How can rescued reptiles work in media?

Thinking about working with a more exotic animal in your next production? Consider one of our professionally trained rescue reptiles.

When we mention casting animals, people automatically think about cats and dogs. They are the most popular pet animals in the UK, after all. This goes for rescue animals as well. People automatically think about picking up a dog or a cat from a shelter, but plenty of other animals need our help too.

Here at The Animal Talent, we advocate #adoptdontshop principles where possible and practical. This is very appropriate in the reptile world as many reptiles have long lives and require more care than people initially think.

For example, your average tortoise is going to live 50+ years.  A bearded dragon can live as long as a dog, and many snakes available as pets in the UK live 30+ years. It stands to reason that a lot of these pets outlive their owners, or sadly a lot of owners’ circumstances change during the lifespan of a reptile and they have no option but to relinquish their pets.  It’s easy to see the need for reptile rescue shelters.

If you think that there aren’t that many people who keep reptiles as pets in the UK, you are really mistaken. In 2017, RSPCA estimated that ‘approximately 700,000 snakes, lizards, turtles and tortoises are being kept in UK households’.1  That’s a lot of animals that live a long time.

Because of their growing popularity2 (PFMA 2020), many reptiles have featured in TV adverts recently.  Two commercials featuring exotic pets that we spotted in 2020 and 2021 include the fabulous Amazon advert3 with the iguana, and the Aviva car insurance advert featuring a pet shop4.

Pascal, Tangled (Disney)

Reptiles are also frequently seen in films and animations. You may not know that many animations are based on the filming of animals and drawing is based on the filmed reference; this is so the animated creature can have realistic movements for their species.  One of our personal favourite reptile characters is Pascal, the comical chameleon in Disney‘s ‘Tangled‘, and who can forget the terrifying Nagini from the Harry Potter film series.

Nagini, from the Harry Potter series.

Here at The Animal Talent, some of our snakes have featured in adverts recently, including Arthur, the California Corn Snake, for 32 Red with Keith Lemon and Freddie the Royal Python  for Foxy Bingo. We’re proud to say that both of these snakes come from rescue backgrounds and you would never know unless we told you. In fact it never even came up in conversation with the producer or director that worked in the studio on the day of the shoot, and that is because it really doesn’t matter (as long as the animal is mentally and physically safe, in good health and happy). 

We fully endorse working with rescued animals if they are happy to do so.  It promotes rescue as a viable option when considering pet ownership.  We are proud that the animals we work with have had rehabilitation, now live in new, caring homes and can earn money that helps them live the life of luxury. When you think of rags to riches stories, nothing is better than this. 

Of course we don’t want any reptile to have suffered in the first place and it also truly saddens us when good owners have to relinquish their pets through no fault of their own. Thankfully there are some great organisations that facilitate the rescue of abandoned reptiles and ensure that their new lives will be filled with love and care.

As with all pet ownership, regardless of the species or the background, a lot of research should be undertaken before bringing an animal into your home. This is particularly important when the animal has a long lifespan and has very specific care needs.   And not all species in a genus are alike; for example, a red-footed tortoise has fruit in their diet where a Hermann’s Tortoise does not. This is unlike cats and dogs (in most cases) where the same diet may be fed across the species, often regardless of breed.

Jeff the Hermann's says "Beware of the tortoise! "

Add to this the need for correct habitat, space, heat and lighting requirements in the class Reptilia, they are not species that are easy to keep unless you know your onions.  Many reptiles also require the live feeding of insects which many people may find unpalatable. It’s easy to see why there is a strong need for charitable rescue help in the world of exotic pets.

Because of the specialist knowledge required by rescues and volunteers, such charities are few and far between here in the UK.  There are some people who can help though. The RSPCA takes in reptiles and most regions of the UK are represented by smaller exotic pet specific regional rescue centres. Examples are:

Cheshire Reptile Rescue

National Centre for Reptile Welfare

Reptilia Exotic Animal Rescue

Proteus Reptile Trust

Social media has proved a great resource for reptile keepers and herpetologists in the UK. Whilst we are careful not to advocate false information and fake news which is rife on some social platforms, we can recommend certain reptile groups on Facebook who will assist you in finding your local reptile shelter:

Reptiles UK

Reptiles & Herbivory

Tortoise Keepers Community

We would also advise that you join Facebook groups that are specific to the species you are looking at, for example: Bearded Dragon Owners and Crested Geckos Only UK.

If you’re looking to adopt a reptile, we would suggest that this is far more rewarding than buying from a pet shop.  Many happy and healthy reptiles have been rescued. One of the popular lizards on the books here is Eric, the Moroccan Uromastyx, who had been well cared for in his previous home and only relinquished because his previous owner had sadly become disabled. 

Jeff, the Hermann’s tortoise also on our books,  was rescued from a pregnant lady who had a growing family. Whilst circumstances had changed, he had previously had excellent care, so his new home had welcomed in a happy and healthy pet. Jeff has gone on to work for BBC Bitesize and has had regular features in Take a Break Pets.

Crested Gecko perching on a branch

It is clear to see that reptiles feature heavily in UK media productions and scaly pet ownership across the nation is huge. It’s our duty to educate and inform more people about the care of reptiles. They truly make fantastic pets and rehabilitation of them is wonderful to see. 

As we see more reptiles in TV shows, Netflix series, films and even adverts the reptile population will continue to increase. We have to be responsible about the care of each individual species and support reptile rescue where we can.

If you’re interested in working with one of our reptiles (rescued or not) and would like to learn more about these fantastic species, get in touch with one of our friendly agents today.

Sources:

1: https://www.rspca.org.uk/webContent/staticImages/Downloads/ReptileReport.pdf

2: https://www.pfma.org.uk/pet-population-2020

3: https://youtu.be/h3bCjlZNQXA

4: https://www.facebook.com/AvivaUK/videos/215322103430909/

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