Talk about the urban jungle - a new shop in Blackpool is hoping to tip the scales in favour of reptile ownership when it comes to favourite pets.
Snakes do not always get the best media coverage, thanks to a minority of irresponsible owners, but Grinning Geckos in Highfield Road is hoping to consign that view to hissstory.
Grinning Geckos has come together as a venture between two resort families who came together over a sick gecko called Robbie.
Mal Moutrey has been a gecko and reptiles expert, running a breeding programme and website for 10 years.
Now he has teamed up with Diane Jennings and her son Alex to open their shop in what used to be the old Diane Dearden insurance office.
Mal had helped Diane out when she had got her first gecko which was unfortunately very poorly and now five years on Robbie, the leopard gecko ,is right as rain.
The two families have launched their ethical reptiles business with everything from the largest gecko in the world to the smallest.
Mal, who had to give up his healthcare career after a spinal injury, said: “I have watched as Diane and Alex have developed their own collection of reptiles, rapidly building their own level of knowledge and experience leading and a reputation as reptile keepers who demand an exceptionally high standard of care for their reptiles.
“What we are about is animal welfare and responsible and caring keeping of reptiles.
“We would rather lose a sale than see an animal go to a home where it is not going to be looked after properly.
“All our animals come from responsible breeders, we want to end trade in wild caught animals altogether.
Diane said: “This has been a pipe dream for some years but now the opportunity came up in this great location. My husband Brett was diagnosed with breast cancer last year but thanks to the wonderful treatment at Blackpool Vic he is recovering.
“It was this that made us re-evaluate our lives and decide to start the business.”
Mal added: “These reptiles make fantastic pets for children providing they have the appropriate parental supervision.
“My two lads who are grown up now both had geckos and their teachers at Roseacre Primary always said it helped improve their grades, for example in geography and science.”
The shop has the tiny Indonesian tree gecko right up to the world’s largest, the leachianus gecko from the jungle island of New Caledonia plus Australian barking geckos, the popular leopard geckos and lizards such as the vegetarian uromastyx as well as snakes such as the corn snake and royal python.
Diane said: “We have nothing nasty here, only reptiles that make lovely family friendly pets.
“Marty our royal python is a soft as your pocket.
“We want to reach out to young people and encourage responsible ownership.”
and animal welfare.”