- Creepy Crawlies
- Reptiles and Amphibians
- Zoo Animals
Pygmy Slow Loris / Southeast Asia
Wallace was previously privately owned and came to live with us in 2016. The pygmy slow loris is one of the most heavily exploited animals in the world – their populations have declined by 30% over the past 24 years. The main reason for their decline is hunting for the pet trade, as well as for medicinal purposes in Viet Nam and Cambodia. Despite their super cute appearance, the slow loris makes a terrible pet! They are not cuddly like our cats and dogs, and the majority of them are taken from the wild and have their teeth removed to make them easier to handle.
To learn more about the slow loris, you can add Wallace onto any package- however Wallace has specific requirements to ensure his comfort level. He will only make an appearance for smaller groups, in a quiet, dimly lit environment. He is not appropriate for large, loud events.
- The diet of the slow loris consists of insects, plant material, and tree gum.
- Wallace’s favorite snack is a juicy fig.
- Unlike their cousins the lemurs, the slow loris has a very short tail.
Scarlet Ibis / Central and South America
As their name suggests, the scarlet ibis is covered in bright scarlet-red feathers over most of their bodies. However, they are not born that way – the bright pigment comes from a diet rich in shrimp.
Ginny is very playful – she often will tickle your feet with her beak looking for a tasty snack. She also loves to fly and land on people’s heads – making an encounter with her very memorable!
- The scarlet ibis has a very sensitive beak that they use to probe the ocean floor for shrimps and crayfish.
- They are the national bird of Trinidad and Tobago
- Ginny’s favorite treat is a tasty meal worm
Pepe, Flower, and Thumper
Skunks / North America
Striped skunks are found throughout North America, and are easily identified by their bold stripe on their back. This stripe is a warning to other animals to stay away or get sprayed!
Skunks have non-retractable claws that they use dig. They love to dig up the ground looking for one of their favorite treats – a tasty grub or bug! They will give several warnings to predators before spraying; including raising their tails and stomping their feet. The spotted skunk from South America will even do a hand-stand to ward away predators!
- One of their only predators in the great-horned owl, due to their very limited sense of smell.
- Skunks will cuddle in groups of up to 20 skunks to keep warm in the winter.
- The powerful odor from their spray can be easily removed with a simple mix of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dish soap.
Pepe, Flower, and ThumperFurries
Red Lory / Indonesia and Australia
This intelligent bird has a playful personality and a colourful appearance. They’re often described as flamboyant, theatrical and pugnacious birds.
Rapunzel is still very young, we are teaching her to be very friendly and social with humans. They can develop affection toward more than one person, but red lories often pick a favourite flock member. In the wild, Lories eat nectar, pollen, fruits, and occasional insects.
- They are the second most commonly kept lory in captivity, after the Rainbow Lorikeet.
- Its natural habitats are tropical moist lowland forests and tropical mangrove forests.
- Their bills are narrow and less powerful than other types of parrots and their gizzards are generally thin-walled and weak.
Umbrella Cockatoo / Indonesia
Umbrella Cockatoos (aka white cockatoos) are often kept as pets because they can be very affectionate, bond closely with people and are valued for their beauty. Although that may sound like the makings of a great pet, they are also among the loudest birds in the world, require constant attention, and often scream when their owner leaves the room until they return. You also don’t want to get on the wrong end of her sharp and powerful beak!
Annabelle lives with some of our other parrots here at the zoo. She is very touch friendly, she loves to be held and pet. Her favourite things to say are “Hi Cookie” and “Pretty Girl”. Her favourite food to eat is sunflower seeds.
- The undersides of the wings and tail have a pale yellow or lemon colour which flashes when they fly.
- The male White Cockatoo usually has a broader head and a bigger beak than the female.
- In the wild, White Cockatoos feed on berries, seeds, nuts, fruit and roots. When nesting, they include insects and insect larvae.
Red Kangaroo / Australia
The red kangaroo (Macropus rufus) is the largest of all kangaroos, the largest mammal native to Australia, and the largest surviving marsupial.
