Reptiles

Boa Constrictor (Boa constrictor) “Big Bertha”
Central and South America

The boa constrictor (Boa constrictor), also called red-tailed boa, is a species of large, heavy-bodied snake. It is a member of the family Boidae found in Central, and South America, as well as some islands in the Caribbean. The boa constrictor is a large snake, although it is only modestly sized in comparison to other large snakes, such as the reticulated python and Burmese python, and can reach lengths from 3–13 ft. depending on the locality and the availability of suitable prey. The boa constrictor is a heavy-bodied snake, and large specimens can weigh up to 60 lbs. They are nocturnal, but they may bask during the day when night-time temperatures are too low. As semi-arboreal snakes, young boa constrictors may climb into trees and shrubs to forage; however, they become mostly terrestrial as they become older and heavier.[ Prey includes a wide variety of small to medium-sized mammals and birds. The bulk of their diet consists of rodents, but larger lizards and mammals as big as ocelots are also reported to have been consumed. Young boa constrictors eat small mice, birds, bats, lizards, and amphibians. The size of the prey item increases as they get older and larger.


African Spurred Tortoise (Centrochelys sulcata)
Africa

The African spurred tortoise is native to the Sahara Desert and the Sahel, a transitional ecoregion of semiarid grasslands, savannas, and thorn shrublands found in the countries of Burkina Faso, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Somalia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sudan. In these arid regions, the tortoise excavates burrows in the ground to get to areas with higher moisture levels, and spends the hottest part of the day in these burrows. This is known as aestivation. Burrows may average 30 inches in depth; some dig tunnel systems extending 10 feet or more underground. Plants such as grasses and succulents grow around their burrows if kept moist and in nature continue to grow for the tortoise to eat if the soil is replenished with its feces. There is a variant of this tortoise in Sudan, they differ by having a bigger overall body and shell.

The third-largest species of tortoise in the world after the Galapagos tortoise, and Aldabra giant tortoise, and the largest of the mainland tortoises. Adults can reach 33 in and can weigh 231 lbs. They grow from hatchling size (2–3 in) very quickly, reaching 6-10 in within the first few years of their lives. They can live more than 70 years.


Ball Python (Python regius) “Barney”
Africa

The ball python, also known as the royal python, is a python species found in sub-Saharan Africa. Like all other pythons, it is a non-venomous constrictor. Adults generally do not grow to more than 5 to 6 feet. This is the smallest of the African pythons and is popular in the pet trade, largely due to its small size and typically docile temperament. They can live quite long, with the oldest on record living more than 47 years. The name “ball python” refers to the animal’s tendency to curl into a ball when stressed or frightened.  The name royal python (from the Latin regius) comes from the fact that rulers in Africa would wear the python as jewelry. In the wild, their diet consists mostly of small mammals, such as African soft-furred rats, shrews and striped mice. Younger individuals have also been known to feed on birds.


Monkey Tail Skink 
(Corucia zebrata) “Solly”
Solomon Islands archipelago

Also known as the prehensile-tailed skink or the monkey-tailed skink, Solomon Island skinks are one of only a few species of skinks that are known to live an arboreal existence, climbing slowly from branch to branch. Solomon Island skinks are also completely herbivorous. They are members of the giant skink family and are the only known species of skinks with prehensile, or grasping, tails. Skinks give birth to only one or two extremely large offspring, which may be up to one-half the size of the mother. These lizards show a degree of parental care not observed in other lizards; the parents will actually protect their young as well as their territory. In defense, the skink is able to make a sharp hissing noise and can deliver a savage bite. Solomon Island skinks are one of the few lizards not able to cast off their tail in defense and later regenerate a new one. As with many tropical forest species, the extensive loss of forests is severely affecting Solomon Islands skinks. They rely entirely upon the trees for food and shelter. Their coloring is an adaptation that camouflages them in the dense canopies of these forests to protect them against predation. Because of their low reproductive rates, this species is at risk due to the pet trade and losses caused by predation by newly introduced species.


