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

Inside the Reptile Industry with Loren Leigh – March 2013

Inca Trail and Machu Picchu 

For Thanksgiving last year I decided what better way to spend the holiday than hiking one of the most challenging treks in South America, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. After a 12 hour flight to Lima Peru, another flight to Cusco, followed by a 3 hour mini bus ride to the start, our group finally made it.  And it was so worth it, this was one of the most amazing and scenic places I have ever seen.

History and Location

Machu Picchu is 15th century Inca site located in the Cusco Region of Peru, South America (7,970 feet above sea level). Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built around 1450 for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472).  It was abandoned as an official site for the Inca rulers about a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest.  From this time till up until 1911 very little was known outside Peru of this site until it was discovered by Hiram Bingham.

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu consists of three overlapping trails: Mollepata, Classic, and One Day.  Our group took the Classic route which is 28 Miles long, 4 days and crossed over the brutal Warmiwañusca (“Dead Woman’s Pass”) at a height of 13,773 feet.

Located in the Andes mountain range, the trail passes through several types of environments including cloud forest, alpine tundra, Inca settlements, and many Incan ruins.  The trail ultimately ends at the Sun Gate on Machu Picchu mountain with amazing views into the Urubamba Valley in Peru and Machu Picchu.

Preparing for Trek, Ollantaytambo

Bridge crossing, Wayllabamba

Our Trek Itinerary

Day 1 – Ollantaytambo – Piskacucho – Wayllambamba

Our trek started 55 miles from the city of Cuzco on the Urubamba River at 9,200 ft.  By Mini Bus we travel from the city of Cuzco to Kilometre 82 road marker and the start of the Inca Trail. After a short stop in the city Ollantaytambo we meet our guides, porters, inspect camping gear, pack up and head out.  For our first day we start with a 7 1/2 mile walk to Wayllabamba (9,850 feet).

Warmiwañusca, Dead Womans Pass (background)

Day 2 Warmiwañusca – Pacamayo

Rising early (around 5am), today begins with a ascent of 6 miles all uphill on stone steps to reach the highest pass at Warmiwañusca or ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’.  The views of the mountains and valleys are spectacular as you make your way slowly towards the pass.

This section is the most demanding and the pass offers fantastic views of the surrounding snow capped peaks. After the high pass it is 2 miles downhill, winding along old Inca stairs to the campsite (11,800 feet).

Top of Dead Womans Pass (13,773 feet)

Day 3 Runkurakay – Winay Wayna

This day begins with another early start (6am) and a gradual 1 1/2 mile hike uphill to the second high pass, Runkurakay (12,950 feet). This pass has amazing views of the Andes.

Most of the next 4 miles is downhill on our way to the ruins of Sayacmarca.

The scenery becomes more lush as we continue towards the third high pass at Phuyupatamarca (11,750 feet).

From here we have a further 5 miles downhill to reach the final campsite at Winay Wayna (8,700 feet).

Phuyupatamarca

Day 4 Intipunku – Machu Picchu

On the last morning we rise before dawn (4am) to begin the final section of the trail to the famous ‘Sun Gate’ (Intipunku) and on to Machu Picchu.

It is 2 1/2 miles from Winay Wayna to the Sun Gate and the final segment includes a set of steep Inca stairs.

Arriving at the Sun Gate which is 1130 feet higher than Machu Picchu it has  majestic views down over Machu Picchu and the surrounding valleys. From the Sun Gate, there is our final 1 1/2 miles downhill walk to the entrance of Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu (early morning)

Reptiles Seen in Machu Picchu

And what trip would be complete without doing some herping along the way?  The Andes Mountains are an amazing place and home to many types of reptiles, amphibians, insects and much more.  Peru has around 300 species of reptiles, of which around 100 are endemic. Peru’s reptile fauna includes spectacular species like giant anacondas and caimans, as well as many other snakes, lizards and turtles.

Machu Picchu

The dry season on the Inca Trail and in Machu Picchu, is the best time of year to go, lasts from May to November and the rainy season is from December to April.  The Inca trail is closed in February due to heavy rains.  Day time temperatures can range anywhere from 50-82ºF, with night time temperatures around 32ºF.  With such low temperatures there were not many herps to find but we did find a few along the trail.

Scorpion, Machu Picchu, Peru –  Tityus sp.

