.

10 Questions with Gary Bagnall

10 Questions with Gary Bagnall

By Scott Wesley

Gary Bagnall is the owner and founder of Zoo Med Laboratories and has a wide range of interests which we will dive into this month!

1. You got started in the reptile business at the ripe age of 19 in 1977. What are the major differences you see in today’s reptile culture versus in the 1980’s?

****When I started importing reptiles in the late 1970’s we did not have a huge domestic source of captive raised animals. In fact, approximately 80% were wild caught with maybe 20% or less obtained from captive breeders. Today the opposite is true with fewer direct live reptile importers and a huge amount of captive bredreptiles on the market.

2. One of the things we commonly say and hear is – you can’t have captive bred without wild caught. Having started Cal Zoo back in the 80’s – do you still see the same importance and need in the importation of wild caught reptiles to support and help further the reptile hobby today?

****Absolutely! People who raise the “captive raised” flag as the be-all end-all of reptiles you should own are short sighted. 1.) Where do you think your original animals came from. 2.) You need “wild” stock to add back to the captive gene pool or you eventually get recessive traits like what are currently showing up in some captive bearded dragons and leopard geckos, and last, 3.) Without wild imports we eliminate the chance to get new species which really drives this hobby.

3. I have seen some of the historic fish tanks you collect. Is this still a hobby of yours, and what is your favorite / most prized one?

****I started working in pet shops at the age of 11 (Russo’s Wonderful World of Pets, Fashion Island, Ca.) so my love of pet keeping runs deep. I collect everything that has to do with historic pet keeping including antique aquariums and terrariums. My favorite is probably my 900 gallon Matson Aquarium made of bronze with metal frogs, salamanders, and various fish in “relief” over the metal casting. This aquarium originally sat at the Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco from about the 1920’s through 1960’s.

4. You have traveled the world looking for reptiles. Can you recall what the coolest or most uniquereptile you ever saw / found in the wild was and where?

****I traveled to Western Samoa and met the king of Samoa to get permits to export Pacific Island Boas and Coconut Crabs (worlds largest hermit crab). It was amazing getting to know the Samoan people and their culture which is extremely friendly. We kept a days’ worth of collected coconut crabs in a wooden outhouse and they chewed through the door by morning and escaped! (they eat coconuts in the wild.) I also traveled to Egypt and brought back the first Uromastyx aegyptia plus was the company that brought in the first 4 albino boa constrictors into the U.S. I miss all the travel but if you want to keep your wife happy you have to give it up at some point.

5. You have always been passionate about reptile laws. Do you feel like we are now on the right track with USARK and will eventually see a more fair representation at the state and federal level?

****This is a big question. I think USARK is the best ammunition we currently have against fighting major anti-reptile keeping laws but people need to understand that politics is complicated and it is not always “what is right for the animal” but sometimes an unfair economic or political factor will come in play. Andrew Wyatt (USARK President) understands Washington (D.C.) and the current lobbyist hired by USARK is the best one I have ever met. The best way to win against these unfair laws is to have a strong representative for thereptile industry in Washington (USARK) and the power of the internet. Washington and the animal rights people are afraid of public opinion in huge numbers via the internet so don’t forget you have a voice, but make sure it is a unified one through the USARK channel. Also, register in your town as an “animal stakeholder” and request that any city laws being proposed on animals/pet keeping that you are notified.

6. Many out there in the reptile world start the business out of their garage (just like we did at LLLReptile). What made you take the leap from your garage to forming Cal Zoo, and eventually Zoo Med?

****I think I’m a little ADD (can’t sit still) and my love of animals just naturally turned into a business that grew. There is a saying in business that you are either going down or up but flat is not possible. I have never had a down year in my 35 years of owning my own business, thanks to a bunch of very talented people I surround myself with.

7. Was Zoo Med the first company to produce and distribute a calcium for reptiles?  How did you come across that product?

****Zoo Med was the first company to manufacture a reptile vitamin (Reptivite) which was originally developed for the San Diego Zoo. I was good friends with the person who developed the product and sold it through Cal Zoo originally. Our proudest accomplishment though was our invention of the first UVB lamp forreptiles in 1993 which was a game changer in how reptiles are kept in captivity.

8. Was there ever a reptile that came in back in the day that was maybe overlooked or undervalued at the time – but now is something special (i.e a piebald, leucistic or anery something or other)?

