It's what's hopping in the world of herpetology

The Media

February 07, 1999|By Los Angeles Times

Think of it as a sort of Cosmo for the scaly set. There are beauty tips ("Unravel the Mysteries of Skin Shedding"), health reports ("Constipated Iguana?") and a dollop of sex ("Start Your Own Rodent Breeding Colony") -- not to mention a centerfold of a naked green lizard.

It's Reptiles magazine, a slithery pet pub- lication that just celebrated its fifth anniversary.

Reptiles is actually a fairly serious, straightforward magazine for owners of coldblooded creatures. But it's dressed up with clever headlines, colorful graphics and even a few celebrity interviews, like with Guns N' Roses guitarist and reptile lover Slash and NFL linebacker Chad Brown, owner of a reptilei-ibreeding business.

It's the same basic formula followed by Koi World, Ferrets and other niche pet magazines from Los Angeles-based Fancy Publications. Its pet publishing empire also includes such titles as Natural Cat ("Holistic Hairball Fighters") and Critters ("What's Hot in Pocket Pets: Flying Squirrels, Chipmunks, Gerbils and More!").

The head human at Reptiles is editor Phillip Samuelson, 34, who toiled at Fancy's more mainstream Bird Talk and Dog Fancy magazines before dreaming up a publication devoted exclusively to reptiles and amphibians. Reptiles premiered in September 1993, just about the time that "Jurassic Park" stomped into movie theaters and Americans "seemed to go reptile crazy," Samuelson says.

Circulation climbed to a reported 100,000 before dipping to the current 80,000, and its success has spawned at least three imitators. Its profile is high enough that Reptiles landed a bit part as background scenery in the recent movie "Small Soldiers."

Reptiles' fifth anniversary issue in January featured reptile news (sightings of 400-pound turtles in Hanoi, Vietnam), reptile humor (cartoon: "In Australia, snakes coil counterclockwise") and a roundup of herpetological paraphernalia (reptile greeting cards, rain forest frog refrigerator magnets, a lizard-shaped CD rack and iguana mouse pads).

Even the advertisements can be entertaining, with merchants peddling a "great selection of albino boa constrictors" and frozen mice-cicles -- "the other white meat."

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