Jasmine, Dallas, Mooke, Tigger, and Gandolph are definitely some of our most popular animals. They are often the life of the party hopping around entertaining people of all ages.
- The word kangaroo stems from an Aboriginal language (Guugu Yimidhirr). The Aboriginal word gangurru described the Grey Kangaroo.
- The adult male Kangaroo is called buck, boomer or jack. Adult females are called doe, flyer or jill.
- A group of kangaroos is called a mob.
LARRY & ZABOO
Black and White Ruffed Lemur / Madagascar
Larry and Zaboo are best friends and are always seen play- wrestling with each other. Whether they are hanging upside down by their feet or pouncing on toys, these two are always clowning around and having a great time.
Before Larry came to live with Hands on Exotics, we was privately owned as a pet. As well as being illegal to own as pets in many municipalities of Ontario, lemurs make terrible pets and are very difficult to care for properly. They are highly social and intelligent animals and if let would likely destroy your house, knocking everything over and smearing their poop on the walls like finger paint. Don’t let their cuteness fool you- although a visit from one of these guys is unforgettable, you do not want one as pet!
- Despite looking very cute, they have a loud, scary call.
- They are critically endangered and are extremely close to extinction.
- Lemurs have rubbery foot pads that allow them to grip tree bark and make daring leaps from tree to tree. Lemurs can jump up to 12 times their body length!
Larry and ZabooZoo Animals
African Crested Porcupine / Africa
African Crested Porcupines are a species of rodent in the Hystricidae family.
Velcro came to us as a baby, he is a sweetheart and has captured the hearts of many of our staff.
The crested porcupine is a terrestrial mammal; they very seldom climb trees, but can swim. They possess a rattle on the end of their tail made of hollow quills that they use to ward off predators.
- For the most part herbivorous, eating roots, bulbs, crops.
- They occasionally consume insects, small vertebrates and carrion.
- In order to ingest calcium and sharpen incisors they often gnaw on bones.
Eurasian Eagle Owl / Europe and Asia
Eurasian Eagle Owls are arguably the largest owls in the world, certainly in the top 3. With a maximum wing span of well over 6 feet and gargantuan eyes these are majestic animals.
Ruby was previously owned by a falconer who used his birds to scare away nuisance birds from airports! This important job helps to protect planes, passengers as well as the birds that may fly too close to the engines. Ruby is now retired at Hands on Exotics, where our amazing animal care staff pamper her everyday.
Ruby was born in 1999, making her one if the oldest animals at our shelter. However she could still live another 10-15 years, Eurasian Eagles owls have a lifespan in captivity that can double that of their wild counterparts!
- The largest prey these animals have been known to hunt is small deer up to 37lbs!
- They can turn their heads 270 degrees.
- Happily, they are far from endangered with a wide range and healthy numbers in the wild.
Caiman / Central and South America
Caimans are native to tropical regions of Central and South America, where they live along rivers, streams, and lakes.
Our Caimans are just babies right now, less than half a metre in length. Caimans are a four-legged reptile of the alligator family. Caimans closely resemble alligators in appearance, with long, thick, tapering tails and elongated snouts. Caimans are generally somewhat smaller, averaging about four to six feet in length.
- Their bodies are covered with bony plates and are blackish or brownish with various lighter markings.
- Females lay 20 to 30 eggs in a mound-shaped nest.
- Their bodies are covered with bony plates and are blackish or brownish with various lighter markings.
Jaws & SnappyReptiles and Amphibians
Blue and Gold Macaw / South America
These birds can reach 30 to 34 in long and weigh 1.9 to 3.3 lbs, making them one of the larger members of the macaw family.
Vega loooves food, her favorite snack is whatever you happen to be eating at the time. If she sees you eating, she will try to get your attention by saying “HELLO” very loudly. Vega was privately owned before she came to live at Hands on Exotics, and was donated as her previous family did not have enough time to give her the attention she needs. Macaws are highly intelligent and need constant stimulation to keep them happy. As such, they are not appropriate pets for most people.
- Average life span is 60-80 years.
