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Reptiles a big part of Kayla’s life

Tairua Community Librarian, Kayla McCallum has been fascinated with animals all her life and always thought she would end up working with them.
 |  Pam Ferla  | 

Tairua librarian, Kayla McCallum, with two of her many reptiles, blue-tongued skink Noodle, and (right) bearded dragon Mary Jane.

On her ninth birthday she was given three red eared turtles – Tiger, Pebbles and Bubbles. As a teenager she volunteered at Franklin Zoo, which included reptiles and an ex-circus elephant. Her soft spot for animals, especially those needing a home, continued and now she’s almost got a zoo of her own.

She has three blue-tongued skinks plus six for adoption (an opportunity folks). There tongues are such a pretty blue. She also has two bearded dragons plus one for adoption, four water dragons plus four young for adoption, and two leopard geckos. There are 13 red slider turtles that are all for adoption and Kayla also keeps two reeves turtles, one Australian painted turtle and one snake-necked turtle. She loves that the snake-necked looks like it’s always smiling and says these larger creatures are best kept in a big pond.

But wait, there’s more. She has three rats plus a love bird, two cockatiels and two lorikeets. She also has frogs, newts and fish. Oh, and there are also four dogs at home, all rescued to have a good life.

Kayla’s dream is to “do things properly” on her property so that people can visit her flock, enjoy and learn. She’s a popular visitor at kindergartens and schools and took some of her reptiles to Tairua’s library during the school holidays. Children find them fascinating.

Kayla reckons keeping reptiles is not onerous. Adult reptiles do not eat every day and they sleep (called brumation) much of the winter time. They don’t make a noise and if you set up their tank (the proper name is vivarium) in a bioactive way, you don’t have to clean up after them. They are easier to catch than a lot of pets, like the rabbits or the pig Kayla used to have. They all eat insects and that is why she breeds meal worms and crickets.

“You can be as interactive with them as much as you want to,” says Kayla, whose reptiles are used to being handled.

“Reptiles may seem to lack personality but they really do have personality,” she smiles.

“Some are cuddly, some are stand-offish and some of them are just sassy.”

She hopes to get her Native Reptile Licence in the future. When she’s not working, Kayla runs Scales and Tails Reptile Rescue with her fiance, Nathan.

New library job

Kayla grew up in West Auckland and spent holidays in Pauanui throughout her life. She moved to Pauanui four years ago and worked as a casual librarian in Tairua for a year during the challenge of Covid.

Then she became a part time library worker and has just been appointed Tairua’s community librarian, replacing Jen Hutchinson, who has moved on. Kayla says she is grateful for everything Jen has taught her.

Meanwhile Noodle – a blue-tongued skink with lovely markings along his back – listens to this interview lying on a branch of wood in his vivarium opposite the counter at Tairua Library. He is seven years old and may live till about 20.

As happens with some reptiles, he lost his tail but it’s growing back and when in his splendour, he may reach 50cm in length.

Like many reptile pets, the time came when his owners moved on and Kayla was ready to give him the love and attention he deserved. Lucky Noodle.

Kayla’s dream is to “do things properly” on her property so that people can visit her flock, enjoy and learn.