****In my Cal Zoo days we imported thousands of ball pythons, boas, all kinds of reptiles and amphibians. We occasionally had shops come by and pick out a strange color morph of snake or lizard but we never thought anything about this because we were too busy running the business. A livestock business is an 80 hour a week business and I always said you can import or breed reptiles but you can’t do both. It amazes me how a new industry grew that did not exist 15 years ago from unusual color or patterns (or both) of many species of snakes. So did one great color morph get away? I’m sure of it!

9. Possibly the best product to ever come out of Zoo Med is the Repti Sun 5.0 Bulb. This bulb revolutionized the industry, and is STILL the industry standard today when it comes to UV bulbs. What goes into the research and development, and is the 5.0 bulb the same today as it was 19 years ago when it was released?

****We brought my nephew Shane Bagnall on board about 8 years ago and he is a biologist/engineer who formally worked at the prestigious Salk Institute in San Diego. Shane has worked with some of the best UV engineers in the world plus Shane brought control of the actual phosphors we use to make many of these lamps “in-house”. The Reptisun 5.0 was originally made in the United States but we moved the production to Germany about 15 years ago because the manufacturing equipment was better there, hence a better lamp. We truly believe in quality and this is why we make the majority of our UVB lamps in Germany or Japan. Our compact fluorescent UVB lamps are the only ones we make in China but we source and blend the phosphors in Japan which no other company does. The problem with UVB lamps is there is no good, better, best on the pet shop shelf, there is only “works” or doesn’t work, so don’t be fooled by the inexpensive Chinese made brands.

10. If you could choose one thing to change about the reptile hobby – what would that be and why?

****The best thing that could happen to the reptile hobby is the end of the endangered species act and roll this outdated piece of legislation into C.I.T.E.S. where it belongs. A good example is our government is currently considering adding the spotted, wood and blandings turtles to the endangered species act. What this means is that everyone who owns these turtles currently will no longer be able to sell them out of state or export them. If instead they went from appendix 2 CITES to appendix 1 then the captive offspring from your animals would be legal to sell anywhere you chose. We need a USFWS that stops looking at all reptilebreeders as criminals and starts encouraging trade based on captive breeding which helps to prevent smuggling in the end!

Inside the Reptile Industry with Loren Leigh

Inside the reptile industry

This past month I was lucky enough to attend the inaugural Top-To-Top conference in La Jolla, CA. This was the first joint meeting to bring together stakeholders in all parts of the pet industry. The purpose of this meeting was to bring awareness to an important organization called PIJAC (Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council) along with many current issues pressing against the pet industry today. Several issues were discussed, but the topic I want to touch on this month is animal activism in America.

Many discussions took place on this topic to help better understand and combat the estimated 38,000 introduced animal laws and regulations coming this year alone on the city, state and federal levels. One big question discussed was “Can animal rights groups and the pet industry live in the same dog house together?”. We are both in the business of animal welfare, right? We both want what’s best for animals in the end, right? So – you would think this would be easy. Sadly – this is far from the case.

I realized at this conference how strong of a group the pet industry really is. Even more so is how strong our segment (reptiles) are by the great turnout by many of my fellow colleagues that work extremely hard for our reptile industry each and every day. Hagen/Exo-Terra, Zoo Med, Gourmet Rodent, Reptiles By Mack, Timberline and NARBC to name a few. The response to this meeting exhibited by the leaders and stakeholders of our industry to offer their time, donate their money and resources, and completely understanding that the future of owning pets in this country is in real jeopardy was awesome to see.

I think for the first time I saw our industry realize that we need to bond together now and fight for all pets (not just dogs, cats or snakes, but ALL pets) because in the end, if you own a dog, cat, snake, lizard, hamster or even a fish, there are people out there that feel this is just wrong.

I think for the first time I saw our industry realize that we need to bond together now and fight for all pets (not just dogs, cats or snakes, but ALL pets) because in the end, if you own a dog, cat, snake, lizard, hamster or even a fish, there are people out there that feel this is just wrong.

