Helping Endangered Sea Turtle Species

 Southwest Fisheries Science Center pic

Southwest Fisheries Science Center

A graduate of Moorpark College’s Exotic Animal Training and Management Program, Josh Ruffell has over 25 years of experience working with animals in a variety of settings. Josh Ruffell specializes in working with reptiles.

After a 2004 study of data from 32 different index sites, assessors from Southwest Fisheries Science Center found a 48 to 67 percent decline in the number of nesting mature female green sea turtles over the previous three generations. That conclusion led the International Union for Conservation of Nature to list the green sea turtle as an endangered species. The decline in the green sea turtle population is attributed to the growth in commercial harvest of the turtles and their eggs as well as pollution and diseases such as fibropapillomatosis (FP), which causes tumors to form on their mouths, eyes, and skin. More than one-fifth of dead green sea turtles found in Florida from 1980 to 2005 had FP tumors.

However, a recent study published in the U.S. Geological Survey detailed a breakthrough in FP research, in which scientists successfully engineered the skin of green sea turtles in a laboratory. Consequently, they were able to grow the virus that causes the cauliflower-shaped tumors in the turtles, which in the future should lead to better-tailored treatment options for turtles affected by FP. It was the first time ever that researchers were able to grow the skin of a non-mammal.

Reptiles in the Movie and Television Industry

Jules Sylvester's Reptile Rentals Inc pic

Jules Sylvester’s Reptile Rentals Inc

Currently serving as a freelance animal trainer and consultant in Los Angeles, California, Josh Ruffell works with a variety of companies in the television and movie industry. Josh Ruffell often works as an animal trainer for Jules Sylvester’s Reptile Rentals Inc. in Thousand Oaks, California, where he works with reptiles and other animals for numerous Hollywood production companies.

Started in 1980, Jules Sylvester’s Reptile Rentals Inc. was created to provide experienced animal trainers to work with animals, in particular reptiles, being used in the movie and television industry. With an incident-free safety record for more than 30 years, Reptile Rentals is highly regarded by the animal care organization the American Humane Association.

Jules Sylvester’s Reptile Rentals has been used in many well-known movie productions, such as Lemony Snicket, Arachnophobia, and Snakes on a Plane. Animal Trainers from the company have also served as snake catchers on out-of-town movie and television sets where native rattlesnakes can potentially cause issues for production cast and crew.

Preparing Proper Housing for Ball Pythons

Ball Pythons pic

Ball Pythons

A freelance animal trainer and consultant in Los Angeles, Josh Ruffell works in the movie and television industry in Hollywood. In this capacity, he sometimes serves as a stand-in for actors during challenging scenes involving animals and is an expert in handling venomous and non-venomous snakes. Josh Ruffell developed a passion for working with reptiles early in life, when he acquired his first pet ball python as a teenager.

One of the first steps new ball pythons owners must take is purchasing and preparing the proper housing. For most pet owners, this will involve buying a terrarium. On average, the terrarium should be no less than two-thirds the length of the snake and no larger than one and a half times the length of the snake while it gets acclimated. For most adult ball pythons, which are between three feet and four feet long, this means buying a 30 gallon tank or a speciality reptile enclosure of similar size.

After the enclosure is purchased, new owners must add bedding, heating, and various hides. The bedding for ball pythons can consist of aspen chips, coconut fibers, or papers towels. However, aspen shavings or reptile bark are often preferred. Since ball pythons are generally docile and secretive animals, they need plenty of space to hide. In larger tanks/enclosures, there should be at least two hides at opposite ends of the enclosure.

Meanwhile, heating options control the temperature of the enclosure. A heat lamp is often needed to maintain the ball python’s ideal ambient air temperature of around 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit with a basking site of 88-90 degrees Fahrenheit. A heat pad should potentially be utilized as well. Depending on the location of the tank, a light may be needed to provide the animal with the proper photoperiod. Humidity must also be maintained to ensure the ball python stays comfortable.

Finally, new owners need to add a heavy water dish with fresh water and perhaps a few branches or other decor to provide enrichment for the snake, and the habitat is ready.

Handling a Pet Snake – Tips for Beginners

Pet Snake  pic

Pet Snake

In 2016, Josh Ruffell returned to the movie and television industry as a freelance animal trainer with companies including Jules Sylvesters Reptile Rentals, Inc., a leading provider of animal talent for television and film productions. A seasoned professional, Josh Ruffell is a reptile expert and has extensive experience handling a multitude of venomous and non-venomous snakes.

Although reptile handlers at the zoo pick up snakes with ease, it can be a daunting task for those who have never handled a snake before. Here are three tips to consider when handling a pet snake.

1. Wash your hands. Good hygiene is extremely important when handling any pet, and snakes are no different. Snakes are known to have acute sensory organs. In addition to eliminating prey scents from your hands, cleaning your hands decreases the likelihood of introducing germs, bacteria, or parasites to the snake.

2. Provide broad support. When picking up a snake, it is important to support as much of its body as possible, concentrating primarily on the middle of the body. Avoid touching or restraining the movement of its head, which may signal that you are a predator. Similarly, avoid picking it up by the tail, which may cause it to thrash around and injure itself.

3. Act with confidence. Even if you are uncomfortable, you should handle your snake with smooth, decisive movements. Jerky or hesitant motions can cause the snake to become restless.