Hereford resident Ellen Genesio shows off a bearded dragon named Appa during last Thursday night's show at the Upper Perkiomen Valley Library.
Ellen Genesio will tell you her love of reptiles is not shared by everyone.
In fact, she gets a wide variety of reactions from her audiences ranging from honest curiosity to severe trepidation. Mostly, she explained with a laugh, the trepidation comes from the adults in the room when the large snakes come out.
But no matter how the audience reacts to her traveling band of lizards, tortoises and snakes, Genesio is in it for one thing – to educate and to entertain people of all ages and backgrounds about the oft-misunderstood animals.
The Hereford resident said her love of reptiles was born at a young age.
“I’ve always had reptiles as pets,” she said. “I used to catch snakes, turtles and all kinds of animals in the wild as a child. I don’t do that anymore, of course, as wild animals are better left in the wild, but I decided to do the shows to share my love for these animals with everyone.”
Genesio, known affectionately as the “Lizard Lady,” takes a wide variety of reptiles on the road with her to schools, libraries, day cares and camps, company picnics, birthday parties and even nursing homes. A typical show will feature about a dozen animals.
She regularly highlights her domesticated bearded dragon, large iguana, geckos, skinks, tortoises and snakes, with her Burmese python, “Ghost” stealing the show. Ghost is a 10-foot albino, which, Genesio said, is always a crowd-pleaser.
“Kids love him and he loves the kids,” she said. “He loves to be petted.”
During each show, the mother of two sons, who often help out with the heavy lifting, talks about where each animal is from, what it eats, its habitat and what its defenses are. Children often find it funny to learn the male bearded dragon puffs out its “beard,” which turns black, and bobs its head up and down when it sees a female. The females, in turn, also bob their heads and move their arms in a waving motion.
But audiences are also sometimes schooled on snake myths and facts. Snakes, some of which lay eggs and some which give live birth, don’t bite humans unless they feel threatened. There are only three poisonous snake varieties native to Pennsylvania.
Genesio owns one poisonous animal, a tarantula, which doesn’t go out on the road.
Another educational aspect of her shows is to talk about how big the reptiles get and what they need to survive such as ultraviolet light, a heat source and the size of their cage.
She said people often don’t do their homework when it comes to reptiles. While she would love to adopt every reptile in need of a home, it is better if pet owners know what to expect as their animals grow up.
At the end of each show, children are invited to get up-close-and-personal with the reptiles.
“The kids are just thrilled. They want to touch them and hold them,” she said. “Most children are very curious.”
For more information on LN’s Traveling Reptiles, reptile reference guides or reptile boarding and rescues, visit www.LNtravelinrep.com.
A room full of children at the Upper Perkiomen Valley Library keep an eye on Godzilla, a four-foot-long Iguana that is part of the LN's Traveling Reptiles.
Burmese python “Ghost” slithers across the floor as Ellen talks about the show-stealing, 10-foot albino snake. “Kids love him and he loves the kids,” she said. “He loves to be petted.”