The Next Steve Irwin: Reptiles, Education, & our Duty

Authored by Brandon Fowler of Roaming Reptiles

Education and Reptile Outreach

When I was young my dad brought home two king snakes. I know that’s where my passion started. Something about watching and touching them changed me. Many years later I bought my first reptile. It was a leopard gecko, I never thought about breeding them heck I didn’t even know people did that for a living.

Few years later, I went to my first reptile show and it blew me away! I had never seen that many animals on one spot before. I left with two new geckos and thought, I wanted to be a breeder. Not once did education, come to mind. I was dead set on being a breeder and making big money.

I have been through the breeding of geckos, ball pythons, and yes I have sold a few, but something happened later that would change my life forever.

It was my daughter’s birthday, we wanted to do something special for her and her classroom. My wife contacted a company here in town called Roaming Reptiles. They did educational shows about reptiles. How cool is that? After the show I was in awe of these guys and what they did. They talked about each animal, where they are from, what they would eat. Looking at the faces of these kids changed everything for me. I knew what I wanted to do now, but didn’t know how to go about it.

About 3 years later I got a e-mail from the owner of Roaming Reptiles. What was in this e-mail changed my life. The owner was moving and could not continue  with Roaming Reptiles. He went on to ask if I would like to take it over. After working out all the details it was time to do my first show. After the first show I was hooked. I no longer wanted to be a “big breeder” I had something much bigger in mind.

I wanted to educate people about our animals. I found my purpose in this hobby and I couldn’t be happier.

With all the laws that groups are trying to pass, the time is now for education. It  bothers me to see some of these “big breeders” talk about these laws and saying we should sign this and sign that. It’s time to put on our big boy/girl pants reptile nation. You want to make a change and show people how wonderful our animals are? Get out and do something! It doesn’t matter if you own 1 leopard gecko or 1000. Do you have a snake? If so you have the tools to help. Talk to a teacher and tell them you would like to bring a reptile to the classroom and share it with students. 30 minutes of your time could change the life of one of those kids. It sickens me to see some of these breeders that won’t talk to others about reptiles unless they buy something from them.

That one kid you didn’t take 5 minutes with, could be the next Steve Irwin and you just blew him or her off.

I get phone calls all the time from kids and parents that just want to learn about these animals. Yes I have had times where I didn’t want to talk to anyone. But this is the path I chose. I take those phone calls and look forward to them. We have many people who go out everyday and teach people about these awesome animals but when you read any forum you never see them. You only see what the newest morph of something is, that’s a shame. Lets take a step back from trying to be the “cool kid” in class and being the first to do something and let’s teach these kids about the animals in our hobby. Seeing a kids face when he/she sees a reptile for the first time will by far be the most rewarding thing you will do in this hobby.