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Adventures in Herpetology: Back to the Reptile Show!
by Jeff Fullerton
Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
I noticed the sign the week before the start of Vacation Week 2.0 and decided I was going.
Been a few months since I’ve been to one and I was looking to shop for some dry goods and maybe some feeder bugs and even a few herps on my wish list. And to look into the prospect of renting a table in the near future to sell some of my baby Gulf Coast Box Turtles that become more numerous by the year along with plants for vivariums. The ultimate fulfillment of a life’s dream : to become a vendor at a reptile show!
I’ve nursed that dream since my latter days in the Air Force when the phenomenon of the reptile show was just beginning to take off.
My first one was the expo in Sellersville PA in the fall of 1992 where I bought two male Central American Wood Turtles—that are a subspecies of the Guerrero Woods I’m keeping now and my first experience with the genus of the Neotropical Woods. The following summer I flew down for the weekend to visit my buddy Mike and go to the big one in Orlando. There I bought a trio of Honduran subspecies of wood turtle that ended up living on the Turtle Table in the original Florida Room along with my first Guerrero and a couple areolata. At that event which quite mind blowing on par with the Hamburg show in 2016 I also purchased a group of Spotted Turtle hatchlings that came home with we and grew to maturity and even produced a few offspring of their own before I parted with them in 2014. See article.
That fall, just a couple months before terminal leave there was the Mid Atlantic Show in Maryland which was not quite as good as the Orlando Expo or the Hamburg and Pittsburgh shows—but a pretty decent selection of animals. Mostly snakes and lizards which was somewhat disappointing for me as turtles were what I was mainly seeking. It may have had something to do with the state which had a major bug up its ass about baby turtles above and beyond the federal law passed in the 1970s that the feds largely ignore outside the retail pet shops. Vendors and mail order dealers often post a disclaimer that baby turtles are being sold “for scientific research, exhibition or foreign export”—per the infamous FDA reg. Which is kind of laughable—but I’m glad the government so far has left well enough alone.
Things were a lot nicer at the All Ohio Reptile Show which brings back fond memories of trips with “Big Bob” Levendusky that started out at or before first light to get there at opening around 9AM to have a better selection of animals to choose from. And it was quite a selection. Ohio at the time was still lagging behind most other states when it came to regulating reptiles and you could even find native species like Fence Lizards and Eastern Box Turtles as well as local amphibians—like Leopard Frogs and various salamanders. And there was a lot of exotics too. Saw lots of “Japanese Newts” which may have been Chinese Newts—as China was opening up at the time and more animals were being sourced from there. Lots of Asian turtles—you could get Reeves and the Vietnamese Black Breasted Leaf Turtles, Beal’s Four-eyed Turtles and Kwangtungs for less than $100. And it was there that I learned the difference between the Amboina or Asian Box—Cuora amboinensis and the actual Chinese Box Turtles I got into several years ago—Cuora (or Cistoclemmys) flavomarginata.
Those were the days.
Some of the fondest memories were the stopovers for breakfast at the McDonalds in Wheeling with the futuristic theme which Bob dubbed “the Enterprise” and be would ask the girls at the counter “where’s Captain Kirk”?
I bought a Mexican Pine and a Red-sided Garter Snake and some Gulf Coast Box Turtles at the Ohio Show. Still have the female I named Olivia!
That was a nice trip down memory lane.
The local Westmoreland Reptile Show that started up several years ago is a bit more modest than those ones in that blast from the past—or some of the bigger regional shows these days but it’s still pretty good when it comes to selection of animals and dry goods. I only lament that Bob is no longer around to go with me because I think he’d really like it and Youngwood is a helluva lot closer than Columbus!
I got there right around 10 AM—maybe later. The parking lot was almost full.
Still $5 to get in. So inflation hasn’t caught up quite yet.
This is the first one I’ve gone to since the mask mandate was lifted. I’m wondering with all this hype about the dreaded Delta Variant and breakthrough infections; could this become a super spreader event? Knock on wood. Going on almost a week now and if I don’t get sick by time this article publishes—I’m in the clear as far as the show is concerned. It’s got to be safer than spending a couple hours on a plane with bunch of Texas Democrats!
The show has grown because they pulled the fire trucks out of the garage to make room for more tables. I went there first before circulating about the main hall that is rented out for the reptile show and other things like meetings, Christmas parties, what have you.
I then made my way back to the main hall to shop to look at critters and shop for husbandry supplies. As far as live animals go I wasn’t planning on buying anything—though I did have a wish list that consisted of Apalachicola Kingsnakes, a male Emerald Swift to go with my two females and maybe a Helmeted Iguana.
