W von Papinešu
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DAILY NEWS (New York, New York) 25 November 06 Expo offers exotic rescued pets (Amy Sacks)
An exotic twist-neck turtle, whose native home is South America, found its way to Brooklyn's Botanical Gardens last week, and had a very short time to feast on the exotic flora.
The turtle, nicknamed Twisty, would not have survived the winter, said animal rescuer Sean Casey, who brought the young, underweight turtle to the Howard Beach Animal Clinic for evaluation.
"Whoever dumped her didn't realize what it took to keep her," said Casey, who has rescued a menagerie of abandoned city critters ranging from dogs and cats to giant pythons and pot-bellied pigs.
The semi-aquatic amber-colored twist-neck turtle - whose flat orange head retracts sideways - requires a large tank, full spectrum lighting and access to both land and water. A finicky eater, the turtle also requires special food.
The rescued turtle is just one among the hundreds of turtles, snakes and lizards that are routinely rescued from the city's many parks, ponds, rocks and gardens, which have become a virtual dumping ground for reptiles.
Tomorrow, Twisty will be among dozens of rescued reptiles that will be up for adoption by Sean Casey Animal Rescue (www.scarnyc.org) at the NY Metro Reptile Expo, being held at the Westchester County Center in White Plains.
The show will also feature hundreds of reptiles ranging from $15 corn snakes to $10,000 pythons, that will be on display and for sale from dozens of rescue groups and vendors.
Experts warn anyone purchasing reptiles to know what you're getting into.
Richard Hume, treasurer of the Long Island Herpetological Society, suggests that first-time owners should determine which type of reptile - snakes, lizards or turtles - fuels their passion.
"Most people in the hobby have a particular niche," said Hume, whose passion is snakes, and keeps more than 70 of the cold-blooded critters, ranging from corn snakes to a pair of Southern Hognosed snakes, at home in his Lindenhurst, L.I., basement. The lifelong snake lover enjoys teaching kids about the exotic creatures he describes as the "modern day dinosaur."
A good choice for beginners, Hume says, is corn snakes, which are easy to keep and come in a variety of colors and patterns, along with hognose and King snakes. But owning the really big snakes, such as an anaconda, which can grow to more than 8 feet long, can be dangerous if their owners are irresponsible.
Hume recalled buying a Burmese python from a pet store that, within one year, grew to be 7 feet.
"People don't realize what these snakes are going to become," he said.
Most reptile owners also don't realize the cost, and special ultraviolet lighting the pets require can cost five times the price of the animal.
Julie Maguire of the Turtle Rescue of Long Island, says many turtles, which can live from 50 to 100 years, are sold to people who have little idea how much care they require or how big they grow.
"Any person considering a turtle for a pet should absolutely consider the purchase of a lifetime commitment," Maguire said.
In fact, the tiny green turtles easily bought on the streets of Chinatown can live for 40 years and grow to more than 12 inches long. Many of the turtles, called red-eared sliders, wind up dumped in lakes.
Another trendy turtle, the Sulcata tortoise, is currently being oversold in pet shops, which often provide misinformation about care. Sulcatas can grow to 125 pounds and can be very destructive, Maguire said. They also are being sold illegally as tiny hatchlings. And pet shops either are unaware or fail to inform people of the enormous size these tortoises can be when fully grown.
When considering a pet turtle, she recommends one of the smaller species of tortoise such as a Russian tortoise, or a water, mud or musk turtle - which stay small.
Potential keepers should keep in mind that although nearly any turtle can be purchased online, some are illegal to keep in New York State without a permit.
Although they're illegal in the five boroughs, many reptiles and other exotics, particularly iguanas, can be purchased legally in the suburbs.
Regardless of whether you're going to buy or to gander, it's worth going to the NY Metro Reptile Expo, being held tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Westchester County Center in White Plains. Admission is $9 adults, $4 kids ages 7 to 12, and free for kids under 7.
Expo offers exotic rescued pets
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