POSTED: Thursday, May 5, 2011 - 6:29pm
UPDATED: Friday, May 13, 2011 - 3:39pm
Would you like to have a wallaby, or a sugar glider (a small flying squirrel) or a monitor dragon (a creature that looks like something out of Jurassic Park) as a pet? Believe it or not, there are people in the Borderland who would rather have an exotic animal as a pet rather than a dog or a cat? And where do they get these animals from? We're taking you to Noah's Ark in Northeast El Paso.
"We have 30-40 different species of tarantulas. One-hundred-fifty species of reptiles and whatever exotic animals we can get," said Dennis Bock, who owns Noah's Ark.
Bock says you would have to travel to either San Antonio or Tucson to find the variety of exotic animals he has on hand at his shop in the Northeast.
"They come from all over. We get customers from Silver City. We get customers from Sierra Blanca, Albuquerque," said Bock.
At Noah's Ark you can find everything from the not-so-uncommon like turtles, rabbits, ferrets, snakes and tarantulas.... to the stuff you never see, like big toads, sugar gliders, wallabies, chinchillas, exotic fish and even monitor dragons
Chief photographer Eddie Romero brought his daughter, Maggie, along for the shoot. She got to hold and play and even wear the cute cuddly ones.
While I sort of got the "scary" end of the stick, so to speak. After some encouragement from Maggie, I held a snake, a tarantula and a scorpion.
The experience of holding the animals is something Bock and his wife, Gale, who also runs the place with him, says customers really love.
"We spend a lot of time with the animals here," said Bock. "We let our customers hold the animals, which customers seem to appreciate. They come in and they hold the animals and the kids hold them."
The Bocks used their life savings to start the store and they say, when they first opened, they would only see about three customers a day, but now they're about to celebrate their second year and are hoping to gross $500,000.
Jeremiah Davis is a regular customer, who's owned exotic animal all his life. Besides two dogs and a cat, his other pets include, "There's an Australian monitor dragon, there's a turnip-tailed lizard, a prairie dog, a Russian tortoise, a great tortoise, a crocodile monitor, a black throat monitor," said Davis. And the list goes on and on. So, why did Jeremiah decide to go with exotic animals instead of your standard pet?
"Reptiles, a lot of people will tell you, they don't have a personality, which is absolutely not true," said Davis. "On a day-to-day basis, you see their personality and then, apart from that, the beauty. Dogs don't come in crystal blue and emerald green."
So how much do the exotic animals go for? You can get something as cheap as a rat for $7 to a wallaby for $3,000.