Leapin’ lizards, slithering snakes and creepy crawlies make their way to this weekend’s Tucson Reptile & Amphibian Show & Sale.
So will alligators. Spiders. All sorts of bugs. And a petting zoo, and face-painters, too.
The 12-year-old show will feature thousands of exotic and not-so-exotic critters that scare us as often as they fascinate us, says Dr. Mark Wolfson, the show’s founder who, when he isn’t practicing medicine on humans, breeds leopard tortoises in his Tucson backyard.
Wolfson is quick to point out that these are not critters that are caught and sold.
“These are all bred; we take nothing from the wild, which ensures wild populations aren’t being hurt,” says Wolfson, who used to breed snakes before he switched to those hard-shelled tortoises.
In addition, a portion of the proceeds will go to the nonprofit The Biodiversity Group, which works to preserve wildlife.
Vendors from around the country attend the show to hawk their wares. Last year, about 10,000 people stopped in to gawk and ooh, and sometimes buy. “About one-third of the show is elaborate exhibits of exotic animals from around the world,” says Wolfson.
Think big monitor lizards. Albino alligators. Poisonous tree frogs that lose their poison when bred in captivity. Big — really, really big — pythons. The list goes on.
“The reptile display is comparable to the San Diego Zoo,” he says.
The remaining two-thirds of the show is made up of vendors who sell their exotic creatures (and will have them on hand), educational booths, and even made-from-animal wares from Recycled Roadkill — the name clues you in on where the company gets its material for its wallets and belts.
There will also be a petting zoo where kids can pet a python, cradle a croc, or frolic with a frog (sorry; the alliteration just felt right).
The poisonous reptiles will be on view behind secured glass. No petting those pit vipers, please.
And don’t expect to buy a venomous snake.
“In Arizona, you can not own or possess exotic, poisonous animals,” says Wolfson. “We sell no venomous animals at the show.”
If the idea of wandering through 50,000-square-feet of space devoted to animals many of us run from doesn’t appeal, Wolfson suggests you think again.
“Most people, if they don’t come in as reptile lovers,” he says, “they leave that way.”