Sunday, October 7, 2012

Living the Dragon Life

By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover - Visitor Services Manager


Last week was “Be Kind to Animals Week” and our reaction at Port Discover was “isn’t that every week?” Humans have been known to go to extremes to make an animal happy. My case in point is Angus, the fifteen-inch bearded dragon, who now lives at Port Discover.

When the brownish-orange Australian native arrived at the science center, preparations escalated to make him contented in his new atmosphere. Research began as to what a proper Australian name would be, favorite diet items, habitat needs, personality traits, compatibility, and temperature requirements.

Soon, plans evolved for the construction of a palatial habitat fit for a dragon. With the help of the world’s best volunteers, one of the front display windows at the center was transformed into a little piece of pseudo-Australian heaven in which Angus would live.

A floor of sand and rocks, greenery, heating lamps, and special warming areas were all assembled to meet his every need. There’s even been talk of a pool for wading. Angus is an inland bearded dragon whose relatives lived in the arid woodlands and deserts of central Australia. His Port Discover habitat now has the long tree branches and rocks that he would have enjoyed basking on in his native land.

Angus spends his days catching crickets, munching on greens from the Kid’s Grow Garden, and going on field trips with the Port Discover educators to Albemarle area classrooms . He also makes public appearances at special events like the Saturday Farmers’ Market. Several days a week, he takes a stroll in the garden and swims in his own pool.

A harness was purchased for use during his outings, but when the leash was attached, we saw his “beard” and his spiky scales suddenly extend to full capacity in his attempt to show his displeasure. Maybe that had something to do with the fact that snakes along with birds and crocodiles are his natural enemies, so he might have mistaken the leash for and opponent.

Some visitors have suggested that Angus might need a friend to share his life. Since male bearded dragons are territorial, that might be a poor choice, and a female friend might mean babies eventually. For now, he seems quite happy with being the single king of his domain.

Our new pet has attracted a lot of attention from humans of all types. Kids come just to see how he’s doing and ask that he be taken out so they can pet him. Adult passers-by often stop to watch him, talk with him, and comment on his activities. It’s rather amusing to see an adult talking to a lizard on Main Street. His regular visitors delight in finding where he’s hiding or how high he’s perched on a branch.

Pets add a richness to our lives that can only be experienced by establishing a relationship between human and animal. Angus and the women at Port Discover who love him know that well.


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