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Mon, Sept. 23

Reptile rescue a life's dream

Wayne Fischer's pet tortoise named Sarge is an African Spurr, will grow to about 200 pounds and can live to be from 80 to 100 years old.

Wayne Fischer's pet tortoise named Sarge is an African Spurr, will grow to about 200 pounds and can live to be from 80 to 100 years old.

Snakes, lizards, and tortoises are not particularly everyone's favorite animals, but they are special to Wayne Fischer of Chino Valley, who started CARRE (Central Arizona Reptile Rescue and Education).

"I have always loved animals of all kinds and was constantly rescuing toads while growing up in New York. When people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say a zookeeper," Wayne said.

Although Wayne spent 20 years in the Marines, as soon as he was out, he went back to school and got his degree in Animal Management.

After moving here with his wife, Nanci, and children, Audrey and Steven, Wayne worked at the Heritage Park Zoo as a senior zookeeper, but that wasn't quite fulfilling his life's goal. So Nanci convinced him to follow his dream.

"Nanci has always supported me, and it was her idea for me to devote 100 percent of my time to the reptiles," Wayne said. "I now have at least 50 reptiles at my home at all times, and I get at least 150 reptiles a year. I get them not only from the tri-city area but from Phoenix, Flagstaff and even out of state. My goal is to provide a place for people to be able to surrender their reptiles that they can no longer keep," he added.

"He is getting famous all over the United States," son Steven proudly said.

Wayne explained how he keeps the animals he rescues from three months to two years to make sure they are healthy and eating well before he adopts them out, or if they are indigenous to the area, he releases them back into their environment.

"I go to schools, libraries and community events to show the kids and parents and try to educate the public in the care and needs of reptiles and answer questions they might have about their pet reptiles," Wayne said.

Wayne also teaches a herpetoculture class at Yavapai Community College.

Wayne now feels very fulfilled being able to care for and teach others about reptiles.

"This work is my life and my devotion," Wayne said. "Working and caring for these reptiles is almost a spiritual fulfillment. I feel I was meant to do this."

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