Sticky Tongues and Scaly Skin: The NARBC Comes to the Midwest

To some people, the concept of a “pet” extends no further than a cat or a dog. But, while cats and dogs certainly do make good pets, they aren’t exactly anything one could call “unique.” So what kind of pet does one get when a cat or a dog just won’t do it; when an animal companion needs to reflect the individuality of the owner? How’s about a 10 foot jungle python? Or maybe a little knob-tailed gecko is more your fancy? Well, if you ask any of the thousands of attendees at this year’s North American Reptile Breeders Conference and Trade Show, they might agree.

This panther chameleon was just one of the many breeds of reptiles for sale at the show.

Held on October 13and 14 at the Holiday Inn Express conference center in Tinley Park, the North American Reptile Breeders Conference and Trade Show (NARBC) was open to the public and offered over 100 vendors along with a charity auction and dozens of talks and seminars about owning and caring for reptiles.

Attendees peruse the selection at one of the various vendor booths

At the show, one couldn’t help but notice the large cross-section of people in attendance. At any given moment, one could view two people, from completely different walks of life, observing and chatting with each other about the various aspects of reptile care. This seems to be the goal of the NARBC, because they try to make everything accessible to even the most inexperienced of potential owners. In fact, one could learn a great deal just by walking around the show floor and speaking with the various vendors. Everyone who took part in the show were there to help and make sure that even if someone knew absolutely nothing about reptile care, they could leave there with a reptile in their arms and a brain full of knowledge on its care.

A common style of display at the show

When walking the vendor floor at the trade show, one felt like they were visiting a zoo wherein one could actually purchase the animals. With the exception of a few very large snakes (which were humanely kept in comfortable, drawer-like compartments), all of the animals were humanely displayed in heated, easy-to-view clear-plastic containers. If looking through the containers just wasn’t enough to warrant a proper decision, most vendors were willing to allow a customer or curious party to hold an animal after the proper sanitary steps were taken. As for the prices of the animals, these ranged from a mere $5 for a tiny lizard and up well into the thousands for some of the larger animals. But, while a tiny lizard might cost a mere $5, one must add on to that the cost of a proper cage (which ranged from a small glass number all the way up to a $7000 zoo-quality swamp habitat), the right kind of food, a heating lamp, and any accessories that an owner might want to accompany the reptile in its cage. Like caring for any other kind pet, a reptile has various additional costs that come along with its ownership. But that is to be expected when considering taking care of another life.

A very active Monocellate cobra

Along with shopping for a reptile to care for and listening to the various talks and seminars, the NARBC offered numerous reptile-related activities to enjoy. Some of these included getting your picture taken with an alligator or “Big Al,” a 16 year-old Eldopa turtle; taking in some of the non-salable reptiles on display (which included, among others, one very active and very poisonous cobra); checking out any of the various informational booths; or shopping at some of the non-animal vendor booths. These non-animal vendor booths offered a wide-variety of reptile-related merchandise that ranged from t-shirts and posters to reptile-related heavy metal albums and “dead art.” (The “dead art” was a collection of rather interesting pieces by an artist who dries out deceased animals with salt, poses them, and seals them in these interesting, sometimes gruesome poses. One piece of note included a group of vicious lizards feeding on a half decomposed rat.)  There was something for everyone to do at the show, and from the looks the way things looked, no one was disappointed.

A young child meets “Big Al”

With this year’s show being the fourth year for the event, it seems like the organizers have learned rather quickly what to include in a show of this kind. One might think that a trade show about reptiles would cater only to a specific audience, but the North American Reptile Breeders Conference and Trade Show is designed to be exciting and accessible to everyone. And considering the large, rather diverse turnout at this year’s show, they have certainly succeeded at doing just that.

One of representatives for the Michigan Society of Herpetologists teaches a father and his son about the small lizard in his hand

If you would like to find out more about the NARBC, please visit

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