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Storms’ ‘World of Reptiles’ showcase a popular tradition with Rec campers

By Staff | Jul 5, 2011

John Storms brought his "World Of Reptiles" show — and his 15-foot albino Burmese python named Jessie — to the Sanibel Recreation Center last week.

For the past 29 years, John Storms has been educating the residents of Florida about some of the wildlife they may encounter in their own backyards, as well as introducing them to some species they might not be familiar with.

Over the past few months, for example, Storms has presented his “World of Reptiles” showcase at 11 libraries throughout Lee County alone, sharing his knowledge about snakes, lizards, alligators, crocodiles and other crawling critters before crowds large and small, young and old.

“For the younger crowds, I try to emphasize learning about these reptiles while still having fun,” said Storms, a resident of Fort Myers. “I enjoy kids and I like animals, too. This job allows me to do both. I’m just a big kid myself.”

On Friday, Storms brought his traveling reptile show back to Sanibel, presenting a 45-minute program in front of three dozen youngsters at the Recreation Center. Because his “World of Reptiles” show is an annual presentation, Storms brings with him an assortment of different animals each year in order to keep the program fresh and new.

However, there is one “star” of the show that always makes an appearance: Jessica — nicknamed “Jessie” — a 15-foot long, 145-pound albino Burmese python.

The many faces — and reptiles — of John Storms includes a crocodile, king snake, uromastyx lizard, milk snake, black-throated monitor lizard and a Cuban boa.

Storms also brought with him a king snake, a uromastyx lizard, a milk snake, a black-throated monitor lizard, a Cuban boa and a crocodile.

“I know we’ve got a limited attention span with the younger kids, so I try to bring some animals they’ve never even heard of before,” he added.

One by one, Storms brought each of the reptiles from their wooden containers, introducing the critters to the crowd by sharing some of their common characteristics, where you might find them, what they typically eat and some of their behaviors.

The Rec Center’s campers, as well as their counselors, watched with wide-eyed awe when Storms revealed a two-foot crocodile, wiggling in his grasp. Storms told the crowd that crocs — as well as alligators — may use their tail as a defense mechanism in order to get away from their would-be predators.

During his presentation, he warned the audience about the dangers of feeding alligators or crocodiles, or getting too close to snakes which may be poisonous or harm them with their fangs.

In addition, Storms shared with the crowd how to tell the difference between a milk snake — which is not poisonous — and the coral snake. While both of these snakes possess transverse bands of red, black and yellow, a common mnemonic can be used to properly distinguish between the deadly coral snake and the harmless milk snake:

“Red next to black, venom I lack; red next to yellow, run away fellow.”

On Tuesday, July 26, Storms will bring his “World of Reptiles” program back to the island when he visits the Sanibel Public Library for a show starting at 3 p.m.

“When you’re living in a place like Florida, you can make a more direct application of these animals because you might actually see one,” said Storms, wearing his signature grin. “I really like what I do for a living.”