Sunday, January 15, 2017

Eclectus Parrots are at the pinnacle of parrot evolution. Toby (green male) & Pixel (red female) frequently accompany me as part of the programs

2016-2017 High School Students Overcoming Phobias Science Project

I take various ambassador animals to public and private venues throughout New Mexico and to other states for educational outreach programs.  There is no age limit as people of all ages are interested and benefit from the information and interaction with the animals.  It can be called an animal assisted therapy as smiles appear on people touching the animals and asking questions about them.

 I am designated: "Qualified Expert" by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish for Gila monsters.... now a federally protected animal.  I can do specialized programs/powerpoint about them and their cousin-the Mexican beaded lizard

 I do not charge for this... gas money is always appreciated however.

Too many children suffer from "Nature Deficit Disorder."  The goal of the Zoo Crew is to introduce kids and adults to experiences up-close and handling animals normally misunderstood.

Experiences like this help young men and women overcome fear and even obstacles affecting other aspects of their lives. Few things in life are more powerful than standing next to a person who overcomes a fear of an animal.

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”  Henry Beston (The Outermost House)

2017 Pied Patterned Ball Python at Browne Mackie College

Australian Woma Python

3 Programs to Choose From:

1) ALL the animals:  This will include representatives-lizard and snakes from the Zoo Crew collection.  ALL snakes are harmless and non venomous however, a Gila Monster and Mexican beaded lizard will be introduced, and these lizards may not be touched as they are venomous.

2) The Snakes:  including New Mexico residents of Hognose, Gopher, Kingsnakes, the protected New Mexico Grey Banded Kingsnake, discussion of venomous vs non venomous identification, properties of venom, egg-laying vs live-bearing, chemical and thermal reception and the Jacobsen's organ which is found in all snakes and most lizards.  Cryptic coloration and the genetically produced differences in animals.

3) America's Legendary Lizard:  including a Gila monster and its South American cousin, a Mexican Beaded Lizard.  A powerpoint presentation is conducted highlighting paleontology, myths and folklore, sacred status of the Gila Monster to various tribes, medical research and value of their venom in treating: Diabetes II, trials in Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Brain Cancer.  A feeding demonstration featuring both lizards of quail egg will be done for the audience.  As these animal are venomous no touching or handling is allowed.

"We will only protect what we love, only love what we know, and only know what we experience....."

Bosque High School Senior High Students Program Hypothesis

Gopher Snake-a New Mexico Resident

African Calabar Burrowing Python

Mountain Kingsnake

NM Greybanded Kingsnake

Jason Tuttle with his Carpet Python at an Idaho event

Reverse Striped California Kingsnake

"Picasso" the Gila monster and "Oso" the Mexican beaded lizard enjoy some egg

First time handling at Bosque School
Teens helping Teens Overcome Obstacles Program


There are so many ways to get our children involved with nature!
Reading aloud is an investment in your child's future. Help them understand ecosystems work.
"Desert Digits" counting book is available for online ordering

A message from FaceBook Herpetological Conservation International about snakes:

"Research into snake ‪#‎venom‬ has resulted in so many medical breakthroughs over the past several decades and it just keeps getting better. From the discovery of important proteins, to new medications and methods of treatments, the innovations just keep on coming and each one is as amazing as the last. That is why we are featuring these breakthroughs every Monday in a special installment we are calling ‪#‎MedicalMonday‬. Stay tuned each week as we unveil yet another way venomous snakes have caused major breakthroughs in human medicine. A lot of people might hate snakes, but this is partially because they don't see the tremendous roll the play, not only in their own environments, but also to mankind. Please share these important posts, as winning the hearts and minds of the public is a crucial step in reptile and amphibian conservation.

The goal of Zoo Crew and the links on this page is to excite and provide links for all potential wildlife biologists, veterinarians, conservation and law enforcement officer, private citizens, herpetologists and pet owners encouraging the humane treatment of ALL animals and peak interest in fields of biology, conservation, zoology, marine biology and research.

2015 Vet Tech workshop at Browne Mackie College

2016-2017 Overcoming Phobias at NexGen Academy

Too often people do not read or learn what an animal requires to thrive, rather, they buy on impulse.  The animals are ALWAYS the losers.  Part of this message is felt as rescued animals... now ambassadors are introduced by the rescuers.  

Pictured below, Liam the monitor lizard is a classic case.  Rescued from a dumpster by volunteer and UNM Herpetology graduate Aja, he occasionally is brought into classrooms and is rewarded as he slurps down earthworms for his audiences.
"Liam" was a dumpster rescue  ***courtesy of volunteer Aja

We work with reptile veterinary specialists to provide the animals health and well-being.

We encourage audiences always to leave the wild in your heart and not in your home.... to support CAPTIVE BORN & BRED.

Respected Reptile hobbyist Bob Applegate has said:   "As a general rule, we STRONGLY recommend the purchase of a parasite and disease free, acclimated, captive produced animal over the acquisition of a wild-caught animal.  This has the added benefit of being able to talk to the breeder about the care needed for that specific species and its history, feeding records, etc.

Many go into wild areas seeking reptiles and destroy habitat in these searches.  It hurts to go into an area where habitat has been ruthlessly destroyed which in turn causes laws to be made limiting the ability to possess these animals."

