Newspaper article News Mail Bundaberg Qld.

Welcome to Herp Heaven; Couple's Passion for Reptiles Grows into a Large-Scale Operation with More Than 300 Cold-Blooded Critters

Newspaper article News Mail Bundaberg Qld.

Welcome to Herp Heaven; Couple's Passion for Reptiles Grows into a Large-Scale Operation with More Than 300 Cold-Blooded Critters

Article excerpt

Byline: WORDS: Doug Gillett

FEEDING time at the home of Sharon reptile enthusiast Jeff Gates is a major operation involving buckets brimming with dead insects and hundreds of frozen mice and rats.

Mr Gates and fellow reptile admirer Hayley Ifield have amassed a hissing, slithering collection of more than 300 reptiles, including 65 species originating from all around the country and rivalling designated reptile parks and zoos.

They began the private collection five years ago, which has grown into an all-consuming obsession for the pair, occupying a full room of their home, a pond and four large outdoor reptile aviaries.

When dinner time is called and Mr Gates walks the perimeter of his personal reptile sanctuary, the forked tongues of pythons dart, the beady eyes of native dragons peek out from the top of enclosures and turtles emerge from their ponds.

C[pounds sterling]It can take a while to get them all fed,C[yen] he said.

C[pounds sterling]It's a pretty big operation and you need to keep your wits about you.C[yen]

The ravenous critters consume 4000 crickets, 15,000 flies, 100 rats and mice, 35kg of chopped vegetables and a fair whack of dog food each and every week.

The pair's snake collection ranges from huge 3.5m-long North Queensland scrub pythons that look like they could swallow a small child whole to delicate little Eastern Australian rainbow skinks that rarely grow longer than 7cm.

The indoor enclosure features intensive lights, heaters, incubators, pumps and humidity chambers and has seen their electricity bill skyrocket up to $2000 a quarter.

C[pounds sterling]The reptiles are a pretty big commitment and can take up a lot of time and money,C[yen] he said.

C[pounds sterling]It's something I love to do, though.C[yen]

The couple's passion for reptiles, and the extraordinary lengths they go to feed them, has given birth to the region's only specialty reptile cuisine business, HerpHeaven Rodents.

Mr Gates began a rat and mice-breeding program to help satisfy the considerable appetite of his reptilian companions and was surprised at the interest he received from fellow herpetologists. …

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