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Reptiles invade Farmingdale State College

A Panther Chameleon was one of the more

A Panther Chameleon was one of the more than 100 animals on display at the 22nd Annual Reptile and Amphibian Expo held at Farmingdale State College on Saturday. (Nov. 12, 2011) Credit: Ursula Moore

Growing up surrounded by snapping turtles and snakes in his backyard in Seaford left a lasting impression on John Heiser.

It is the place where his fondness for reptiles began.

”I loved playing back there. It was great,” Heiser said.

Now as vice president for the Long Island Herpetological Society, Heiser gets to interact with these creatures everyday and he absolutely loves it. He is also the Environmental Research Engineer for Brookhaven National Laboratory.

As one of the educators, Heiser was thrilled to discuss the importance of proper animal care at the 22nd Annual Reptile and Amphibian Expo held at Famingdale State College on Saturday.

The event featured at least 100 snakes, geckos, turtles, frogs and salamanders. The expo was created after a group of reptile lovers decided they wanted to inform the public about the significance of taking care of reptiles and amphibians.

“Most people don’t realize that many reptiles and amphibians have simple needs. A corn snake, for example needs much less maintenance than a cat or dog,” said Heiser. “Education is our main theme and then conservation. Don’t just buy an animal because it’s cute, learn about it.”

Eric Powers, environmental educator with the herpetological society, agreed.

“Our message is responsible pet care,” Powers said. “We educate people how to properly take care of their animals.”

The price range for the reptiles and amphibians sold at the expo ranged from $15 for a corn snake to $5,000 for a ball python.

As first-place winner for the children’s tortoise division for his Sri Lanka Star Tortoise, 7-year-old Jake Siffert couldn’t be happier.

“I like turtles. They are cute,” the West Islip boy said.

Tom Kennedy, of Patchogue, owns eight snakes and six lizards and admits that reptiles are creatures that are easy to love.

“I grew up with these animals and my love for them from childhood never left,” he said. “They are things of beauty.”

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