Millipede, Machu Picchu, Peru

Fer-de-Lance, Winay Wayna, Peru

The Inca Trail as one of the most hyped treks in the world, I would recommend it to anyone as a trail worth doing. It’s tough but extremely rewarding.

It is breathtaking.

Inside the Reptile Industry with Loren Leigh – January 2013

SHOW WRAP UP 2012

As we wrap up 2012 and move into 2013 we close another amazing year of reptile events throughout the US.  Reptile shows are a huge part of our industry and allow us the opportunity not only to come together as a hobbyist group and share information, see new breeding projects, trade and sell our reptiles and equipment but also  to be part of this vast reptile industry.

I have been a part of the reptile community now going into my 19th year.  I personally have attended almost every show in the US, and traveled across the country countless times to be a vendor.  It is a huge part of our industry and I am lucky that our company LLLReptile and Supply Company is part of this segment and affords me the ability to attend.

Some of the highlights of this year included the kick off of the show year with the Reptile Super Show in Pomona, CA (Los Angeles area)  This show has grown 110% in recent years and has proven to be one of the best, if not the busiest show in the US.  Ramy, the promoter of this event has a style of promoting and accommodating his vendors that has never been seen in this industry.  This show drew 10,000+ people and hundreds of exhibitors from all over the US.  The show is full of events like fundraising auctions, daily auctions, and much more.  A must attend show in my opinion.

One of the most pivotal shows this year was the NARBC Tinley Park, IL (Chicago area) March ReptileSummit.  It was a chance for breeders, reptile industry stake holders, and owners of reptiles to meet and discuss laws and pending legislation in our industry.  It was a huge step for us in the fact that it was the first real chance to look at laws and the challenges that face us, and come up with solutions and game plans to tackle these issues moving forward.  The fund raiser for PIJAC and USARK was a huge success as well, and raised valuable money and resources to continue our lobby and fight.  This year the summit will take place at the NARBC show, I encourage everyone to take part and be active in this event.

As the year moved on there was a show almost every other month that again should be on anyone in the area’s show calendar.  The White Plains, NY Show (just outside Manhattan/Bronx) is a very unique show taking place 8 times a year.  This show is a one day show, and a mad house of selling, trading, and showcasing animals in a brief period.  People travel from states around to attend this show and it brings some of the top names in the industry time and time again.  One of the highlights of this show for me is the huge amount of breeders that flock to this event from all around.  The East Coast has many hobbyist breeders and seeing species being bred and kept that are not popular and seen at most events can always be found at this event.

Moving into the fall one of my favorite shows to attend and one of the hidden gems of all reptile shows is the Seattle Reptile Expo taking place in Puyallup, WA.  This show promoted each year by the Bean Farm brings some very exciting animals to the local fairgrounds and brings 1000’s from all around the Seattle/Tacoma area.  The Pacific Northwest is a very strong reptile community and they are one of the most passionate groups of keepers around.

In the fall there is another must see show – the Sacramento Reptile Expo in Sacramento, CA.  This show ran by Jeremy who owns two local stores in the area run one of the busiest shows in the US.  The show started in a small Red Lion Hotel Convention room in the beginning and today takes up the largest hall in the Sacramento Convention Center.  This show has a flavor all its own.  Shows programs, interactive animal displays, auctions, breeders from across the nation can all be found here.

In all the US has many great events and personally I enjoy them all.  There is always a great time taking place at the show, and the chance to see an amazing array of new species, new morphs, and some great examples of the livestock available, but it is also the chance to catch a meal and have good times with good people.  The Reptile Industry is full of some of the most interesting people, dedicated to their interest inreptiles.  We all come from so many walks of life, and have different interests in what we may keep and breed, but in the end of the day we all have that unique reptile bond.

I take great pride in being part of this segment of what we do here at LLLReptile and hope that you can one day take part in a event in a town near you.

