Here at Reptile Cymru there are some species we simply don’t sell. I started the shop in 2007 after extensive experience working both for other reptile shops and for reptile rescues and with conservation organizations. I wanted to have a shop that could provide the very best in reptile care, including all the advice you need to keep your pets in the best condition possible. Sometimes that means telling people that the animals they want, or their enclosures, aren’t suitable.

It also means that from an ethical or practical point of view there are some animals we don’t stock.

Here’s our assessment when we decide what to stock:

  • Can the animal be housed in optimum conditions in captivity?
  • Is there a high death rate for this species?
  • What is the origin of the species and their conservation status?
  • What are the import conditions of the species?
  • How well does this species adjust to captivity?
  • How many rescues / rehomes do we see of this species?
  • Can we adequately house this species in store?
  • Are our staff able to handle, care for and sell this species?

We’re not saying these are bad animals to keep, or that people shouldn’t own them, it’s simply not that black and white. But we’re saying as a retailer we have to make decisions about what we feel we can stock and sell responsibly.

Green Iguana – Rehome Only

We will never sell green iguanas (or their counterpart morphs such as red or blue). We might sell other smaller species, such as Desert Iguanas, Fiji Iguanas or others, but not the Green Iguana. This is because the Green Iguana is one of the most common reptiles seen in rescues. We get offered iguanas wholesale as little as £10 and people buying in larger quantities can import them for as little as $3 each. They are brought into the UK by the thousands, but how many people in the UK really intend to keep an animal that needs a room size enclosure and can reach up to 6ft? A massive amount of the imported iguanas – which are farmed, not captive bred – die long before adulthood. Furthermore, we don’t have the setups in store to house rehome iguanas so unfortunately can’t help with rehoming. Dave at Animal Zone UK may be able to help you if you’re in South Wales and looking to rehome an iguana responsibly.

Green Iguanas are absolutely stunning, but in my, perhaps controversial opinion, are best left to zoos for display or for very experienced and patient reptile keepers who really have the dedication needed to house and care for them. If you do want a green iguana, you’ll be able to find one for rehoming.

Chinese Water Dragons – If you have the Setup

Despite their medium size, Water Dragons require an incredibly large enclosure to be kept in perfect health. They’re prone to stress and have big difficulties adjusting to captivity, in particular to glass, which they struggle to recognize for a long time. Some people will argue, why not stock Water Dragons if you’re willing to stock things like Australian Water Dragons and Frilled Dragons, which are larger? The fact is different species have different personalities and different origins, so it’s not just about the size, it’s an overall assessment of suitability. Both Frilled Dragons and Australian Water Dragons are available captive bred and adjust well to captivity.

When kept in small temporary tanks in pet shops, you can very frequently see physical problems from Chinese Water Dragons jumping and rubbing at the glass, so we don’t keep them in the shop. We have seen adult rescues that have spent so much time banging their faces against glass that their entire noses and jaws are permanently disfigured. We are willing to order in and sell Chinese Water Dragons to anyone who can provide evidence that they’ve got an adequate setup for adults but don’t have them on display in the shop.

Bosc Monitor – Rehome only at the moment

This is quite a controversial one as we love Bosc monitors and think that they can be excellent pets to those willing to house them. They have simple requirements, but need a lot of space and plenty of patience. We rehome older Bosc monitors, but we currently don’t sell baby Bosc monitors. It makes me sad because they’re such fun to work with, but we have to look at the bigger picture and hope to be part of changing things.

Bosc monitors are imported in their tens of thousands and sold as incredibly cute tiny little babies, with their bulging bellies – often from parasites or because they’re so young they’re still absorbing the eggsac. I’ve seen them sold with umbilical cords still dried up and attached. In the UK it contravenes the pet shop licensing to sell a mammal before it’s fully weaned, or a reptile before it’s independently feeding, but in the case of reptiles, they will start eating within days of being born and so some are sold barely a week old, after enduring being caught by humans from their farmed environment, put into bags and spending potentially up to a week in transport and on flights. In the wild reptiles have a parasite load that they effectively disperse by pooping across wide distances – in captivity that’s not possible, and this is why imported animals often have extremely high parasite loads, as they’re re-infected over and over again, one of the many reasons to support the captive breeding trade as much as possible. Unfortunately there have been few successes for captive bred Bosc Monitors in the UK.

