Photo from Pet Info Club
By Akanksha Kar
For most people, dogs, cats, rabbits, birds and sometimes even rodents like hamsters and mice are considered as adorable and keepable pets. What about those people who love to keep exotic reptiles and aquatic animals?
Just over in Centereach on Long Island, Magic Isle Aquarium has been catering to numerous people whose hobby is to keep exotic pets such as geckos, snakes, lizards, toads, turtles, baby crabs and lobsters and even a large variety of freshwater and saltwater fish for larger than average aquariums.
“From the 40 years that the store has been in business, our store caters to several thousand across the Island.” Joseph Carpinone, in charge of sales and maintenance at Magic Isle Aquarium said.
Some of the more common types of reptiles one would keep as a pet are toads, snakes, geckos and turtles.
Amphibious creatures like the Fire Belly Toads that are housed in the store are the perfect beginner pet for anyone stepping into the reptile world.
“They need a little bit of land and a little bit of water but they do not need a filtration system in the water. Just a bath that they can jump into.” Carpinone said.
In contrast, the Red Eared Sliders, or more commonly identified as the average pet turtle, need a more complex habitat to live comfortably in.
“They live in a partially aquatic and land environment. Usually, a 55-gallon tank would be used for an adult and a filtration system would be required. A portion of the tank would be land and they eat processed food like ‘Reptomin Sticks’ and also small fish.” Carpinone added.
Snakes, however, require a little more care and expenditure to facilitate a comfortable habitat. Snakes can live with other pets in the house, though they would have to live in their own tank in isolation.
“They would be required to be in their own tampered tank that would require the right humidity and temperature and depending on what kind of snake it is, it would get fed once to twice a week,” Carpinone said.
The Ball Python that is currently in the store lives in a tank kept at 80 to 90ºF.. Individuals looking to buy pythons would also have to invest in a heat lamp that provides UV rays for the python to absorb heat during the daytime. The most crucial element to keeping snakes is that they grow, and they grow fast. A baby snake can start off by eating small, but as they grow into their adult bodies, they will need to be fed things like a large mouse or a large rat.
According to Carpinone, the ball python can grow up to six to eight feet long. Not only would an individual have to stash mice, rats and crickets in their fridge, they would also have to not be squeamish enough to feed it regularly. The ball python in its early adult stage retails for $99.00 at Magic Isle Aquarium. With all its necessary equipment, it would double in price.
A smaller but close relative of the snake are geckos and bearded dragons. They require slightly less maintenance than snakes, starting with a ten-gallon tank, the UV ray lamp and not having to feed them dead mice and rats.
“They don’t get too large and they eat salads, crickets and worms. They max out at 12-15 inches and can live in a tank for the rest of their lives if the tank is 30 gallons or larger.” Carpinone said.
The bearded dragons retail for $60 and depending on how much an individual wants to spend on equipment, it can total in almost triple the price.
The most expensive kind of exotic pet that one can keep in a house is an aquarium full of either saltwater or freshwater fish. Saltwater fish are more commonly identified as the type of fish one would see in coral reefs such as in the Great Barrier Reef. They come in a large variety of bright colors, patterns, shapes and sizes. Just the tanks alone need regular care, cleaning and maintenance to be done on them.
Once a month is an ideal time for the tank to be cleaned thoroughly and the inner glass of the tank has to be wiped more than once a week to prevent algae growth on them. Moreover, if a tank contains corals within, the corals need very clean water changed every two weeks, with many special chemicals that need to be added and monitored to ensure that the water quality is perfect for reef animals to live in, Carpinone explained.
“To do a reef tank properly, it is about a $100 a gallon of fish tank water. So if you had a 5-gallon tank, it could be $500. If you had a 55-gallon tank properly outfitted, it could be upwards of $5500.” Carpinone said.
To maintain a properly fitted reef tank with corals in it, will be quite high on the price point. Part of this reason is due to the fact that these corals available in store may come from different parts of the world. Due to a recent outbreak of coral reefs dying, however, Magic Isle prefers to do business on a more ethical side.
“A Lot of the newer corals are cultivated in farms and we put in initiative to stop pulling from the reefs. There are many farms out there that grow coral and we get it from them.” Carpinone confirmed.
Ethics and conservation issues are a huge aspect when dealing with exotic pets. Many times, an individual will be keen on buying or acquiring an exotic animal but not know exactly how big they will grow in adulthood, or what care they need in terms of feeding and living. These animals then get released out into open communities and become a nuisance animal.
“It’s always been somebody’s pet. Loose pigs, tortoises, exotic birds that fly away come from miles and miles.” Cherie Stevens, an animal control officer at Suffolk Animal Control said. “The STAR Foundation, SPCA and the DEC have a day for people to turn in your exotic pets legally, rather than dumping them outside. They give them a chance to give it up.”
Amnesty Day, or otherwise, is considered a day where owners of exotic pets that are considered illegal by the state of New York, such as poisonous snakes, mammals and even alligators are turned over to the DEC. They then take care of the animal and find a suitable habitat for it. The owners are not fined or charged if animals are given up on this day. New York’s first Amnesty Day was held on April 27th 2013, on Long Island by the Suffolk County SPCA.
They took in as many as three alligators, a boa constrictor, an african spur tortoise, a greek tortoise and several other cold blooded creatures, records by the NY Daily News have presented. Shortly after, just on April 19th, four alligators were caught from Peconic River in Calverton, in Suffolk County. Moreover, two alligators were found in Tioughnioga River in Upstate New York just this year in August, records show.
Section 11-0511 of the NY State Laws clearly state that “no person shall, except under a license or permit first obtained from the department containing the prominent warning notice specified in subdivision nine of section 11-0917 of this article, possess, transport or cause to be transported, imported or exported any live wolf, wolfdog, coyote, coydog, fox, skunk, venomous reptile or raccoon…” If illegal animals are in possession, the owner will be fined. If the animals are let out into the public, it becomes a misdemeanor offense and can result in up to 14 years of jail time.
A major concern for The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is that exotic species may be unknown causes of human disease. Seventy-five percent of all new infectious diseases originate from “nonhuman animals.” according to PETA. Not only is it dangerous to have a snake or alligator out in the loose in hamlets and towns, but they can also spread diseases if it came in contact with humans by any chance.
Fortunately, “It is not an everyday occurrence,” Bonny Cohen, a volunteer at the Smithtown Animal Shelter said. “People usually call the pound and shelter.”
While most exotic pet stores like Magic Isle do not require any special license from buyers wanting any of the pets in the store, to ensure responsibility on their behalf, they do their part in educating a keen buyer.
“We try to educate them enough in that they know what they are in store for when they leave the store here.” Carpinone said. “Sometimes when they are outgrowing their environment and they bring it to us, we take them in because people aren’t able to take care of the animals.”
While non poisonous reptiles such as the fire belly toads, the ball python, the bearded dragon, geckos and red eared turtles do not require a special license, the New York State law does require a special license for handlers who deal with poisonous snakes such as the diamondback terrapin, which would require a very specific ‘diamondback terrapin license’.
If one is to come across a loose exotic pet in their community, they may call their local animal control emergency services or their local SPCA services.