■ BY SUE ERWIN
Guests of all ages are invited to come and meet “Snappy,” a 60-year-old turtle weighing more than 90 pounds, when the popular “Reptile Man,” John Storms, visits the island this weekend. Everyone is welcome at the free event, which will be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 29 at the Boca Grande Community Center auditorium.
Storms has been doing educational presentations about reptiles around southwest Florida for more than 35 years. He has a Master’s degree in Zoology and said he first became interested in doing the talks because he enjoys working with reptiles and curious kids. And he wants to help educate people of all ages. He said his main emphasis is to teach people about the importance of ecosystems and the environment.
“We do these shows for two reasons: to educate people about the reptiles and have fun while doing it,” he said. He travels around the area from Marco Island to Ocala, giving presentations for audiences ranging in age from toddlers to people in retirement homes. Storms will bring several scaly, cold-blooded creatures to the stage on Tuesday and talk about how these reptiles survive in the wild. Audience members will learn how snakes survive without the use of legs, ears and eyelids, and what they like to eat. Giant pythons and other exotic reptiles found here in Florida and from all around the world will be on the premises.
Guests can also learn how to identify poisonous versus nonpoisonous snakes at the educational presentation. Storms said he likes to change the show up every year to include different species of animals and discuss different types of habitats. The animated speaker will bring about six or seven reptiles to the show. He doesn’t reveal exactly which kinds he will be bringing, because he would rather surprise the audience. “We always bring the alligators, since they’re native to Florida, but we like to bring a variety of animals to stimulate the discussion,” he said. “Snappy” is one of the oldest kinds of turtles and has a prehistoric look about him. Storms said he’s been working with the turtle for nearly 35 years. “Snappy doesn’t have any teeth – but he doesn’t need them. If you put something in front of his mouth, you’re not going to get it back,” he said.
Storms said he looks forward to coming to Boca Grande every spring. “The Woman’s Club is always so generous to support the show, and Lee County Parks is great to work with,” he said. Storms said that oddly enough, his busiest time of the year is during the summer months. “We are usually booked every day – sometimes twice a day – doing reading programs at the library, working with the YMCA summer camps and parks and recreation departments. And I think it’s especially important to do the reading programs over the summer months, to keep the kids sharp and keep their brains stimulated,” he said.