An Interview with Mariah Healey of ReptiFiles
When she was a student at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, Mariah Healey was studied human medicine and writing. The professor of her technical writing class appreciated her enthusiasm but knew this wasn’t her career path.
“My final project was a 30-page blue tongue skink care booklet. Reptiles fascinated me,” she said. Sensing her passion, he provided advice that ultimately led her to establish ReptiFiles as a career.
Passion Leads to a Career
Prior to getting ReptiFiles up and running, she worked at a job focusing on search engine optimization (SEO). This skill played an important role as it directly impacted how reptile enthusiasts searched and found her social and online presence, contributing to her success as a strong resource for reptile husbandry.
“In the beginning, it was a lot of self-study and trial and error,” said Mariah, noting that she has always been fascinated by and strong in the biological sciences - particularly zoology, anatomy, and physiology.
She had countless discussions with experts in rescue, breeding, lighting, heating, and more. “I read stacks of research papers, relevant textbooks care sheets and guides. I have sifted through mounds of climate and herping data and listened to podcast interviews with experts,” she said.
Her expertise and the start of ReptiFiles began in fits and starts. “I decided on a name and bought ReptiFiles.com. I experimented in several different directions, but the constant was that I was adding new care guides and actively participating in online and local reptile communities, both teaching and learning,” she explained.
ReptiFiles care guides and care sheets have become a go-to resource for readers on zenhabitats.com, Subreddits, Facebook groups, breeders, reptile supply distributors, veterinarians, and even zoos. “With each new species that I add to the ReptiFiles database, the stronger my understanding of reptiles as a whole — and subsequently reptile husbandry — becomes,” she explained.
Goal to Teach Proper Reptile Care
As a reptile husbandry specialist, she has a more holistic view rather than focusing on one species or group. Currently, she is obsessed and researching Ocellated Skinks.
She enjoys many characteristics of the species, including their manageable size, activity level and social nature. There are a few things you need to know about the Ocellated Skink if you are considering bringing one into your home, including:
- they need enrichment, such as a Zen enclosure, and should be housed appropriately with other members of their species,
- they are quite active and enjoyable to watch but not particularly easy to handle,
- their tolerance level toward humans depends on the personality of the individual, but they tend to be tolerant of and even curious toward humans,
- they are easy to train to take food from tongs and will often come rushing up to the front of the enclosure when they are hungry and you walk into the room,
- they are small so it is easy to house them in a relatively generous enclosure, and,
- they need to be energized properly. Use strong linear UVB, a high-quality halogen bulb or two for heating, and a powerful 6500K LED for extra visible light. Use a flat piece of stone, or an accessory such as a Zen Cave, for a basking surface to create warmth from both above and below.
One of Mariah’s tasks is to create a functional care guide for the Ocellated Skink by nailing down how to reliably sex them. “They are essentially impossible to sex visually, which makes creating a balanced colony more of a luck-of-the-draw matter than anything else. Considering that keeping two males in any enclosure, even Zen enclosures, will lead to fighting and severe injuries, not knowing how to create a balanced colony from the get-go can make caring for them difficult,” she explained.
“The best way to learn about caring for any reptile is to familiarize yourself with as many of their species as possible. I certainly rely heavily on the work of species specialists to inform me as a reptile husbandry specialist,” she said.
Having multiple pet reptiles or entire collections is not something she recommends.
“As the number of pets increases, the quality-of-care decreases. I dream of a day where it is more common to see single-pet households than collectors in the reptile hobby, as well as more small-time breeders of rare species than morph breeders.
When the focus shifts to conservation and appreciating reptiles as individuals, the standards of the reptile industry will rise,” ended Mariah.
Zen Habitats offers a variety of enclosures to suit your pet, no matter the species. We'd love to help you select the right enclosure setup for you and your pet. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or Design Your Dream Setup on our website.