Ok, here’s the thing: I love amphibians and reptiles. As anyone who knows me well will be able to testify, Natterjack toads get me all gooey-eyed and newts make me practically weak at the knees! Sadly you see less and less of them all the time in the UK as habitats are uprooted and ponds dry up, so I’m always up for an opportunity to meet some lovely snakes, lizards or frogs.
Today I had thought of going to the Nature Centre (again) but it was raining (again). I decided instead to go to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery but it was pelting down so hard that I decided instead to check out a shop called ‘Weird ‘N’ Wonderful’ about 2 minutes’ walk from my parents’ house in Moseley, Birmingham. And then yeah, a load of snakes happened. Weird ‘N’ Wonderful has only been open for a few weeks and specialises in… well, the more unusual end of the creature spectrum! They have tons of reptiles, plus rats, gerbils, rabbits, hedgehogs and even a shop owl!
I loved the shop, not just because they have tons of awesome animals, but also because they’re very big on rehoming animals that they get from refuges. Sadly, a lot of people buy reptiles without first doing research on them and, while a Burmese python may just be a little cute thing when it’s a baby, when it grows to 18 feet long people start to get less fond of them and chuck them out. It makes me so angry. I held one of the shop pythons, a lovely lady bizarrely named Radox, and she was nice as pie (if a wee bit weighty).
The owners were so lovely, and totally game for me to hold ALL their amazing animals! The most remarkable of the snakes I held was a salmon pastel boa named Mildred (aaaw!). She was smaller than Radox the python, but I’d remarked to the owner that Radox felt incredibly muscular. ‘You think she’s muscular, have a feel of one of the boas!’ he replied, handing me yet another beautiful snake. I’d never held a boa before, but I could see what he meant immediately. As soon as I had her in my hands Mildred wrapped herself round my arm and SQUEEZED. It was like being in the doctor’s and having a blood pressure test! The muscles on that relatively small snake were just phenomenal to feel. She was obviously not being aggressive, just giving herself a good base from which to let her upper body explore the surroundings.
Boas’ muscles are arranged along their bodies width-ways, one after the other, and not – as some people think – legthways along the body. This gives them greater opportunity for constriction when they are wrapped around their prey; as soon as the prey takes a breath, the network of muscles pull in tighter to prevent the animal from taking another. However, though people tend to think that boas suffocate their prey, the latest research actually shows that death is usually caused by their constriction making blood vessels in the prey’s body burst, and the prey haemorrhaging internally. Nice! Mildred was obviously a nice friendly lady though, and I liked her very much. Apparently their common boa, however, a giant sleepy lad by the name of George, could put the same amount of pressure on a person’s chest as would be caused by the weight of a small truck. Yikes!
I also got to meet some lovely monitors.
Tigger is a bosc monitor, and a very lively lad! Apparently he was named Tigger because he likes to bounce around. He’s fully grown and very friendly. Apparently his previous owners didn’t know how to look after him and for the first twelve months of his life he was only fed boiled eggs, poor wee lad, so he has some scarring on his back. He is a very healthy bouncing boy now though, and we hit it off enormously. The owners have also acquired a black-throated monitor called Titch. He was one of only four black-throated monitors up for sale in the UK and, while currently he’s a little smaller than Tigger, he will eventually grow to about 7 foot long. BLIMEY.
In the wild, black-throated monitors will dig burrows to live and lay their eggs in, though they are also diurnal. They will also eat just about any animal they can subdue but – like snakes – this doesn’t mean they don’t make good pets. Obviously you should not keep a wild black-throated, that would be horribly cruel, but a captive-bred monitor won’t know the difference if it has grown up being fed meat by you rather than taking down rats and birds. You can also apparently walk them on a lead and harness in warm weather! I’m not sure how this would go down in my local park, to be honest, especially if it was fully-grown. It’s probably the closest you’d come to taking a dinosaur for a walk!
I then spent a wee while meeting even more lovely animals!
What a great day! I was taken on a very in-depth tour of the shop by the owners’ daughter (who makes all the animals’ houses herself out of Lego), and was really impressed at the dedication of owners Melissa and Tom to rehousing neglected reptiles and other animals. They also give animal education talks to schools – taking the snakes, of course! – to promote good animal care and learning. Very impressive indeed!
Here is the website for the shop – http://www.weirdnwonderfulltd.co.uk/
Thanks a lot for a great time, guys!