UROMASTYX ORNATA & PHILBYI

Habitat
Uromastyx Ornata, feel most at home in the rougher and rocky parts of the deserts. They live on the Sinai Peninsula, parts of northwest Saudi Arabia and Israël (Eilat and Wadi Makfa). The area Ornata’s live in are described as deserts/semi-desert with big difference in temperature day and night. There are no strong winter coolings during the winter.

Description
Uromastyx Ornata gains a maximum length of 37 cm and that makes it a Uromastyx of moderate size. The animal’s head contains scales of equal size. The hindlegs also contain conical and thorny scales. The tail is a bit flat and contains 20-23 segments. The colours of the Ornata’s vary per indivicual. Males often have a green, blue or red-violet base colour on their back. The back also contains brown circles which can be filled with yellow. These circles can be woven together into yellow bandings. Females have and (dark) brown base colour and the yellow patterns on the back. The bellies are lightly coloured both sexes have a pattern that looks like a net. With females this net pattern is brown/black, males have blue, green, brown and black. Generally spoken females are much duller coloured.

Housing
I housed this couple (future maybe a trio) in a 1.2 (width) x 1.0 (depth) x 0.65 (height) meter vivarium. Since these very active lizards love to climb (remember the habitat they live in) the back and side walls are treated with gypsum blocks which are shaped and covered with concrete to make a climbable surface. With the lizards able to utilize these vertical surfaces the vivarium size was quite comfortable for them. Sand with a grain size from 0.25 – 3 mm was used as the substrate. The lighting consists of a ReptileUV Mega-ray (100W) and a 60 W incandescent spot lamp. UVB lighting seems to be very important for the proper growth and behavior of these lizards. Without it these animals cannot process calcium and will quickly become calcium deficient and parish. The lamps are on for 12 hours a day (summer 14 hours, winter 8 hours). Animals bask when the air temperature is about 30°C and become active almost immediately. The temperature under the UVB-lamp is 48°C and a few degrees cooler under the 60W spot lamp. Nightly temperature can be dropped to about 20°C.

Care
In studies there is spoken of the fact that Ornata’s often live in small groups on a part of a rock. In vivaria there are good and not so good experiences with holding small groups. In my opinion it still depends on the characters housed in the vivaria. Two males in the same vivarium should be avoided as they will stress one another and more than likely fight. This stress will end up causing the death of the weaker, subordinate animal. Mature and juvenile animals are fed 6-7 times a week. A very important aspect of the diet is to vary the vegetable matter fed to these green eating dinosaurs. Animals were mainly fed protein rich veggies with endive as the number one. The endive is mixed with grated carrots, dandelion (flowers and leaves), cabbages and paksoi. The seeds of paksoi are not eaten. They Uro’s love birdseed, pollen granules and lentils The food is powdered with a calcium and vitamin supplement. 1-2 times a week the vivaria is misted about an hour before the lights are turned off to increase night time humidity. The humidity in the hide rises up 70%. The daytime humidity must be low, preferably about 30%.

Breeding experience
Uromastyx are sexually mature after 3 to 4 years, after their wintersleep mating behaviour can be spotted. The male starts to bob his head up and down and doing some sort of push ups. He also starts spinning in circles on the female's body while he marks her with a white substance. The usual reptile mating follows where the male wraps his tail around hers and bites into her neck or flank. When the female is not interested in mating she will turn and lay on her back so the male can't mate with her.

A usual reptile mating will follow where the male folds his tail around hers and bites her in the neck or flank. The female will become bigger and bigger over the upcoming weeks and start eating less and becoming less active. Eventually you can literally see the eggs in her belly and feel them. She will carry the eggs for about 6 weeks and then she will start digging this is when you need to provide plenty nesting places so she won't get egg bound. The laying process can take a couple of hours as she completely covers up her nest, so you might spot a huge pile of sand in your cage. She lays her eggs while in some sort of trance and it's important not to disturb her untill she is fully finished. Then she will start guarding the nest so it's important to completely remove her, take out the eggs and try to restore the nest as good as possible so she won't get suspicious. After laying eggs the female is extremely thin but she will return to her previous state when she has regained her strength and has been well fed.

Incubation of the eggs
Incubating ornata eggs is relatively easy. We use a mix of vermicullite/perlite and water with a 2:1 ratio. The temperature of the incubator should be 30-32°C and the incubation period is around 70-80 days. When the animals start to hatch it takes a lot of their strength so after hatching they are usually exhausted and need some time to regain their strength so don't be too alarmed when they don't start running around instantly. Ornata juveniles are light grey with red and yellow striped patterns.

The youngsters
Raising the youngsters is done like caring for the mature animals. The first 2-3 months are very important if they make it through then they will develop just fine. It is important to pay some extra intention to the calcium you give them (it must be enough).

Conclusion
Uromastyx Ornata is a very active lizard which can be maintained in captivity if basic conditions are fulfilled for housing, feeding, health, acclimatisation and heat/light. For advanced vivarium hobbyists this species gives a nice challenge in caring and breeding them. Off course we want to see a healthy population in captivity this is why this species must be bred more in captivity.


Literature

• Uromastyx plus other common Agamids – Jerry G Walls – isbn 1882770870 – The herpetocultural library

• Spiny-tailed Agamids: Uromastyx and Xenagama – R D Bartlett – isbn< 0764125729 – Barron’s

• Uromastyx – Thomas Wilms – isbn 3936180121 – Herpeton

• Dornschwanzagamen – Thomas Wilms – isbn 3980621472 –Herpeton
• Uromastyx and Butterfly Agamids – Jerry G Walls – isbn 079382074x – TFH Publications

• Basic care of Uromastyx Lizards – Philippe De Vosjoil – Advanced vivarium systems

• AVS Uromastyx – Jerry G Walls – Bowtie Pr

• Uromastyx verzamelnummer, 2005 – Stichting Doelgroep Groene Leguanen

• Draco 31, Dornschwanzagamen – Draco

• Reptilia 16, Dorschwanze – Reptilia