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 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/)
...and lots of large Iguanas. How large, you ask? Well, let me show you.
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?
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.