Green Anaconda (Eunectes murinus)
South America

The green anaconda (Eunectes murinus), also known as common anaconda or common water boa, is a non-venomous boa species found in South America. It is the heaviest and one of the longest known extant snake species. The term anaconda often refers to this species, though the term could also apply to other members of the genus Eunectes.

The green anaconda is the world’s heaviest and one of the world’s longest snakes, reaching17.1 ft long. More typical mature specimens reportedly can range up to 16.4 ft, with the females, at around a mean length of 15.1 ft, being generally much larger in adulthood than the male, which averages around 9.8 ft. It is the largest snake native to the Americas. Although it is slightly shorter than the reticulated python, it is far more robust. Eunectes murinus is probably the heaviest extant species of snake or squamate in the world, perhaps only rivaled by the Komodo dragon. Reports of anacondas 35–40 feet or even longer also exist, but such claims need to be regarded with caution, as no specimens of such lengths have ever been deposited in a museum and hard evidence is lacking.


Mexican Beaded Lizard 
(Heloderma horridum exasperatum)
Central America

The Mexican beaded lizard is the most famous of the two species of venomous beaded lizards found principally in Mexico and southern Guatemala. They and the Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum) are the only lizards known to have evolved an overt venom delivery system. The Mexican beaded lizard is larger than the Gila monster, with duller coloration, black with yellowish bands. As it is a specialized predator that feeds primarily upon bird and reptile eggs, occasionally preying upon small birds, mammals, frogs, lizards, and insects, the primary use of its venom is still a source of debate among scientists. However, this venom has been found to contain several enzymes useful for manufacturing drugs in the treatment of diabetes, and research on the pharmacological use of its venom is ongoing.


Morelet’s Crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii) “Carlos”
Central America

Also known as the Mexican crocodile, is a modest sized crocodilian found only in fresh waters of the Atlantic regions of Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. Morelet’s crocodile is small compared to most other crocodiles and it usually grows to about 9.8 ft. in length and the body mass in this species is often around 84–128 lbs. Like most crocodilians, Morelet’s crocodiles are highly opportunistic and will prey on practically anything that they can overpower that comes in their territories. Juvenile crocodiles feed largely on fish and insects until they become bigger and more capable of bringing down larger prey.  Adults largely prey on small mammals, birds, and other reptiles as well as gastropods, crustaceans and other invertebrates. Morelet’s crocodile has long been threatened by habitat destruction and illegal hunting. Both of these factors have significantly lowered their populations. It was hunted for its hide during the 1940s and 1950’s because high quality leather can be made from their skins. Crocodile leather can be used to make wallets, coats and shoes.


American Alligator (Alligator Mississippiensis) “Wally”
North America

American alligators are the largest reptiles in North America. These animals can be distinguished from American crocodiles by their short, rounded snout and black color. Adult alligators can reach up to 18 feet in length, although the average is 13 feet. An alligator’s tail accounts for half of its length. Male alligators, or bulls, are generally larger than females. On average, the males weigh from 450 to 600 pounds. Alligators can be found in rivers, swamps, bogs, lakes, ponds, creeks, canals and bayous. They can tolerate some saltwater and so have been spotted in marshes as well. Widespread in Florida, alligators also live in southern Texas, Louisiana, and parts of North and South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. Alligators eat just about anything, including lizards, fish, snakes, turtles, small mammals, birds, crustaceans and even small alligators. They hunt for prey underwater and often swallow their meal whole. Female alligators build their nests in marshy areas and along shorelines. The temperature of the nest determines the sex of the hatchlings. The mother stays close to her nest to protect it, and when the young hatch and peep, the mother helps the hatchlings out of the nest and carries them in her mouth to the water.


