Reptiles make good friends, student finds


Tasia Johnson keeps an eye on her reptilian friend, Cherokee, a green iguana, during her holiday break from classes. The Tabor College junior is the caretaker for some 20-plus critters that have a home in the Loewen Natural Science Center. Jenny Terrell / Free Press

Surrounded by reptiles and loving every minute of it, Tasia Johnson is the caretaker of the animals living in the atrium of the science building at Tabor College.

Johnson, a junior from New Orleans majoring in biology, has been working as caretaker in the Solomon L. Loewen Natural Science Center since January 2008. She got the job when one of the science professors, Jeffrey Henderson, mentioned to another science prof, Karrie Rathbone, that Johnson could do it as a work study. Before then, Johnson just went in and did the job anyway.

The love Johnson has for biology and caring for animals began in her high school physics class. She disliked physics, but her teacher had a ball python and a red-tailed boa that she was able to play with in the classroom.

?It?s kind of like I was brownnosing?using them as an excuse to not do the work,? Johnson said.

But playing with the snakes in physics class gave her life direction.

?It made me think?hey, you know, I can do this for the rest of my life?hang out with reptiles all day,? Johnson said.

At the science building, Johnson takes care of 20-plus animals and does everything from scooping poop to feeding and socializing with the animals.

Occasionally there is a health issue to tend to as well, which sometimes calls for a trip to the veterinarian.

Every day, she comes to the science building to make sure everyone has food and water.

Johnson enjoys her job as animal caretaker because she believes animals are unique.

?I just want to teach people their importance of God placing them here for us to learn to use them to our advantage?how to appreciate them and their uniqueness,? Johnson said.

Her favorite reptile at Tabor is Cherokee, a rescued green iguana that arrived at Tabor last spring. Johnson spent the whole summer building a relationship with him. She would take him home to her apartment and he would fall asleep on her chest while they watched TV.

?I?m just in love with him. He?s the reptile version of a dog,? she said.

During the day, Cherokee is often set free to roam inside the building. Johnson said he has climbed all the way up the front wall a couple times and she had to climb up a ladder to get him down.

She said that letting the iguana roam is normal care when kept in captivity and that it would be the same in the wild, only he would be roaming on trees instead of chairs and walls.

Johnson also owns reptiles of her own, which she is able to keep and care for in the science building. She owns a ball python, which she has had for nearly two years, and two Australian-breed tree frogs, which she purchased about two months ago.

The science building is one thing that attracted Johnson to Tabor College when a friend showed her around on her campus visit.

?She showed me all the snakes and the tortoise?I was just in love.?

More from Hillsboro Free Press
Marion earns first victory at Centre
The Marion girls lost to Hope and Wakefield in the first two...
Read More