- Macaws typically mate for life. They not only breed with, but also share food with their mates and enjoy mutual grooming. In breeding season, mothers incubate eggs while fathers hunt and bring food back to the nest.
- There are 17 species of macaws, and several are endangered.
Burmese Python / Southern and Southeast Asia
This is one of the biggest snakes in the world! Burmese pythons can grow to an amazing 19ft! These snakes are excellent swimmers and need a constant source of water.
Buttercup used to live at a private home until he got out and scared the grandmother living in the home; he now lives happily with us. When we first got Buttercup there was big debate on what to name him. At the zoo there was talk about naming him Snowflake, but in the end Buttercup won.
- Use its rearward teeth to catch prey and kill them by constriction.
- Breed in the springtime and lay about 12-35 eggs.
- Often found near water but can also live in trees.
ButtercupReptiles and Amphibians
Ferrets / North America
Since coming to our zoo, our ferrets have enjoyed their new home where they get lots of attention from our staff and volunteers.
- They have a quick metabolism that has them eating constantly..
- They sleep 14-18 hours a day, waking up at dawn and dusk.
- Like other mammals, ferrets have scent glads that allow them to mark their territory.
Silvery Cheeked Hornbill / Zimbabwe, originally
Hornbills have a look like no other with their prehistoric looking beaks and their shimmering black feathers.
Maggie is our first bird of her kind. She has been a great addition to our family. Maggie enjoys catching grapes in her beak and helping us hand out business cards.
- Their call sounds similar to a ‘honking’ noise.
- You can tell a male and female apart by their size and beaks; Females are smaller with a reduced casque.
- Silvery Cheeked Hornbills enjoy a variety of fruits and nuts in their diet.
PONCHO & KOLBY
Yellow Headed Amazons / South America
Amazon parrots are arguably the best talkers in the world, often learning vocabularies of hundreds of words. They are extremely difficult to keep as pets, and are endangered in the wild due to the pet trade.
Poncho and Kolby have been living together most of their lives and were adopted as a pair in 2011. They know over a hundred words and four songs! Their favourite song is Old MacDonald had a Farm; sometimes it is hard to get them to stop singing it. They were also kept by a teen-aged girl in the past so they also like to say `oh wow` and `oh my god` once in a while.
- They live 40-60 years on average.
- Sunrise and Sunset are their favourite times to be noisy.
- Amazons and African Greys are among the smartest animals in the world, and certainly the best talkers.
Poncho and KolbyBirds
Kinkajou / Central and South America
Also known as the ‘honey bear’ (a name it shares with the sun bear), is a rainforest mammal of the family Procyonidae related to olingos, coatis, raccoons, and the ring-tail and cacomistle. Kinkajous may be mistaken for lemurs or monkeys, but are not closely related to either.
Kinka loves climbing, exploring, and generally being mischievous. She loves going on shows where she gets some of her favorite snacks – figs! She spends the majority of her day sleeping but once she is awake, her mission is to open every door, cupboard, bag, backpack, and garbage can and empty the contents she finds on the floor. She does this either to look for fruit or to enjoy creating more work for her caregivers, scientists are not sure which.
- They normally live 20-25 years, but in a Hawaiian zoo they had a kinkajou that lived for 40 years!
- Scent glands near the mouth, on the throat, and on the belly allow kinkajous to mark their territory and their travel routes.
- The kinkajou’s peak activity is usually between about 7:00 PM and midnight, and again an hour before dawn. During daylight hours, kinkajous sleep in tree hollows or in shaded tangles of leaves, avoiding direct sunlight.
Nile Monitor Lizard / Africa
One of the largest lizards in the world, the Nile Monitor Lizard is a close cousin of the Komodo Dragon.
Peanut was adopted in 2008 and was one of our first outreach animals. Though most Nile Monitors are too wild and vicious to work with, Peanut is one of the most docile Nile Monitors out there, though he still has his feisty moments. Don’t poke his face unless you want your finger to be his dinner!
- They love hunting baby crocodiles and crocodile eggs.
- They can reach up to 9ft long.
