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Thu, Oct. 17

The Reptile Man brings fun (and critters)to library

People who live in the desert are used to seeing the little lizards that scoot around in our yards. They are fun to watch and almost impossible to catch. But who can imagine a lizard as big as a dog with spikes on his back, a scaly bump on his nose and fat cheeks? Or how about a beautiful yellow snake as big around as your leg, 14 feet long and weighing 150 pounds? Both of these rare animals and many more are part of the Reptile Adventures presented by Rich Ihle, often referred to as the snake or reptile man.

At a recent family program given at the Desert Foothills Library, parents and children were amazed and fascinated by Ihle's collection of lizards and snakes, some typical of this area and others from places like Haiti, Burma and India. He has been collecting and raising reptiles since he was a boy growing up in Iowa. He had always had a fascination with snakes, loved reading books about them and soon began trading babies with friends and selling to pet stores. Now he shares that knowledge with his audiences and encourages them to read and use the internet to learn about this exciting hobby.

"If you like something, you can be an expert because of all the books and information available", he tells the kids. One of the most popular animals in his program is "Freckles" the Leopard Gecko from India. It has a fat spotted tail which it uses for protection from enemies and for storing extra food. Another favorite is the Bearded Dragon named "Junior" from Australia which is covered with fuzzy spikes, also a protective device. But when Ihle holds "T-Bo" the 12 year old Rhinoceros Iguana from Haiti up in the air, his audience gasps at the size and scary look of this amazing reptile. Measuring 4 feet long and weighing 25 pounds, T-Bo looks like something out of a dinosaur movie, but he sits placidly while on display and allows everyone to pet him without a wiggle.

The snakes in the program are so beautiful that even snake haters can't help but enjoy them. "Miss Piggy" the Western Hognose Snake uses her shovel nose to dig in the dirt. She also plays dead when threatened, rather than bite. Ihle explained that the King Snake which we have in Arizona is very helpful, eating other snakes, lizards and mice, and it is immune to Rattlesnake poison. The very favorite of adults and children alike is "Sunshine," the 14 foot long albino Burmese Python. Her beautiful yellow color makes her look like a big banana and her personality is about as frightening as she drapes herself over a table and allows everyone to stroke her.

The Reptile Man stresses that all his animals are born in captivity and raised from babies. He teaches about his friends and encourages the audience to touch them after the program. His website, www.reptileadventures.com, gives lots of information and he also encourages reptile lovers to view www.kingsnake.com.

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