IU Southeast hosts exotic Herps Alive event

IUS Horizon
October 19, 2009
Filed under Features

Gisser2WEBLions and tigers and bears — oh my! Well, maybe not, but there were snakes, lizards, a tortoise and an alligator on the IUS campus.

IU Southeast hosted the annual Herps Alive event on Sunday, Oct. 11, in Hoosier Room East, led by the Herps Alive owner, Keith Gisser.

Gisser provides a show each year for children to learn about and pet several exotic reptiles and amphibians.

Gisser started his show by talking about each animal’s natural habitat and then walked the animals around the room for the children to get a closer look.

One animal was a tortoise named Bubba. Gisser allowed Bubba to explore the room during the show, with a warning to anyone who had on open-toed shoes.

“If you have red toenails he might think they are strawberries,” Gisser said.

The children were able to pet an alligator, which was named Chnappi by a German exchange student who stayed with Gisser, and several snakes.

The snakes included a Mexican milk snake, a boa and a nine-foot Albino Python, named “Silas, after the albino in the movie “The Da Vinci Code.” After the show, the children lined up to hold Silas.

Gisser let the children know how to tell if a snake is venomous. To do this he taught them a rhyme.

“Red against yellow you’re a dead fellow,” Gisser said. “Red against black you’re OK, Jack.”

Dustin Sevier, business freshman, attended the event and said he was surprised that the children were not frightened by the snakes.

“Many of the children seemed very eager to pet and hold the snakes,” Sevier said. “I was very surprised by how brave they were.”

Gisser said he has been working with these animals since he was in high school, and he has been doing shows professionally for 25 years.

Gisser said he does his shows mostly in libraries and colleges.

“I have been coming to IUS for 15 to 16 years,” Gisser said.

Herps Alive was named Family Children Program of the year by the National Association for Campus Activities.

Gisser said he added several new reptiles to his shows through the years. This is because he takes in amphibians and reptiles that have been in captivity and do not have homes.

Gisser said he has become the unofficial reptile and amphibian rescuer in Ohio.

Gisser said Herps Alive is an independent program and is not associated with any zoos or nature centers.

Staff Writer

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