Book Review: FIELD GUIDE TO AMPHIBIANS AND REPTILES OF THE SAN DIEGO REGION – November 2012

The Reptile Times

Reviewed by Jonathan Rheins
There is no shortage of excellent general husbandry books available to the modern herepeteculturist.  These run the gamut from basic care for beginning hobbyists to extensive, professional texts written for the advanced keeper.  Many of these titles are but a few years old, yet have already secured their spot as “classic” references and some are in very high demand.  It is rare, however, for a field guide to gain as much attention or popular demand as Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of the San Diego Region has since its initial publication in 2006.
Written by San Diego native Jeffrey M. Lemm, this guide will provide the reader with a great opportunity to discover the herpetological diversity of San Diego County and the surrounding areas.  While most likely to appeal to field herpers and reptile keepers, this book will be of interest to nearly anyone who spends timeoutdoors and has an interest in the region’s native herpetofauna.
book

For those living in Southern California, this book is a must have.  And for those who do not, this book still gets the highest recommendation from myself and the entire LLLReptile staff.  Many of the species covered in this guide have naturally occurring ranges that extend far beyond just San Diego, making this reference a valuable tool for those living in and/or herping in adjacent states.

Now, on to the specifics of the book!  Each species account includes both common and Latin names, a detailed physical description, full color photo, and a thorough review of the species natural history.  Additionally, taxonomic notes are offered as well, and here the reader will find information regarding relevant subspecies, their taxonomical status, and history.  The majority of entries are accompanied by range maps showing both historical and current habitation.

Jeff Lemm is a noted conservation ecologist, with an emphasis in herpetolgy. His passion for helping to preserve our delicate flora and fauna shines through in this text.  Conservation status of each species is included in the individual species accounts, as well as a special chapter on conservation and issues surrounding reptiles and amphibians specifically.  Additionally, there is a very interesting chapter on amphibian chytridiomycosis, a fungus that has become one of the leading causes of amphibian population decline worldwide over the past decade.
Also included are chapters covering the geography, geologic history, and major habitats of the San Diego region.  A special chapter on snake envenomation by Dr. Sean Bush is included as well, along with an easy to use and very concise identification key to the herps of San Diego written by noted herpetologist Jay Savage.
The bulk of the book is devoted to the species accounts, which are broken up into orders (Caudata, Sauria, etc.) and each section is further designated by a color coded upper corner of each respective page.  This makes finding specific entries very easy when in a hurry.  The remainder of the book includes a thorough glossary, species checklist, index, and a detailed references section.
Overall, this is a great book and an excellent field guide.  The author clearly went above and beyond in his research and preparation of this work.  As an avid herper himself, Jeff Lemm  located and photographed every species noted in the text.  His level of interest and dedication is clearly represented in the final product.
Whether you spend your weekends cruising the desert for snakes, or studying herpetology from the comfort of your home, this book will provide you with more than enough information to find, identify, and truly appreciate the incredible herps that call Southern California their home!

Paperback, 326 pages.  Perfect bound with glossy, full color cover and photographs throughout.  In stock and available for purchase at www.LLLReptile.com, or in any of our retail stores!

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.

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

Inside the Reptile Industry with Loren Leigh

Inside the reptile industry

As we embark on the first edition of The Reptile Times, I am eager to introduce you to an exciting change that is occurring in our reptile hobby.  Reptiles have gained popularity at an unprecedented pace over the last 20 years, and are now making their way into the lives of mainstream America.  Reptiles and amphibians of all shapes and sizes have moved from the back room of the house to the prominent area of the living room, where they have become a major part of our everyday lives.

This rapid increase in reptile ownership has unfortunately not come without its bad points.  Issues such as the widely publicized Burmese python situation in Florida have drawn great attention to our hobby, and to the need for reptilekeepers of all levels to unite and work together to keep our rights intact.  State and city laws nationwide are being proposed and enacted as a means of placing restrictions on reptile ownership, as well as many other regulations that threaten our hobby and industry greatly.

In each issue of The Reptile Times I hope to provide a sneak peak inside our hobby and give our readers timely  updates on the state of our reptile industry, what is happening within it, and the many directions we are going.  Doing so will hopefully keep us all up to speed on current events industry-wide. Additionally I hope to provide insight into how we can all work together in the molding of realistic solutions while at same time helping the fight against those who do not want us to have our beloved pets at all.

A close friend of mine once told me that laws are won and changed by people just showing up.  My hope is that through this column I can help to better your understanding of the facts, encourage involvement, and enlist your help as part of the active reptile nation.

So, for this month, I encourage you to learn about The United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) by visiting their website (www.USARK.com). Even better yet, become a member, get involved, and help us in the fight!

Loren Leigh
President LLLReptile
USARK Board member