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Life Expectancy of Reptiles

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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Reptiles are quickly becoming popular pets. They are fascinating creatures and are well adapted to survive in the wild. In captivity, however, they rely on humans to provide proper shelter and nutrition and to understand their environmental and behavioral requirements. In effect, they become part of the family.

But how long will your new reptile remain a family member? Many reptiles can live a long life when properly cared for. It is vital to understand this before taking on the responsibility of permanent captive care. Depending on your age when you acquire the reptile, he may even outlive you. In these situations, provisions must be made for the care of your reptile after you are gone.

Some people purchase reptiles with the belief that they are making a short-term commitment. In reality, the reason they perish is due to poor housing and inappropriate care by uninformed owners. Purchasing a reptile without researching and providing the best care is not recommended. If you feel a reptile in your care will likely not live long, you may want to consider acquiring a different type of pet. Once you have brought an animal into your home, you are his guardian and his very existence is your responsibility.

Turtles and Tortoises

Chelonians, turtles and tortoises, have the longest potential lifespan of most reptiles. With proper care, these species can live up to 40 to 60 years. Keep that in mind when you decide to get that cute little turtle at the pet store. You may be entering into a relationship that may last longer than your marriage!

Lizards

Lizards are also long-lived but not so long as chelonians. Geckos have been known to live into their 20s and iguanas can live into their teens. There is even a report that a Mexican beaded lizard lived nearly 34 years in captivity. The reptile with the shortest lifespan tends to be chameleons, which only live 1 to 3 years in captivity. This is likely due to poor husbandry and not naturally short life spans. As we learn more about chameleons and the proper way to care for them, their life spans in captivity will likely increase.

Snakes

Snakes tend to have life spans in between turtles and lizards. Most snakes in captivity live 15 to 30 years. The oldest reported snake to date is a ball python that lived to be 47.5 years old at the Philadelphia Zoo.

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