By Janelle Pottinger and Virain Palta
At the core of the gymnasium, stacked on a table, two coral pythons swerve and turn inside of transparent plexiglass boxes. Two stalls away a similar box, bedded with soil, encloses a couple of lizards with scales the color of rocks, coiled around each other.
On Sunday October 20th, Suffolk County hosted its largest Reptile Expo with over 150 vendors. The Reptile Expo gives both experienced and prospective pet owners a chance to meet with vendors and breeders to learn about reptiles. Most of the animals on display have been breeded by the vendors and come from a long line of reptiles that lived as pets.
“This is going to be number eight,” Rafael Cabral, an attendee of the event accompanied by his daughter Amelia said about his new boa python which was wrapped in a linen cloth. He attended with his daughter who held on to a small roach of her own and looked around at the reptiles in the glass enclosures. “I didn’t have snakes when I had her I just got into them because she liked them,” he said gesturing at his daughter. “She learned about them through the internet and YouTube and that’s how I got them because they are easy to have and breed.”
Cabral was one of the hundreds of people who attended the reptile expo hosted in Suffolk. This was the largest reptile expo ever held on Long Island with more than 150 vendors displaying their reptiles and selling them to customers as pets.
“A lot of the animals you see at these expos are captive bred and they are many generations of being bred as pets and their needs are pretty well known.” Bruce Lowder, the manager for the expos, said. He has helped organize the events for the past 30 years.
“I used to work at a nature center before this and I went to a reptile expo in Pennsylvania and went off on my own and started doing this,” Lowder said. “We now do five a year in White Plains, Manchester NH and New York. Coming up, we’re doing a mega expo in White Plains and opening up a second floor of the building.”
He said he enjoys these expos because it brings together a community of reptile lovers, which he said to him is a small number of the population. However, at these expos, everyone “is into” reptiles and can share the common interest.
Vendors have also used this opportunity to bring more exposure to their business because it brings new reptile owners and regular ones to find a different place to buy items for their pets such as food, tanks, bulbs and many other essentials to care for reptiles
“We do our best to inform people and answer their questions and set them up with animals that they want and are able to take care of,” Curtiss Nichols, from Mythical Exotics, said. Nichols mainly sells ball pythons.
“My mom does business at the expos, but I kind of see it as a hobby for her and we basically sell dragons. We have too many reptiles at home,” Kyler Sung,whose parents breed and sell dragons and lizards at these expos and own multiple reptiles as pets, said.
A few of the attendees at the Suffolk show bought new pets or accessories and nourishment for their older pets “I bought two geckos here, one male and female,”Brandon Braithwaite, an attendee at the expo, said. I have a lot more at home, I have Vietnamese frogs, Poison dart frogs, yellow spotted night lizards, mourning geckos and a dog.” After a long day of reptile shopping which started at 9:30 in the morning to 4:00 in the afternoon, a few of the attendees have been to other reptile expos and are the reason the reptile lovers community is alive and kicking.