Refurbishment: Part 1

7th February 2016


Following recent successes in rehoming a large number of our rescue animals we are taking the opportunity to completely renovate all of the enclosures on site.  We have started with Grace (a Crested Gecko, Rhacodactylus ciliatus, the first to be rescued) and the remaining residents of our insectary; a group of Emperor Scorpions (Pandinus imperator), a Vinegaroon (Mastigoproctus sp.) called Vinnie and our Sun Beetles (Pachnoda marginata peregrina).


Being native to the forested mountain slopes of New Caledonia, Crested Geckos like Grace need a humid temperate forest environment.  Here we have provided her with novel branches and vines for climbing along with a mixture of live and faux plants.  These geckos are strictly nocturnal and need to be able to hide away during the day.  As a prey animal to larger species in the wild these small lizards can find being “on display” during the daytime incredibly stressful.  As a general rule, if you can’t see them then you're doing it right!

Grace's forest home complete with live plants
A young Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum sp.) amongst the undergrowth in Grace's home.
Is it just me or are Ficus leaves SO photogenic?!
Grace shedding her skin; she will tear off the old layer and eat it as she goes!

We are currently experimenting with our own “bio-active” compost mixture which we hope will keep the plants healthy and prevent mould.  Woodlice also live in all of our planted enclosures as a natural cleaning crew!  A healthy dose of moss helps to retain humidity along with orchid bark chips in our substrate mixture.  Grace's living plants include two Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis sp.), a small Focus tree (Ficus benjamina), Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum sp.), Wandering Jew (Tradescantia sp.) and Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum).  The whole vivarium is sprayed twice a day to maintain humidity and the plants are enriched by the application of a very low output UV strip light angled in such a way as to allow for dark arboreal hiding places to remain dark!  A high output would be dangerous to Grace, please do not install UV lights with nocturnal animals without the proper guidance of a professional.  A low wattage heat lamp has also been applied here to slightly raise ambient temperature to the ideal range.


It is worthy of note that Crested Geckos are classed as vulnerable by the IUCN and are being considered for protection under CITES.

A new super enriched environment for the scorpions

Our scorpion group is also enjoying their new surroundings.  Mum, who we have named Pandora, has moved in with Ebony whilst her babies, Smokey and Bandit (well, he does only have one “arm”!) are in a smaller enclosure of their own until they grow a little more; didn't want them becoming midnight snacks!  They are now next door neighbours to Vinnie, our Vinegaroon who enjoys similar living conditions.


Pandora and Ebony are getting on swimmingly and have even been witnessed curling up together to sleep during the day.  We debated long and hard as to whether to integrate the pair for but they are social animals after all and we wanted to give them the opportunity to express their natural behaviours.  At six years old Pandora could be considered to be an old lady (the captive lifespan of this species is 5-10 years with an average age of 7 years) and we think that she deserves to be happy in what are potentially her twilight years.

To the left...
...and to the right.

We have created a gentle slope in the scorpion enclosure to allow depth for planting and extra roaming space for the occupants.  There is a cave buried in the centre towards the rear (you can just see the entrance if you look closely) and since this species love to dig they will take the opportunity to make this truly their home given time.  Right now though these two are loving the huge bit of cork bark at the front, right under their heat lamp even though there are lots of other places to choose from!  Their live plants also include Peace Lily, Spider Plant and Wandering Jew.  Again, orchid bark and moss have been included to help maintain humidity and the enclosure must be misted twice a day.  These guys also have a low output UV light (just like Grace) to keep the plants healthy but be warned that UV can be extremely harmful to Emperor Scorpions.  We have made sure that these guys have multiple hiding spaces where they can be in complete darkness during the day.

Ebony in 2015, prior to his final moult to adulthood.

The Sun Beetles (featured in the banner at the top of the page) do not often have a complete clean out due to the risk of accidentally throwing away their miniscule eggs.  This species are known by multiple common names including Fruit Beetle and Taxi-cab Beetles!  Not only are they beautiful to look at but they are extremely prolific breeders when kept in the right conditions and their larvae are like chocolate to many a reptile.  High in fat and sugar they are a tasty treat and a tempting way to get non-feeders eating again (please do not feed these to you pet in bulk, they are extremely fattening!).  To kit out the beetles a walk to the local woods was in order to collect fallen oak leaves and white dead wood.  These are then layered with our substrate mix, a bit like a muddy lasagne, with the final layer being a huge wad of leaves!  Over ripe fruit is a favourite food for the grubs and adults alike and chunks of dead wood are essential for the grubs to grow strong and healthy.  Take care if you ever handle the grubs, they have strong mandibles for breaking up their food and can give you and surprisingly hard nip!

One of our "lasagne" style Sun Beetle enclosures, if you look closely you can just make out the layers. As the leaves are broken down and devoured by the grubs, more layers will be added on top.

Our invertebrate residents are often overlooked for the more showy reptiles, mammals and amphibians.  We think that these fascinating creatures deserve just as much recognition though for being the amazing animals they are.


Unfortunately another of our tube light starters failed again this weekend and it appears to be irreparable so the invertebrates in that part of the insectary are in partial darkness until it can be replaced.  Could you gift one to them from our Amazon Wish List?

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Meet the Owner-Operator, Clare Barnard BSc.(Hons)


Clare is a research scientist and PhD candidate at the University of Lincoln where she is studying wildlife conservation and the direct impact of the exotic pet trade on wild animal populations.  She will be working from the Laboratory of Evolutionary Ecology of Adaptations.  Clare has also been honoured to become part of the Global Amphibian Biodiversity research team.


Clare has almost 20 years professional experience in the husbandry of exotic animals a specialism in the genetics of British herpetofauna.  She has worked with wild Adders (Vipera berus) and endangered Natterjack Toads (Epidalea calamita) under Natural England license conditions.  Clare has worked as a zookeeper and within private collections including her own.  She lives in rural North Warwickshire, on-site at Grace's Rest, with a whole host of animals!

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