Teacher, reptile krewe form exotic business

Rescues are superstars of education

May 26 at 8:00 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Teacher, reptile krewe form exotic business
Iggy the partially paralyzed iguana, Nagini the four-year-old red tail boa constrictor and Amadeus the 100-pound tortoise are superstars in Barry Guillot's new exotic business.

They’re also all adopted or rescued animals, which Guillot got for assuring their previous owners they would all get a good home. And, now, they are the center of attention in the Reptile Krewe – Animal Encounters, a business that sprang out of Guillot’s nonprofit work where the animals become the feature, as well as educators, at birthday parties.

“It just brings joy to my heart,” Guillot said. “It is such a privilege to do something I love so much.”

Guillot, also a teacher at Harry Hurst Middle School and founder of the nonprofit Wetland Watchers volunteer group that also educates people about these rare animals, welcomes the opportunity to spend even more time with his pets, as well as educating people about them.

“This has been a lifetime passion of mine to teach children about these animals,” he said. “The birthday parties are affordable and help give them a home. I want to make it accessible.”

Not only are the animals interesting in themselves, but each has a story.

Iggy had been with a family seven years who loved him, but he was partially paralyzed in an accident and they couldn’t care for him. Guillot got him because he agreed to provide the care and use him in education.

“He’s living a good life,” he said. “He’s been presented to nearly a half million people since we’ve had him. When I walk in the house, he runs in his cage like a puppy dog.”Nagini the boa constrictor, named after the bad snake in the Harry Potter movie, is actually a sweetheart. At 7 feet long and 25 pounds, Guillot said she’s curious like a child and gets into everything. The snake was raised in a pet store in Bogalusa and starred in children’s programs, but the owner became sickly and could not handle the snake anymore.

Guillot’s wife found her at a reptile show.

Amadeus the tortoise is a Hurricane Katrina survivor.Guillot said it was found in New Orleans East, apparently someone’s lost pet, near death from dehydration. After considerable coaxing, Guillot finally agreed to take him in, with the tortoise weighing 75 pounds at the time it required a little thought. He weighs in at a hefty 100 pounds more than 10 years later, but he’s also considered a superstar with the children loving to feed him lettuce.

Guillot simply loves his creatures and he has many of them at his Luling home.

At the parties, the birthday girl or boy first gets “skink kisses” by an actual blue-tongued skink or lizard, which are native to Australia and Southeast Asia. Guillot said it’s like being kissed by a fruit rollup. The kiss may come from Blueberry or Boudin, who looks puffy like he’s stuffed.

At almost every party adults typically want to know when the snakes are coming so they can leave, but Guillot said he tells them they’ll end up holding one.

And they do.

“It’s always a challenge, but I really enjoy helping people get over their fear,” he said. “Some of the people say, ‘I’m scared of snakes, but the only reason I hold it is because I trust you.’ I want to keep that trust. I love it when people hold a snake and get over that fear.”

Every show begins with what Guillot calls “tails, scales and shells.”    

The “snake party” is definitely a hit with the boys. But Guillot said a girl in Thibodaux got a party and got her pick of animals by name, including the skinks and a leopard gecko. Children can go online to the Reptile Krewe Facebook page and choose the animals they want at their party.

They also have mammals, including the Norwegian giant rabbit and a hairless guinea pig that was bred in Canada. The creature has been compared to a baby hippo that Guillot said is a cuddle favorite.

While Guillot loves animals, he adores reptiles.

“They’re such cool animals,” he said. “I like petting animals and all that – like cows and sheep – but they don’t hold a candle to reptiles. Whether it’s fear or love, everybody is interested in them. They’re not slimy at all.”

For more information or to book a party, visit Reptile Krewe LLC: Animal Birthday Parties on Facebook or the website: http://www.reptilekrewe.com/party-animals.

View other articles written Anna Thibodeaux

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