Animal lovers welcome reptiles to campus for World Animal Day

Kelsey Meszaros

World Animal Day brought reptiles to the Kiva Wednesday for students to learn about and experience the importance of reptiles firsthand.

The holiday is an annual international celebration of all animals. Its purpose is to “raise the status of animals in order to improve welfare standards around the globe,” according to the movement’s website.

The Herps Alive Foundation made their second debut at Kent State to teach students about various reptiles like snakes, tortoises and lizards.

The foundation provides a safe environment where unwanted, neglected and abused reptiles and amphibians can be cared for and rehabilitated, according to the foundation’s website. Keith Gisser, the founder and head of Herps Alive, has brought reptiles to college campuses for almost 30 years. 

“They can watch as much ‘Animal Planet’ they want, but when you get to hold them and feel their heartbeat, it’s a different experience,” Gisser said.

Gisser has over 30 years of experience as a herpetologist, a branch of zoology that deals with the study of reptiles and amphibians, according to Environmental Science.

Throughout the event, Gisser showed off the reptiles and discussed facts about them regarding biology, diet and survival needs. Students had the opportunity to take the reptiles from their cages and hold them.

For some, this was an opportunity to face their fear of reptiles.

“I was terrified of snakes when I came in today, but now I’m in love,” said Kayla Haren, a freshman zoology major. 

Some students sat on the floor and let the snakes slither across their arms, while others watched from a distance.

“Snakes are so misunderstood because they react differently than other animals do,” said Sierra Solitro, a freshman environmental conservation biology major. “We’re so used to having the fur and the fluff all the time.”  

Freshman journalism major Jacob Gajda added, “I just have to remind myself that he’s not big enough to hurt me.”

Kelsey Meszaros is the student affairs reporter. Contact her at [email protected].