Creature Feature: Rachel Walker

Rachel Walker

Wildlife Educator and Animal Keeper

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Reptiles Alive Name: Rockin’ Reptile Rachel

Hisstory: Rockin’ Reptile Rachel grew up in Northern Virginia and in 2003 left to attend Clemson University in South Carolina.  While on summer break in 2005, Rockin’ Reptile Rachel took the position of Lead Animal Keeper at Reptiles Alive.  As one who enjoys challenges and is an extremely fast learner, Rockin’ Reptile Rachel began performing shows for Reptiles Alive during that very same summer. Enjoying the fast paced atmosphere, Rachel began working for Reptiles Alive full time in January of 2007 and has thrived ever since.

RA Diet: Rachel likes to feed on leftovers and peanut butter sandwiches. Yum!

Natural Diet: Rockin’ Reptile Rachel prefers a diet of fruits, veggies, and the occasional meat and dairy.  She eats as many locally supplied foods as possible and hopes one day to grow her own vegetables in her garden.

Range: Rockin’ Reptile Rachel has a very broad range.  She was born in Jackson, MS and then swiftly moved to Philippines with her pack until she was 2 years old.  Her pack then settled in Northern Virginia where she has resided ever since.  She temporarily expanded her range in 2003 back south while attending Clemson University in South Carolina.  These days you can find her all over the DC Metro Area doing animal shows or even traveling the world!

Habitat: You can find Rockin’ Reptile Rachel caring for the animal collection at Reptiles Alive HQ, out on the road heading to an animal show, or traveling the world by planes, trains, automobiles and her own two feet.  When she is not entertaining and educating the public with Reptiles Alive, her preferred habitat is to be in the wild or curled up on the couch with her fur-child, Frank-the-dog.

Size: Rachel has reached her maximum height at 5’9”.  Width may vary.

Lifespan: Rockin’ Reptile Rachel could live to 90 years or more!

Reproduction: Rockin’ Reptile Rachel adopted and is raising one fur-child named Frank-the-dog.  She may breed in the future but has yet to find a suitable mate.

Conservation: Since Rockin’ Reptile Rachel was a small child she has had a passion for animals and a great interest in public education.  She would speak to anyone who would listen about the most recent animal facts she had learned.  She has not gone too far from those days in working for Reptiles Alive. Rockin’ Reptile Rachel’s passion for animals and love of children allows her to present very exciting and educational shows that people of all ages are bound to enjoy. Her high energy and witty demeanor is sure to wow your audience!

Cool Facts: Rockin’ Reptile Rachel also has a passion for studying animals in the field. She traveled to remote regions of South Africa during a two-month summer expedition called Vets-In-The-Wild where she assisted wildlife veterinarians in exciting and often dangerous conservation attempts and medical procedures. Forgoing a “normal” college Spring Break, Rachel also traveled to the interior of the Amazon Rainforest with a study abroad program designed to study the Tropical Biology of the Peruvian Rainforest.  Her most recent travels have taken her to remote areas of Belize and Guatemala where she traveled for pleasure and to assist a wildlife trade school and zoo.

Where will her passion for animals lead her next?  Maybe to your school, camp, or even home!

Response to Proposed SENATE BILL NO. 477

The Commonwealth of Virginia will lose valuable resources currently offered to state and local animal and wildlife agencies, school systems, library systems, and the tourism industry, if SENATE BILL NO. 477 is passed.

An entire professional community of law abiding, tax paying Virginia citizens will be penalized due to the act of a single mentally ill individual in Ohio if the proposed code in SENATE BILL NO. 477 is passed.

As the founder and director of Reptiles Alive LLC, a successful outreach wildlife education organization, I currently provide jobs to four Virginia citizens and support my family with the income I earn in my professional endeavors.  I am not alone – there is an entire industry of tax paying, law-abiding Virginia citizens and their families who will be financially damaged if SENATE BILL NO. 477 is passed.

SENATE BILL NO. 477 will exempt organizations accredited by the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The majority of wildlife organizations, including mine, are not AZA accredited.  The AZA is a private association, a “club”, which has developed its own accreditation requirements without any public input or oversight. The requirements to become an accredited member in the AZA are unreasonable for most private organizations and family run businesses. Most AZA facilities are operated using tax dollars collected from state and county citizens.

