Sweet and Scaly

Sweet and Scaly

Pets come in all shapes and forms. For some, fluffy and cute does not fit the bill, scaly and dry does. At least for one teenager in Macau, that is the case.

Birthdays are a special time of the year and a good time to get yourself that special something you have been eyeing for a while…For 14-year-old student, Duarte Janela, that meant a pair of lizards. Bearded Dragons, to be exact.

Duarte first went to Animals Club, a shop specializing in breeding their own animals, to buy his red, black and white Milk Snake, but every time he visited it was the lizards that caught his attention. So, when his birthday came around, he didn’t hesitate to treat himself a pair.

It was a cold day when we met Duarte’s pets and conducted our interview; he brought his birthday gifts, Badocha and Sa Pinto (after the ex footballer) to the shoot in a shoebox. Once safely in the warmth of our venue, he removed the lid of the box and revealed the two reptiles, cozily snug in a blanket, arms around each other, cute and docile.

The bearded dragon’s head is triangular shaped, with rows of spikes that resemble thorns, contrary to their sweet nature. Beneath their head they have rows of spiked scales which, when puffed up, resembles a beard. Their strong, flat bodies have a row of spikes that run down each side of the abdomen and their tail is generally half the length of their body. Unlike other lizards, their tails do fall off and regenerate when threatened.

Duarte keeps Badocha and Sa Pinto, believed to be a male and a female, in an aquarium under two UV lamps with a basking spot on a carpet to retain heat. As this species is native to arid, rocky areas of Australia, and as is the case with all reptiles, proper temperatures are extremely important. The gradient should go from 26-30 C on the cool side, up to a basking temperature of about 35 -40 C. The expected life span of a bearded dragon is around ten years when cared for properly, although longer life spans have been recorded.

DSC_0074Keeping their home clean is important, and every two days their space is cleaned and they have a weekly bath, Duarte puts some warm water in the bathtub and they have a little dip. Sometimes they really enjoy it, other times “they just try to run away”.
As well as keeping the lizards clean, it is also important that Duarte keeps his hands clean too, as Bearded Dragons can carry salmonella, so washing one’s hands on a regular basis after handling them is important.

Their diet consists of ‘super worms’, which are purchased from a shop and then powdered in calcium for extra strength nutrition. They are gentle eaters, not pouncing or overly aggressive in their eating habits, but every once in a while Duarte needs to shake a worm around for a bit more appeal. Vegetables such as tomatoes, lettuce and carrots accompany the worms to provide all the needed nutrition and they get most of their water through their food.

As the owner of pet reptiles, what is the thrill for him in keeping animals like these? “I think it is interesting to come home everyday and seeing the reptiles is really interesting because they are fascinating”, from holding them, to just watching them, when Duarte is on his computer he lets them roam freely and they crawl up his body, his head, anywhere they fancy, the whole room is made available to them. Is there a correct way to handle them? It is important to scoop them up under the belly and support their belly in the palm of your hand with your fingers gently curled over their body.
In addition to his snake, Duarte also has two dogs, so predators are never far from Badocha and Sa Pinto, but he keeps a watchful eye over the situation, the dogs “look at them really curiously”, without ever getting the chance to indulge in that curiosity. Cats are another danger to these gentle creatures, so keeping pets like these in a protected environment is crucial.

What does Duarte’s mother make of the reptile park her son is creating in her house? As far as she is concerned, she is not a fan, but as long as Duarte foots the bill, he is welcome to them. Which is just as well, because he is really enjoying his Bearded Dragons and has not ruled out expanding his little gang. And another birthday is never that far off.