Local franchise owner about to have ‘dream come true’ moment
Getting to work with one of the crew off the television program “Python Hunters” was a dream Leanne Guzzwell never expected to come true.
Local Little Rays Reptile Zoo franchise owner Leanne Guzzwell, works at a show with her albino Burmese python. Little Ray’s is coming to St. John’s this week for the fourth time. — Submitted photo
Guzzwell owns a franchise of “Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo,” a zoo and wildlife refuge based out of Ontario that does a lot of travelling education programs such as the one about to hit St. John’s later this week.
“I’m always excited for these events, but the biggest thing for this one is that one of the “Python Hunters” is coming,” Guzzwell says.
“Python Hunters” is a National Geographic program that aired on Outdoor Life Network in Canada.
“I used to watch it and be like, ‘I wanna work with these guys one day,’ but that’s never going to happen. They’re in Florida. And I’ll never be that lucky,” Guzzwell says.
Guzzwell was probably being realistic about her chances of getting to work with the people from the program, but it didn’t take her long to shed her pessimistic skin following a chance encounter with Shawn Heflick of the show.
She met him last year at an expo in Toronto and Heflick is now coming here to work with Little Ray’s and Guzzwell. She volunteers with the zoo whenever they come to town and this trip she’ll be doing presentations.
Guzzwell has had a franchise with Little Ray’s for about 2 1/2 years. Her animal count has doubled to almost 60 in the past year and includes not only reptiles, but insects, arachnids and birds.
“It’s literally like a zoo,” she says of her home.
Paul Goulet — better known as Little Ray — will also be making the trip to Newfoundland this time around. The show he’s bringing with Heflick and other guests this week is titled “Swamp thing! Creatures of the swamp.”
“Over 80 per cent of the animals in our care are people’s pets. They’re animals we got from individuals that have had them as pets,” Little Ray says.
The animals either get too big, live too long or people’s lives change and they can’t handle them anymore. Ray also works with SPCA groups across the country and the federal government to save animals confiscated at the border.
And while there will be some new creatures that haven’t made the trek to the province before, there’ll be some old favourites such as the 150-pound alligator.
“We talk about issues affecting wetlands everywhere from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Africa and South America and just introducing people to some cool wetland animals,” says Ray.
“Everybody knows it’s critically important to be talking about conservation and different issues happening around the world.”
They’ll also plug Guzzwell and her program that is available right here for parties. At Ray’s this week, people will get to learn about and touch the animals. The same holds true for the animals and the knowledge Guzzwell brings when people book her and her assortment of animal friends.
Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo is at Remax Centre — St. John’s Curling Club Thursday through Sunday. For more information, check out raysreptiles.com.