Last updated 6 June 2021: corrected link to New Zealand's herpetofauna and added note to Sanctuaries.


Cold-blooded terrestrial vertebrates


Herpetology may be loosely defined as the study of, or interest in, the cold-blooded terrestrial vertebrates, reptiles and amphibians. These pages are devoted to reptiles and amphibians, principally their care in captivity but also their conservation in the wild and their classification.

Although the two groups, or classes, are actually substantially different in many ways, what unites them is their "cold-blooded" (or poikilothermic) body mechanism, a characteristic that they share with the fish. It seems that those who keep reptiles often have an interest in, or at least knowledge of, amphibians, and vice versa. Certainly both reptiles and amphibians seem to have a common bond in both the mystique and often the misplaced loathing that has surrounded them. Happily some of the less rational fear and disliking for these ancient creatures is now being dispelled, although some remain objects of suspicion, notably the snakes.

Unfortunately at the same time as we are learning more about "herps" (a shorthand term for reptiles and amphibians), they are being threatened as never before, principally by human activity. Although the pet trade must take some of the blame (collecting animals from the wild was until recently quite unregulated), the main problem is ecological: destruction of their natural habitat, whether in the Third World or technologically advanced nations, plus pollution which has a profound effect on amphibians in particular. Fortunately these dangers have now been recognised and people at all levels are taking action to try to reverse the tide before it is too late.

One striking feature of the past few decades is how many people have taken reptiles or amphibians into their homes as pets. The word "pet" needs qualifying, of course: even a Green Iguana won't fetch a stick or respond in the same way as a cat, dog or even a rat (admittedly intelligent mammals). To a certain degree captive herps should be considered pets in the same way as tropical fish, ie as "display" animals rather than interactive creatures to walk, hold or cuddle. This is particularly true of amphibians, who cannot tolerate much handling at all due to the unique nature of their skins (some of which are in any case potentially toxic to humans). However it should be added that some reptiles do have a larger measure of responsiveness to their keepers and will sit on their keeper's shoulder or allow themselves to be held. One of the aims of these pages is to describe which species do make reasonable captives, and also those which are better avoided by most people.







Reptiles and Amphibians as Pets



Veterinary Resources - finding a vet when you need one







A Glossary of Herpetological Terms:













Notes on the Species Guides on these pages









An index of herpetological magazine articles

Herpetological Issues

Herpetological Links

Herpetological Societies

European Reptiles and Amphibians

New Zealand's Herpetofauna

Herpetological Events, Exhibitions and Fayres

Sanctuaries - a note on, and list of, sanctuaries that can offer homes to reptiles and amphibians (and other exotics) while new homes are sought for them. If you have room and sufficient knowledge and resources, please consider giving a home to an animal in one of these shelters. [2021 update: the links listed on this page are all broken, and certainly Beaver Waterworld has now closed down. This page will be updated as soon as possible.]

Bereavement - when a pet or domestic animal passes away

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