By Dusey Hyman
It all began when I realized that any person can order anything from the Internet, no matter their background. This includes animals, which I was on the hunt for.
I was on the search for a baby chameleon to fulfill a lifelong dream of having one as a pet; after searching for some time, I stumbled upon a website called Underground Reptiles. The eye-catching and mysterious name was soon to be my most common Google search. The retailer’s home screen appeared with captivating videos of statue-like lizards of all breeds. Still curious, I began to click around and found not only reptiles, but almost any animal. From lizards to monkeys to snakes, and even foxes, this company seemed to have everything that a reptile enthusiast could dream of. The animals vary in prices as low as a nine dollar Scorpion to a $8,999.99 Baby Purple Tiger Albino Tegu, which has been carefully bred over the course of many years. Underground Reptiles is a Florida-based company that shares its passion about animals through its shop and website’s videos. After more research, I realized that my cousins, who live right down the road from the shop in Deerfield, Florida, used to purchase many of their animals, such as snakes, turtles, a skunk, and many more, at the shop. They also have a wide variety of chameleons, which was just what I was looking for.
It was time to make the leap. I ordered my chameleon at 6:00 p.m. on a Monday night, and as I patiently awaited, it showed up at 9:00 a.m. the next morning. Thankfully, the website states that any animal is guaranteed to come to your house alive. I rushed to open his box, which was filled with brown paper and a small closed paper bag. Inside the bag was a four-inch baby translucent veiled chameleon. I named him Echo and put him in his new cage. I watched him for two hours straight that day, even though he just sat on a branch and turned brown. He was not that interesting, which was probably because he did not do anything. He did not even eat. Unfortunately, the young chameleon died two weeks after his arrival, probably because he did not eat.
Underground Reptiles is a highly regarded company that aims to breed and sell top-of-the-line of reptiles and animals. Their blog includes videos and daily Bible verses. The videos are anywhere from unboxing videos to live cameras on newly-hatched reptiles. The unboxing videos show happy customers unwrapping their new pets. The company prides itself on the quality of its animals and their prices. When looking through the photos, you can see that the store in Deerfield is filled from top to bottom with cages and different accessories to help make the lives of the exotic animals comfortable.
I am lucky enough to be related to a family of reptile enthusiasts. My aunt and uncle, Alicia and Jess Sacks, used to live in Deerfield near Underground Reptiles. They have had many reptiles as pets, a tortoise that lived in their backyard, snakes, and a sugar glider. The most memorable pet they’ve owned was a skunk. Alicia states that their love of exotic animals all “started when our son became interested in reptiles.” He would often run around outside and try to catch any lizard he could just to bring it inside for the night. Alicia and Jeff had a long relationship with the store staff until they moved to Richmond. The owner, Rian Gittman, has been “importing and exporting reptiles since he was a teenager. His whole yard is filled with cages that he raises.”
Alicia’s favorite two animals that she has purchased from Underground Reptiles were a chameleon and a tortoise. The tortoise mainly lived outside and was about the size of a large basketball hoop. Their least favorite animals were a hissing cockroach and an iguana. Alicia claims that the most animals she has had at once is six. When asked to describe the Underground Reptiles store, Jess stated that, “there are about 100 very well-organized cages, and the employees clean each of them every day. In the back room, there are crickets, mice, rabbits, and rats, just about any food for large reptiles and snakes.” When walking into the store, expect to be blown away by a small, free zoo. Any interested person can walk around for hours and look at all of the exotic animals. Underground Reptiles is definitely for anyone interested in an new and unconventional pet.