Volume 95, Issue 92

Wednesday, March 27, 2002
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DNA nets award for computer wiz

"Outcasts" feel at home

"Snake lady" charms Western audience

Ladies shun the computer nerd lifestyle

Tuesday, bloody Tuesday

School is back in session after four week strike at Dalhousie

"Snake lady" charms Western audience

By Jeff Hignett
Gazette Staff

As part of Environmental Awareness Week at Western, the "snake lady" charmed students with her exotic pets yesterday, while also providing information on increasing environmental awareness.

Lisa Walters, the environmental awareness commissioner, said the week has also featured exotic plant sales, as well as pamphlets and presentations concerning environmental issues in the University Community Centre atrium, .

"To be perfectly honest, this event has not attracted much interest," Walters explained, noting it is a busy time of year for most students. "A lot of people showed a lot of interest in the snakes and frogs today, but there was a lack of interest in environmental information."

The popular display was fronted yesterday by Val Williams, the self-proclaimed "snake lady."

Aside from snakes, Williams had a collection of animals that included tarantulas, an African bullfrog, gray tree frogs, box turtles, Malaysian geckos and giant African millipedes.

"There is a lot of stuff in the environment we don't want to know about, but [we] know it's there," William's said.

Chris Warren, a fourth-year health sciences student, sported one of Williams' pet albino corn snakes on his head for several minutes and was just one of many onlookers who handled some of the pets.

"It's awesome," Warren said about the experience, adding he was a little "freaked out" at first, but got comfortable quickly, even after the snake settled on his head and began to squeeze slightly.

Williams said she has been giving presentations for the last 30 years and as a child, raised sphinx moths in her hometown of Bristol, England.

She said she has a soft spot for cold-blooded mammals, dating back to her first pet snake at the age of four.

Williams' unique pets, like any conventional domestic pet, have long been a part of her family.

"My grandson teethed on a rubber tarantula – my sister was always afraid my boa would eat him," she said.

Williams said she is not impressed with the way cold-blooded mammals are treated in general, especially in comparison to their warm-blooded counterparts. During the presentation, she tried to dispel myths surrounding cold-blooded mammals and discussed the need to protect them as their populations dwindle.

For the rest of the week, students can view the displays in the atrium, including ones set up by the environmental commission of Ontario, Earthroots – an organization concerned with endangered species – and the Toronto Zoo.

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Copyright The Gazette 2002