At the Russell Fall Fair, one of the attractions was a reptile show presented by Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo. I have to admit, I have a preference for the warm and fuzzy, but there’s nevertheless something fascinating about these creatures that look like holdovers from the age of dinosaurs.
The show was presented by Kevin with the help of his assistant handler. The reptiles are kept in opaque containers and brought out one at a time. Kevin gave an interesting talk about each of the reptiles on show. Kevin told us that he’s known as ‘Caiman’ Kevin because of his love for Caimans and the first animal presented was a small Dwarf Caiman (Paleosuchus palpebrosus). The Dwarf Caiman is a crocodilian from northern and central South America. It’s latin name, Paleosuchus, means ‘ancient crocodile’. It generally prefers clean, fast-flowing stretches of river. Although small by crocodile standards, males still grow to be about 4 feet long.
The Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus) is also found in Central and South America. Very adaptable, it can tolerate salt water, as well as fresh, and these crocodilians can be found in a range of wetland and river habitats, preferring still waters. Its common name comes from a bony ridge between the eyes, which gives the appearance of a pair of spectacles. Males can reach 2 to 2.5 meters, while females are smaller, usually around 1.4 meters. It’s considered a small to medium-sized crocodilian.
The next reptile was a snake, a very large snake. The anaconda (Eunectes murinus) lives in tropical South America. It is non-venomous. Kevin assured us that it only constricts to kill the prey that it eats, not out of fear or aggression, and would be much too sensible to try to crush a human. Anacondas can grow up to 17 feet or so. This one tried to crawl up the handler’s shirt sleeve. Very loveable.
Then we were back to crocs. This West African Dwarf Crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis) was named Jaws. At under 2 metres long, Dwarf Crocodiles are the smallest true crocodiles in the world. They’re found primarily in the swamps and slow-moving freshwaters of west-central African rainforests. These crocs are heavily hunted and the wild population is listed as ‘vulnerable’.
Crackers, the Nile Monitor (Varanus niloticus), was quite a handful. He was more restless than his reptile buddies, and with sharp claws and a powerful body, wasn’t easy to hang on to. Nile Monitors are the largest of the monitor lizards and can get to be 7 feet long. They are mostly aquatic, but are also good climbers and fast runners on land. They feed on a variety of fish, snails, frogs, crocodile eggs and young, snakes, birds, small mammals, and large insects. Nile Monitors live throughout Africa except for desert regions.
Last, but certainly not least, was Crusher, the American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), a native of the southeastern United States. Florida and Louisiana currently have the largest population of alligators. Florida has an estimated population of 1 to 1.5 million while Louisiana has an estimated population of 1.5 to 2 million. Males grow much larger than females and can get to be 1000 pounds and 14 feet long, while females range between 200 and 300 pounds and about 9 feet long. The name alligator is derived from the Spanish el lagarto which means “the lizard”. Crusher was quite cooperative. Kevin wrapped his jaws with tape for safety, and then kids could come up and touch Crusher or have their photo taken with him. It was an interesting and enjoyable show.