Photo Courtesy: Fern’s Frogs
Written for an Editing and Design course at Suffolk County Community College.
Reptile enthusiasts from all over Long Island were lured to Suffolk County Community College’s Grant Campus for the largest reptile expo held on Long Island on March 18.
The Health, Sports, and Education Center was invaded by thousands of reptiles, amphibians, and arachnids on display and available for sale from over 150 vendors that attended. Attendees were able to purchase a wide range of different lizard, chameleon, gecko, snake, frog species and more.
The Long Island Reptile Expo is a place where reptile breeders and enthusiasts of all kinds join together to appreciate their collections of exotic animals. This includes Lynn Rech, a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator, who also breeds dart frogs under the name Fern’s Frogs. She attends the expo as part of the seven shows that she does each year, including two at Suffolk County Community College and five in White Plains.
“I enjoy teaching new hobbyists about the proper husbandry of poison dart frogs,” said Rech. “My favorite part of vending at the show is the camaraderie and time spent with friends and acquaintances.”
Fern’s Frogs began to evolve in 2008 after Rech realized she had an instant attraction to frogs.
“I purchased a red-eyed tree frog in 2008, but have never bred this species. I acquired my first dart frog in 2012. Since, my collection has grown and I have enjoyed the thrill to have bred well over 1,000 dart frogs, placing them as responsibly as possible into the caring hands of hobbyists and breeders on all levels of experience. I currently care for 28 species of Poison Dart Frogs. Luckily, they don’t all have offspring at the same time,” she said.
The event is produced by Bruce Lowder through his company Animal Encounters, who also runs wildlife education programs at schools and camps in the New York area.
“We have been producing reptile expos on Long Island since 2009,” Lowder said. “The show last Sunday was one of our busiest ever. I love that the event allows thousands of people from all backgrounds to get together and share a common love of a unique hobby.”
Mike Soltis of Dragontown Reptiles is a breeder of crested geckos who was a vendor this year and has been at every Long Island Reptile Expo past.
“I loved dinosaurs as a child and this is as close as I could get,” he said, on why he started breeding geckos. “I’m in my eighteenth season this year. I started with bearded dragons but totally switched gears when I met my first crested gecko.”
Soltis said that although he loves what he does, he’s aware of the responsibilities that come with breeding these animals and selling them at events open to the public such as the expo.
“I love talking to people and educating them on these beautiful creatures,” he said. “As with any instance where you work with the general public, you come across people who want to learn and do the right things, but you also come across those that just want an animal for the ‘cool factor’ and don’t want to truly learn what their needs are. The people represent my favorite and least favorite things about any expo. I will routinely discourage or flat deny selling to anyone I suspect does not have the best interest of the animals at heart.”
Rech also says she is aware of the responsibilities that come with breeding her poison dart frogs, whose survival are threatened by habitat loss in Central and South America.
“A special bond exists helping us keep in alignment with our common goals to protect the hobby,” she said. “We make careful decisions with the awareness of what the ripple effects could be. We are responsible stewards with a central mission of ‘doing good’ for captive bred dart frogs and their conservation.”
Anthony Martinez, known as DNA Breeders, is a veteran of the expo as well, specializing in breeding Boa Constrictors. He has been breeding for over 17 years and has attended every expo held at the Grant Campus.
“The one thing I like about these expos is the social interaction,” he said. “I sell a lot of animals online and it’s nice when you can physically talk to someone, engage in conversation, and answer any questions the consumers may have.”
While these shows are exhibitions open to all, most breeders hope to sell their animals to responsible buyers.
“The one thing I do not like is when these shows start to become almost like a petting zoo,” Martinez said. “There are major liability issues which can cause a few problems. And at the same token, we do a lot with genetics that these animals more or less become designer animals, so we would like to break even for our cost of being at the show.”
If you missed it this time around, The Long Island Reptile Expo will be coming back to the Grant Campus Oct. 21, including Fern’s Frogs, Dragontown Reptiles, and DNA Breeders.
“I truly appreciate the friends I have made along the way,” Rech said of her journey breeding frogs. “I am constantly inspired by many wonderful mentors in the hobby which helps me give back with my business.”