reptile-expo

Sexism and elitism in the reptile industry.

WARNING: LONG TEXT POST

I know we have talked about this a number of times before, but I wanted to touch base on this again using my experience from last weekends expo now that I have some time to sit down and talk about it.

I had the privilege of taking with me my friend Scott, who knows little to nothing about reptiles, and my friend Rie who is a bird person. The expo actually went swimmingly for the most part, until I stopped at the booth belonging to Vince Russo. He may be more recognizable to people as the author of The Complete Boa. From what I have heard, a lot of people have had some very enjoyable experiences with this guy– healthy animals delivered to them, comprehensive answers given when asked questions, etc. My personal experience with him really wasn’t as nice, but it wasn’t inherently terrible, and I’ll get into that in a moment.

I had been eyeballing his table for a while because I was tentatively considering picking something up and I had heard through the grapevine that he was starting to really actually get into Sumatran Short Tails and I wanted to take a peek at what he might have. What I noticed first was a pair of girls approaching him, one asking something about one of the boas, saying that it looked similar to another morph she had seen. He straightened up, and with the most condescending tone I had heard in a while, not only corrected her but proceeded to talk to her like she was a child.

Then I approached.

My friend Scott was closer to Vince and was asking questions and our friendly author of The Complete Boa spoke to him very enthusiastically. He answered all of his questions professionally and pleasantly. I was standing a few feet away with Rie because I spotted a pair of SSTPs. One muddy male with yellow casting and a female with several kinks in her lower spine. They are labeled “BLACK BLOODS.” I say to Rie, “this is actually something to pay attention to because it can confuse people. There’s no such thing as a black blood, they’re Sumatran short tails. Same as the term Borneo bloods, Python breitensteini is a different species than brongersmai.”

Vince Russo cuts in and very loudly states “Borneo is Python BREITENSTEINI.” To which I very curtly said, “Yeah, I’m aware, I just said that, but thanks.”

He proceeded to tell me about how I should buy his P. curtus, but to keep in mind that he is only selling lone males. “I’m not selling any lone females” he says as I look down at the female, who has kinks down 1/3 of her body and despite that is listed at the same price as the male. I politely told him that I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to buy anything at all and he cut me off and said even louder “you won’t find them anywhere else. I’m the only guy I know who breeds them. You need to get them while you can.”

Me, being the asshole that I am, told him that I can name ten off of the top of my head and he claimed he’s never heard of any of them, including Kara Norris which I find very hard to believe.

This really does not seem like that big of a deal and in reality it’s not– I had very pleasant conversations with Mike Schultz of Outback Reptiles and his girlfriend who was so, so happy to introduce people to blood pythons and discuss the difference in temperament from CH, WC and CBB offspring. I bring this up because I’m seeing a LOT of new younger women start to become interested in the hobby and micro-aggressive behavior like what Vincent Russo displayed is so prevalent in the community. Had I not known better, if I were more ignorant and not as immersed in the hobby, I might have listened to Russo and bought that cheap, low quality Sumatran short tail without looking into other options, etc.

I talk about this every single time I go to an expo because it’s so important for women, girls, and just generally people who are new to the hobby to be aware and take everything you hear with a grain of salt. Some people will flat out lie to you, others will belittle you. I have had the experience of a breeder blatantly disallowing me from holding a large constrictor because he didn’t think I could “handle it.” I’ve had vendors try to outright slander the name of other breeders in good standing with the community in an effort to complete a sale.

I watched one young man end up buying what was very obviously an unhealthy bearded dragon that was showing a number of MBD symptoms to be told that “that’s normal” and “sometimes they just look like that.”


Please, please, please be aware of what is going on around you. Do not tolerate being treated like a child by vendors if you have questions. I will be honest and say that most of my interactions with vendors at expos are great and I meet a lot of awesome people. But the people who AREN’T great, the people who will lie or bring unhealthy animals to expos or treat people with no respect are the people that we need to weed the hell out of the hobby.

End rant.

One thing I’d love to see more breeders in the reptile industry normalise is quarantining new animals.
It seems to be a kind of unspoken thing where saying you bought an animal from someone & then quarantining it is like possibly accusing that breeder of having unhealthy animals. Has anyone else noticed that?

To me, I think it’s just good practise to quarantine any new animals as though they were potentially contagious. I mean hey, even if the breeder sent off a healthy animal, it could have picked something up in transit, especially if it were bought at a show or expo. If I were to potentially sell a gecko I’d bred someday & during its quarantine spell the new owner noticed something wrong & let me know I’d be grateful (& a little ashamed probably!) - if I’d missed something with my animals & something were wrong I’d now have the opportunity to fix it. I’ve been thinking of buying fecal float tests so I can check each new animal I get as they come in, but I need to do more research & find out how accurate they are & what exactly they test for.

So many animals end up resold a few times throughout their lives in this hobby, think of how many times it would have potentially been exposed to something! Even established breeders need to occasionally buy in fresh genes, there’s a constant flow of animals through most collections.
I still see many breeders pairing new animals almost as soon as they arrive because they’re excited for new eggs or they want to feel reimbursed for what they spent on the parent animal as soon as possible. Either way it just isn’t worth the risk, & whatever you spent on the new animal, it’s definitely a better idea not to risk having to treat all the animals in your care by exposing them.
What do you guys think?

Hey here’s an update no one asked for.

Apparently leaf insects and praying mantids are illegal to keep as pets where I live so that plan backfired on me.

So I’m working on the crested gecko plan again…and…wait for it….maybe a Kenyan sand boa!!! I’ve researched their space requirements and a sand boa tank could fit in my spot. So, because I still live at home, I’m back trying to convince my parents to let me get another pet. Stay tuned until the expo (August 26) to see what I pick!!

An important sign at the expo: “Please be aware that these cages are NOT the full time residences of these animals, they are in the smaller containers so that they might be transported here and put on display for your close up viewing.”

Reptile expos aren’t just for buying and selling. There’s a lot you can learn at one and I think it’s great they had an adult Burm (15'8") there for people to see what those pretty little babies grow up like. Seeing these animals up close promotes responsible ownership- hearing “they get big” and seeing one for yourself are two very different things! Remember when you see show pictures: those small spaces are NOT their homes. They’re just temporary space.