Herpetology Society hosts annual festival

An 11-foot albino python was one of the many species of snake showcased at the Herpetology Showoff last Friday. This particular snake was found in the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area on April 4, and was brought to the University designated as a no-kill facilty. || Kylie Townsend/The News

The Murray State Herpetological Society hosted the 10th annual Herpetological Showoff for the students on April 20.

Snakes, turtles and other species adorned the Carr Health East Gym as students enjoyed getting a glimpse into the creatures that surround Murray State.

Tim Johnson, vice president of the Herpetology Society, said the showcase was a great way to introduce the creatures native to the region.

Johnson said the majority of the festival workers were not only a combination of biology and nursing students but also people who care for the conservation of amphibians and reptiles. The festival was organized to raise funds to continue conservation and to provide for the species housed in the biology lab of Murray State.

There were 40 different species of snakes, eight different types of turtles, seven species of frogs, eight types of salamanders and five different types of lizards.

Some of the creatures were caught in Land between the Lakes National Recreational Area and others were the pets of volunteers.

Johnson said another focus of the festival was to provide education about the creatures.

“I want everyone to understand that these creatures do serve a purpose,” he said. “Take snakes for example. Some large snakes, such as the large Burmese python we have here today, eat the venomous snakes. Even the venomous snakes have a purpose. Their venom is being studied to see if it can be used to cure cancer and Alzheimer’s.”

Johnson said 20 percent of amphibians are on a decline due to chemicals in the air, drastic changes in the environment and the constant destruction of the animals’ habitats. He said that humans have a tendency to destroy environments and these animals do not deserve to suffer because of it.

Marci Siders, junior studying conservation biology from Dover, Tenn., said she agreed to help out with the festival due to the misconception of the different creatures.

“Snakes are misunderstood on a very large spectrum,” she said. “It makes me happy to know that I am helping the education of understanding the animals.”

Siders, who had a red-tail boa around her neck, said she became interested in the small creatures due to their infamy. She said she found it odd these creatures were feared since they had no appendages.

Lauren Grace, freshman studying wildlife and conservation from Hopkinsville, Ky., said she first went to the festival to check it out but stayed for something more.

“I wanted to come see the different animals, but then saw the many elementary school students and decided to help the volunteers out,” she said.

Grace, who had a four-foot-long ball python around her neck, said another reason she agreed to stay and help out with the event was to help students understand the creatures through hands-on education.

She said she was glad to have helped out with the children and learn about the different animals.

The festival was a great way to remind Grace of her career goal. She plans on being a zoologist with a specialty in both reptiles and amphibians.

Grace also plans on being a repeat volunteer with the festival.

The Herpetological Showoff had roughly 150 people in attendance, with visits from Marshall and Calloway County elementary schools.