My son and daughter in law have reptiles: 4 bearded dragons and a 3’ Savannah monitor. They’re so interesting to me and I went to reptile shows with them and looked at pretty ones like chameleons and some others.
But all those kinds eat bugs. The kids raise some of their own bugs and order some other kinds online. They mix up food to feed the bugs, which are food for their reptiles. That’s all too much for this old lady. At this age, I need things more easy.
Then my son said: you need a reptile, so get a vegetarian one! Well I had no idea there were any that were vegetarian.
There are: a group of reptiles from Northern Africa and the Middle East called uromastyx. Also known as spiny tailed lizards. The ones from the Middle East are all varieties that get something like 2’ long, and need huge enclosures to be able to give them good lives. But, the ones from Northern Africa are smaller, staying about 10-12” long.
Aha, I want a uromastyx! The northern African kinds are called Geyri uromastyx, (named for the man who first discovered them) or Niger or Saharan Uromastyx.
All of these lizards live in the most inhospitable kinds of places: 120 degrees during the day, 1” average rainfall for the year. They eat bits of vegetation they find and sometimes climb trees to eat the leaves. They go into holes in the ground overnight, where the temp might be about 70 in the desert after the sun goes down. (They, like many other reptiles, can’t make their own body heat. They need to come out of their holes and lay in the sun early in the day and periodically thru the day to maintain enough heat in their bodies to be able to digest their food.) They are prey for other animals, mostly birds, and are nervous little creatures, especially when approached from above from fear of birds.
There aren’t many of them available here compared to things like the bearded dragons. Many people all over the country are breeding dragons. But more people are starting to breed uros now too, since they are fairly easy to keep as pets.
There are some available that were wild caught in their native countries, but some of them come with problems. Many have internal parasites that are sometimes hard to get rid of. Many of them have scars from injuries from living in such harsh places, and fighting for their lives. So I needed to find a breeder to buy one from here.
Facebook to the rescue. There are groups on there for all these kinds of reptiles and I joined one for uros. There I found a breeder, http://www.aridsonly.com/ who is also on Instagram and raises good stock of baby uros.
My son had commented that people go on reptile groups and say they just got their reptile, so now what should they do with it: food, heat, lights, all the things you need to know before you get a reptile. This is not a dog or cat, where pretty much everybody knows what they need. These little lizards have specific needs if they’re going to be happy and healthy.
So I set about educating myself. There is so much info available online if you go searching. I got a lot of info from my kids about general keeping of reptiles: kinds of lights, heat requirements, etc. And lots of info online about this particular kind of reptile. I didn’t want a kind that gets so big, and needs a huge enclosure. So, the little ones from Northern Africa sounded just right. Geyri uromastyx!
I ordered a glass enclosure big enough to allow for gradient temps of a hot spot of 120 degrees at one end, 85-90 at the cool end, and ambient temp of about 95. The humidity needs to be low but the heat light pretty much takes care of that.
Food, that’s pretty easy. They eat the same kinds of foods I buy myself, at the grocery store. The Uro group teaches us that there are everyday staples like certain leafy greens and squash, and occasional/weekly ones like radicchio and carrot.
Then I knew what a geyri uromastyx needs to be happy, healthy and have as good of a life as they can in captivity. Uro keepers keep only one in each enclosure, cos they are solitary animals. They will fight if kept together since territory is so important in the wild. They only get together to mate, and that process reflects the harsh conditions they live in too: to make sure their species stays alive, uro males, like other reptiles, have 2 penises. Interesting info. Mother Nature, wow.
I ordered a baby from the breeder I found well recommended on the FB group. He came on a plane and then a truck, after having been packed for safe shipping by a company that does only reptile shipping. He arrived in good shape and just needing the lights to get his body temp up. Then he was hungry!
I’ve had this dear little thing for a week now. There is no way to tell which sex it is for probably a year. I’m hoping it’s a male cos the males develop brighter colors as they get to be adults. Females also sometimes get egg bound, and that’s a problem if it happens. Reptiles, like chickens and many other birds, lay eggs even if there is no chance of being mated.
He likes Belgian endive, summer squash, spring mix lettuce and escarole. The produce sections at the bigger grocery stores have everything he needs. And they eat rose petals and some other flowers that people could also eat. I have roses right outside the back door. I’m currently drying some to give him over the winter.
He’s so darn cute.
My cat noticed him for the first time earlier this week. She sits for 15 or so minutes and watches him, and then decides he’s not so interesting after all. But this picture was when she first noticed that……there is something in there! And the look on her face was: WHAT is THAT!