They’re creepy, they’re crawly and they are covered in scales. But people love them, so Cherry Lane Shopping Centre has invited Mike Hopcraft, the Reptile Guy, back for another visit to the mall, along with a few of his friends.
Following up on the first event last November, Hopcraft is organizing another Rally for Reptiles at the mall, in support of his rescue efforts and shelter, which contains about a hundred snakes and exotic animals.
So he’s bringing representatives of his hundred snakes, lizards, tortoises and other exotic animals to the mall today through Sunday to help raise some much-needed cash for his work.
“We’re going to have the most snakes I have even had their before,” said Hopcraft. He’ll also have a four-foot long black throat monitor lizard, which he found living under a house in Surrey last November.
“It was very near death it took us about two weeks to find it and catch it … he is just an amazing animal, I am glad he is here now,” he said. “That’s the one that Cherry Land decided to sponsor … we are going to do a naming contest it for it, because I am really bad at naming things.”
Sponsorship is a new feature Hopcraft is offering, allowing donors to pick out one of the animals from his website, and choose a level of sponsorship, receiving in return a certificate and picture of the animal, as well as getting your name listed under the animal on his website, www.reptileguy.ca.
“It is a great way for the community to get involved and help keep the rescue going,” said Hopcraft. He started turning to alternative methods of funding the shelter after changes in provincial regulations prohibited many reptiles, effectively stopping him from exhibiting many of his “main attractions.”
“With those animals being prohibited, they are not allowed to be exhibited or on display in any way,” he said. “Down here I was doing a lot of presentations to school and things like that. With those animals not allowed out now, a lot of people don’t want the shows because I can’t bring the lemur and the big snakes.”
It also prevents Hopcraft from doing private tours of the 2000 square-foot warehouse he keeps than animals in or taking them out for private functions, two sources of income.
“What we need to do, to take those animals out again and to have the facility open to the public again, is I need to get accredited by the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums,” said Hopcraft. “Which basically means I have to become a zoo, but that takes a lot of money to do.”
Hopcraft didn’t start out to run a rescue operation. Along with a partner, he planned to get into breeding and selling reptiles, but soon found another path.
“There are so many people breeding so many reptiles and there aren’t enough proper homes for them,” he said. “I really realized the need for rescue or some sort of shelter for the ones that don’t have homes to go to.”
Some of the animals Hopcraft collects are just abandoned, others are badly in need of a safe place, like a tortoise and a box turtle whose former owner decided to make some modifications to make it easier to manage.
“The owner drilled holes in their shells and installed handles on them so he could pick them up and leash them up outside,” Hopcraft said, admitting that he now has more animals than he would if he was breeding them.
“I don’t buy animals anymore, I focus on the rescue side of things,” he said. “If we can get accredited and back to where we were, we’ll be self-sustaining again, it’s just getting to that point.”