Let’s face it: Everyone needs a hobby or two, a break from the everyday grind. We are happiest when we pursue personal passions. I’ve had a few that I have dabbled in over the years, but once I started working with reptiles I knew that it was to be a lifelong obsession. I have been immersed for fifteen years now and have experienced many joys and sorrows along the way.
Like many beginners in the hobby, I started working with Leopard and Fat Tail geckos. This was before there were many morphs of Leopards and there were really no genetic mutations of Fat Tails. Having studied all about them before attempting breeding, I was excited when the first eggs were produced. I remember the waiting, checking the incubator every day. Finally when the first gecko poked its way through the egg, the feeling was one of complete elation! I took so many photos and showed them to friends that had been working with reptiles for a few years. It was old news to them, but I was so giddy. I’m happy to say that every time a new little face pops out of an egg, my reaction still is the same.
Over the years, the collection of geckos has expanded exponentially here. With each successful breeding project comes such happiness and pride. One of my greatest pleasures has been with educating people about these wonderful creatures. When he was three years old, my son Jack did a class presentation with me in front of a large group of three and four-year-old Pre-K children. Seeing the wonder in their eyes is always fulfilling, but knowing that my son shares my passion for these creatures is perhaps my greatest joy. Jack is now six and a half, has done these presentations four years in a row and is embarking on his first breeding project this year. He has a trio of African Fat tail geckos and we are just waiting for the male to put on a few more grams!
As with any hobby, success is not always guaranteed. With joys come sorrows — this is the nature of life. While it is so wonderful to watch eggs hatch, it is equally sad when a gecko simply isn’t strong enough to make it out of the egg. Over the years I have lost animals that died in the egg or managed to pip the egg and even make it part way out, only to die in the process. Sometimes animals hatch with defects and one time I removed conjoined twins from an egg that had deflated.
One of the saddest things to happen here was when I had a young virgin female chahoua that was in the process of producing eggs. Normally these will pass without complications but she was unable to do so. I have an awesome vet who is well-versed in exotics (if you want to own reptiles, you NEED one of these guys!) and scheduled an appointment to see him. The night before, she became lethargic so when I arrived with her the next morning I explained the new development. He never got a chance to help her. Apparently she had died on the way to his office.
When you produce animals with the intent of selling them, eventually you will come across a customer that is irresponsible. No matter how many times you explain care and offer lifetime advice, they will not reach out to you until irreparable damage has been done. On two separate occasions I sold geckos at an expo where the new owners managed to kill them. Despite educating both buyers over thirty minutes about the care of these geckos, including how temperatures over eighty degrees would be fatal, both managed to kill them before even getting home with them. Yes, if it is ninety-five degrees out and your car was parked in the sun for a few hours, placing a gecko in a plastic deli cup on your dashboard WILL exceed that fatal temperature of eighty degrees! It was heartbreaking and in one instance I simply took all of my animals off the table and packed up with an hour left in the expo. I simply didn’t feel like being there anymore.
While there have certainly been bad things that happened, the good times have exceeded them by far. Working with reptiles has brought me years of happiness and continues to be my passion. I’m still expanding the gecko population here and will be hatching out critters from species that I’m working with for the first time. My son continues to present these animals to the Pre-K classes with me and soon he too will experience the joy of seeing hatchlings emerge from eggs that his very own geckos produced. I just hope that it is a long time before he experiences the inevitable sorrows that come with the joys of being a reptile breeder.