We do rehome Bosc monitors and can help if you need to rehome yours, and do occasionally have older Bosc monitors in stock that we help find homes for – but we don’t currently buy baby Bosc monitors from wholesalers after being unhappy with the condition we buy them in, and how few that make it to adulthood, as well as the condition we’ve seen adults in. Perhaps in the future, if Bosc Monitors can ever start to be bred in larger numbers in the UK, we would consider stocking babies again as we do love this species, but don’t feel the current importation of them is ethical.

Nile Monitor and other large species of monitor – Rehome Only

We simply do not stock Nile Monitors. This is a large, aggressive, specialist species that does not make for a good pet and even very few experienced hobbyists can house adults easily. When I first started working with reptiles actively in my teens, I worked in a shop where we would have fish tanks full of nile monitors. To fish one out for customers, we would glove up with thick gardening gloves and pop our hand in and wiggle it. Baby nile monitors would clamp onto our hand, and voila, you’d carefully bag it whilst it was still on the finger. Back then I just thought that was normal, but now I know that almost none of those monitors made it to adulthood and I’m so glad that the standard of the reptile industry has improved so massively. It’s become more accepted that Nile Monitors do not make good pets, but we still get asked for them, and the answer is no.

We have on occasion stocked a calmer species of large monitor such as a White Throat monitor, if captive bred, but try to be very selective about stocking monitors. If you do want a very large lizard and believe you can house them, we would generally recommend looking for an Argentine Black and White Tegu instead as these are more readily available captive bred and are also a species which becomes incredibly tame and docile making them much more suitable for a pet home.

Columbian Gold Tegu

Twenty years ago there was something called the Tegu Challenge. This was before Argentine Tegu’s had been successfully imported and bred. All you had available were Gold Tegus. They were known as the least tamable reptile in captivity – even harder to tame than a Nile Monitor. And of course, this made reptile keepers buy them in their droves, determined to tame them. Most of them failed. Very few Columbian Gold Tegus live in the UK as adults, which means tens of thousands died for the pet trade.

In my opinion there is no need to keep species in captivity that do not do well in captivity. There are plenty of other options. They don’t tame easily, they don’t breed in captivity and they’re always wild caught. There is absolutely no reason now the Argentine Black and White and Argentine Red Tegus are available – a docile and contented species as adults – to consider a Gold Tegu.

Burmese Python, Green and Yellow Anaconda, Reticulated Python, Rock Python – Rehome Only

We don’t sell any of these large constrictors. We are a small pet shop and don’t have space to house adults, nor can we sell enclosures suitable for adults. Whilst we are aware that some experienced hobbyists can care for them adequately, we’d simply prefer not to sell them as pets. As with most of the species listed here, these often suffer as rescues and rehomes and we have seen all these species in poor condition frequently.

Our policy generally speaking is that we won’t sell anything that requires two staff members to safely get it in and out of the enclosure, which limits our heaviest snakes at the common Boa and the Blood Python.

Leopard Tortoises and Sulcata Tortoises – If you have the right setup, we can order them in.

We do occasionally sell Leopard Tortoises, and may in the future sell Sulcata Tortoises, although since 2007 no one has convinced us that this is the right species for them. These large, tropical species are very difficult to house in the UK, requiring a great deal of space and heating all year round. If a customer can show us that they’ve really thought out the requirements for these as adults, then we would order in babies on special request. We’re not against keeping them in principle, but we’re against stocking them in the shop where inexperienced people might see them and consider buying one without fully researching and preparing for their needs.

