Ohio man brings serval, other exotics to schools

November 7, 2006

When Morgan Mahler said she wanted to touch a snake, she thought it would be a garter snake one finds around these parts.

Iggy, the 13-foot long, 75-pound albino Burmese python surprised the fifth-grader and three other schoolmates Monday night during the “Live on Stage: The Rainforest” presentation at Meister Elementary. His color was a bit shocking, too.

“I’ve never seen a big, yellow snake before,” she said. “I never thought they were yellow.”

Hosted by Mike Kohlreiser, the not-for-profit program taught the excited crowd of more than 250 parents and students several facts about the menagerie he brought along from its homebase of Wapakoneta, Ohio. Iggy, for example, doesn’t crush his food in order to eat it. The process is much more nuanced than that.

“Pythons wrap themselves around their prey and squeeze a little bit. As the prey exhales, the python squeezes a little tighter, thereby suffocating the food,” he explained. “They do this all on instinct.”

Pythons also can’t see though they have eyes and can’t hear though they have ears. They find their food by smell, Kohlreiser said.

The African Serval, a smaller feline often confused with the cheetah because of its striped coat, has extra large ears that allows it to hear mice a mile away.

The serval — clearly not amused with being brought out in front of a crowd for the fourth time — hissed at Kohlreiser several times. The animal isn’t nearly as fast as the cheetah, but it does, however, have a 12-foot vertical jump that allows it to pluck birds from the sky with ease.

“With a jump that high, these guys are great hunters,” Kohlreiser said as the serval hissed at him again. “It stands to reason, then, that these guys do not make good house pets.”

Neither do capuchin monkeys, no matter what Paris Hilton thinks, he said.

“We spend six or seven hours a day with our primates, and they are a handful,” he said right before “Rascal” yanked off his toupee.

Fifth-grader Chris Lauderback wasn’t phased by Kohlreiser’s warning.

“I still want (a monkey). I’d roughhouse with it,” he said. “I also never knew that an alligator’s tail feels like an orange. I thought they’d feel solid like a rock.”

Morgan also was surprised at Iggy’s texture.

“At first I thought he was slimy, but then I started petting his scales, and it felt really cool,” she said.

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