- They are often considered to be stronger and more dangerous than similar-sized crocodiles.
PeanutReptiles and Amphibians
Green-Winged Macaw / South America
The second largest parrot in the world and one of the most beautiful.
Sapphire used to fly in a magic show in Niagara Falls daily. Although she is not cuddly , Sapphire is a great flier and is extremely intelligent and eager to fly and learn for treats.
- Sapphire shared a stage with Tigers!
- Her favourite thing to say is Peek-A-Bird.
- Their powerful beak is capable of opening the toughest to crack nuts and seeds.
PERIWINKLE AND PANSY
Red-Footed Tortoise / Northern South America
Red-Footed Tortoises are extremely popular pets, these guys are harmless, adorable, and eager to eat your spare greens, fruits, and veggies.
Periwinkle and Pansy are our resident tortoises. They love showing off all of the features that distinguish them from aquatic turtles, teaching kids and adults alike the differences between these land dwellers and their water based counterparts. They are so tame that they love eating banana right from your hand!
- They take a long time to grow up, almost as long as a human.
- They can easily live for 50 years or more.
- If they get turned upside down in the wild, other tortoises will come help to push them over – how sweet!
Periwinkle and PansyReptiles and Amphibians
Boa Constrictor / Mexico to South America
Loretta, Miranda, Cicilia, and Alejandro are our current 4 boas. They range from 4 to 8 foot in length and from 5 to 25 pounds in weight.
All of our boas are rescues or rehomes that are now happily living at Hands on Exotics, and visit people all over the GTA. These are everyone`s favourite snakes to work with. Easygoing, docile, slow, beautiful and terrific for pictures.
- The only animal we can find where the common name and Latin name are the same – boa constrictor.
- Maximum lengths of 12-14 feet are extremely rare, though they have been recorded.
- Our largest boa eats only once or twice a month.
BoasReptiles and Amphibians
Chinchilla / Andes Mountains
Chinchillas are best known for their use in expensive fur coats, however we like to think of them as the cutest and fluffiest members of the rodent family.
Mochi and Tak were adopted from a private home in Oshawa. These are difficult animals to keep as pets – they can live well over 10 years, with the oldest chinchilla on record living to almost 30! They are also very active, capable of jumping from the ground up on top of your refrigerator!
- They an jump up to 6 ft high.
- They take dust baths to keep moisture out of their coats, essential to keeping it soft and lovely.
- They are critically endangered due to the fur trade.
Mochi & TakFurries
OREO & HIPPO
Guinea Pig and Skinny Pig / South America
One of the most popular and easy exotic pets today. Though in their native habitats they are often caught and cooked for food.
Oreo and Hippo are both Guinea Pigs. Hippo has a common mutation that makes him mostly hairless and is commonly referred to as a Skinny Pig. Though he still has a cute moustache which loves getting rubs.
- Like rabbits they eat their own feces and this is a very healthy behavior for them.
- References to Guinea Pigs are found all over literature, television, and other media.
- Skinny Pigs require a higher level of protein in their diet to help their bodies generate more heat to compensate for the lack of hair.
Oreo & HippoFurries
African Pygmy Hedgehog / Central Africa
Since they are covered with sharp quills for defense, these small mammals do not need any offensive weaponry to stay safe.
African pygmy hedgehogs originate from Africa and despite their small size, are among the fiercest animals living there! Their high tolerance to toxins allows them to hunt for scorpions and small venomous snakes, and their sharp quills keep them safe from large predators including lions!
- Hedgehogs need to be kept warm or else they go into a semi-hibernation from which they may never return.
- When provoked or scared, they curl up into a ball, covering themselves completely with sharp, erect quills.
- When they are born their quills are soft to allow for a less painful birth, but the quills harden within hours of being born.
Scorpions / Worldwide
These animals strike fear into the hearts of many people and venom into the blood of other animals.
Not all scorpions, and not all arachnids, are the same. Some you should definitely run away from, others can make great, easy, pets, and are not difficult to handle. We commonly work with Desert Hairy Scorpions, Emperor Scorpions, and Flat Rock Scorpions, a wide range that showcases the diversity of scorpion lifestyles from tropical to desert.