I have been licensed by the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) as a Wildlife Exhibitor and Wildlife Rehabilitator since 1993. During this time, my staff and I have presented educational live animal shows to approximately 850,000 people.  We receive no funding from state or local government agencies to educate the public about wildlife and other environmental issues – including most of the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL’s) in Science. We are a self-sufficient environmental education organization and provide a tremendous educational resource to Virginia students, schools, and citizens.

The passage of SENATE BILL NO. 477 will be a huge loss for Virginia environmental education.Across the Commonwealth of Virginia, hundreds of thousands of students and other citizens are exposed, by non-AZA wildlife professionals, to environmental concepts deemed important by the Virginia Department of Education.  There is no way the handful of AZA member organizations in Virginia will be able to make up for the loss of the permitted Wildlife Exhibitors currently teaching environmental education in Virginia.

I have also offered my services, at no charge, to the VDGIF and various local animal control agencies. These free services have included:  providing housing for exotic reptiles involved in court cases; identification of exotic reptiles; removal of exotic reptiles from hotel rooms, abandoned and condemned buildings; assistance with husbandry of exotic reptiles in state or county custody; advice to animal control and VDGIF officers dealing with boids, venomous snakes and crocodilians; and finally, providing permanent, safe housing for reptiles that had no where else to go.

If  SENATE BILL NO. 477 is passed, it will not stop people from owning exotic animals, especially the snakes, listed in the proposal.  However, it will end the assistance the Commonwealth and local Virginia jurisdictions receive from many of the professionals who currently help with animal situations when needed.

AZA facilities will not make up for the loss of the non-AZA state licensed wildlife exhibitors and permitted animal rescue groups. AZA facilities rarely, if ever, take in “rescued” animals.  Private organizations including non-AZA zoos and wildlife exhibitors, licensed by the state, regularly assist in the placement of such animals.

At Reptiles Alive LLC, nearly all of the animals we have in our collection have to come us from local animal control agencies, game wardens, or citizens who no longer could provide care for their pet.  Outlawing the ownership of certain species (especially Boids) will not eliminate them from being privately kept in Virginia.  If these species are outlawed, the disposition options for unwanted or confiscated animals will be primarily limited to euthanasia.

I agree that the ownership of the species listed in SENATE BILL NO. 477 should be regulated – and the Commonwealth of Virginia already has such regulations successfully in place. As a state licensed Wildlife Exhibitor, each year I must submit to the VDGIF my: Permit to Exhibit Wild Animals application; list of species to be exhibited; annual wildlife exhibitor report; and a $50 fee.  An annual inspection of my facility along with the possibility of unannounced inspections from a state game warden is part of the conditions of my permit.  I carry a liability insurance policy and a Workers Compensation policy that covers the activities Reptiles Alive LLC engages in.

It will not cost the Commonwealth any additional taxpayer dollars to continue the permitting and wildlife enforcement process it already has in place.

The passing of SENATE BILL NO. 477 does not make sense for the Commonwealth of Virginia or its citizens.

Sincerely,

Caroline Seitz

Director/Owner

Reptiles Alive LLC

703 560-0257

reptilesalive@gmail.com

Interview with a Boa Constrictor

Sunflower the albino boa constrictor turned two years old on Jan 14.  She is getting ready to begin her career as a show boa for Reptiles Alive, so I wanted to let our fans get to know her a little better.

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CobraCaroline (CC):  So Sunflower, you just celebrated your 2nd birthday.  Did you do anything special?

Sunflower (SF): Well actually yesss.   You sssee, I get fed a delicioussss large rat once every other week.  And it just ssso happened that I got my delightful dinner on my birthday.  It was yummy.  And, it isss sstill in my tummy!

CC:  You know Sunflower, some people think that snakes only like to eat their prey live, but all the snakes here at RA get frozen and then warmed up food.  What do you think about that?

