HOW DID I GET INTO BLUE TONGUE SKINKS?
Truth be told, getting a dog was my first choice. My original babysitter was a 13-year-old Irish Setter. You could say I was an animal lover since day 1. The house I grew up in just outside of Chicago, IL was positioned on a bend in the road that offered a wide view of the neighborhood. As soon as I could stand, I propped myself up at the front door watching all the other families walk their dogs in front of my house. All I wanted was a dog of my own, but my parents weren’t bashful about informing me, this was a pipe dream under their roof. It’s not that my parents hate dogs, frankly they’re just clean-freaks and never wanted an animal with fur roaming their house, shedding everywhere. To “buy me off”, I was allowed pets I could care for independently, that lived in my room.
It started with carnival goldfish in bowls. Then I was ordering and exchanging frogs through the mail via the 90’s Grow-A-Frog Kit. After that I got a tropical aquarium. And finally, for my 9th birthday, I got my first reptile, a leopard Gecko – Herman. Inching closer and closer to a dog, I got more fish tanks, larger fish tanks, more lizards, larger lizards. As I’m discovering how to leverage e-commerce better than my parents, to their surprise, I start getting exotic reptiles, fish, amphibians and supplies shipped to the family home regularly. When highschool started, I had begun a mild obsession with the Blue Tongue Skink. Why? – Because of their blue tongue of course! But also I wanted something you could bond with, something exclusive, something uncommon, and something with a long life expectancy.
In the early 2000s, finding a blue tongue skink was not nearly as easy as it is today. I was connecting with every local and exotic pet shop seeing who could order me one, and after 18 months – nothing. Finally, the Chicago Reptile House got a clutch of Indonesian Irian Jaya imports in and I was determined to make the drive and bring one home. I didn’t have the proper habitat – he literally had heated space under my desk and relatively free range beyond that. But I was determined to give him the best home I could offer. Dinbot came to me when he was 2-3 months old and he’s been my rock ever since. He went to college with me. And while all the other reptile habitats and fish tanks were taken down, Dinobot remained. When I was having financial troubles in college and became homeless, Dinobot stayed with me under my arm sleeping in the car or at a cheap motel paid for by a local charity.
After college ended and all my student debt was paid off, I started looking into a small home business to occupy my time that could make this world a better place. Various Blue Tongue Skink (BTS) Facebook groups were popping up, forums, exchange places, care pages, and frankly – demand. They all seemed like variations of support groups, but the opportunity to own a blue tongue skink, especially an Australian blue tongue skink, had an exclusive waitlist. I decided to pull my last remaining resources and buy up as many as I could to offer a viable breeding program in the near future. My goal now, is to produce primarily high orange, but also high red and yellow skinks who are missing or near-missing their traditional black and dark side bands. I may be several years away from achieving my breeding project but as long as I can flood the world with healthy, captive born and bred blue tongue skinks, that give way to a new generation of skink enthusiasts, I know I’ll have done my part.