Tegu Enclosure Build
What the heck is a Tegu? I've had that question postulated to me several times over the last week or two as I posted progress reports and pictures on my Instagram while building a large enclosure for my tegu. Basically a tegu is a large lizard similar in stature and behavior to a monitor lizard. My specific tegu is an Argentinian black and white tegu or Tupinambis merianae if you're fancy.A good friend of mine and fellow Catching Creation team member, Thomas LaVine, decided around 6-8 months ago to get himself a tegu and while ordering one for himself Thomas decided to also get one for me.
Thomas donated "Bucky" the Argentine tegu to me for the purpose of using in my ministry. Little did we know that our tegus would be so wild when we got them. The tegus both came from a guy in south Florida who runs a reptile rescue of sorts for tegus. Basically since they're running wild down in Florida several people have taken it upon themselves to offer a "service" of capturing these wily beasts and shipping them across the country to the pet trade. It solves the problem of the tegu being a burden on the ecology of native wildlife and reptile enthusiasts like myself can get a normally expensive animal for a fraction of the cost. That all seems well and good, the only catch is that you have to spend quite a bit of time taming these animals in order to be able to throughly enjoy them.
When I first got Bucky the tegu he was missing the last quarter of his tail, he was around 18 inches long and full of thrashing energy. I fell in love with this little guy immediately. Bucky hid for the first 10 days I had him. I decided that in order to tame him I had to first build his trust so I left him alone, I didn't bother him and I just trusted that he was ok while inside of his hide for those first 10 days. He would eventually start to peek his head out of the hide while I was in the room, but if we made eye contact he would dart back inside his dark hidey hole. Eventually he got brave and would bask when I was in the room but if I made a motion towards his enclosure he would bolt back into his hide. I would inch slowly towards his enclosure day after day until I built trust with him and I could get all the way to the side of his enclosure and he would stay. This process went on for weeks and months. I finally got where I could pet him while in his enclosure and most recently I've gotten where I can hold him with gloves for a minute or so before he starts to thrash wildly and wants to be let back into his cage. Since we aren't on any sort of time table I'm comfortable letting him warm up to me at his own pace.
So with all of that back story and trust building you can see that I have a vested interest in this amazing creature. I spent the last week building what most consider the appropriate sized enclosure for an Argentine tegu. The total size of his new home is 4 feet wide, 4 feet tall, and 8 feet long. He has an elevated basking post laid with tiles, a hide box under the second level of his enclosure and a ramp connecting both levels. I placed the whole enclosure on a 2ft high stand so that when I open the doors to his enclosure Bucky will be at eye level. The theory is that since I've made so much progress so far with him that being at eye level now when we interact will hopefully eliminate his fear of me. He will no longer see me as a predator coming from above but as a friend coming at eye level. I'm hoping that by spring I will be able to consistently handle Bucky and begin to use him in my programs by summer. That would be a huge miracle and great testimony for this animal.
Tegus are incredibly intelligent and typically a very docile animal. Since Bucky was wild collected in Florida he doesn't come with the good positive human interaction that a captive bred animal will have but since he is such a highly intelligent animal it is possible to tame him down. I'm excited for this process and all the progress I've made with this wonderful animal.