Cobra collector and Repticon convention spokesman Jason VanderWaal says he knows.
“To them their venom is valuable,” VanderWaal said in a phone interview. “They use it to eat their food and most times they’re not going to waste their venom (by biting a person).”
Repticon, billed as one of the country’s largest reptile and exotic animal conventions, will make its regional debut Saturday and Sunday at the Ramada Reno Downtown Hotel & Casino. VanderWaal said the show will feature as many as 2,500 different species of reptile and arachnid, and attendees will be able to go home with a new pet or just marvel at all the various creatures on display.
“It’s a family-friendly show with seminars to educate people on different types of reptiles, husbandry and all that kind of stuff,” he said, adding that the Reno show will not include any venomous animals.
Particularly excited are the members of the Reno Herpetological Society, referred to simply as the Reno Herp Society. President Justin Meitz said the group will have a booth at the convention where visitors will be able to have their picture taken with Princess, who was rescued by the Herp Society and then adopted by one of its members. She will be available for anyone brave enough to hold her and have a professional portrait taken.
A former elementary school teacher who has gone back to college for his master’s degree, Meitz said he would use snakes and spiders to teach his pupils about nature. He said all the children have permission from their parents to handle the creatures, though they exhibit much less fear than do moms and dads.
“The kids hold him and it’s interesting to find out when they’re a kid they’re completely fine with it and as adults they have this fear that comes out,” Meitz said of his pet tarantula, another of his teaching aids. “I’m not sure why it comes out but it does. That’s what I try to do with the kids: teach them that they’re are not super scary and aggressive.”
In addition to the tarantula, Meitz owns a green tree python and his wife, Megan, has a Bolivian boa constrictor. He said incorporating the animals in his curriculum not only has taught his students but also inspired some of them to acquire pet snakes of their own.
Meitz started the club about four months ago and it already has about 60 members and nine sponsors, he said. VanderWall said Repticon has been in existence for about 10 years, largely on the East Coast, and has grown in that time to more than 30 shows a year.
Repticon runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday (VIP entry starts at 9 a.m.) and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission costs $10 for adults, $5 for children age 5 to 12 and free for age 4 and younger. A two-day VIP ticket for adults costs $12 online or $15 at the door, and $5 for chlildren. For tickets and more information, visit www.repticon.com/reno.html or www.renoherpsociety.com.