By Regina Abad-Yray
Growing up, I used to play around rice fields, rivers, and ponds, which made me familiar with common rice field frogs, geckos (tuko), snakes like dahong palay – which we always avoided because they were poisonous – and the huge reticulated pythons often appearing when water levels at the nearby river rose in the rainy season.
Our family had a lot of furry and feathered animal companions, but I never thought about caring for a reptile. It was not until last year when I met a new friend who turned out to be an exotic animal enthusiast.
My fondness for reptiles began when he introduced me to a leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularius). I didn’t want to hold it at first and, for someone like me who had not seen one up close until that time, I began to wonder if it was safe to touch the lizard: “Does it bite? No? Are you sure?”
But after I allowed the lizard to crawl up my arms and fall asleep on my palms, I instantly fell in love.
No wonder a leopard gecko is a well-loved reptile. They are friendly and, as an acquaintance of mine once said, they look like pocket-size dinosaurs.
I got acquainted with some members of Cabalen Exotic (CabalX), a group of exotic animal enthusiasts based in Pampanga, who shared what they knew about green iguanas (Iguana iguana), tortoises (Testudinidae), and Burmese pythons (Python biyittatus), among others. My favorites include the red-eared slider turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans), ball pythons (Python regius), bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps_, and Savannah monitor lizards (Varanus exanthematicus).
With the goal of educating the public about reptiles, we showcased these animals, including both furry and feathered ones, during CabalX’s event last year. Different expressions registered on the faces of both children and adults who saw these animals for the first time, which was fun to watch. They had the same questions I did during my first encounter with the reptiles, and it delighted me to warm them up to cold-blooded creatures.
Reptile stewardship 101
Caring for reptiles comes with great responsibility, and it’s important for human companions to take their duties seriously.
Register the reptile
Make sure these animals are properly registered with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Provide all the required documents and prepare for their quarterly inspections for as long as you care for these reptiles.
Do some reptile research
Learn basic reptile care before even welcoming a reptile to your home. Research and read articles, blogs, and forums – and do not be ashamed to ask experts.
This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s July-August 2020 issue.