ANYONE CAN ENJOY A REPTILE TRADE SHOW
I took my grandson to the Repticon Reptile and Exotic Animal Convention in Columbia, S.C., last month. Herpetoculturists (people who keep reptiles and amphibians for pets) gather at Repticon extravaganzas in different cities to trade, sell or simply display their animals. You can buy a ticket just to look around, with no intent to buy. That's what we did, and it's a bargain for anyone wanting to entertain kids (or adults) interested in snakes and lizards.
Our initial animal encounter was not with reptiles, but mammals. Not monkeys swinging from branches or lions lounging in an African savanna. Oh no. We saw mice and rats. Hundreds of them. Some wriggling, just-born pinkies; others full grown with waving whiskers. Most were part of a neatly packaged frozen food section. We moved on, not needing to ask why people with pet snakes might want a mouse or six.
Our first face-to-face with a reptile was an enormous monitor lizard walking around on a leash. At least 5 feet long from nose to tail tip, it was taking its stroll alongside a sign that read Photo of You and the Dragon. $5.00. A bargain to be sure, but not one we succumbed to, although my grandson got to pat the big lizard for free.
Over the next hour we saw hundreds of other lizards, including venomous Gila monsters and the easy-to-care-for bearded dragon lizards kept by many herpetoculturists. Snakes came in all sizes from baby king and garter snakes to boas, pythons and anacondas. A few token amphibians, such as poison dart frogs and fire-bellied newts, were interspersed here and there. All of the animals being sold were bred and raised in captivity. Corn snakes took the prize for displays of the most bizarre color patterns of any snake. Corn snakes are a native species already beautiful in their natural colors of blotched red, orange, white and black. At the Repticon they came in designer snake patterns ranging from pigment variations of solid white, solid red and solid orange to blotched pink, lavender, yellow and everything in between. Looking at a table with little plastic containers of baby corn snakes was like gazing at a kaleidoscope of coiled serpents.
Events like Repticon serve a useful purpose in fulfilling the desire many people have to possess and care for a pet snake, lizard, turtle, salamander or frog. Such a longing might seem peculiar to some people. To me it's no odder than acquaintances I have known over the years who collect ball caps, matchbooks or thimbles. Reptile enthusiasts are worldwide and most are well meaning.
As with all professions, a few individuals engaged in the business break the law. Unscrupulous pet trade dealers sell illegal commodities, in this case wildlife. Many of these are simply greedy, having little interest in the reptiles themselves beyond their commercial value. But a valid reptile trade show, one in which the animals for sale are truly ones born and bred in captivity, often by private individuals who enjoy the challenge, helps reduce the collection and commercialization of animals from the wild. With legitimate captive-raised reptiles and amphibians, people have an opportunity to try their hand at keeping an unusual pet that is easy to maintain. If properly cared for, most carry virtually no diseases that are transmittable to humans. With a little education, anyone can learn the proper techniques and how to pick out the best animal for their personal situation. As we made the rounds past exhibits, I explained to my grandson that none of them were suitable for our personal situation.
out when a Repticon show might be coming to your neighborhood, check out
their events calendar at www.repticon.com.
The next one is July 9 and 10 in Atlanta. Even if you are a thimble collector
or model ship enthusiast, rather than a herpetoculturist, you should find
it fascinating. And you won't have to spend any time making decisions
about what to get at the food locker that greets you when you walk in.
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