There actually was a Helmeted Iguana: Corytophanes cristata for sale at this show. This impressive species was once part of the original Florida Room menagerie and one of the tall tank conversions is ready for them. However I’m not quite ready yet so I passed. There was also a male Swift for sale but he was looking a bit thin and I passed on that deal too. As for kingsnakes I did not see any of the subspecies I’m looking for—just Cal Kings and one vendor had hatchling Speckled Kings that were heterozygous for T-positive albinism or some other recessive trait. I did actually have a response for an inquiry put out the night before regarding a young Blaze Phase patternless Apalachicola of undetermined gender that I waiting to see what I might find at the show before answering. I have since answered and that snake is on order and will be arriving later this coming week!
Saw some impressive selections of caging and other supplies. However there is apparently a shortage of Superworms—Zoophobia morio—the larvae of the Darkling Beetle commonly used to feed larger lizards and turtles as the better alternative to the common mealworm—Tenibrio obscuris. Probably a supply chain issue because of the pandemic. As if the empty shelves of certain items like hash brown patties at Walmart are not enough. At least toilet paper is no longer an issue! But no superworms at the show—though I do see them still in pet shops and I may try ordering online at some point.
From the bug guy who specializes in isopods and springtails that are useful components of vivarium cleanup crews—I bought a cup of the pink tropical springtails to seed some of my own setups. I also got a starter culture of Buffalo Beetles which are small species of the Tenibrio genus intermediate in size between the common mealworms and the Confused Flour Beetle which I tried in the past did not care that much for messing with—especially after it ended up escaping and infesting my pantry for years to come! But I figure this new one will be a much better species to feed baby lizards in the near future.
Unfortunately I forgot to get the small white isopods to try.
Some of these things are a bit pricy.
I’ve seen the “Rubber Duckies before online and read up on them. They are one of the more spectacular species and slower to reproduce than the various color morphs of the common species Armadillium vulgare: the common garden variety Pillbug from the backyard. I’ve already seeded my setups with those as I find them all the time in the Florida Room and greenhouse!
Spent a good bit of time conversing with the bug guy who is from Virginia which is a familiar stomping ground from my Glory Days. Unfortunately that state which has turned blue thanks to the unabated urban sprawl fueled by expansion of the federal workforce in DC has become a lot less glorious a place to practice the reptile hobby these days. Some really disturbing developments in the way of restrictions that are making the state of “Sic Semper Tyrannis” look even worse than Maryland or Pennsylvania and more like an Ecofascistopia the likes of Washington or Oregon out on the Left Coast. What amounts to a total ban on keeping native species and a long list of exotics that are banned in the state. Some of these regulations are so similar to other states that it is obviously the product of some centralized systemic effort to craft universal rules. The biggest part of the problem is that the powers that be have learned to use bureaucracy as the means to advance their agenda by the decree of “disinterested experts” who are anything but disinterested. Mainly because they are more or less the result of regulatory capture of government agencies and academic institutions by environmental extremists and others with left wing views who enter these fields under the influence of their Marxist professors in college and then aspire to “make a difference” like others do when they become teachers, journalists or lawyers. Activist government as a result of the hostile takeover of Academia, Media and Law in addition to elected offices and its likely to get worse before it gets better.
As if the general trashing of the economy by progressive policies like inflation and the Green New Deal isn’t bad enough. Those threaten to disrupt the persist of happiness and excellence in the hobby by making it too expensive to maintain a decent standard of living let alone a reptile collection.
Which brings me to the one item I ended up dropping the ball on last Sunday. My plan to become a vendor at the show. Something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve even thought of naming my prospectus after my crowning achievement: The Florida Room and selling my surplus offspring and plants and maybe even cage conversions made from old aquariums. Yet I’m intimidated by the possibility that even though I’ve done my best to comply with laws and regulations pertaining to the keeping of reptiles—I might still somehow run afoul of some obscure rule that could prompt the minions of government to descend upon me and turn my life upside down. And risk loosing everything. Such is possible in the world we have today. After taking to the fellow from Virginia my morale was in the toilet for a while.
I did still manage to enjoy the rest of the show.
It did have its bright points of light. Such as this adorable though overfed Tegu lizard which was a darling with kids who wanted to pet it.
There was this guy: a Bearded Dragon who was so placid that at first I thought he was a taxidermy specimen!
And another bug vendor specializing in items intended for human consumption. Even superworms!
I considered trying the grasshoppers but it slipped my mind like the dwarf white isopods I was going to get to seed my vivariums.
Unless we go into another lockdown or the economy crashes or they ban reptile shows via the “Prevent Future Pandemics Act” I’ve heard is under consideration in Congress—there will be more reptile shows. I may go to the big one in Cheswick later this season to see how things are there.
As for the idea of getting a table at my local show—I’ve got to do it. If just once to fulfill a life dream. Damn the torpedos and the policy wonks and the Green Police. We can’t let those thuggish tyrants and parasites keep us down in a state of fear and loathing. We’ve got to live life to the fullest and aspire for excellence and better things yet to be created.
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