‘Caiman Kevin’ enthralls with reptile show

Looking like a Canadian version of Crocodile Dundee, dressed entirely in khaki, with a Tilley-style hat, Kevin Dungey is as comfortable holding a two-metre long lizard as someone would be holding a chihuahua.

Ciarra Rose

Ciarra Rose

Looking like a Canadian version of Crocodile Dundee, dressed entirely in khaki, with a Tilley-style hat, Kevin Dungey is as comfortable holding a two-metre long lizard as someone would be holding a chihuahua.

The host of Living Dragons: Giant Lizards of the World at Westerner Days is better known to some as “Caiman Kevin” — Caiman being a type of crocodile — which he also works with as part of Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo, based in Ottawa.

Dungey, 39, grew up loving animals, living close to Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Zoo, which he visited regularly. As a child, he would drag home frogs, snakes and turtles. He started working at the reptile zoo nearly seven years ago and is now its education director.

Throughout Westerner Days, Dungey will be putting on four shows a day from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Shows run from today to Sunday, letting people have a look at some of the longest and largest lizards in the world. His tent is located on the far northwest corner of the midway.

From bright green to speckled lizards in shades of black and beige, the show offers species that normally live in places as far away as Africa and New Guinea.

Monitors are among the varieties of lizard he will be showing; the carnivorous lizards are the closest living relative of the Komodo dragon. The show has a five-foot long Nile monitor named Crackers, a Crocodile monitor named Steve-O and two white-throated monitors called Dikembe and Mutombo, after one of the tallest basketball players in the NBA. Dungey will also show a green iguana and the only Cuban rock iguana in Canada.

During the show on Wednesday, some adults cringed, but children immediately wanted to touch everything Dungey brought out to show them. People will have the chance to touch some of the smaller varieties, including crested geckos, a blue-tongued skink, a green iguana and the black and white tegu. Alberta law prohibits people from petting the larger lizards.

Visitors can also have a closer look at the lizards in the tent near the stage afterwards.

Most of the reptiles in the show are rescued. Dungey said often people will buy a green iguana in the store thinking it is cute, but don’t realize how big it’s going to get and once it reaches more than a couple metres in length, with big teeth, it no longer seems like a great house pet.

Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo has rescued everything from alligators people bought as babies and wind up growing to 100 pounds in their bathtub to lizards and snakes.

Dungey said reptiles are misunderstood, with television shows and movies sensationalizing them and many people having a prejudice against them.

“We travel around teaching the real truth, but at the same time we’re creating an appreciation for these animals and hopefully creating an awareness about these endangered animals,” Dungey said.

Besides the Living Dragons show at Westerner Park there are plenty of other activities going on as well. Today is McDonalds Kids Day at Westerner Park, with free admission for kids 12 and under until 6 p.m. and kiddie rides reduced by one coupon until 7 p.m. The midway is open from noon to midnight.

It’s the Kraze Birthday Bash today, with a dance for all ages from 4 to 6 p.m. and an adult only event from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.

The Toyota Pony Chuckwagon races continue today, with a 6:30 p.m. start time and the Alberta Goat Classic Show and Angora Goat Show has a noon start at the Coca Cola Livestock Pavilion.

More information on events, activities and start times is available at www.westernerdays.ca.

sobrien@bprda.wpengine.com