Here in the UK, we have 6 beautiful species of native reptiles, all of which are under threat from habitat loss and are protected under law against trapping and killing. This really sets the context for keeping reptiles over here – especially when you compare it to the 2500 native breeds in North America.
My love of reptiles has came from growing up in the Leicestershire countryside and hearing stories of the elusive European adder being spotted on the local country park. The media hyped stories of a poor pet Labrador having to be flown by air ambulance to the nearest hospital holding anti venom. But the sheer lack in numbers of UK native herps probably has had an effect on the hobby from lack of exposure to reptiles and lack of education at a young age. Luckily this is starting to change with lots of great conservation going on and mainstream media reporting in positive light of reptiles.
Over the last 10 or 15 years though the reptile keeping hobby has started to bloom. I remember buying my first ever Leopard Gecko at a reptile show in my local sports and leisure centre about 13 years ago. I remember how easy it was to buy such a beautiful and delicate animal and that no questions were asked on my experience or set up. Which – as times were hard for a 14 year old paper boy – was a converted aquarium with a second hand heat mat. This certainly would not be the case today. My local reptile shop back then was a small extension on the side of a suburban family house which gave home to a few vivariums with the usual suspects in and a plentiful supply of crickets and meal-worms. This was pretty much the only reptile supply shop in the city. This shop is now a booming reptile centre that is renowned throughout the country for its diverse stock-list, quality of animals and unrivalled knowledge from the owner and staff. Many more shops have now popped up over the city and county and some of the larger pet retailers are now becoming involved in the reptile world, which is great for the hobby and can only mean good things for the reptile keeper.
It is always fascinating to see pictures and videos of the huge reptile expos that occur in the states and often makes many UK herpers green with envy. But it is also great to see many new clubs and shows being formed around the UK. New clubs being formed and putting on great breeders meetings and shows are filled to capacity, a great sign that the hobby is blooming and people are coming together to talk about their passion and share ideas and knowledge. One of the UKs greatest font of knowledge is reptileforums.co.uk. Any reptile keeper needing info from the simplest of question to the most complicated can always be sure to find some great tips and advice from knowledgeable UK herpers around the country.
All in all it’s exciting times for anyone keeping reptiles in the UK right now, from the avid collector to the morph obsessed breeder. I hope in the coming months to document my time spent in the reptile world to give you guys a taste of what we get up to at shows and meetings, as well as reviewing shops and centres from the smaller breeders to the herp superstores.