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Cold-blooded thrills

Marshall Allen

By the end of the presentation by Joe Python and the Reptile

Family at Descanso Gardens on Wednesday night, about 70 children were

reduced to screaming and quivering bundles of excitement, as they


worked in groups to hold Kaa, a 120-pound, 12-foot Burmese python.

The show was part of the ongoing Family Fun for Nature Nuts series

at the gardens. Wednesday night’s perform- ance by Emmy Award-winning

musician Dan Crow will be the final installment.


The hands-on Safari Squad show started with the children sitting

attentively, a little nervous, on a matt in the front of the Rose

Pavilion. The children gazed up at an exotic collection of various

sized wicker baskets and mottled boxes and trunks -- one with a

sticker that read: “YES, THEY’RE REAL.”

Chrissy O’Grady, a round nature lover in a pith helmet, led the

show with the assistance of her husband Joe “Python” Martin.

Together, they played show and tell, placing dozens of frogs,


lizards, spiders and snakes in the hands of kids, while lecturing

about the animals.

The kids learned that Mortimer, the giant African millipede, has

400 legs, four for each section of his fat, foot-long body.

It took three kids to hold Jabba, a meaty African bullfrog the

size of a swollen Whopper. O’Grady asked the kids if anyone knew how

Jabba survived in the heat of the Kalahari desert. “He drinks his

bottle!” one kid shouted.


Nope. He actually burrows into the sand, O’Grady said.

The family fun program is a place where children can play with and

pet animals, and more, father Scott Sullivan said.

“It’s a time for the family to get together, get dinner and

relax,” he said.