Monday, July 26, 1999

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
Yasuhiro Shirahisa holds a Jackson's chameleon at the
Hawaii Herpetocultural Society's annual Slime and Scales
fair, held yesterday at the Hawaiian Humane Society.
Shirahisa's daughter, Manami, 2, was not thrilled about the reptile.

Chilly creatures
make warm pets

Chameleons and turtles are
the talk of a Herpetocultural
Society show

By Treena Shapiro


WHEN 13-year-old Cathy Balderama visits her friends and sees their cats and dogs, she tells them she has pets, too. But her pets aren't warm and cuddly, they're cold and scaly.

"Sometimes I want a puppy," she said. But she still likes her Jackson chameleons, especially the way their eyes swivel around.

"Most of my friends are totally afraid of reptiles," said Balderama's 11-year-old sister, Cencia. But once they hold the chameleons, they think they're cool, she said.

The Baladeramas brought their chameleons to the fourth annual Hawaii Herpetocultural Society pet show yesterday at the Hawaiian Humane Society. The show was part membership drive and part community outreach. Society members want people to know that not all pets have fur.

So why do people keep frogs, salamanders, lizards and turtles?

There are several reasons, and cuddling isn't necessarily one, said Hawaii Herpetocultural Society president J. Tihoti Maha'a. Many people keep these animals for breeding, often in vivariums -- containers with live plants and animals, replicating the reptiles' natural environment. It's like bringing a little bit of the outdoors indoors, Maha'a said.

The most affectionate reptiles are tortoises, Maha'a said. Some will even wait outside the door for their owners to come out.

Turtles are the most popular reptile pets in Hawaii. The Aricayos received two aquatic turtles as a gift and are considering getting more. "They're easy to take care of," Angela Aricayos said. All they require is turtle food twice a day.

But these low-maintenance turtles and tortoises can be high in price. Box turtles can be purchased in pet stores for $15, but a star tortoise starts at $500. South American red-footed tortoise babies, the most popular pets, cost $100.

Then there's the Chinese softshell turtle. It can be captured for free in the wild, but occasionally it can be purchased in Chinatown, where it is sold as food, Maha'a said.

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