- Most scorpion stings are “dry stings” meaning no venom is injected.
- Most scorpion venom is no more potent than that of a bee sting.
- They are arachnids, close cousins of the tarantula, with 8 legs and 2 main body segments.
SIR LANCELOT & DARK KNIGHT
Sudanese Plated Lizards / North Africa
These are knights of the lizard world, covered with a tough suit of armor from their head to their tail. But they are more interested in sitting on your lap than lancing you through the torso.
This little guy is one of the easiest lizards to work with. As calm as a bearded dragon, but with very different and interesting features. Kids love feeling his tough armored skin and learning about protective adaptations.
- Only half of his body is armored. His belly is soft and vulnerable.
- They are omnivores and eat everything from veggies to other smaller lizards.
- They can grow up to 70cm long.
Sir Lancelot & Dark KnightReptiles and Amphibians
Russian Glass Lizard / Asia
This may look like a snake, but take a closer look. As it blinks at you, you’ll realize it cant be a snake. It has the face of a lizard and it is, indeed, a lizard! A slithering legless hunter, the glass lizard hunts insects and small animals.
We love bringing out Legs to teach people the differences between lizards and snakes. He looks and feels like a fake snake, but he is quite alive. Kids are especially keen to guess what kind of animal Legs is.
- Their tail is two thirds of their body.
- They can shed their tail to escape from predators.
- They get their name from the fact that when they drop their tails, they “shatter” into many pieces.
LegsReptiles and Amphibians
Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches / Madagascar
The cockroaches we are used to are pests. But they are extremely important to the environment and extremely interesting to learn about.
Though we have multiple varieties of Roaches at Hands on Exotics, the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach is the easiest to handle as it is the calmest. But when it gets irritated it gives off a very loud scary hissing sound!
- They can produce four distinct hisses to communicate different information.
- After seeing or touching a human, cockroaches run away to wash themselves. It seems they think of us the same way we think of them.
- The hissing sound comes from air being pushed various holes in their body. No other animal produces sound in quite the same way.
FARM & DAIRY
Milk Snake / SE Canada to Northern Venezuela
No, they don`t drink milk, they like to eat whole animals like all snakes. But this thin, small snake is harmless to humans and a favourite pet among reptile enthusiasts.
Milk and Dairy are terrific first snakes to meet. 2-4 feet long, light, slender, though a little fast, even someone with a bit of a fear of snakes can handle one of these with ease. They are great introductions to the world of snakes. We like to bring out one of these before we bring out one of our bigger snakes.
- Like coral snakes, they use colourful bands to tell other animals that they are venomous.
- This snake, however, is faking being venomous. This is a friendly, harmless snake.
- Milk snakes got their name from the fact that they were often seen in barns with cows, leading to the (false) belief that they drink milk directly from cows. In reality they like barns for the mice.
Farm and DairyReptiles and Amphibians
Jungle Carpet Python / Queensland, Australia
One of the most colourful and beautiful of the Australian constrictors. These are slender and quick pythons, very agile, and good at climbing trees.
Most specimens are between 4 and 7 feet. Tigger is close to 8 feet long. We adopted Tigger in early 2011 and was one of our first outreach snakes.
- His name comes from the pattern on his skin.
- This snake, unlike boas, lays eggs.
- Like all snakes, this one smells in stereo with the use of his forked tongue, much like we hear in stereo.
TiggerReptiles and Amphibians
Chinese Silkie Chicken / China and the Far East
A very uncommon sight in the Americas, but a staple animal in the far east. These are among the fluffiest, cutest chickens with a great deal of personality to boot.
We had no idea when we got these guys as babies that they would be so popular. Kids and adults alike seem to go nuts for these guys! Maybe it is their furry, feathered feet, maybe it is the outrageous hairdos, but whatever it is, these guys have turned out to be a big hit with the public and an easy favourite for our presenters.
- They have an extra toe.
- All of our ground birds are girls. Not only do they not make much noise compared to their male counterparts but they sometimes lay eggs for us!
