It’s not every day that you see someone cradling a large lizard like a baby, but for reptile rescuer and expert Elisa Wilke, these creatures may as well be her babies.
It was standing room only down at the lake on Sunday, August 6 as families, kids and everyone else in attendance made some scaly new friends when Wilke, known to the public as Wrangler Elisa, brought her traveling reptile show to the Gardiner Dam Visitor Centre at Danielson Provincial Park.
Elisa has worked with exotic animals since she was a teenager, having also cared for camels and lions in her work. When she had to choose a field to focus on, she often found that reptiles were perhaps the most misunderstood creatures in society, which is one of the reasons why she founded her reptile rescue organization, which travels all around the province putting on shows for the public in order to spark an interest in reptiles and help their conservation by way of education.
Elisa has toured Canada in the past, working with all types of reptiles and arachnids, however, she stopped touring to open a rescue here in Saskatchewan. The rescue focuses on making sure that every reptile finds a forever home, and Elisa and staff have rescued and rehabilitated over 200 reptiles in the past five years, with all funds made from touring shows go towards keeping the doors open.
By focusing on educating the public, Elisa hopes to make more knowledgeable owners in the future.
Along with her for the stop at Gardiner Dam were number of different creatures, such as a turtle, a tarantula, a pair of snakes, a bearded dragon, a gecko that had started to shed its skin, a bull frog, two tortoises, and a large, docile tegu named Jed.
The animals were a big hit with kids, who took the time to ask questions about their species and pet them, including having the tarantula crawl across their hands.
That enthusiasm was not exactly matched by many parents in the room, as some were happy to simply stand back and give their kids free reign to check out the lizards and reptiles while keeping a respectable distance.