Birthdays are important to people who have pets, but so are the days when we received the pet, gotcha day. Geyri has grown well since he came here a year ago. I weigh him once a month to know that his growth is a good amount, and consistent. He was a tiny creature when he arrived, at 12 grams, and is now a hand full of Geyri at 39 grams and about 3 times as long.
He came from a good breeder in Colorado, well packed for a long trip in a soft cloth bag inside a secure box inside another secure box. (He was about 2 months old then. Breeders keep them for a while after they hatch to be sure they’re healthy before they ship them to their new homes.) He slept on his 24 hour trip. He arrived healthy, curious and hungry. He ate a little bit and went exploring thru his new desert home.
Keepers of this unusual lizard go to great lengths to provide an environment as close as possible to where they live in the wild, mostly in northern Africa. (In Geyri’s case, his species is found in Mali, Algeria and Niger. His species is part of the group of lizards called spiny tailed lizards, and his sub-species, geyri, is also known as Nigerinan uromastyx.) It’s 100 degrees at the hot end, about 85 at the cool end, with low humidity and good UV lighting, since they don’t get natural sunlight. Their health depends on all of that, and proper foods, with chemical properties like the leaves they would find in the wild.
Their health and happiness also depend on the things that we put in their enclosure. I’ve seen enclosures with just several places to hide, nothing to climb on, and no dirt to dig in, only plain slate. (Some species climb higher than geyris do, since geyris come from places where there aren’t many trees and bigger bushes to climb on. So he likes to go up a ways for a vantage point, but doesn’t need tall things to climb on.) I always think what a boring place those kinds of enclosures would be for one of these lizards to live. He’s not here for my viewing pleasure; he is a living thing that has needs that must be met to make him thrive. I keep respect for the fact that tho he was born here, his instincts tell him what it should be like where he lives. I need to adjust his environment to suit him, not expect him to adjust…….anything.
In the wild there are rocks and limbs of trees and crevices and other places to hide from the birds in the day time and bigger lizards and snakes at night. Uromastyx have no means of self defence except to run, dig down into a safe place, and hide. Overnight security is especially important, since darkness in the desert is a totally unknown world. Geyri has a burrow under some slate that I built for him, after looking at pictures of the mountainous African scrub desert his parents and his species came from. With several other places he could go into to sleep in safety, I know he likes his burrow cos he goes in every night to hide himself away down in there. He digs a little every night before he goes the whole way in, and comes out in the morning with a dirty face, and dirty faces are ok. He sneaks out a back entrance every morning, looking around to be sure it’s safe to come out. They never lose their instinct to be afraid, even tho a captive bred animal like him has never seen a bird.
I’m still not sure Geyri is a male, but I hope so since females sometimes have trouble laying their eggs. I’ll keep calling him a him for a few more months yet, since true adult colors don’t come till they’re closer to 2 years old.
He’s only out and about for 6 or 7 hours each day, and in the early winter, he will go into brumation for several months. During that time, he might come out once a week for 5 minutes, or I might not see him for several weeks. I do check on him once a month, just to be sure he’s ok and not looking dehydrated, but their metabolism slows down and they’re generally ok. They know what they’re doing, tho their keepers might be a little paranoid. So I need to enjoy him and spend time with him now, before instinct tells him it’s winter time in the desert and time to sleep for a while.
For now, he gets to be king of his desert, or hers, whichever, and live a good lizard life. We love our little lizards. It’s gotcha day for Geyri.
P. S. After I had this blog written and ready to publish, an interesting thing happened about shedding. Snakes take their skin off in one piece, but lizards shed in sections. Some pieces are big and other small, depending on the body part.
We often find pieces of shed. Some uromastyx eat their shed to leave no proof behind that they were there, some don’t. Geyri doesn’t eat his. His shed has been over for several weeks, but he must have thrown a piece out of his burrow when he was digging, cos I just suddenly found a piece laying right outside the burrow.
It’s very unusual to find a piece like this, a whole section of the top of one of his feet. We call it a glove and it is so neat to see.