Aldabra Tortoise (Geochelone gigantean) “Victor”
Aldabra Island

The Aldabra Giant Tortoise is a giant species of Tortoise native to the Aldabra Islands in the Indian ocean. The Aldabra giant tortoise is one of the largest species of Tortoise on the planet and is also one of the world’s longest living animals, with one Aldabra Giant Tortoise individual reaching the grand old age of 255 years old. Aldabra Giant Tortoises are found both individually and in herds, which tend to gather mostly on open grasslands. The Aldabra Giant Tortoise is generally most active in the mornings when they spend the most time browsing for food, before the temperature gets too high. The Aldabra Giant Tortoise is also known to dig underground burrows or rest in swamps to keep cool during the heat of the day. Despite being slow and cautious. Despite being slow and cautious animals, the Aldabra Giant Tortoise is said to be uninterested in the presence of people, indicating that one of the reasons that they were so easy for Human settlers to hunt, was simply because these animals had no fear of them. Aldabra Giant Tortoises also eat leaves, fruits and berries from the surrounding vegetation and are known to actually reach up on their hind legs to nibble on the treats slightly higher up.


Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum)
North America

The Gila monster is a species of venomous lizard native to the southwestern United States and the northwestern Mexican state of Sonora.  A heavy, typically slow-moving lizard, up to 2.0 ft long, the Gila monster is the only venomous lizard native to the United States and one of only two known species of venomous lizards in North America, the other being its close relative, the Mexican beaded Lizard (H. horridum). Although the Gila monster is venomous, its sluggish nature means it represents little threat to humans. However, it has acquired a fearsome reputation, and is sometimes killed despite being protected by state law in Arizona. In 2019, the state of Utah made the Gila monster its official state reptile.

The Gila monster is found in the Southwestern United States and Mexico, a range including Sonora, Arizona, parts of California, Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico (potentially including Baja California). They inhabit scrubland, succulent desert, and oak woodland, seeking shelter in burrows, thickets, and under rocks in locations with ready access to moisture. In fact, Gila monsters seem to like water and can be observed immersing themselves in puddles of water after a summer rain. They avoid living in open areas such as flats and farmland.


Mata Mata Turtle (Chelus fimbriata)
South America

The mata mata is a freshwater turtle found in South America, primarily in the Amazon and Orinoco basins. The appearance of the mata mata’s shell resembles a piece of bark, and its head resembles fallen leaves. As it remains motionless in the water, its skin flaps enable it to blend into the surrounding vegetation until a fish comes close. The mata mata thrusts out its head and opens its large mouth as wide as possible, creating a low-pressure vacuum that sucks the prey into its mouth, known as suction feeding. The mata mata snaps its mouth shut, the water is slowly expelled, and the fish is swallowed whole; the mata mata cannot chew due to the way its mouth is constructed.


Giant Marine Toad or Cane Toad (Bufo marinus) “Moose”
Central and South America (native range)
introduced to Florida, Australia, and many Pacific islands and other tropical areas.

Giant marine toads, also called cane toads, are the largest of Florida’s frogs and toads. When this “immigrant” to Florida is threatened, it secretes a highly toxic milky substance from the large parotoid glands in the back of its head. This substance may burn eyes, inflame skin, and possibly kill cats and dogs that ingest it. The giant marine toad’s natural distribution is an area extending from the northern portion of South America through Central America to the very southern part of Texas in the United States. Yet, the frogs have been introduced to Australia and some South Pacific islands as well as Florida, making them the most widespread Latin-American amphibian. While the frog’s main diet is insects, it is not fussy and has been known to eat small snakes, frogs, lizards and even mice. These frogs will also eat bees straight out of the hive and dog food right out of the bowl. Bufo marinus can grow to 9 inches in length and more than 2 pounds in weight. They have been known to live for at least 15 years in captivity.


Giant African Pixie Frog (Pyxicephalus adspersus)
Africa

The African bullfrog is a species of frog in the Pyxicephalidae family. It is also known as the pixie frog due to its Latin name. Its natural habitats are dry savanna, moist savanna, subtropical or tropical dry shrubland, intermittent freshwater lakes, intermittent freshwater marshes, arable land, pastureland, and canals and ditches. It is a large frog, with males weighing 3.1 lbs., though can easily exceed 4.5 lbs. Females are half the size of males, which is unusual since in most amphibian species females are larger than males. Males can reach 9 inches while females are much smaller. The African bullfrog is carnivorous and a voracious eater, eating insects, small rodents, reptiles, small birds, and other amphibians. It is also a cannibalistic species — the male African bullfrog is known for occasionally eating the tadpoles he guards.