Monday, July 19, 2010

On Messing with Nature (Or, This was supposed to make it better?)

I love lizards. Being a native South Floridian, I really have no other choice. I grew up with them running in my house at the call of any open door, so catching them became necessity, especially since I didn't want them to suffer a fate worse than death - being toyed with by my cats. (It's the only cruel side of felines I've seen so far.) And since my husband is not a fan of lizards, it's a good thing I am. As is my daughter. Which is why I took her today to the Miami Museum of Science. After all, it was Lizard Day!

Imagine a dog show but with lizards. And I ain't talkin' about the kind that sneak in your door and become cat prey. No, no, no. These lizards could be cat predators. So you can imagine my daughter's thrill to discover she could not only pet these reptiles but even hold them.
Holding a Bearded Dragon (this one was missing three of its feet and part of its tail because, as a baby, it had been in a cage with too many lizards and the food supply ran low. Yeah, you heard me...lizard cannibalism.)

The lizards on display included Bearded Dragons, as shown above, various breeds of Monitors...

Monitor Lizard (

...and lots of large Iguanas. How large, you ask? Well, let me show you.

This guy needed a harness, and to give you a little perspective... daughter is petting him while his owner struggles to keep his hind legs from kicking. She said it was like holding a toddler over her arm.

In addition to the lizards on display, humans were given the opportunity to "eat like lizards" (minus the tongue thrusting). Chefs were lined up stir frying worms and crickets, and small bowls of fried worms were available for snacking. For dessert, there were cookies that looked like the chocolate chip variety, except they were cricket-chip cookies. To answer the question burning in your head, NO! I did not taste any of this, but my brave daughter had a fried worm and my father (a fascinated tag-along) really like the cookies.

Now, since I've mentioned my father, I should get to the point of this post, which is the horrible discovery he and I made while touring the hall of lizards on display by proud owners.

A young man was holding a strawberry-blond colored dragon with no scales. It's called a Silkback Dragon. He invited us to touch its skin, bragging about how rare this breed was. The skin felt smooth (silky) and dry, and it had wrinkles in many spots as if the skin couldn't bounce back from having been rubbed there seconds earlier. The guy said their skin is so sensitive without its scales that you have to rub lotion on it frequently to prevent cracking and infections. He added that if the Silkback got out, it would die almost instantly. The rest of the conversation went more or less like this:

Dad: How did this breed come about?
Guy: Oh, we breed them like this?
Dad: Why?
Guy: Well, it started as an accident, while trying to improve the breed. You know, make a better gene pool.
Dad: Another lesson in why you shouldn't mess with nature.
(At this point, I'm thinking the conversation is over since Dad has ventured sarcastically into socio-political territory. But the guy doesn't get the hint.)
Guy: Oh, no. Look how beautiful they are. The color is so vibrant. We breed them like this now because they're so rare and exotic.
Dad: (incredulous) On purpose?
Me: (infuriated) Are you kidding me?
Daughter: How sad.
Guy: No, these guys go for almost $500 for an adult, $250 for a baby.
Me: This is so wrong. You made a mistake that hurts the lizard and now you're doing it on purpose?

At this point, Dad grabs my elbow and politely tries to escort me away from the man, mumbling in my ear, "Not the time to get political." I give him a look but surrender because I know it will be much more satisfying to blog about this than to take on a man with a five-pound lizard in his hand.

So here I am saying THIS IS WRONG. I'm all for stem cell research to help cure or prevent diseases, birth defects, and the sort, but causing a genetic "accident" and then intentionally propogating it because it's fasciniating and brings in big money...this is worthy of an OMG. Or an OMFG. (And I hate those acronyms. Don't get me started on LOL, or LMFAO.)

If there are any of you out there considering purchasing an exotic lizard as a pet, please, please, please make sure it has scales. A scaleless lizard is as cruel a breeding trick as is a hairless cat. (Though admittedly much more attractive. I mean, what good is a cat who can't entertain me by hacking for minutes before upchucking a hairball?)

But seriously folks, bald may be in fashion for human men these days, but men have that choice to make. (And I must say, I like it.) Lizards, on the other hand, need their scales. Don't let the uber-exotic lure you into making inhumane choices.


  1. That's like parents who know there's a 90% chance their child will be born with a serious birth defect or a rare disease and yet they go ahead anyway. I understand they love the child and take care of them, but it seems like such a cruel thing to do to the child!

  2. Wow, live and learn. So much of it seems to stem from the love of $$. I'm surprised the Museum allowed this owner to be part of the display, as though they might support his thinking.

  3. I love this post. Great photos. Good stuff.
    But I hate the cynical exploitation of animals. You should feel very proud of yourself for having spoken out against it.

    All the best, Boonsong

  4. Wendy!!!! I missed you and your awesome blog!! The scale-less lizard story is horrible. And it's cases like this that set the zealots in motion, casting doubt on a science that could cure some of humankind's worse diseases and malformations. I'm with Joanne; the Miami museum shouldn't have invited the man and his poor lizard.

    Your daughter is a beauty!! And I love that she isn't afraid to handle the lizards. She and my daughter would get along famously!

  5. Joanne~ I don't think the museum screened the owners since this was a judged show. I didn't stick around to hear who got awarded, which is probably a good thing since the Silkback might have won something, which would have pissed me off to no end.

    Nicole~ Merci! :-)

  6. That is horrible. Like the people who breed cats with no sinuses because it improves the "look." It makes me sick.

    And I LOVE lizards.

  7. Is bald really in fashion for men? My husband will be so happy. (Although, he, like the lizards, had no choice in the matter.)

  8. Ugh. Yeah, and how about we design a human with no skin--just for sh*ts and giggles. Let's see how that goes.

    As a Floridian I love lizards too. So, for the moment, I'm going to ignore my anger at cruelty to lizards and just say what a cute pic that is! :)

  9. Wow. I had no idea they'd bread scaleless lizards for money. I still have trouble understanding why people would buy any lizard, scales or scaleless! :)

  10. DeAr Mrs RAmmerlady,
    Thank yoo for dufending me and yelling at da stoopid guy holding me and calling me rar and eggsotic. I wanna cum live wif you. Yor dotter can put loshun on me all day and never make me reeproduce.
    Dat guy wuz an idiot. I luv you.

  11. Wendy You are such a wise Mom and a great role model!!!