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Stress observations on a small animal while at the pool
With the temp being 93F with bright sun today...I headed to the pool, naturally. While there, I witnessed an incident of stress in a small reptile/ amphibian that I am sure would translate directly to any type of dart frog - relevant to our hobby and this forum. It started off like this...the pool gate opens and in comes mom and her two children, precious angels and perfect little snowflakes. God love them all ! I quickly noticed that childspawn #1 was triumphantly carrying a medium sized 'critter keeper' plastic enclosure with a single large male brown anolis inside and nothing else. The child was in pure joy with the lizard, as evidence by him removing the lid and taking the animal into his clenched hand many times. There was also a period of 10 minutes or so when the critter carrier and lizard inside was ceremoniously dunked in the pool and held underwater for several minutes, causing the enclosure to flood a bit.

My observations on Stress with the Captive Animal:

The lizard was more than likely held in the enclosure for several days as referenced from the child's narration at the pool. I'm fairly certain it did not eat or even drink during all that time. I also have no doubt there were very few hours where the lizard was NOT subjected to handling or rough play (most likely only when the child was actually sleeping). I observed the lizard to be in decent health otherwise, and it even maintained an erect posture in the center of the bottom of the cage throughout - not cowering or even flattening. Every time the child reached in to grab it and pull it out, it did not struggle, try to flee or move much at all. The child was even overheard to say 'look how much he likes me".


I believe the animal was under a maximum amount of stressors - deprivation of food, water as well as rough handling. I suspect that energy and related resources used for escape and fight were severely diminished or even completely gone. This next theory is one that I could never advance without the direct observations taken today, having never pushed or subjected any of my own animals to that degree of mistreatment. I believe the animal's 'will to live' for lack of a better term, was diminished as well. From my strong background in keeping, breeding and observing hundreds of different herps, I'm fairly certain that I want to include that last possibility as to the animals condition. That's how strongly I feel about what I saw which I'm sure could be replicated with dart frogs or related species.

Thoughts ?

"Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana".
Was it an A. carolinensis or A. sagrei?
Not to be rude, but how would the species make a difference here ?

All my flamboyant descriptive prose aside....let's discuss the science here. The science of Stress.

"Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana".
People (and other animals), when faced with life-threatening situations, produce adrenalin, to create the "fight or flight" response. Heart rate and blood pressure rise, breathing increases, and they have the ability to try to fight to survive. Cave-men could try to fight off the saber tooth tiger, moms can lift cars off babies, etc. The trouble is, if you survive, that hormone goes back down to a normal level. Then you "crash", and can go into shock, and that can be enough to kill you.

I am so glad you were there Phil, and spoke up to that horrible mom. I'm sure she huffed and puffed (she was embarrassed in front of her friends), but hopefully your actions will make her think twice in the future, and even better--I really hope her son thinks about it and realizes that the anole was a living, breathing life he was "playing" with.
P. Terribilis orange, R. Imitator Cainarachi Valley, D. Leucomelas, D. Auratus, D. Azureus, P. vittatus, D. cobalts, D.Oyapok, Bombina Orientalis
Wow what a disgusting story Phil. I hope that little anole soon escapes the clutches of that child's hands, or the mother forces the child to release it.
It's clear that there are at least three things stressing that poor lizard. First the lack of proper diet and water. Second the lack of the proper enviroment, and third all the excessive handling.
If that lizard had a proper diet, water and enviroment, it would be able to tolerate some handling much better, not excessive mind you, but some handling.
I think the parallels with dart frogs are clear. People who constantly "dig" through a vivarium to catch a glimpse of their frogs are stressing them. Hopefully less with a proper diet and enviroment, but the frogs are stressed nonetheless. I believe unstressed frogs display more natural behavior patterns including active feeding, calling and mating.

I do have something positive to add though. Yesterday my fiance' and I retreated to the beach, where we were lucky to have an encounter with two wild manatees, that no one in anyway harrassed. Stress free manatees behaving normally!!
It probably speaks ill of me that my first inclination on reading this is to suggest introducing the kid and his mom to some of Florida's larger four legged reptiles who are better equipped to handle water and a bit of manhandling...
Here's the really odd thing....I've observed thousands of anolis over the years both in vivaria and in situ in FL and Central America and NEVER have I seen one so seemingly still and compliant. Years ago there was some media attention to a girl in FL who was called the 'lizard whisperer" and if I remember correctly, she was able to handle the anoles and put them into some sort of trance - kind of like when sharks are placed upside down.

I'm still doing research on all this.

"Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana".
I found this 2 days ago in my physiology book while studying the endocrine system for the final. "...Beta-lipotropin and beta-endorphoin, secreted by the anterior pituitary gland. Their physiological roles, if any, in humans are unclear. In animal studies, however, beta-endorphin has been shown to have potent pain-killing effects, and beta-lipotrophin can mobilize fats in the circulation to provide a source of energy. Both of these functions may contribute to the ability to cope with stressful challenges."

I don't know much about lizard physiology, or even human physiology much for that matter either lol but maybe those were playing a role? I also found this about tadpole stress, I'm not sure how helpful it is though. ... 5.abstract
Not to stray too far off topic and without trying to sound to preachy, I cannot imagine not working hard as a parent to foster a sense of appreciation for the animals around us. I take my kids "lizard hunting", but it's about who can spot a whiptail, spiny lizard, green anole, or the occasional ground skink first. Yeah we keep frogs in a box. But we also go through extremes to house them properly and provide the best care we can. I think all kids should have a variety of pets, not to "keep" them, but to learn how to care for them.

Kids' natural instincts are to poke, prod and squish. I don't blame the kid - someone bought him a critter keeper - that person needs to step up and teach proper respect for a living creature; it takes effort, but it's a worthwhile investment. Alright I'll get off my soapbox. Who knows Phil, maybe your intervention has created a positive change in their outlook ...
Jim from Austin --- Lorenzo keepers PM me about a US breeding program
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