Inside the Reptile Industry: Farming – April 2014

By Jennifer Greene and Loren Leigh

A controversial topic today in reptile keeping is the term “farmed”.  What does that really mean to the hobbyist today?  What does farmed even mean, and does farming really deserve the reputation it has garnered among reptile keepers?  Hopefully with some insight from Loren Leigh, the owner of LLLReptile and Supply Co, Inc, you can have a better understanding of what farming really means for reputable dealers.

A young Argus monitor

If you google “reptile farming”, or similar terms, you get many results for animal farms in the US that allow tours, or produce animals as pets, or for actual farms with cows, sheep, or similar livestock.  Getting someone to give you a straight answer on what exactly farming is in relation to reptiles is difficult as well; answers vary widely from person to person.  The reason for this is that there is no set definition for reptile farming.  Is it farming to have large numbers of ball pythons in enclosures, producing dozens or hundreds of babies a year?  Is it farming to have outdoor enclosures for a couple of sulcatas that produce dozens of babies each year?  Does your answer for the ball pythons change depending on the country they are being bred in?  What about the sulcatas?  Does it change based on numbers?  At what point are you no longer a hobbyist breeding an animal you love, and you are a farmer?  Does the country you’re in change your answer as to whether or not your animals are “truly” captive bred?

When I asked Loren to help me define Farming for this article, he explained the difficulty in defining a word so loosely used in our industry.  Generally speaking, though, it is considered farming when it is a particular species being produced in its country of origin in a controlled situation.  Furthermore, it is farming when the species is produced outdoors, relying on naturally occurring conditions to stimulate natural behaviors resulting in breeding.  Loren has had the fortune to actually visit reptile farms both in the US and outside of our borders, including a friend’s farm in Tanzania.  One of the biggest upsides to farming is that it allows for us here in the US to get species that are difficult to find in the wild, as well as difficult or not yet bred here in the states.

A baby Green Tree Python – a species commonly “farm bred”


Monitors, for example, are a group of animals not frequently bred here in the US.  For some species, we would not have any access to them whatsoever without the offspring produced at reptile farms in places like Indonesia.  One such farm is the one featured in this video (click link to view) that was visited by DM Exotics – you can see the large adult monitors being housed and cared for so that they can produce offspring each year.  Species such as melinus, doreanus, prasinus, dumerilii, and more are all farmed in Indonesia under conditions similar to their wild habitat.  Without reptile farms, US keepers would not have these species.  If you watch the video linked above, you can also see the conditions the animals are kept in.  Many reptiles cannot and will not breed if conditions are not exactly as they need; reptile farmers realize this and their breeding stock is housed spaciously, fed well, and clearly efforts are made to keep them healthy and happy.

Another example of farming would be red eared sliders here in the US, in particular, at farms located in the South in states like Louisiana.  The US is the biggest exporter of Red Eared Sliders in the world, along with map turtles, and soon box turtles as well.  However, none of the adult breeding stock being used to produce these numbers is wild caught – the red eared sliders, for example, that are used to produce these incredibly high numbers for export (both in the pet trade as well as food) come from established lines that have been in captivity for multiple generations.  There is no need for wild harvesting of red eared sliders or map turtles, thanks in large part to these reptile farms in the parts of the US they occur naturally.

A baby Mississippi Map Turtle 

The reality of farming is that an enterprising reptile keeper can set up outdoor enclosures for any species that occurs in a similar environment to where they live, add animals, feed them, and voila – you have a reptile farm.  One of the largest producers of sulcatas in the world, for example, lives in Honduras!   Florida also has an excellent environment for setting up many species outdoors, which is why it is such a mecca for reptile enthusiasts.  In the southern half of the state, you can set up an outdoor pen for nearly any tropical species and it will thrive.

While in the past, farming may not have been the most ideal situation for a reptile to originate from, a reputable, modern farming operation should be seen as the boon for the reptile industry that it is.  The emphasis for most farms has switched from simply holding animals to reproducing them, resulting in animals that are, essentially, captive bred in their country of origin.  Various locales of Green Tree Pythons are one example, as are blue tongue skinks, frilled dragons, Madagascar ground boas, emerald tree lizards, Colombian boas, and even many species of chameleons.  The majority of reptiles kept on farms such as these originate from adults in captivity that are kept with no intention of release, and instead are maintained until the next breeding season.

Baby Savannah Monitor

So before condemning all reptile farming as scummy and to be disdained, consider the species it has allowed us to keep.  Remember that by simply setting up an enclosure or a few outdoors, and letting the natural weather conditions handle the heating and lighting for your pets, you could be considered to be a reptile farmer.  Farming is not entirely cut and dry, and is not necessarily the worst way to produce pets for keepers here in the states or internationally.  Where do you draw the line between a large scale breeder and a farmer?  Can you?  Does it really matter? 

Food for thought.

Inside the Reptile Industry with Loren Leigh – April 2013



 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).


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


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.

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

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 ( Even better yet, become a member, get involved, and help us in the fight!

Loren Leigh
President LLLReptile
USARK Board member