SF: Ooooh, I like it much much better when my dinner doesn’t try to bite me or ssscratch me or run away.  Also, I know that the frozen ratsss we eat don’t have all the yucky parasitesss or germsss that live ratsss could have. But I mussst admit, I do enjoy it when the keeper jigglesss the rat in front of me a little.  I mean, I’ll ssstill eat it if is not moving, it isss jusst ssso much more fun to ssstrike it and wrap around it – even though it isss already dead.

CC: We have a few questions from Reptiles Alive fans.   RA fan Virginia Olin wants to ask you two questions:  Where did you learn to speak?  Do you get chapped lips from licking your lips so much?

SF: Good quessstionssss Virginia.   Actually, CobraCaroline is able to communicate with me using an ancient Minoan technique known only to a few ssspecial humansss.  And no, I don’t get chapped lipsssss.  In fact I don’t even HAVE lipssss!  Ha ha ha – that is one of the reasonsss I can’t chew my food.

CC:  RA fan Kory Steele wants to know if you have any plans to get surgical augmentation and regrow legs?

SF: No Kory, no plansss for anything like that.  I really love my body just the way it issss.  I am able to accesssss placesss that animalsss with armsss and legsss can’t.   Armsss and legsss just get in the way.

CC:  RA fan and Bonnie Keller asks:  What’s your favorite rat flavor? And what will you be wearing to the Awards shows later this season?

SF: Bonnie, my tongue isss ssso powerful I can tassste the ratsss even when the RA keepersss are defrosssting them in the other room!  And man, when I sssmell them, I just want to eat them ALL.   I get ssso excited,  I’ll ssstrike at just about anything!!  Ssso, I guess I like all the rat flavors:  black, white, brown, spotted, whatever.  Just give me a yummy delicious rat!  MMMmmmm, rat rat rat.  Wait, you had another quessstion too.  Oh yeah, what will I wear to the Awardsss showsss?  Bonnie – you know usss sssnakesss, we like to keep thingsss sssimple.  No makeup, no clothesss.  I might shed my ssskin just to pretty up a little though.

CC:  So, Sunflower, are you excited about doing shows for Reptiles Alive?

SF: Oh definitely yesssss Cobra Caroline.  I can’t wait to help other people discover how cool sssnakes really are.  That we are not ssscary.  And we don’t want to hurt anyone!  Well, maybe a rat.  But ssseriously, I want to help ssstop humansss from attacking innocent sssnakes in the wild. Jussst leave those poor innocent sssnakes alone you ssscary humansss!!

CC: Any last thoughts or comments?

I am really excited to be a part of your animal education team.  I don’t think there are many albino boa constrictorsss out there working in live animal showsss, in fact, I might be the first!  Oh I know people see albino Burmese pythonsss all the time.  Even that Britney girl had one in a music video or something.  Pythonsss, shmythonssss.  I don’t meant to sssound ssstuck up, but I am ssso sssspectacularly beautiful, that I am sure to become one of RA’s biggest ssstars!

Epic Desert Road Trip Part 6: The Grand Finale

We had been on the road for nearly a week and explored many amazing western canyons, deserts, and mountains.  However, it had been so cold that except for a tiny lizard that dashed under a rock and a roadkill gopher snake, I had not seen any reptiles or amphibians.

As my brother Will drove the Monte Carlo through the Painted Desert of Arizona, I was sitting in the back seat chatting with my Dad.    All of sudden, my Dad shouted “Will — turn the car around, we just passed a SNAKE crossing the road!”

Will was not sure if what he had just seen was a snake or a fan belt in the road.  But, since both my brother and my Dad love me (even if they don’t love snakes as much as I do), Will made a quick U-turn and, sure enough, Dad was right!

A beautiful 4 feet long Desert King Snake was stretched out across the two lane highway.  Luckily, there were no cars around, so I was able to move the harmless snake off the road and let it go safely on the other side.

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Our road trip from Reno NV to Surprise AZ via Colorado was nearing the end.

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Will said at some point during our trip that the word “Epic” is overused.  Maybe he is right, but I think no other word is better suited to describe the journey I was lucky enough to undertake.

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I’m looking forward to undertaking more epic journeys with Dad and Will again soon.