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.

The Basking Spot: Repashy Diets

The Basking Spot

By Jennifer Greene

This month, the Basking Spot is on Repashy Diets!

The Repashy Diets are a line of meal replacement powders as well as vitamin supplements.  Since the subject of supplementation is such a complicated topic in and of itself, this article will not be covering the various vitamin and calcium supplements manufactured by Repashy.  For details on what is in the various supplements, as well as their benefits, feel free to visit the Repashy website and read his various articles detailing them.   Instead, this article will cover the Crested Gecko Meal Replacement Powder, the Day Gecko Meal Replacement Powder, the various gel foods, and the SuperPig color enhancer.

First and foremost, any one that keeps Crested Geckos should already be familiar with the Crested Gecko Meal Replacement Powder, often shortened as simply “MRP”.  This food is the most commonly recommended diet for any captive Rhacodactylus species, simply due to how complete it is as a diet.  When Rhacodactylus species such as Crested Geckos were originally kept in captivity, the diets offered to them were traditionally centered around various combinations of supplements and baby food.  The Repashy MRP diet eliminates the need to mix up your own food, and instead rely on the expertise of someone who has maintained and bred and extensive colony of geckos.  The Day Gecko specific MRP is a diet designed along similar lines, but with the specific needs of Phelsuma species in mind.  The use of these diets makes care of the geckos much simpler – very much along the lines of maintaining a dog or cat, in that you simply prepare the commercial diet rather than seeking out various live food items.  It is recommended to include live prey items in your geckos’ diet, but it is possible to maintain Crested Geckos entirely on the Repashy MRP diet alone.

Repashy SuperPig

For those keepers looking to enhance their prize geckos (and other reptiles) in any way possible, I suggest considering the addition of the SuperPig supplement to their diet.  SuperPig is a carotenoid supplement that enhances the red and orange coloration of your reptiles.  The combination of a broad range of carotenoids is in a powdered form, making it a piece of cake to simply add to your calcium mix or to simply mix into your MRP or other diet.  While the effects of the SuperPig may not be immediately apparent (one feeding won’t turn your gecko bright red), over time you will notice your animals exhibiting more red than they did before.  SuperPig is not a magical pigment creator, so if your animal is not slightly red to begin with, it will not put red pigment in.  However, it can enhance the red coloration in Bearded Dragons, Blue Tongue Skinks, Red Tegus, Red Iguanas, Gargoyle Geckos, Crested Geckos, and to a lesser extent, even Leopard Geckos.  Why do I list these specific animals, you ask? Because all of those are species I personally have used (or coworkers have used) the SuperPig with to enhance red coloration, and personally seen the effects of SuperPig before and after.

Red Tegu

This employee’s tegu gets superpig mixed into his diet –

all his white spots have been washed out with red!

A note with SuperPig – it is not going to affect the coloration of the offspring of animals fed SuperPig.  This means that if your Crested Geckos are extra red as a result of SuperPig, their babies are unlikely to retain that same intense red coloration, and will instead look more like your geckos did before they received the supplement.  In addition, once the SuperPig is no longer added to the diet, the effects wear off.  Simply feeding SuperPig to your animals for a few months, and then quitting, will not maintain the red coloration for the duration of your animal’s life.

In addition to Meal Replacement Powders, which create a thick, mushy type of food, there is a new line of gel-diets that can be mixed up.  Bug Burger is the specific diet designed as a gutload for feeder insects, and due to the quantity of gutload that can be made for the cost of a 5.3 oz container, it is one of the most cost effective gutloads out there.  Bug Burger is readily consumed by all kinds of feeder insects, and I personally have used it to feed Superworms, Mealworms, Crickets, Hissing Cockroaches, Dubia Roaches, and once even mice!  It is easy to mix, simply combining it in a 1 to 3 ratio with water, and then heating up to boiling.  Let it cool, and viola!  Instant bug food.

Mixing Repashy Diets

Along the same lines as the Bug Burger are several fish and reptile diets.  The reptile specific diets seem well designed to appeal to their group – they are still extremely new to the market, but every animal I have tried the food with has loved it.  The Meat Pie designed for carnivorous reptiles is not always immediately accepted by reptiles accustomed to eating live prey items, however if your reptiles already eat food from tongs or out of a bowl, the transition is easy.   Savory Stew is the name of the food designed for omnivorous reptiles, and so far I have not been able to find a single omnivorous species that did not readily accept the food just when offered simply on a plate.  I’ve seen Berber’s Skinks, Blue Tongue Skinks, Argentine Black and White Tegus, Red Tegus, Russian Legless Lizards, and even Bearded Dragons cheerfully consuming the Savory Stew!

stew cooling

When placed in the fridge, the Savory Stew turns from liquid to a nice solid gel in a matter of minutes.

