Stanito and the Guineafowl Puffer fish

Dear Reader,

There are experiences in life which are just wonderful and unique and expressing them with words is not enough 🙂

It all happened on a weekend…

We went diving in a secret location. We were told that the conditions were not ideal, meaning visibility was poor, but that we could still enjoy appreciate the smaller creatures of the oceans. It is true that when visibility is great you tend to focus on big creatures like manta rays, sharks, whales, and what not.

This time, however, surprises came in small size.

No sharks, no nothing big, but this guy was worth the entire experience.

Meet the friendliest guineafowl puffer fish

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Our dive buddy found him, he was slim, once in his hands he puffed up immediately

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Gilles grabs him first before passing him onto me

And then he laid in my hands

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First time I hold one in my hands. He felt soft, slimy, spongy, until I let him go

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Puffy fish swims away

No need for sharks or big buddies. This puffy little guy was worth the trip.

 

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Baby crocodile as pet? Bad idea.

Dear Reader,
This is Juanito, a baby Nile crocodile that we found at a protection centre on the Jalisco coast. I bet you think he looks so cute that you might want to hold him and take him home with you.

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Remember that sad story of those iguanas that were taken away from Galapagos and suffered a very sad death?
So here I’m appealing to common sense and launching a warning against the ownership of exotic animals as it represents a major issue here in Mexico. Hear me out.
Unlike with tender iguanas, the most obvious constraint associated with crockie care is the obvious gigantic size that adults are capable of reaching; Nile crocodiles (the one I’m holding) is one of them capable of reaching up to 20 feet in length and weighing in at up to one ton!


If stretched out, full grown adult males wouldn’t even fit in your average bedroom. Because I expect most sensible people to have ruled out the larger crocs by now, I will focus on why keeping the readily available baby or dwarf caimans, the smallest members of the Reptilian Order Crocodilia, is still not an option for an overwhelming majority of responsible reptile owners wannabes.
While I am the first to admit that I understand the appeal of holding these absolutely gorgeous animals (I said holding, not owning) that are strangely reminiscent of dinosaurs; there are many reasons why doing so should be avoided by all. Before I get into the cons of croc ownership, I will provide a brief overview of crocodilian biology.
Crocodilian’s have an extremely ancient evolutionary lineage which predates the emergence of the dinosaurs. The first croc like reptiles appeared in the late Triassic Period, some 225 million years ago (though modern groups aren’t found in fossil beds dating older than approximately 80-85 million years ago during the Cretaceous period). Crocs are highly adaptable animals whose amphibious lifestyles and extraordinary ability to withstand long periods without food helped them survive the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event responsible for wiping out the dinosaurs some 65.5 million years ago; when an asteroid impact in the Gulf of Mexico had a long-lasting and devastating impact, killing over 75% of animals living at the time, including the dinosaurs. While major extinction events are devastating to the animals unable to adapt to the changing conditions, this extinction event allowed for a massive radiation of the mammals, as well as the crocodilians, to a lesser degree.

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1) Costs:
the housing, feeding habits and veterinary expenses are sure to cost several thousands of dollars throughout the extremely long life span of a crocodile (which have been known to live up to 70 in captivity). Are you prepared to take on a life long commitment to a potentially aggressive animal requiring a significant amount of time, room and money to thrive in captivity?
2) Powerful Bite:
Remember that the title of the most powerful bite in the animal kingdom belongs to a crocodilian; and while the dwarf caiman is a fraction of the size of a saltwater crocodile, they are still deceivingly powerful animals capable of inflicting a serious wound on inexperienced reptile handlers. Only highly experienced reptile handlers (or those learning under the direct supervision of professionals) should physically approach or handle a crocodilian. Regardless of ones experience level, handling should be done minimally as crocodilians are often easily agitated and stressed by handling. Caimans should be fed using tongs or a similar device to distance the handler from the crocodilian during feeding. As I alluded to earlier, crocodilians are highly intelligent reptiles, and can be target trained to make feeding/moving them more manageable. However, to see their cognitive abilities at work, you do NOT need to buy one. There are plenty of related videos on YouTube and many zoological facilities will show the feeding of their crocodilians to the public if you find out what time they are fed before planning your trip.
3) Captive Diet and Nutritional Requirements:
The captive caiman diet should include small invertebrates, fish and varied, appropriately sized frozen/thawed birds and rodents. An adult caimans appetite can be quite voracious, and whole frozen rodents/birds can be expensive if not purchased in bulk. A large part of the crocodilians diet should consist of whole animals to ensure that the caiman can attain the necessary calcium from the prey animals bones. The diet should not be based on just fish, or on chunks of meat/flesh; while those can be supplemental items, the diet should be primarily whole rodents or birds. Feeding live birds or mammals is, as always, NOT recommended as doing so in captivity frequently increases aggression, exaggerates feeding responses and endangers the handler and reptile alike. The diet will also need to be supplemented with a specialized vitamin/mineral mixture with calcium at least once a week to make up for possible gaps in nutrition. Are you sure about this?
4) Legal Implications:
Can you legally own a crocodilian where you live? Are you willing to accept legal accountability of the crocodilian if it bites someone? The legalities associated with crocodilian ownership vary from one state to another; some countries have no regulations regarding the ownership of crocodilians; some allow only smaller species; others require permits; and still others have total bans on private crocodilian ownership with people breaking the law on this and many more matters. Just because you live in a country that doesn’t respect the laws pertaining to private crocodilian ownership doesn’t mean you can. An enormous amount of legal information ought to be considered by all perspective crocodilian owners, especially those without a long history of handling and caring for large, dangerous reptiles.
In conclusion, as nice as it would be if crockies stayed hatchling-sized and remained manageable, it’s simply not the case. Crocodilians get much bigger than most other reptiles kept as pets, and thus require significantly larger enclosures than just about any other animal you’ll find in the exotic reptile trade. They can be dangerous, difficult to predict, aggressive, messy and very expensive/demanding animals to house responsibly. For these reasons, I urge perspective crocodilian owners in the countries where beautiful reptiles hatchlings are frequently seen in exotic reptile shops to steer clear unless they can realistically expect to provide the level of expert care AND the space these animals will require in adulthood.

