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Weird, Wonderful Wildlife at Reptile Fest


Chicago is home to the country’s largest educational reptile and amphibian show. The annual Reptile Fest is this Saturday and Sunday at Northeastern Illinois University’s Physical Education building in the North Park neighborhood (also home to WTTW).

“What separates us from other shows is that the people who work with us are hobbyists,” said Frank Sladek of the Chicago Herpetological Society. “They’re not breeders, so we don’t do live animal sales or trading at our show. We focus more on education and conservation.

“And the other reason we’re bringing some of the animals we’re bringing is because we also like to tell people why certain animals don’t make the best pets,” Sladek said. “Snapping turtles are a perfect example since they’re so common around here. People try to bring them home when they’re the size of a quarter and then in a few years you have a turtle that’s 10 pounds or bigger.”

Reptile Fest showcases more than 200 species and works with local zoos, nature centers and museums. New at the year’s festival: the Chicago Geographic Society will have a 30-foot inflatable globe that kids can walk inside and learn about geography. Also, online tickets sales are available for the first time.

  • (Courtesy of Reptile Fest)

    (Courtesy of Reptile Fest)

  • (Courtesy of Reptile Fest)

    (Courtesy of Reptile Fest)

  • (Courtesy of Reptile Fest)

    (Courtesy of Reptile Fest)

  • (Courtesy of Reptile Fest)

    (Courtesy of Reptile Fest)

  • (Courtesy of Reptile Fest)

    (Courtesy of Reptile Fest)

  • (Courtesy of Reptile Fest)

    (Courtesy of Reptile Fest)

  • A common musk turtle (Colin Osborn / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

    A common musk turtle (Colin Osborn / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Among the animals at this year’s event:

• A musk turtle, also known as a stinkpot, which comes from Southern states like Alabama and Texas.

• An amphiuma, a weird-looking 4-foot long salamander that resembles an eel and lives in the Southeastern U.S.

• A Russian legless lizard that look like snake.

• A leopard tortoise (not aquatic), weighing about 10 lbs. (from Africa).

• Water skink (from Madagascar).

• Argentine Tegu.


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