Recently, Keeper Marley performed an exhibit upgrade for our Mexican Beaded Lizards and we wanted to look a bit closer at the work performed and talk about why it is so important for the animals. Marley’s upgrade for our Mexican Beaded Lizard exhibit space for Santiago and Rocaille, added a new substrate, a pool, and some additional decor to create a naturalistic and comfortable space. This also included new heat bulbs and additional new substrate. We chatted with Keeper Marley to learn a bit more about the project:
Who are our Mexican Beaded Lizards?
- Our Beaded Lizards are Santiago and Rocaille. Santiago has more yellow markings so that’s the best way to tell them apart. Our Mexican Beaded Lizards are also our only venomous animals here at the Utica Zoo.
Did you find there are any unique challenges doing this project with a venomous animal?
- Of course! We always have to be on guard when working with any animal, but especially with the venomous ones. In order to work with them, I had to be trained on exactly how to handle them to ensure their and my safety. I wear welding gloves when handling them in case they try to bite, and I always make sure another Keeper closeby knows what I’m about to do when handling them, in case I end up needing backup.
What direct benefits will the Santiago and Rocaille enjoy due to their new exhibit layout?
- The substrate I stripped out was half sand, half bark chips/coconut fiber but I refilled it with just sand and a section of bark chips in the back underneath the pool. The bark chips will do a much better job of absorbing any water that spills over the side of the pool, as opposed to the sand which will just become soaked. It will also be much easier to clean just plain sand on a daily basis because we can use a sifter which wouldn’t have worked with a bark/sand/fiber mixture. The pool itself will be a direct benefit! They were always trying to crawl into their water dish, no matter how small, but now if they feel the need to soak they can fit their entire bodies in the shallow pool. Being able to soak whenever they choose will help keep them happy (they have free choice) and healthy (will help immensely when they’re shedding)
Are there plans to do this project for all of the animals in Wildlife Hall?
- Technically yes! I did a full strip/disinfect/rebedding of Forest The Pine Snake’s exhibit just before we closed to the public.
- Two weeks ago I did Rosie the Chilean Rose Haired Tarantula’s exhibit
- In April, Keeper Leanne did Shag the Carpet Python’s exhibit
- Turtles are next but we need bark chips, and unfortunately, they are expensive. We always make sure to use the best possible materials to ensure a natural and safe environment for our animals.
- Prehensile Tailed Skinks and Geckos will be next, but it’s a much more difficult process. Getting into the exhibit space with tools can be tricky and those exhibits are filled with wet, deep soil, and lots of plants and foliage. The substrate is expensive here as well, and we need a lot of it.
- It’s also very time-consuming. Luckily, our Keeper Staff is at full strength, so we have been able to use some of this time when we wouldn’t be disturbing any visitors to make these changes and upgrades. It takes a strong understanding of each animal’s particular needs to properly curate an exhibit space, which can also be very time-consuming.
Was there anything you wanted to include in the upgrade but weren’t able to?
- Materials for this type of upgrade can get very expensive. Between fresh sand, bark chips, rocks, tunnels, hides, decor, etc. exhibit upgrades need to be very well thought out as to not waste any materials or supplies. I wanted to add in some additional hides and tunnels and I used a large plastic tray to create their pool versus a very expensive Reptile Exhibit Pool. Sometimes, we have to be creative but what matters at the end of the day is that our animals are healthy and happy.
These upgrades will increase the quality of life of our animals and we wanted to congratulate Marley and the rest of the Animal Care Team on doing such incredible work to make sure all of our animals are well cared for. If you would like to help the Keeper team care for our animals, check out our Wish List for some items they could really use at UticaZoo.org/Wishlist. We also strongly encourage our community to help support our Emergency Operations Fund to help the Utica Zoo continue to provide our animals with the best care possible. PLUS, until May 31, 2020, all donations to the Emergency Operations Fund will be matched dollar for dollar up to $20,000 by our incredible donor Dr. Joan Sinnott, PhD. NO CONTRIBUTION IS TOO SMALL!