Anna Royer’s pets are anything but common

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) – Not everyone may appreciate Anna Royer’s choice for “pets.”

“My father’s mother loved animals and she passed that love on to him,” Royer said. “From a young age he would catch king snakes, frogs and turtles and bring them in. Growing up, he kept bringing them in, although mom is still afraid of snakes. My siblings and I loved it.”

Royer began collecting exotic animals and reptiles at the age of 11. Now 24, she has turned her hobby into a colorful and unusual sideline, weighing scales.

“I understand that reptiles don’t show affection the way a dog does,” Royer said, “but I love them. I am fascinated to learn about them and each has their own personality, level of intelligence or lack thereof.”

Royer’s reptile menagerie includes panther chameleons, corn snakes, crested, tokay, day and leopard geckos, an Amphiuma salamander, a uromastyx, a tegu, a Russian tortoise, red-eyed green and Australian white tree frogs, a bearded dragon, a Cuvier’s gecko dwarf caiman; three Burmese pythons and three boa snakes.

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So far, the creatures have been a hit at birthday parties, library presentations, and other venues.

“Poison dart frogs are only dangerous in the wild,” Royer points out. “In captivity, they don’t eat poisonous plants that pose a threat.”

While she is respectful of all her reptiles, she is especially respectful – and careful – of her immature 9-foot Burmese python.

Most animals are kept in a separate structure.

“Oden the albino teju is very intelligent,” said Royer. “He’s four years old and about a meter long, including his tail. He’s really good at using his tongue. It detects the smells of rodents, fish, eggs or other meat. He also knows how our hands smell.”

Her panther chameleons are the most popular with the audience.

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“They are full of personality, real show boats with their bright colours, slow movements and long tongues. Mine like to be let out of cages to explore. When they’re done, they head home.”

A novice reptile owner might look at the leopard gecko or the bearded dragon to ease their way into this animal kingdom. The leopard gecko does not require much space and lives long periods in captivity, being active at dusk when most people are home. The bearded dragon is gregarious and receptive to handling when done properly. The pygmy caiman is the smallest and most primitive of the alligator family, but looks as menacing as any alligator.

“Before anyone considers owning a reptile, it’s important to do some research, choose the right breeder, set up the right enclosure, and know what to feed your pet,” Royer said. “Some of these pets will live 20 years or more.”

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Royer’s grocery bill can be high, about $700 for three months of mass-market groceries.

“Iguanas and turtles are complete herbivores,” she said, “and their diet consists of more than just iceberg lettuce. Spinach can give them thyroid problems and too much of certain vitamins is not good for them.”

Her oldest pet and her son’s favorite animal is Fat Daddy the iguana, who is estimated to be between 16 and 18 years old.

Royer often hears the phrase “The only good snake is a dead snake,” but she doesn’t get discouraged.

Her endgame is to own and run a small zoo enclosure that would allow her to make a living doing what she loves, add to her scale collection, collect interesting stories to educate and entertain others, reptile owners Teaching responsibility and heartily sharing their fascination with their cold-blooded companions.

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