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Posted by W von Papinešu on March 09, 2003 at 21:26:11:
MUNSTER TIMES (Indiana) 08 March 03 Lizards and gators and snakes! Oh My! (Deborah Gorman)
Photo: Zak Piekarski, left, and Daniel Ramey hold a small alligator as students at St. John Lutheran learn first-hand about reptiles on Friday. (Tracy Albano)
Lansing: Students at St. John Lutheran School had a hands-on encounter of the cold-blooded kind Friday when they came face-to-face with the reptilian critters that Jim Nesci calls friends.
Nesci, whose home is near Tinley Park, has been sharing his love of animals with the public since 1952.
During the show, he introduced his pets to the audience as "ambassadors from the reptile world."
While these smaller ambassadors were transported in large plastic carriers, the show's main attraction was brought in a huge cloth sack.
At eight-feet long, the 14-year-old, 225-pound alligator known affectionately as "Bubba," is not cage material. Nesci demonstrated how well-trained, obedient and docile Bubba really is by allowing children to ride on his back.
Nesci urged everyone to remember three things about his beasts: None of them is poisonous, they don't bite and they're user-friendly. His audience eagerly accepted that, gradually crowding the display arena. Everyone wanted to touch, and many had a chance to do it.
Tank, a 60-pound African spurred tortoise, was placed on several laps. He seemed to enjoy the little fingers scratching the top of his head and almost appeared to be smiling for one of the cameras.
A team of students had the opportunity to hold Blondie, the albino Burmese python. At a modest 13 feet and 80 pounds, she could reach an adult size of 20 feet and 300 pounds.
Although Blondie is a beautiful specimen, some people simply don't like snakes. Fourth-grader Lizzie Doe is one of them.
Having volunteered herself for an unknown job, she was asked by Nesci to blindly put her hand into a cloth bag and pull out what was inside. She refused because, as she said later, "I thought it was a snake."
So her father, Tom, was asked to do it. What awaited him was not a snake, but a large monitor lizard named Godzilla.
"I did it because knew I wouldn't be asked to do something that wasn't safe," Tom said.
Nesci's presentation sorting reptilian fact from fiction has helped him become rather well-known. He and his animals have appeared on "The Jay Leno Show" as well as "The Today Show" and "Early Edition." He's also been on "Oprah" with Steve Irwin, the crocodile hunter.
"Steve Irwin flew Bubba and me on a private plane to the opening of his new movie," he said. At the premier of "Crocodile Hunter - Collision Course," Irwin said Bubba was more or less the "official greeter," a prop that everyone could meet.
Photo at URL
Wes Query: Umm ... not that I'm an authority on your critters (or anything else for that matter), but it's hard to tell from the photo if the gator's mouth is secured. Should it be in that situation? Inquiring minds want to know. Thanks, Wes