Reptile Pete charms kids and adults with his show of snakes, lizards, and dragons –
Story and photos by Patricia Beech –
Cutline 3: It takes this whole group of uneasy young men to handle this Yellow Albino Python during a special presentation on Monday at the Peebles Library
Cutline 4: Though with perhaps a little trepidation, this young lady handles a 20-lb. African Tortoise.
Young people at the Seaman and Peebles library branches on Monday, July 25 were treated to a visit from Reptile Pete Rushton and his collection of exotic animals. Children sat wide-eyed on the floor, surrounding the native Australian as he introduced several tropical reptiles, inviting the youngsters to touch and hold the animals.
The species in Rushton’s menagerie included a black and orange corn snake from the southeastern United States; a three-year old yellow albino Burmese python; a Russian tortoise; a twenty pound African tortoise; a bearded dragon from Australia; and a blue-tongued skink from Australia and Indonesia.
Rushton features his unique collection of tropical animals in over 450 shows a year across southern Ohio. “Being comfortable with reptiles comes down to knowledge,” he says. “If you’re passionate about something, you’ll learn everything you can about it, you make yourself familiar with things like the animal’s temperament and feeding habits.”
Rushton’s interest in animals has been a life-long adventure. “I took my own sons, Peter and Taylor, to creeks and ravines to search for reptiles when they were young,” he said. “We started our own collection, and my sons would take them to school to share with their teachers and other students.”
After spending nearly three decades in the corporate world, Rushton left his six-figure job behind in 2003 to pursue his dream of working with animals and children.
“I’ve been able to mesh my passions together and do something I love every day of the week,” he says. “Kids respond very well to this program, they really listen once you get their attention and get them focused.”
All of Rushton’s animals are captive bred, and he impresses upon children the importance of not removing animals from their native environment. “Because of animals being on the endangered list, or diminishing because of changes in their habitats, anyone who wants a pet should buy only those bred in captivity,” he says.
The animals featured in the P.T. Reptiles Show are all native to tropical climates, and are kept in cages, behind two locked doors, in a fully ventilated, climate-controlled environment set at 87 degrees year-round.