Bettering Captive Husbandry

Bringing together private keepers and zoological professionals to share our experience and our knowledge, one with another.

Being held at the Geronimo Event Center, Rodeo, New Mexico on 27th-28th September 2019 this is a meeting for all those who believe it’s time to get rid of myths and assumptions, and base reptile husbandry on a combination of good science, new technology and long-term studies of the animals in the wild.

Amazing location

The Chiricahua Desert Museum is right in the middle of a herpetological hot-spot, where the New Mexico desert meets the foothills of Sky Island mountains. A whole host of species await you there.

Greatest speakers

We've invited world leading experts on a huge range of topics; our speakers are some of the top people in their area of expertise. Check out their profiles below.

New techniques

Our speakers will be discussing - and our sponsors will be bringing - some of the latest technological advances, and demonstrating tips, tricks and new approaches to reptile husbandry.

Time to chill out

There'll be time to meet everyone and exchange experiences. We can almost guarantee that everyone present will be interested in the reptiles, but there'll also be good food and a BBQ Banquet with beer!

Photographic opportunities

With herpetological habitat completely surrounding the venue, bringing your camera is a no-brainer. Permits are necessary for wildlife photographers here; the Centre will set up an internet session at the venue for you to get your permit.


Although we'll be right out in the desert, there's a wide choice of accommodation within a few miles of the Centre; the full range from luxury apartments to campsites and trailer parks. See our Accommodation list.

Come and join us!

Get your tickets now

Conference Speakers

Learn from some of the best, with world leading experts from all over the world. Our speakers are some of the top people in their area of expertise.

Keynote Speaker – Professor Gary Ferguson

Gary Ferguson grew up in southeastern Virginia where he became fascinated with reptiles and amphibians from a young age. He sought a career path in teaching and research; initially his emphasis was on the behavior and evolutionary ecology of lizards and subsequently on their husbandry. For the last 3 decades he has, along with several colleagues, explored the importance of the ultraviolet-light environment and dietary vitamin D in lizard husbandry. Major contributions on this topic include the discovery of UV/vitamin D photo-regulation and the documentation of four UV zones occupied by a number of species in their natural environment.

Other speakers include:

Call for Posters

Are you a zookeeper, herpetologist or student working on a herp-related research project?

Event Schedule

A schedule at a glance is listed below. Check the program for this year's conference and learn about the speakers and sessions in store for herpetology enthusiasts. Schedule is subject to change and will be updated as and when we have further confirmations

Conference registration will open at 8:30 AM with a complimentary continental breakfast. Plenty of time to arrive, grab a bite to eat and socialise before the days proceedings.

Conference Team Introduction

Bob Ashley

Bob Ashley gives us an overview to the museum, it's collection and the inspirations all around from tell Hicks.

Bryan Hughes

Urban rattlesnake populations, and the conflict they create between themselves and the humans encroaching on their territory, are somewhat unique to Arizona. Bryan will outline the situation of 6 species of rattlesnake living at the edge of the fastest-growing urban area in the country, and cover some of what is being done about it, including rattlesnake relocation as part of a conservation plan.

11:20 AM

15 Minute break with refreshments

Ari Flagle

The author of two books. Ari’s research and fieldwork in New Guinea led to the publication of the first comprehensive guide on the subject of Simalia boeleni in 2009 entitled Black Python and his most recent book, Serpents in the Clouds: The Search for the New Guinea Boelen's Python (2018).

He has written numerous articles and has given presentations at conferences and herpetological society meetings all over the world on his field work in West Papua on the conservation of these pythons and tribal groups. With the continuation of his field research, Ari hopes to shed more light on the species’ natural history and to expose behaviors and activities that could help snake breeders around the planet to reach sustainable captive populations. For captive breeding might be the only hope of saving these snakes for future generations as human populations grow and spread and habitat dwindles, even in the remote mountaintops of New Guinea.

12:05 PM

Lunch. time to eat and explore!

Professor Gary Ferguson
Professor at TCU
Exploring the relationship between ultraviolet radiation, vitamin D3, behavior and health in squamate reptiles.

In his keynote address Gary will describe the 28-year progression of his husbandry research in close collaboration with fellow academics Bill Gehrmann, Michael Holick, a multitude of talented students, and other collaborators. This includes the issues discovered, problems solved, new issues and questions generated.

Dr Frances M. Baines
Founder of UV Guide UK

The benefits of full spectrum light which includes UVB extend much further than the enabling of vitamin D3 synthesis in the skin. Most, and possibly all, reptiles and amphibians kept in captivity benefit from species-appropriate levels of true full spectrum lighting, as a replacement for sunlight. In my presentation, I hope to show you why this is so. Extremely good, readily available, full spectrum lighting solutions now exist for any size and type of vivarium or zoo enclosure. The questions we need to answer are “how much UV does this animal need?” and “how can we supply it?” Species vary widely in their native microhabitats, and hence their lighting requirements in captivity. A method devised for estimating suitable UV levels for reptiles, first suggested by Professor Gary Ferguson, may prove useful. I’ll conclude my presentation by introducing you to the “Ferguson Zones” and illustrating their use in setting up different lighting configurations.

3:35 PM

15 minute break with refreshments

Behind The Scenes Tours

End Of Day's Sessions

*banquet or combined ticket required

Join us for a scrumptious and social BBQ banquet and spend the entire evening talking about all things reptiles with like minded people. There will also be the opportunity to take a look at the selected students posters that will be available to view around the conference room.

08:00 AM

Conference day 2 will open at 8:00am with a complimentary continental breakfast. Plenty of time to arrive, grab a bite to eat and socialise before the days proceedings.

