WATER Leong has been fascinated by snakes since he was a boy, so much so that he secretly kept one as a pet in his room.
At night, he would sleep with it and his pet fish.
His parents found out and were furious and threw out all his pets.
He could understand why his parents were angry; it was because parents want their children to have “normal” interests such as reading, playing sports and games.
As he grew older, his parents became more receptive to his fascination with snakes.
Leong, 38, remembers that since he an early age, he had always been passionate about animals, especially snakes.
He would read books and watch television programmes about snakes to learn more about the reptiles.
After school, he would try to catch snakes with his friends.
“I have asked myself why I have such a unique interest? Maybe it is because I grew up in a new village and often played in rubber tree plantations, forests, and streams.
“Some of my friends liked to fish or keep fish as pets; me? I like snakes,” he said.
Hence, it is no big surprise that he became an exotic pet shop owner. His shop, X Ortic Ranch, is located in Ampang.
There are lizards, snakes, frogs, fish, scorpions and flying squirrels in the shop and it feels like you are in a mini zoo.
Aside from trading in exotic pets, he also helps customers to import exotic animals from overseas that are permitted by the Wildlife Department.
According to the rules, traders and the public are not allowed to own protected and endangered species.
“For instance, the Wildlife Department recently prohibited animals such as the Red Tailed Boa, Blood Python, and Burmese Ball Python.
“When the government prohibits a certain type of animal, licences will not be issued, hence traders are not allowed to sell it as well,” he said.
There is a risk when it comes to importing animals from other countries and Leong spoke from experience.
He has been cheated on a few occasions and has lost more than RM100,000.
“Once, after paying, the other party claimed that they did not receive the money.
“Another time, the animal that arrived was not the one I ordered,” he said.
He cautioned that one needs the right tools for safety measures.
“There are venomous and non-venomous snakes but even if a non-venomous one bites you, there can be swelling and inflammation.
“You must prepare tongs and hooks especially when you are not accustomed to your snake’s behaviour. This is because if you feed a hungry snake from your hands, it may think your hands are also food and bite you,” he advised.
He also gave a few pointers on keeping snakes as pets.
“New snake owners should prepare a black cloth and cover a snake’s head when you pick it up. Remove the cloth once you pick it up.
“Snakes like a damp environment. Change the water at least once every two days, keep the environment clean; this prevents the snake from falling sick and aids in moulting (shedding skin).
Leong feels that market growth is slow in Malaysia when it comes to exotic pets. He added that he noticed Malaysians usually followed the trends from other countries.
“One of the reasons the market growth is slow is probably because of the competition among traders. They do not help each other out.
“I hope other industry players can work together or the market will shrink and there will be less exotic pet owners,” he said.
To contact X Ortic Ranch, call 012-383 5350.
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