Gila Monsters & Beaded Lizards

Photo by: Dr. Daniel Beck

Gila monster petroglyph
A special part of my outreach is with "Picasso" the Gila Monster & "Oso" the Mexican Beaded Lizard.  Regarded as in the top 5 most "Critically Endangered" lizards in the world, the beaded lizard is one of two lizards in the northern hemisphere that is venomous.  The other is America's most fabled lizard the Gila Monster. This family of lizards, called:
"Helodermatidae," have been around since the Cretaceous Period.  

Differences between Gila monsters and beaded lizards: 2 animals on top are Gila monsters.  The animals under the top two are beaded lizards:

Print by Tell Hicks
Print by: Tell Hicks
Gila monster=Foreground; Beaded lizard-Back


Seeming to crawl from under a 
blanket of shale, the fossil of a 
well-preserved lizard found in 
Germany has been shown to be 
an ancient relative of venomous 
Gila monsters. Modern day Gila 
monsters are found only in the 
deserts of the U.S. Southwest and 
northern Mexico.

The fossil reptile lived about 47 -100 

million years ago near a volcanic lake 
surrounded by a rich diversity of wildlife. 
Researchers with the Senckenberg 
Research Institute in Frankfurt, who 
examined the fossil, say that canals in its 
teeth suggest the primitive creature was 
already producing venom.

Gila monsters and Beaded lizards were alive during the cretaceous
period which is when the mighty T-Rex and Triceratops roamed the

Click the white box directly below to see a Gila Monster Hatching by
Dr. Mark Seward:
    "Click" See a Gila Monster hatching. 

Eggs are laid deep in burrowsHatchlings drink the yolk inside the egg for nutrition before leaving the burrow to begin their lives.


Gila Monsters and Beaded Lizards venom is considered "defensive" and not used to "subdue or kill"
"Bone Clones" provide realistic models of their jaw
Venom glands are located on the sides of the 
lower jaws and envenomation occurs through 
chewing and squeezing capillaries up and into 
the mouth.

The teeth do not conduct venom and are not hollow, 
but are "brittle and tend to break off during the bite.

Both species have been known to roll upside down 
to increase the amount of venom being expressed into 
the harassing animal or human. It helps remind potential predators to not muck with these animals.  
While no fatalities from a bite has occurred it is excruciating, nauseating, causing intense neurological symptoms. 

Gila Monster is named "Tiníléí" in the Navajo Language. It is said that Gila Monster possess mystical power, and its name is used as prayer in one ceremony. Gila Monster are respected and greatly honored by the Navajo People as well as certain Apache Tribes, and is used by Navajo medicine men to diagnose ailments.
    The Diné (Navajo) people believe everything in nature has its own place and purpose in the universe. Animals and other living things play a significant role in the origin and existence of the Diné people. Gila Monsters were created by a very powerful healing song. They possess very mystical powers. Diné medicine men use the Gila monster as a tool to diagnose ailments. Its name is used as a prayer in the healing process, thus the Gila monster is respected and honored.
    It is also believed some Diné women create weaving patterns which are based on the skin designs of the Gila Monster. Apache and Navajo respect and revere gila monsters.
     Similar to Gila Monsters, Beaded Lizards do NOT seek confrontations with humans but are shy, reclusive animals
      Click the white box directly below to hear a Gila Monster warning by Sonoran Desert Museum:
    "Click" & hear a Gila Monster warning

     New Mexico Game and Fish Science in Education Program: 
    "Picasso" the Gila Monster and "Oso" the beaded lizard visit classrooms and venues throughout New Mexico schools, museums, and public venues.  The lizards also visit other states raising awareness for Diabetes and obesity education.  
    Byetta© is the name of the drug derived from the venom of gila monsters to treat diabetes type II.   Oral extended release treatment: Byedureon is now available.

    Additionally, successful treatment with helodermin has been successful in killing the small cells of gastric and lung cancer.
Venom is extracted from a Gila monster & is then placed into a centrifuge and "spun" until various components/proteins settle and can be removed to help find cures for diseases.  No animals are harmed in this process.

Venom is discharged through glands in the lower jaw

Centrifuge spins and separates components


They are believed to possess supernatural powers which cause pregnant women to miscarry.

Another popular myth explains that these animals create lightning simply by dropping their tail to the ground.  People slaughter these animals on sight due to a superstition.

All beaded lizards are listed as "Endangered" and the Montagua Valley Beaded Lizard
H. charlesbogerti is one of the top 5 most critically endangered lizards in the world.
First babies hatched at Atlanta Zoo in 2012

Atlanta Zoo has 8 pairs of Montagua Valley Beaded Lizards and is actively working to breed these animals, successfully hatching babies in 2012.  Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, Lilly Pharmaceuticals, Zootropic and the International Reptile Conservation Fund are working toward preserving the Montagua Valley Beaded Lizard.


Gila Monsters:
It is illegal to impede, molest, harm or capture a gila monster. As a Federally Protected Species, they are illegal to transport across state lines without permit.  The Pet Trade and human encroachment has nearly caused the total extinction of these animals.  Mean spirited people and even feral cats have been cited as causing declines in the Gila monster populations.