Photo of the Day: Stanito in Esfahan

Dear Reader,
One of the best benefits of traveling in company is that casually your travel buddies are excellent photographers. My friend Lichix took this photo of me in Esfahan while visiting the stunning Masjed-e Jameh Mosque, the biggest mosque in Iran and the pioneer of Islamic architecture.

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With this post I’m opening a thread of How-To posts dedicated on how to take beautiful pictures in places where the camera is not very welcome. Stay tuned! 🙂

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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.

 

Photo of the Day: Balloons

Dear Reader,

In 1842, Don Benito Leon Acosta and Rubí de Celis, born in Guanajuato, managed to take off in a hot air balloon made by him. It was the first time an aircraft ever flew over Mexico. Balloons have ever since become a colourful and picturesque attractions in the state of Guanajuato.

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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.

Colours of Managua

Dear Reader,
So much to tell about this remarkable and peculiar country. In the meantime, here’s a glance of what the centre of Managua by night, particularly its colours.

There is a lot you need to know about Nicaragua and especially about its politicians. Rumor has it Mrs. Ortega, the current President’s wife, is somewhat linked to witchcraft. Seriously, that’s what local people say. They say she loves colours and that in an attempt of having people forget about painful memories of the revolution’s colours red and black, she invested 20,000 USD for each coloured tree you see in these photos. Each of these trees has different bright colours and they all represent the Tree of Life, heavily inspired by Gustav Klimt’s 1909 painting Tree of Life. And I’m talking about few hundreds of these trees spread all over Managua. The old abandoned cathedral also went the same way but only on one side.

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