Deep in the bowels of a century-old stone building is a room few outsiders dare to enter. Scales, spikes, fuzzy skins, and blue tongues adorn strange beasts living in the oddly-scented heat. Keepers take regular delivery of living creatures to be tossed into the beasts’ quarters for them to feed on.
Men and women draw back from contact with the creatures. Children, especially boys, challenge each other to reach out a trembling hand and touch them. Gasp! Run!
Where is this dreaded place?
It’s the Live Room in the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto Canada.
Who are the brave keepers?
One of them is Amy Lathrop, a technician in the Herpetology department. She introduced myself and a few friends to the residents of the Live Room.
Amy loves reptiles.
You can see it in how gently she handles them, in how much she knows about them. She’s been on expedition to Vietnam to study and co-author research papers on them.
And she’s very nice! Not weird at all! Honest.
See that snake headed her way? He really, really likes her. It can sense when she’s in the room. Huh!
Did you know that pythons and constrictors have vestigial hips and legs at the base of their long, long, long spines? You can see a tiny claw on either side of their last rib.
How’s that for an idea for your next paranormal story?
This dragon-guy’s spines are pliable when he’s not puffed up in self-defense. How could you not love that?
This soft little cutie drops off her tail to wiggle around as a decoy while she makes her escape to a safe zone.
And here’s that way wicked blue tongue. Look close. It really is blue. Trust me. I was there.
Oh, the live food? That would be the crickets kept on hand to feed some of the reptiles.
So, on this Valentine’s Day, where do you find somebody to love? Somebody that’s a little on the… shall we say non-standard… side?
© Joan Leacott 2012, photos by Andy McCraw