Number of reptile pet owners increases during pandemic

Jasper certainly loved bonding with his 2 foot long non-venomous children’s python, Zelda, even though she bit him almost the first time he picked her up. “But I barely felt it,” he protests. “She’s generally easy going. She just lets you know if you’re doing something wrong.

Jasper’s mother, 48-year-old Fiona, is a little less enthusiastic. She’s always been afraid of reptiles, and it still hasn’t gone away, despite her new family member.

“Jasper always stands up for the underdog, even though it’s something horrible and scary,” Fiona said. “But it’s fascinating to watch her feed, although it’s also disgusting. Right now she eats mice that we buy frozen, but later she will eat rats and quail. want to have rats in my freezer … “

Teacher Nicki Doyle with the diamond python in the Lucy class.

The allure of reptiles might not be obvious to onlookers, but fans love that they are low-maintenance, only need to eat and clean their tanks once. per week. For apartment dwellers, they do not need a lot of space and are quiet enough not to disturb neighbors.

Ben Dessen runs the 300-person reptile department at Australia’s largest pet shop, Kellyville Pets, and runs online, part documentary and part entertaining masterclasses on how to care for them. They discovered that the most popular pet reptiles are bearded dragons, then children’s pythons, carpet pythons, turtles, and finally geckos.

“Interest in them really exploded during COVID, and I’m amazed at how many people want them now,” says Ben, who warns people should always buy them from reputable and licensed breeders and not from sellers illegal immigrants who, for the most part, pre-COVID, raised or caught them to try to smuggle them overseas.

Nicki Doyle's students with Milo.

Nicki Doyle’s students with Milo.

“They make brilliant pets. Nowadays people are short on time, they are less demanding and easy to maintain, and with their tanks it is like having a little piece of nature, or the desert, at home.

When teacher Nicki Doyle found out that the animal studies course she was running at her high school in rural north Melbourne also involved keeping some of them, she chose reptiles because she believed they were wouldn’t need a lot of care. “But I found out they did,” she says. “But I don’t mind now, because I love them so much. “

In her class, she now has a diamond python called Lucy, who is just under three meters in length, a Northern Prince Regent blue-tongue lizard, two pebble-backed lizards and – her personal favorite who often comes to visit. home with her – Milo, the bearded dragon. Then there are the crickets, cockroaches, snails, and mealworms that she raises to feed them.

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“Milo is gorgeous with such a big personality,” says Nicki, 48, whose students, ages 15 to 17, were often nervous at first but are now completely infatuated with the menagerie. “She often snuggles up to me for a hug. And you will regularly see children coming after school hours to carry Lucy around their shoulders and take her for walks. We all love them!

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