With the range of vitamins and other nutrients found in the Repashy diets, they are an excellent choice to consider incorporating into your feeding routine.  As a big fan of variety in the captive diet of reptiles, I would not personally recommend feeding nothing but a commercial diet to your reptiles, but the Repashy line of diets is a high quality food that you can feel comfortable adding to your pets’ diets.  The only draw back?  The gel diets (Bug Burger, Savory Stew, and Meat Pie) all have a distinct odor to them when being prepared.

Keep in mind that the food is not designed to appeal to YOU, it is designed to appeal to your reptiles, many of which cheerfully consume food items such as live insects, dead insects, raw liver and eggs, and other such unsavory food items.  What they find appetizing and what we find appetizing are not nearly the same things – so don’t let the smell put you off, go ahead and offer it to your animals anyway.  They’ll probably LOVE it!

10 Questions with Chad Brown

10 Questions with Chad Brown

By Scott Wesley

Chad Brown is a former all-pro linebacker in the NFL and is the owner of Pro ExoticsShip Your Reptilesand The Reptile Report. Chad and Robyn have done some amazing things for the reptile industry through the years, and continue to this day with their newest venture – The Reptile Report. Check it out and bookmark it!

1. What was the very first reptile you owned?

The first reptile I owned was a beautiful boa that I named Fear. I named her that because everyone in my dorm was afraid of her. I got her my freshman year at the U. of Colorado. By that time in my life, I had caught 100’s of snakes and lizards around my home in southern California, but that boa was the first snake I bought and owned.

2. Is Robyn your “Brofriend”, “Man Crush” or “BFF” and how long have you known each other?

I met Robyn when I was a junior at U of Colorado. I guess that was 1991? He got his first snakes from me, a baby boa I produced and a ball python I took in as a rescue and nursed back to health. We have worked together at PE for almost 20 years. We have a great business relationship, and a great out of the office friendship as well. But none of that “Man Crush” stuff. ok :)?

3. What is your greatest accomplishment – on or off the field besides your family?

Playing in the NFL for 15 years was pretty special. Being married almost 20 years is pretty special too. But to answer the question, I’m hoping I haven’t had my greatest accomplishment yet. I’m only 41, too much life to live to have already to the high point.

4. Where did you go on your last vacation?

I just got back from Marco Island, FL. The NFL retired players union have their annual meetings there. I’m a beach kind of guy, so hanging out with great football players, my family and getting in some body surfing is always a great time! I’m hoping to go to west Africa soon with a film crew to do a special on ball pythons! Be on the look out of this sometime next year

5. What was the first reptile company / big breeder you can recall back when PE started?

Before I started PE I was friends with Kamuran Tepedelen of Bushmaster Reptiles. He was and still is a great inspiration to me as far as reptiles go. To have the chance to go to his house and see and hold reptilesthat I had read about in books was truly awesome.

6. What was the last movie you saw in the theater?

The last Twilight movie. I’m not a fan but I try my best to be a good Dad, so I took the kids when it came out. I’m much more of a watch a movie at home kind of guy. Comedies seem to be my first choice.

7. Who hit harder – you, Hines Ward or Bill Cowher? 

I’ve tackled Hines a few times but I’ve never been hit by him. I guess lucky me, right? I have been spit on a number of times by Bill Cowher. He is a very close talker, and like the saying goes, “say it, don’t spray it”!

8. One thing you could change about the reptile world / community?

Each time I go to a show or a reptile event, I’m saddened by the bad feelings some folks in the community have towards each other. Our reptile world is pretty small and it’s too bad we all can’t get along. It makes dinner plans at the shows tricky! Can’t have these guys together, or that guy doesn’t want to go because this guy is going. So my one change to the reptile world would be somehow get all my reptile friends to be friends.

9. What is the coolest reptile you have hatched at PE in your opinion?

Wow, tough question. I still get a thrill from hatching Leopard Geckos! Over the years at PE we have hatched everything from super high end ball pythons, to our own line of striped blood python, to Gilas, to Arizona banded geckos. But the coolest reptile we have hatched are Green Tree monitors. It took us a longtime to get babies hatching, but man, the wait has been well worth it!

10. If you could live somewhere else besides Colorado – where would it be and why?

San Diego has always been a place I’ve talked about moving when my kids are older. I love the ocean, and LLLReptile is there!