The Stick Insect

Dear Reader,

A strange creature has been recently brought to my attention.
A few days ago a friend of mine posted a curious photo on his Facebook wall.
Something that looked like a peculiar tree branch was in fact the strangest little creature I have lately heard of. The Phasmatidae!

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Stanito: “Wow, it looks like a fortunate branch stick, where do you find these?”
Alain: “In Nayarit!”

Oh goodness, I go there all the time and I’ve never seen one…

This bizarre-looking walking stick is an intriguing insects that uses camouflage, mimicry and defence as a veritable art form. So interesting that it blends in perfectly with its natural habitat that it often goes completely undetected by would-be predators or walking-by Stanitos.
Its names comes from Greek and it says it all: Phasmatidae comes from ‘phasma’ which means ghost, apparition.
If you ever travel to the Pacific coast of Mexico there might be a few things you need to know in case you ever encounter one of these little phantoms:

  • The stick insect has an evolution that goes way back… Its roots reach back more than 200 million years, to the Triassic geologic period
  • Stick insects have suction cups and claws on their feet which enables them to wall up vertical surfaces and upside down
  • Approximately 1 in 1000 stick insects is male
  • The stick insect is the longest of all the modern insects and sometimes they measure more than 45 cm in length.
  • They remain perfectly motionless, especially during the day, with its forward and back legs outstretched, as if it were a twig of its host plant, making it very difficult to detect them. In fact, I’ve never seen one in spite of walking often into the jungle.
  • The Stick insect flexes its legs, swaying its body randomly from side to side, mimicking a lightly blowing twig. Stick insects not only look like sticks, they act like them, too. They play dead, stiffening their body, and fall to the ground to deceive predators and people.
  • Feed nocturnally, when the risk of detection by a predator is lower
  • Regurgitate an evil-tasting liquid through its mouth which makes it very unpleasant for people. Even though they are not harmful or dangerous to humans, their bites cause a very unpleasant and long-lasting itchy-painful sensation.

Sea Snake caught on camera

Dear Reader,

let me brag and cheer on the Team’s latest developments: we have got an amazing camera now accompanied by its new under water case!

So happy. So we went diving in Vallarta hoping to spot manta rays. Visibility wasn’t the best but we still managed to capture precious moments with this marine snake

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The snake, quite probably hungry, stealthily moves towards little fish. 
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Peek-a-boo. Definitely a hungry snake, she hid inside her little cave waiting for our group to pass, we probably scared off her prey. This snake is no different from her overground mates: as soon as she saw her prey next to her she lifted and widened her head in a pose ready to attack the prey.

Here’s the snake on video:

Just a cute fearless bird

Dear Reader,

I am not easily impressed by wonders of nature, normally animals o not approach people easily unless they are domestic ones… But in Galapagos I was impressed by the “tameness” of the animals. On island after island you can walk right up to animals that would, in all other circumstances, be expected to flee.
Look at this adorable little bird and how many pictures he let me take of him…

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The Secret Beach & the Hermit Crab

Dear Reader,
Let’s celebrate intact nature this Sunday 🙂

Sometimes I like exploring new places, especially when I hear that in Mexico there is a long stretch of coast unaccessible from anybody unless you’re a fancy guest or you come by sea. I wouldn’t normally mind but the thing is that Costa Careyes is probably the best part of the entire west-Mexican coast. The best coves, are there. The best diving and snorkeling sites, are there. The biggest sea cliffs, are there. I had to see it we sneaked in somehow.
This was the view…

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As I was enjoying a lovely afternoon in this little paradise, I sat down to eat something when suddenly… this little guy crawled in 🙂 a hermit crab so cute it had to be taped!