When I started out in late 2011 doing research on crested geckos I knew nothing. Well, okay, not nothing...but very little. We had owned a few crested geckos for a short time years ago (2003/2004 ish?) when everyone was feeding them baby food. Had we kept those, we'd be all fancy and super well known by now right? ;) I had previously bred leopard geckos, and was again, so I knew a little bit about breeding reptiles. We'd owned numerous reptiles in the past so I knew the basics.
So, knowing I wanted to breed them, I started reading. I love to learn. I googled them. I read up on anything I could find. My husband and I are reptile snobs through and through, only the VERY BEST would do. I wanted to step into this the RIGHT way. I wanted to start out with the nicest animals I could afford and breed for quality over quantity. I found the types I liked, HIGH contrast! Dark and Bright. Pinstripes and Harleys! I wanted to work with animals I was drawn to, knowing that would keep me interested! I wanted all the things I encourage people to seek out even to this day.
I stumbled on a website and found a lot of information. The breeder's youtube videos were amusing and informative. They answered some questions for me. There was one listed with great contrast and I purchased it(Toffee). I was going to pick up this tiny gecko at Tinley that March. I knew I'd be going into the show looking for others. We'd been to the very first tinley years before and so I knew there would be a lot to look at. I looked up the vendors and knew which tables I wanted to visit.
I went to that Tinley with ideas in mind and some money to spend. I purchased 3 more at the show. 2 Full pinstripes (Sugar Daddy and Twix), and a gorgeous harley that then would have been considered “extreme”(Skittles). I met up with the breeder to pick up my pre-purchased gecko and unbeknownst to me at the time, I also met a fellow breeder who would become a very good friend. I went home from that show very happy with my purchases and very excited for the future.
Over the next 6 months or so I read more, found groups on Facebook to join, found more breeders, learned about my animals, fed Repashy because that's all there was that was readily available, I watched them grow....fast. I realized pretty early on that Skittles, my only known female, and Sugar Daddy weren't a very good match. I found Oh Henry on the Pangea website and purchased him specifically for Skittles.
I continued to lurk in the groups. I learned from reading the advice given by so many people more knowledgeable than I was. I soaked it up. I wanted to know IT ALLLLLLL! Know what I DIDN'T do? Speak. Give advice. I knew that I knew nothing compared to these others and knew that I was in no position to give advice to keepers newer than myself. I let them, those with more experience than me, give the advice. I pointed people to them for questions. I lurked some more.
I made friends who were reptile keepers. They pointed me to other friends. About a year later we FINALLY got to stay overnight at Tinley and I got to hang out with some gecko people and get to know them a little. I wanted to know them and learn from them. I continued to lurk in the groups and on the forums and stalk the websites. I did jump straight into breeding...I did. But I did so KNOWING I had a lot to learn and while seeking out all the knowledge and experience I could.
Here we are a few years down the road and I have SO many precious close friends that I have met through reptiles/geckos. I have gotten to know them as breeders and as people. I have come to love some of them deeply and cherish their friendships. I have soaked up knowledge from their YEARS of keeping many species. I make note of who has which species so I know who to ask if I need information on that species. I know who has worked with exotic vets as techs for years because those people are great sources for the harder questions that come up. No matter how well you keep your animals, harder questions do eventually come up. I have personally come across things like egg binding, calcium crashes, females who nearly died because of changes in the food formulas, Babies that hatched out and didn't thrive, Humidity issues, animals that took FOR-EV-ER to settle in, Small adults that I could never fatten up, LARGE adults that I have to limit food for, stuck shed, animals with vitamin deficiencies, an animal with infected calcium sacs (weird right?!), an animal that escaped it's shipping box, got knocked out, almost died, and eventually produced gorgeous offspring, 2 headed hatchlings, hatchlings with deformities, geckos getting surgery, giving geckos shots and pain meds only to lose her anyway, the realization that too MUCH humidity is often far more dangerous than slightly too little, Pairs that didn't get along, and yes, even a female that picked her male up by the scruff of his neck and shook him. I'm sure there is much more...
Ya know what I'm STILL not? An Expert. Ya know what I STILL do? Ask those who know more than me. Ya know what I DON'T do? Act like the way I do things is the only way...
I started noticing a few years ago that the people who I learned from stopped responding to questions in groups. I noticed why. They were tired of the “overnight experts” trying to “correct” the advice they gave. They got tired of people telling them they were wrong and needed to do more research while linking THEIR WEBSITE as proof. They got tired of seeing people give VERY bad advice and trying to correct that advice only to be ignored or told they were wrong. They got tired of brand new keepers refusing to take even the most basic information about these animals and following it. They got tired of watching animals die when those new keepers wouldn't take their advice and then those same keepers buying another gecko and keeping it the same way. They got tired of seeing people buy up a TON of animals to breed because they wanted to make money at it....and then that same person burning out shortly after...or worse, their collection dying off because they didn't do the research on how to properly care for them. They got tired of people insisting that 80% of the cage should be FULL of foliage and then wondering why there was mold in their cage. They got tired of people misting 4-5 times a day to achieve a magical number on the humidity sensor which left puddles in the bottom of the cage b/c they failed to realize that their SENSOR was the problem...and now their gecko had a skin infection from being kept to wet. They got tired of seeing animals that clearly needed vet care that the person would say they couldn't afford to take it in and instead, allowed it to suffer until it died. They stopped helping because no one would listen...to EXPERIENCE.
I also noticed that sometimes a new keeper or potential keeper would ask a question they would get mocked...mercilessly. Sometimes it was a dumb question...but they still needed an answer. Sometimes the person would initially ignore the advice (most often because it wasn't explained well), but with the right information and some patience...they would sometimes come around. But someone with the right information had to be willing to answer the question in the first place...
That is when I started to speak up. These newer keepers need SOMEONE to help them and SOMEONE to give them good advice and to correct the bad advice. I try, as often as I'm able, to respond to questions and help answer them. I try to be thorough with my answers so that people know not only the answer to their question, but WHY. When given more complete information people are more likely to come to the best conclusion. When I give details I like to think they can also tell I know what I'm talking about...I might be dreaming. I also try to mention that I've been keeping and breeding cresties/leos/whatever for however many years so that people know I have some experience. That only goes so far though b/c I've also seen people outright lie about that. *sigh
When I say I'm happy to help, I MEAN IT. I would rather you ask questions and get the right answers than not ask and have issues down the road. I would rather help you now than when your animal is suffering from care due to incomplete information. I really don't mind helping you along the way. If something comes up, PLEASE ask. I will answer the best I can. If I don't know the answer to your question, I have a few friends who might...I'll try and find you an answer.
Oh, and if you need information on anything related to geckos, Join this group on Facebook. Facebook.com/groups/askthegexperts. This is a group that myself and other long term keepers/breeders (who truly WANT to help newer keepers) formed to do just that. These are long term keepers/breeders who have often dealt with a huge variety of species. If you're curious, join the group and ask the question. We don't tolerate mocking and we make sure that as often as possible a moderator from our very experienced team is the first advice you'll get. If we don't know the answer we will readily admit that and then ask someone who has more experience than we do... We just ask that you listen and take the advice...we only want to help. Oh and, we don't claim to be “Experts”....but “Gexperts” sounded fun. ;)