Aquatic Turtles – No

Although there are some smaller species of aquatic turtles that are perfectly suitable to be kept as pets, there are a great deal of larger species that are extremely problematic in captivity. However the reason we don’t sell any aquatic turtles at all is simple – we only deal with land reptiles and don’t sell any aquatic setups. We don’t order in aquatic turtles because we don’t have anywhere to quarantine and house them, nor can we sell you the appropriate equipment.

Dangerous Wild Animals – No

As a licensed pet shop we are granted the ability to display or sell animals that would require a Dangerous Wild Animal (DWA) license to keep as an individual. This includes many venomous species of snake, as well as several lizards and crocodilians. We don’t have the security in shop, safety or training to keep these on display. Even though we can legally sell them, there is no situation in which we would order these in because we don’t feel like we can safely sell them.

Wild Caught Animals – Complicated!

In a perfect world there would be no need to take animals from the wild, but we understand that this is a complex issue and all of our established breeding programs in the UK can ultimately be traced back to wild animals – it is the bedrock of our reptile industry. That being said, wild caught animals are often not suitable to those looking for a pets, but more for experienced keepers looking to work with new bloodlines or establish breeding programs.

We do occasionally deal in wild caught species, particularly invertebrates which are not widely bred in captivity, and occasionally amphibians. A lot of reptiles available in the UK are farmed rather than wild caught, which is better from a conservation point, but still puts a great deal of stress on the animal and results in high death counts. Despite coming on leaps and bounds in the reptile trade over the last few decades I’ve been working in the industry, there are still some steps forward to go. To that end, we primarily try to stock captive bred animals and where possible, captive bred in the UK, from local breeders or bred by ourselves so we fully understand the genetics of the animals, as well as how they, and their parents have been housed. If something is wild caught, we’ll let you know.

All these above are amazing animals but you can see a theme – people tend to buy a cute baby animal, whether it’s a snake, lizard or tortoise, without fully comprehending the housing requirements and difficulties. Often, these animals are not bred in the UK, but imported very cheaply in vast numbers and a great percentage of them perish. We’re very strict about making sure that the animals we see go to homes who understand how to care for them and can prove they have a setup and we often prefer even babies to be sold into an adult setup. It breaks our hearts to see reptiles mistreated and the condition we have seen some reptiles in have been horrific.

Part of why I opened a reptile shop instead of continuing my previous work was because I wanted to be able to make these sorts of decisions about what we will or won’t sell and why. Ultimately we won’t sell any animal to anyone if we’re not confident that it’s the right thing for both the customer and the animal.

We hope that you find our policies reasonable. We get a lot of requests for the above, although less than we used to (which I think is a good sign), so I wrote this out so people could have a read of our reasons if they wanted to. If you do have a reptile of the above species, or any species, that you can no longer care for, we are understanding and not judgemental about the fact you have to rehome them. If they’re too big for us to be able to house properly, we can help put you in touch with other rescues.

Feel free to call us on 02920 190291, message us on Facebook or drop us an email if you have a question about any of the above, about rehoming an animal to us, or rehoming a rescue from us.

3 thoughts on “Looking for an Iguana? Here’s what species we don’t like to sell, and why.

  1. Dennis says:

    Wow. This has given me a lot to think about. I can understand why you don’t sell these things, but some of them I see stocked in most pet shops. It’s an interesting decision. I don’t agree with you on some points, especially Bosc monitors, which I think make amazing pets having owned two but I suppose I don’t know what condition they are shipped in and I imagine it is very upsetting to see animals in poor conditions. I applaud your ethics in deciding not to stock some things even though it must cost you business.

    • Christy Bruckner says:

      Thanks Dennis. At the end of the day I opened this shop because of a love of reptiles and selling healthy animals which have been bred with ethical and sustainable practices is really important to me. It can be a divisive subject and one I think that a lot of people in the hobby just don’t want to think about. But if we don’t analyze and constructively criticise our own practices, it’s hard to improve conditions.

  2. Eloise says:

    Well said. In 2020 these are the things we need to be thinking about. Not just what looks cute or what we want, but how ethical the entire process from A to B is. I personally see no reason for wild caught PETS. Maybe for genetics in zoos, for conservation? But for PETS? No.

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