I personally feel very fortunate each and every day to work with animals and surround myself with people that love animals and bring people and animals together. You might ask “how can I help in this fight to keep our reptiles and pets?”. You have the most important and most beneficial role in this fight; good public relations! Get out there and teach people about how just plain cool our pets really are. Show them the bond you have and help warn off any, and all negativity. This could be as simple as getting a friendly snake into a child’s hand or bring it to share with a local school group (we at LLLReptile do this with schools and libraries all the time). When the local news does a damaging story on a reptile (or any pet) – be proactive! Reach out and educate them. Show them the truth of how great our pets really are. These are OUR pets they are talking about. It’s time for us to get out there and defend them and fight for our rights to have them in our lives.

Loren Leigh
President LLLReptile
USARK Board member

10 Questions with Jeff Barringer

10 Questions with Jeff Barringer

By Scott Wesley

Jeff Barringer is the owner and founder of Kingsnake.com / OnlineHobbyist.com and has single handedly changed the way the reptile industry does business since starting out in 1997. Kingsnake.com is the #1 reptilerelated website in the US – by far.

1.    If you had a choice, what would you be doing full time instead of Kingsnake.com ?

I would be working with the Department of Defense new “Cyber-command” to help stop online attacks on the nations infrastructure.  Or I would be the water ski stunt coordinator for the Wonder Lake Show Ski Team. Both have their upsides and my unique skill set would allow for either.

2.    You are very involved in the music industry in Austin. Is there anyone or any specific band you have met that made you “star struck” or left a lasting impression on you seeing them live or meeting them in person?

Well my friendship with Kerry King of Slayer came about because of our reptile interests, and that’s probably been the one that has impacted me most, recently, but I have been going to shows since I was 15 and even then I found a way. I would say The Ramones left me star struck first as I conned my way back stage when I was 17 and got to spend the night hanging out in their dressing room interviewing the band before their show in 1979. It pretty much set my path.

3.    What is your favorite reptile show to attend in the country and why?

Wooo. That’s a tough one. And for tough ones I always run home to family. And that means the annual East Texas Herp Society Symposium in Houston, September 29-30 .  Its where the Alterna Page, kingsnake.com and NRAAC all got their start. And it’s also where NRAAC will be hosting the Reptile& Amphibian Law Symposium & Workshop this year.

4.    If you could pick somewhere else to live besides Austin – where would it be and why?

Sanderson Texas, because it is the gateway to the Tran-Pecos and the Big Bend and I could find reptiles, arrowheads, gemstones, and dinosaur bone all in my front yard. And every once in a while really cool Air Force jets come rat racing through the hills and mountains.

5.    What kind of reptile got you hooked – grey banded kingsnakes or something else?

When I was 9 it was Texas Horned Toads
When I was an adult a Texas Alligator Lizard got me hooked
The Mexican Milk Snake is my favorite snake and what got me hooked on field work.

6. The reptile industry has changed so much since the late 90’s – what do you see as the biggest change overall since you started besides the internet?

The biggest change is the one that I see now, with the industry that started out somewhat localized, that expanded in the 90’s and 2000’s to national markets due to the ready availability of overnight shipping and marketing channels such as the internet, now retracting back to a more localized, and smaller, marketplace, similar to the way it was in the early 90s. I think this is due primarily both to the perception of and the actuality of more government regulation at the state and federal levels.

7. What is your favorite current band or singer right now?

Right now it’s the Silversun Pickups – sounds like being attacked by a swarm of bees with guitars. Plus their drummer’s style reminds me of Animal on Sesame Street

8. Why, in your opinion, have so many reptile businesses taken advantage of online advertising, and yet so many still chose to ignore its massive benefits (especially major manufacturers) ?

I think that a lot of businesses are still under the impression that to effectively advertise on the internet, you actually have to sell your products, and ship your products online. You don’t.

The internet allows all businesses to participate. Whether it’s building a brand, introducing a product or launching a new pet store down the street the internet is still the cheapest, and quickest way to get any message out, commercial or otherwise.

9.    A bit morbid, but if you could choose – how would you like to die?

Unexplained tuba accident

10.  What is the one thing you would like to see change in the reptile community?

I would like to see more people get directly involved with working with regulators and legislators. We can’t depend on any one person or one organization to resolve the issues our community is facing. Emails, phone calls, faxes, letters, all those are great tools but we should be using them to open doors, rather than shut them. Get to know who is responsible for the laws in your community and actually engage them in person.  That is what is going to make the difference in the end.