Reptiles rule at Shelley library
SHELLEY – Reptiles are amazing — just ask the more than 300 kids, parents and patrons who attended the “Joanna and Friends Reptile Show” Wednesday afternoon at the North Bingham County District Library in Shelley.
Tortoises, snakes and lizards were handled by Tyler and Heather Olsen, with the help of their children — Zodia, Azdyn and Xzavion. Olsen, as master-of-ceremonies, explained some of the characteristics of each animal — what they eat and how they defend themselves.
The one-hour show was as enjoyable as it was educational.
The star of the show is Joanna, a monitor lizard.
“She was named after the lizard in the Disney movie, ‘Rescuers Down Under,’” Olsen said. “These monitor lizards are scavengers. We feed Joanna a turkey meatloaf. We throw in the whole egg, including the egg shell. She gets her calcium from the egg shells. She is like a pet dog; she likes to be held and petted.”
Asked how they started their reptile menagerie, Olsen said, “My kids like unusual animals.”
Some of these animals included the first animal purchased by the Olsen family in 2011. It was a Russian tortoise.
Some of the differences between a tortoise and turtle are a tortoise cannot draw back its head and appendages completely into its shell whereas a turtle can. A tortoise has nails at the end of its feet; a turtle’s feet are webbed. Both species have shells made from keratin, the same material as a person’s fingernails and, yes, a tortoise or turtle can feel when they are petted as a person strokes its shell.
The bearded dragon is from Australia and has spikes for defense.
“The spikes are decoys,” Olsen said. “The dragon has a puffy neck that it blows up for defense. It makes the dragon look a lot bigger. As babies, the dragon eats insects; when it becomes an adult, it is a vegetarian.”
Olsen continued, “Meet our dinosaur. This lizard, named ‘Spike,’ is a Niger Uromastyxs. His tail is his defensive weapon of choice. He will crawl into cracks in the ground and then puff himself up; he uses his tail like a whip. He eats bird seed and beans, legumes. He normally lives in the Sahara Desert and does not drink water; he absorbs humidity from the air. His coloring can be black and yellow, black and orange, or green and purple.”
Mushu, the mangeral monitor lizard, can grow from four to seven feet long. These lizards climb trees and live from 20-30 years. They are strict carnivores and excellent swimmers.
“Lizards and snakes eat their food in one gulp,” Olsen said.
Periwinkle, the white ball python, can grow to six feet long. She is not an albino python; she has white coloring. Her eyes are blue whereas an albino’s eyes are red.
“Ball pythons were popular in ancient Egypt where they were worn as jewelry,” Olsen said. “They are picky eaters; they eat lizards, birds, and some of them can be trained to eat frozen mice.
“If you are interested in making a reptile a pet, know that it’s a longtime commitment,” he said. “Lizards live between 15-20 years, snakes live 15-40 years. Reptiles cannot be domesticated, like a dog or cat. They spend most of their lives in hiding.”
At the conclusion of the show, children and their parents lined up to be able to pet a desert tortoise, two lizards, a ball python, and Joanna, the monitor lizard.
“Pet the animals from their nose to their tail,” Olsen advised.
Parents reported they brought their children to the reptile show so their children could see reptiles.
“I liked all the facts they told us,” one young lady said.
The Joanna and Friends Reptile Show can also be hired for parties. As it says on their card, they can “bring the party animals to you.”