EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Exotic animal store Ark Exotics has been seeing more people looking for small furry or slithering companions.
Christian Luna, of Ark Exotics, is an exotic pet owner himself. He owns a bearded dragon lizard.
He fell in love with reptiles when he was younger, after watching Jurassic Park.
“I was one of those dinosaur kids , I saw Jurassic Park and thought it was the best thing ever, and my mom just fed into it because she’d find a snake books,” remembered Luna.
He said that lately they have been getting more customers looking for smaller mammals like rabbits and guinea pigs and those looking for exotics like lizards, snakes and spiders.
“The most popular ones are ball pythons, bearded dragon, leopard geckos,” he said.
Luna explained that the most common misconception about these animals is that they cannot get attached to their human, which he says is mostly not true, depending on the species.
“They can kind of form attachments and bonds with their humans, especially ball pythons. At first, they’ll be skittish and after time, they will begin to warm up to you, they normally attach to your arm and just hang out,” he explained, adding that ball pythons also help with anxiety and stress as they like to wrap themselves around arms, which many find comforting.
He advised first-time exotic pet owners to look for some more popular ones like bearded dragons that don’t require extreme maintenance as some other lizards, except regular feeding, cleaning, adequate lighting and a comfortable tank.
He explained that many forest animals such as chameleons require specific levels of humidity and temperature to keep them healthy.
Another thing to keep in mind, he said, is to get an adequate tank for exotic pets. Just because they fit in a tank, doesn’t mean they belong in it, he explained.
“People think that you get the animal and you just put it in your room and it’ll be fine. They don’t really realize that it needs a 20-gallon tank instead of 10. You could put them there, but I could put you in a studio apartment or a one-bedroom. I’m pretty sure you’ll pick the one-bedroom,” he added.
Some snakes and lizards require heat lamps that help them maintain an adequate temperature, but one has to be careful not to set it up too high or too low, which can either freeze or cook the animal.
Snakes mostly eat small mammals, which many beginner exotic animal owners find hard to watch, so Luna suggested either getting frozen food or putting the snake, along with the food, in a separate closed box during feeding.
“When you think exotic, you think something crazy, but, no, it’s just a lizard or snake or a bunny,” said Luna.