Indiana Jones would hate the Phoenix Herpetological Association (PHS). For starters he probably would not be able to step foot in the room housing the largest venomous snake collection in the world. But for everyone else, the Herpetological Society is an over-the-top spectacle of reptilian delight where monitor lizards and Galapagos tortoises (to name just two of the guests) are allowed sanctuary from poachers, developers, and other belly crawling beasts. The PHS has two overlapping goals; rescue and rehabilitation along with conservation education. Conservation education is accomplished in part through camps and by facility tours. Leading our tour was Daniel Marchand who, along with two other partners, converted his family’s home (situated on a large desert tract in northern Phoenix) into a mighty impressive zoo containing over 1200 animals. Many of the displayed animals used to be a lot smaller and someone’s pet before growing into a difficult to manage size. Other animals, like an albino rattle snake, were rejected by the next-of-kin after it killed its original, very careless owner. Still other animals are government property seized by would be smugglers of exotic pets. The PHS also exhibits twenty-one of the twenty-three total type of crocodiles in the world. Included in that number are two aggressive salt water crocodiles (the same crocs’ that routinely eat Aussies and tourists in the land down under). These suckers are large and have been known to purposefully lure caregivers a little too close to their chomping teeth. Maybe that is why Daniel never turned his back on or strayed too far from the exit when entering their lair.
From talking with Daniel it was clear that this no-kill shelter does not like to reject any animal, whether it be warm or cold blooded. Which explains why the tour includes a beaver and an overly friendly raccoon. Some of the exhibits were hands on and we especially enjoyed the opportunity to walk among the African tortoises. Henna also allowed a non-venomous snake to crawl over her shoulder. But it was Daniel’s obvious love and willingness to share what he knew of his animals that made this four hour tour feel half as long. I will never look at a lizard the same way again.
All tours of the Phoenix Herpetological Society are reservation only. For information on how to book such a tour or about their various children camps, click here.