Conference Team Introductions

Roman Muryn

The talk is in partnership with the one given by Dr. Frances Baines who will cover the subject from the physiological perspective. In this talk Roman will take different facets of light and heat and will explore how physics fits into the world of light and basking. In particular the specific properties of a basking lamp will be covered with support from practical experiments conducted that offer simple insight of science in action.

Tell Hicks

Tell has a very extensive portfolio of his art but a few paintings have special back stories. He has been mulling over producing a book about the artwork and this conference will start that idea being implemented and become, now, part of his own story. Tell will pick a few of his favourite artworks and share with us the story and personalities associated with that piece of art.

10:50 AM

15 minute break with refreshments

Russ Gurley

Blue Tegus are an interesting species of medium to large diurnal lizards found in northern South America. They, along with the other members of the genus Salvator (S. merianae and S. rufescens) have been important species in the reptile pet trade for many years. They are highly intelligent and display some unique behaviors including nest building and egg protection. Russ will present a look at the species of Salvator and some interesting information about the natural history, captive care, and breeding of Blue Tegus.

Robert Mendyk

Herpetological husbandry can be viewed as a continuum that is constantly evolving over time. As new material becomes available about the biology and captive management of a species, this information can then be used to evaluate current keeping practices and make necessary adjustments that better reflect the biological and environmental needs of that species. However, when keeping practices are not regularly evaluated in light of the most current scientific information, this can lead to the retention and proliferation of outdated husbandry practices that are not supported by, or based on evidence. In many cases, keeping practices may simply be a continuation of what’s been done in the past, or are justified for unknown reasons. Collectively known as “folklore husbandry”, such questionable keeping practices can have major consequences for the health, welfare, and long-term keeping and breeding success of reptiles in captivity, as well as the progression of herpetological husbandry as a whole. While specific examples may not be obvious, folklore husbandry is pervasive in all facets of husbandry from enclosure design to nutrition to thermal regimes and reproductive management. This presentation will focus on several prominent examples of folklore reptile husbandry that are prevalent today, and offer suggestions for challenging unjustified keeping practices.

12:15 PM


Sam Perrett

Sam will pull on his wealth of knowledge on techniques used to create some fantastic landscapes within our home vivariums to inspire you. He will share ideas and designs that come from his methods of researching the species habitats before creating them.

Tom Crutchfield

Florida lies between the 31st-25th latitude making most of the state at least subtropical in climate. In Homestead, Florida where I live is in extreme SE Florida which is the warmest part of the of the entire state. Many kinds of reptiles have been kept outside here representing all reptile groups with the exception of Tuatara's. Keeping herps outside requires giving them choices..Choices in temps, retreats, humidity, and habitat size must be taken into consideration when selecting reptiles to keep outside in Florida. Tom takes us through the methods he has perfected over the years.

3:05 PM

15 minute break with refreshments

Debbie McClelland

This intriguing talk discusses the ongoing research Debbie is doing with her Galapagos Tortoises vocalizations. We have documented, by audio and video recordings, thirteen different vocalizations and tones which seem to be in response to a variety of various stimuli and situations.

Charity Auction: Tell Hicks

End Of Conference

The Venue & Surrounding Area

Geronimo Event Center at the Chiricahua Desert Museum

Geronimo Event Center

The Geronimo Event Center (where the conference is being held) is located next to Chiricahua Desert Museum and was completed in 2016. Both facilities are located in the beautiful countryside of New Mexico’s bootheel in the town of Rodeo. Views of the nearby Peloncillo and Chiricahua Mountains are breathtaking. Owing to its spaciousness and large commercial kitchen, GEC is able to accommodate meetings of up to 400 people. One main feature is the state-of-the-art audio-visual system and a 20′ x 20′ screen, which make for a very enjoyable experience whether attending academic lectures or watching a Hollywood action adventure movie. The lobby of Geronimo Event Center doubles as a museum to honor Geronimo, a prominent leader from the Bedonkohe band of the Chiricahua Apache tribe, and more generally the Apache Nation of the region. The GEC is of especial historic interest because it is located just 15 miles east from where Geronimo surrendered to US troops on April 1, 1886.

Find out more

Chiricahua Desert Museum

The Chiricahua Desert Museum opened to the public on April 1, 2009.  To date, the Museum displays over 60 species of wildlife, including among the rarest and most endangered species native to the Chihuahuan Desert. The art gallery showcases the works of many well-known and respected artists, including original paintings from the celebrated wildlife artist, Tell Hicks. Many of Tell’s prints are available in the gift shop. The gallery also displays the largest collection of herpetological art in the world, representing a diverse array of media—sculpture, jewelry, pottery, and original oil, acrylic and sketched works. The wildlife and botanical garden provides ample opportunity to intimately observe and photograph native wildlife in natural settings. The garden is open to everyone for a leisurely stroll, an afternoon of bird watching, or some quiet time among the desert’s wild inhabitants.

Find out more


Check out our event pricing below to find the right pass for you. Scroll down for more detailed information on what each pass offers.

2 Day Ticket
per personGet Tickets
Ticket Details
Entry to both days of the conference
Conference goodie bag
Continental breakfast
Tea/Coffee refreshments
2 Day Ticket + Banquet
per personGet Tickets
Ticket Details
Entry to both conference days
Conference goodie bag
Continental breakfast
Tea/Coffee refreshments
Includes Friday evening BBQ Banquet
Save $5 with combined ticket
Friday Banquet
Enjoy a the BBQ feast!
per personGet Tickets
Ticket Details
Friday night BBQ banquet
Includes your drinks
*Does not include conference tickets

Our Sponsors

Our conferences would simply not be possible without the kind support of our sponsors. Please be sure to check them out and show your appreciation.

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