Saturday 15 March 2014

Living with Dinosaurs.

Time for an update on our newest arrival, 'Mannie the Monitor.' Although we waded through endless quirky and inventive name suggestions, somehow 'Mannie' really seems to fit! In the past few weeks Mannie has weighed us all up and decided that there's no more need for the shy and retiring act. Our once quiet and secretive Monitor has staked a firm claim on his territory. Such a personality! 

The first few days were quite a learning curve for all of us. Had we got the humidity right? How about temperature? How would our newcomer respond to the new environment and to us? Despite a lot of research, trying to get the humidity to range from nearly zero at his basking point to nearly 100% in his burrow, was not as straightforward as we had thought. A few more niggling logistics, simple things like would our glass vivarium doors really withstand the furtive investigation of a determined, feisty escapologist on the quest for adventure? All of this simply for his temporary enclosure!
Fortunately we resolved all these questions successfully. Mannie arrived and settled in well.
We were completely awestruck by the beauty and intelligence of this amazing little creature, who watched us with a sober and calculating eye, even coming up to the glass to peer out at our activities in the room...(just in case there might be a tasty locust involved!)
As you can see from these photographs, taken this morning, he has settled into his feeding routine.
A far cry from the first morning I had to feed solo. Chris was out all day on a school booking, so my instructions had been clearly delineated. Mannie had been with us for three days and we had a routine going. 11am was locust time. Chris usually did the feeding part whilst I did the preparation. 'Don't worry, he certainly won't try to come out,' I was told. With the cheerful confidence of the assured, I made the classic mistake of opening the tub of locusts in front of the vivarium. He can't possibly see them here, I thought. This is all going to plan. Suddenly a knowing eye swivelled in my direction, plus the hint of a wry primeval grin - closely followed by a good several inches of hungry lizard.
What I remember most about the ensuing moments, (besides knocking over my camera, which later replayed a short video encapsulating both Jurassic Park and Vaudeville) was how unfeasibly fast, agile and efficient a predator a Monitor lizard can really be. Luckily I'd once broached the thorny subject of, 'so what would happen if, just say, he did try to come out?' 
The answer was simple. Carefully block his exits and lure him back inside with the food..
Next week we have a busy schedule, with four full days of bookings, so I have plenty of opportunity to hone my feeding technique!
At present we are keeping Mannie on a predominantly insect diet with a very occasional (once a week) treat of a small sliver of raw beef. In the next few weeks we will begin the process of  varying his diet to simulate his natural intake and encourage his hunting instinct.

Now on to building his final enclosure. . . . The plan is for a 6' x 8' enclosure with 2' of substrate and a simple climbing/exploration area. Monitor adventure playgrounds are no small undertaking! As soon as we have a blueprint we'll post it here and on Facebook.

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