We’re guessing the popularity of dragon-related movies and series like “How to Tame Your Dragon,” “Game of Thrones,” and “House of the Dragon” has something to do with the growing interest in a group of reptiles among Filipino pet lovers. These reptiles are called the central bearded dragon or pogona vitticeps, which is native to eastern and central Australia.
This type of lizard is named thus because of its physical attributes. Like a dragon, it’s armed with spiky reptilian scales and a “beard”—an expandable throat pouch that puffs up depending on its mood. It has a broad, triangular head, a round body, stout legs, and robust tails. It usually grows up to 13 to 24 inches long—with tail—and weighs about 10 to 18 ounces.
The average life of this lizard spans four to ten years. According to this site, they are friendly and enjoy being held and petted by humans. As per National Geographic, bearded dragons tend to be gentle, inquisitive, and active but only during the day. By night, they’re brutes, couldn’t care less and are just lazy asses. Just kidding.
Norman Roquios claims to be the breeder of the largest number of bearded dragons in the Philippines. He takes care of more than 200 bearded dragons in his 400-sqm facility in Parañaque where he also has iguanas, ball pythons, corn snake, hognose snake, leopard geckos, and African tailed geckos. “We have a lot of animals. Pero ang main focus namin are the bearded dragons,” Norman tells ANCX.
Before the guy got into selling bearded dragons, he was actively into selling betta fish, a freshwater fish native to Southeast Asia. It was in 2019 when he discovered bearded dragons thru a friend of a friend. “Napaka-tragic ng pagkaka-start [ng business ko],” he tells us. “[On] May 24, 2019, our house caught fire. Very devastating experience. Kung ano lang ang suot ng mag-ina ko during the fire, yun lang ang naisalba nila. As in everything was lost.” Norman was overseas doing business when the incident happened.
He decided to ask help from friends to allow him to bounce back, and that’s when someone asked if he would like to go into the buying and selling of bearded dragons.
“Wala namang mawawala sa akin kasi wala na ngang natira,” he thought. The first set of bearded dragons he got he sold for P40,000 each, and he sold four of them in less than a week. “May bumibili pala,” he taught to himself. “May market pala itong ganitong dragons.”
His clients vary, from very young kids to senior citizens, and they come from all walks of life. When he realized its a source of good money, he came up with the idea of breeding his own bearded dragons. He used his commission to invest in breeders. At the height of the pandemic in 2020, he was able to breed a unique type of bearded dragon. Now, he has a dark red breeder, and the dark reds are currently the most expensive bearded dragons in his stable; he sells each for P300,000. He also has yellow thunderbolt breeder (P200,000) and zero with blue bars breeder (P100,000). Their babies cost around P30,000 and above depending on quality and morph.
Norman says he’s done his research, even traveled, just to know more about these animals and how to best take care of them. But things don’t always go the way he wants. “Meron din talagang time na may namamatay, nagkakasakit kasi hindi ko pa gamay noon. But as time went by, natutunan ko na din ang mga dapat gawin para maiwasan yun,” he says. Since having bearded dragons as pets is still considered new in the Philippines, the goal of his business is to help educate people about the importance of proper husbandry so the bearded dragon can grow properly.
The group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), however, believe that bearded dragons, like other reptiles, should not be made into pets and that they’re best left in the wild.
“In their natural Australian desert habitats, bearded dragons love to climb, bask in the sun, cool off underground, and forage for veggies,” says PETA in this story. “By contrast, in the pet trade, these reptiles are often crammed into bins, deprived of water, denied veterinary care, treated as breeding machines, and killed when they can no longer reproduce (sometimes by being gassed in plastic bags). The bearded dragons who do make it to pet stores alive and are purchased by humans often languish in too-small enclosures where their extremely complex (and expensive to accommodate) needs go unmet.”
The PETA story adds that while the animals can expect a lifespan of eight years in their natural habitat, many of them die after a year in captivity. “Without proper care, bearded dragon ‘pets’ who outlive the one-year curse often suffer from serious and painful health problems, including metabolic bone disease from calcium deficiency, mouth rot, respiratory disease, abscesses, and ulcers.”
Perhaps because of these reptiles have special requirements for them to thrive, Norman’s advice to those interested in having them as pets is to find a mentor who could provide guidance when it comes to its proper care, husbandry, etc. He also recommends people get their dragons from reputable sources—those who have permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and those who provide good after-sales service. “These are exotic pets, so you need to start on the right path,” he says.
When buying a bearded dragon from his shop, White Dragon Reptile Farm Philippines, the purchase comes with a starter kit (food, vitamins, and DE powder). He also sells tanks, terrariums and UVB lights. “Bearded dragons are cold-blooded animals. They need to outsource their heat in order to digest and absorb their food properly,” he explains. Norman’s shop also provides his buyers a one-month health guarantee and free vet consultation.