By Sara Kirkley, Weekend Anchor / Reporter - email
Zebras, monkeys and camels – you don't have to go to a zoo to find them right here in Nebraska.
Before there were monkeys, the co–owners of Magical Paradise Exotic farm say they started small.
"I started out in just some diamond doves, some birds; and went to finches and parrots that talked," said Deb Vesely, co-owner of the farm.
"My first snake was a wild-caught ball python. Ball pythons are usually what they start kids with," shared David King, also a co-owner.
Now they have 450 birds, reptiles and mammals, many of them housed just outside of Grand Island's city limits.
"At one time we had 800 animals," said Vesely.
They started bringing reptiles and birds to libraries, putting on educational programs.
"Taking care of them, that's not the fun part," said King. "The fun part is when we go out and we get to intermingle with the people."
This year they hit 45 libraries, plus schools, fairs and even nursing homes.
"So many people are petrified of those types of animals, and partly because they haven't been taught the right way to work with them or hold them or handle them," said Vesely.
When people are taught, King says the animals have an impact.
"One lady, she never talked and through our whole show she asked questions all the time," he said. "It kind of gets you."
No question these animals are rare in the state, but Central Nebraska Humane Society Executive Director Laurie Dethloff says the Internet is making it easier for Nebraskans to get into the animal trade.
"People have access to get more unique–type pets," she said.
Hall County Animal Control is seeing them when they escape.
"We're dealt with monkeys and large iguanas and large boa constrictors. I've had a crocodile in here," said lead officer April Liske-Clark. "People have them in their homes and we're not notified that they're there. Then they get out and we have to go figure out how we're going to contain them."
Some of those end up at Magical Paradise Exotic Farm, including recently, an 18 inch alligator and a large python.
"We have the care and we know what to feed the both of them; so we're taking things in for them and helping them out," said Vesely.
The farm has become a rescue of sorts, but they also get their animals from auctions.