- They have black skin under their feathers.
Hocus, Pocus, Bubble, and Squeak
Rat / Worldwide
Often feared, rats make exceptionally good and friendly pets. In history they may be carriers of pestilence and disease, but as pets they are attention-seeking sweethearts.
Rats are social and playful – when they are playing they sometimes let out a cheerful sound similar to laughter. They typically use a litter box and can trained to do tricks, just like a dog!
- Rats are extremely omnivorous, they can live on everything from seeds to insects, to vegetables.
- A group of rats is called a mischief.
- Rats like to be extremely clean, bathing many times a day.
Hocus, Pocus, Bubble, and SqueakFurries
TULA & JUAN PABLO
Brazilian Short-Tailed Opossums / Brazil
Opossums are the only marsupials not indigenous to Australia. At least one type of opossum has recently made its way all the way to Ontario!
Don’t mistake them for a common mouse. There is much more to them than meets the eye. They are a cousin of the Kangaroo and Koala from Australia, they are nocturnal, and have a tail that they use like an arm!
- One of the only marsupials where the mothers not have a pouch.
- Newborns hang on their mothers by her teats.
- They have opposable toes on their hind legs that they use much like our opposable thumbs.
Tula & Juan PabloFurries
Bosco, Kovu, and Smaug
Bearded Dragon / Australia
Calm, cool, and collected. These laid back lizards are the perfect pet for anyone into reptiles. Easy going and touch friendly, they will happily sit with you for hours, basking in your warmth and happily accepting pats
- Also goes by the name Pogona.
- Despite looking quite ferocious Bosco eats mostly leafy greens, though she loves to chase insects every few days.
- Their beards help scare away predators by making them look bigger.
Bosco, Kovu, and SmaugReptiles and Amphibians
Domestic Rabbits / Belgium (Origin)
We have many rabbits at Hands on Exotics, ranging in size from our 2 pound dwarf rabbits to our 15 lb giant Flemish rabbit.
Most of our rabbits are ex-pets, but some are retired show rabbits. Rabbits can make good pets, but require lots of supervised exercise time, and can live for 8-15 years. As their lifespan is often longer than people expect, many rabbits end up in shelters at the age of 2-3. If after research you decide that a rabbit is a good pet for you, consider adopting a rabbit that needs a home instead of purchasing one from a pet store.
- Although rabbits enjoy carrots as treats, they have a lot of sugar and should only be fed occasionally.
- Their diet consists of mostly different types of grasses. As grass is hard to digest, rabbits often eat their own poo to digest it for a second time!
- Rabbits have teeth that never stop growing. If they aren’t provided with things to chew on, their teeth often grow too long and need to be trimmed by a veterinarian.
DIABLO & MEPHISTO
Sugar Gliders / Australia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.
The sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps) is a small, omnivorous, arboreal gliding possum belonging to the marsupial infraclass. Sugar gliders are named for their preference for sugary nectarous foods and ability to glide through the air, much like a flying squirrel.
Although they have a preference for sweet foods, most of their diet consists of insects. Sugar gliders almost never leave the trees for their entire lives – they can glide up to 50m, which is twice the length of a typical swimming pool!
- Sugar gliders are marsupials; the young are born very immature and grow in a pouch on the mother’s abdomen.
- Sugar gliders are very social and need and crave lots of companionship.
- The sugar gliders body is about 5-6 inches long, and the tail adds another 6 inches. They weigh only 4-5.5 oz (100-160 grams).
Tarantula / Worldwide
Most people would recognize a tarantula, but few know just what an interesting spider a tarantula can be. These big, beefy spiders strike fear in the hearts of arachnophobes everywhere, but in truth, tarantulas are some of the least aggressive and dangerous spiders around.
We care for a variety of tarantulas from common Rose Hair tarantulas to big Salmon Bird Eaters!
- Female tarantulas can live 30 years or longer in the wild.
- The largest tarantulas have a leg span of nearly 10 inches, or about the size of a dinner plate.
- Tarantulas are quite docile and rarely bite people.