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LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) — Not everyone may like Anna Royer’s choice in “pets.”

“My dad’s mother loved animals and she passed that love on to him,” Royer said. “From an early age he would catch king snakes, frogs and turtles and bring them back. When we grew up he kept bringing them back, even though mom was still terrified of snakes. My siblings and I loved it .

Royer started collecting exotic animals and reptiles when he was 11 years old. Now 24, she has turned her hobby into a colorful and uncommon side hustle, scales.

“I understand that reptiles don’t show their affection the way a dog does,” Royer said, “but I love them. I’m fascinated to learn about them and each has their own personality, their own degree intelligence or lack thereof.

Royer’s menagerie of reptiles includes panther chameleons, corn snakes, crested, tokay, day and leopard geckos, amphiuma salamander, uromastyx, tegu, Russian tortoise, red-eyed green tree frogs and white tree frogs from Australia, a bearded dragon, a dwarf caiman Cuvier’s frog; three Burmese pythons and three boa snakes.

So far, the creatures are a hit at birthday parties, library presentations, and other venues.

“Poison frogs are only dangerous in the wild,” Royer points out. “In captivity, they don’t eat poisonous plants which are dangerous.”

While she’s respectful of all her reptiles, she’s especially respectful — and careful — in handling her nine-foot, yet-to-be-adult Burmese python.

Most animals are kept in a separate structure.

“Oden, the albino blue tegu, is very intelligent,” Royer said. “He’s four years old and about four feet long, including the tail. He is really good at using his tongue. It detects odors from rodents, fish, eggs or other meat. He also knows what our hands feel.

His panther chameleons are the most popular with the public.

“They are full of personality, real showboats with their vibrant colors, slow movements and long tongues. Mine love being taken out of cages to explore. When they’re done, they go home. »

A novice reptile owner might watch the leopard gecko or bearded dragon make their way through this animal kingdom. The leopard gecko does not need a lot of space and lives a long time in captivity. It is active at dusk and dawn when most people are at home. The bearded dragon is sociable and receptive to handling, when done correctly. The dwarf caiman is the smallest and most primitive species of the alligator family, but it looks as menacing as any alligator.

“Before anyone considers keeping a reptile, it’s important to do your research, choose the right breeder, set up the right enclosure, and know what to feed your pet,” Royer said. “Some of these pets will live 20 years or more.”

Royer’s food bill can be high, around $700 for three months’ worth of food from the bulk market.

“Iguanas and turtles are complete herbivores,” she said, “and their diet isn’t limited to iceberg lettuce. Spinach can give them thyroid problems and too much of certain vitamins aren’t good for them.

His oldest pet, and his son’s favorite, is Fat Daddy, the iguana who is estimated to be between 16 and 18 years old.

Royer often hears the sentiment, “The only good snake is a dead snake,” but she isn’t discouraged.

Her end game is to own and operate a small zoo enclosure that would allow her to earn a living doing what she loves, adding to her collection of scales, accumulating interesting stories to educate and entertain others , teaching the responsibility of reptile owners and warmly sharing his fascination. with her cold-blooded companions.