Peter’s zoo of reptiles
Eight-year-old Peter Howell-Bailey is a reptile enthusiast and proud owner of seven reptiles. His zoo includes Pickle the leopard gecko, Scarlett Spacecat the corn snake, Star the box turtle, Shield the red-eared slider aquatic turtle, Stripe Tail the bearded dragon, and two red-footed tortoises, The Little One and The Big One.
“I like having them around,” Peter added.
From an early age, Peter was drawn to reptiles. He and his grandmother would listen to the children’s song You Can’t Make a Turtle Come Out. Peter was 5 years old when he brought home his first turtle, Shield. He enjoys the scaly patterns of his pets and likes to watch them roam around especially when visitors stop by to visit his zoo. For Peter, watching visitors’ reactions to his reptiles is amazing for him. Reptiles – animals in the class Reptilia –include turtles, crocodilians, and squamates (lizards and snakes). There are more than 11,000 known species of reptile.
Reptiles can bond with humans, although not to the same extent as cats and dogs. Reptiles learn to recognize particular humans, and over time grow more comfortable with their owners’ interactions; some even seem to enjoy the company of their owners. For example, a tortoise that enjoys being petted may close its eyes or stick its neck out while becoming calm. The same is true of lizards.
“Pickle looks like she is always smiling,” Peter said of his leopard gecko.
Bearded dragons, on the other hand, will enjoy your company as much as you enjoy theirs. They climb on the shoulders and body of their owners. It is not uncommon for Stripe Trail to join Peter at the dinner table and play a round of checkers with him.
Reptiles do make good pets, especially first pets for kids, as their needs are simple and they do not take up much space. However, like all pets, they do need to be cared for.
Each member of Peter’s zoo has its own aquarium, lights and bedding, and all have specific diets. Most of his reptiles eat food from the pet store such as super worms, mealworms, crickets, red shrimp and at times, minnows. Peter also catches crickets and grasshoppers for them. He feeds his pets earthworms from his worm farm. While the corn snake eats frozen mice, Peter wiggles it to pretend it is moving for Scarlett Spacecat to catch. The tortoises and bearded dragon eat plants and fruit.
“Red-eared sliders can survive six months without food,” said Peter. “I feed mine pretty much every day: you put powdered calcium on some of their food, too.”
Overall, reptiles are easy to care for. Peter found YouTube videos to be helpful and wants to remind any soon-to-be reptile owners: “If you don’t take care of them, they will die, so, remember you have to tell your mom to go get their food at the pet store, but if you are a grown up you can do that yourself,” Peter concluded.
By Julie Matuszewski; photos courtesy of Sophie Howell