Author: Reptiles really rock
Reptiles have received a bad rap for some time, and David Nieves would like to alter that perception.
The author, who has written "Reptiles Up Close" and "More Reptiles Up Close," visited Tonganoxie Elementary School on Thursday and Tonganoxie Junior High on Friday.
Nieves showed children in the TES north gymnasium a variety of reptiles. The presentation was highlighted by a 13-year-old rock python named Kermit that Nieves positioned on his shoulders. He told the children that snakes aren't really slimy -- humans are.
Humans sweat, but snakes do not.
Nieves, 38, was born in the Philippine Islands, a self-proclaimed Air Force brat. He grew up in Bellevue, Neb., near Omaha and later attended Iowa State University.
"At the age of 8, I became fascinated by the amazing abilities and beauty of these animals," Nieves said. "I subsequently became focused on learning more about them. That focus never changed."
Nieves joined a junior naturalist program at the local nature center when he was 8.
He also has spent some time educating children about reptiles. When he was in middle school, he shared his knowledge of reptiles with elementary children.
Nieves is a herpetologist, someone in zoology who studies reptiles and amphibians. He also is in charge of Reptile Education and Research, a private facility north of Kansas City, Mo.
Nieves travels across the Midwest to speak at schools, libraries, zoos and museums about reptiles and amphibians. Through his books, Nieves wants to educate people about these misunderstood and sometimes feared groups of animals. Nieves also wants to encourage children to read more and explore the outdoor world around them.
TES librarian Janet Perry said she had heard of Nieves through the Linwood Community Library when that group had him as a guest during its summer reading program.
The session was well-received in Linwood and again in Tonganoxie, the librarian said.
"The kids really had a positive response," she said. "They're checking out a lot of the reptile books we have in the library."