Animals In Captivity
Some captive bred herptile species still need to be exposed to
seasonal fluctuations to show breeding behaviour. Reptiles normally start to breed in spring
when the photoperiod starts to increase and temperatures start to rise.
Sometimes a change
in temperature after winter is enough to induce breeding, but a little help
from increasing the photoperiod might make things easier.
To mimic the natural environment of an animal as close as possible,
changes in photoperiod also need to be taken into
When attempting to regulate the photoperiod in captivity, the
geographical origin of the species must be taken into
consideration (Table 2).
desert reptiles experience seasonal fluctuations in photoperiod, as well as in temperature.
These species are usually natural hibernators/brumators. Summer
photoperiods in captivity should be set to fourteen hours light during the day with
ten hours of darkness. During the winter the photoperiod should
be ten hours of light during the day with fourteen hours of darkness.
and temperatures in tropical
and subtropical areas are more constant at about
twelve hours a day all year round.
Most of these species are not natural hibernators/brumators and
reproductive behaviour are regulated by night time temperatures.
Montane species live on
the floors of mountain forests and are exposed to very cold
winter and night temperatures. These species are usually natural
South Africa can be
divided into three photoperiod zones. The areas north of the 30°
latitude line can be regarded as subtropical areas where the
areas below this line such as the Cape Provinces can generally
be regarded as temperate and desert areas.
Controlling The Photoperiod In Captivity
Light can be supplied in the form of natural light, i.e.
the light in the room from an uncovered window or skylight,
or by artificial electrical lights. Artificial light can be
controlled with electric timers. The on/off interval on the
cheaper timers are 15 minutes (see the Accessories
& Other Stuff For Herptiles section for more info on
artificial lighting and
Photoperiod can be easily and more efficiently controlled by
setting up and using a photoperiod table. A photoperiod table should contain
space for the month of the year and the required photoperiod in
hours for that month. The following should be considered
when drawing up such a table:
- Changes should not be more that one hour per
- On and off settings are dependant on
aspects such as species, continental times, continental seasons
Insect eating lizards such as
Bearded dragons (Pogona spp.) need to be fed daily. They are
generally not fed in the two hour period before lights-on
and/or in the tow hour period before lights-off. Try to keep
the morning lights-on time constant at about
two hours before planning on feeding (breakfast time) and only adapt the lights-off times.
The same goes for lights-off and supper times.
Snakes need to be fed on a weekly basis. Night lights-off settings
can be kept constant while only the lights-on times
Also read the Accessories
& Other Stuff For Herptiles section for more information on
the tools and accessories you might need to manipulate
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Brumation is the newer term used for winter dormancy
(hibernation) in reptiles. It is defined as the hibernating-like
state in which cold blooded or ectothermic animals spend the
colder months. It is not true hibernation which is the dormant
state in which hibernating animals pass the winter.
Hibernation is accompanied by reduced metabolic processes and
a body temperature drop. It is more active process where the
thermoregulation processes "switch off" and is marked by narcosis (reversible state of depression of the central nervous system)
and a sharp reduction in body temperature and metabolism. True hibernators include some smaller mammals
and birds, which poses a thermoregulation property
which allows their body temperature to fall to the temperature
of the surrounding
air. Smaller animals have a relative large body surface to
weight ratio which enables them to cool off more easily and readily. They
also warm up more quickly. By reducing the body temperature and metabolic rate, the
energy expenditure of the hibernating animal is greatly reduced, enabling the animal to
survive longer from body energy reserves, i.e. fat.
Brumation is a remarkable evolutionary adaptation which
enables temperate herptiles to survive long times of
unsatisfactory temperatures and without food. It is a more
passive state where the animal simply does not "warm up" and is marked by a
state of lethargy and sometimes by no movement at all during the
entire brumating period. Some herptiles brumate in a brumation/hibernation
chamber called a hybernaculum.
Reptiles In Captivity
The main reasons for brumating captive reptiles are food
shortages, large fluctuations between summer and winter environmental temperatures, physiological needs
of the animal and for the induction of breeding behaviour.
Not all species needs to be brumated. Not even all species
which brumates naturally should be induced to do so in
sure the species in question can and should be brumated
before attempting to do so.
It is also not always necessary to brumate non-breeding captive-bred reptiles, especially when adequate food and heat is
available throughout the winter months. Appropriate temperatures
can be maintained by using modern heating equipment. The whole
brunation process could be life threatening
to the animal if the procedure is not approached correctly.
Use Figure 1 and Tables 1 and 2 above to determine the type
species and brumation status of the animal.
Some reptiles, like Bearded
dragons (Pogona spp.) do not actually
brumate, but rather goes into a "slumber" where
they stay awake, but their activity and metabolism is
drastically reduced. This reduced activity is induced by
colder night temperatures. During this time they have a
reduced appetite with a reasonably reduced activity.