JEDDAH: In the middle of a living compound is a sanctuary for some of the most misunderstood animals, reptiles that are taken care of by Kane Tison.
The sanctuary is built inside a public park by Tison with the support of his father, where he and his team tend to the animals by recreating their natural habitat. The enclosures feel like a small piece of the forest has sprung out. The enclosures have their own plants and water system that mimics little streams of water, the enclosures are home to not only reptiles but also birds and fish, the birds perch on branches and fly in and out as they please.
Tison was born and brought up in Jeddah and has been collecting animals ever since he was a child, he told Arab News, “We started a little animal farm in the early 2000s where we took care of animals like rabbits and ducks. Soon after we shifted our focus to reptiles and now we have a nice collection of reptiles that we rescue and look after, we also teach people how to take care of them.”
Tison was destined to become a friend of the scaly animals ever since he was a kid, his first snake was given to him by his father at the age of seven, he took care of the snake but eventually had to give it up as it got too big, “We ended up releasing it in the desert and only a few years later I realized that it was the wrong move and you shouldn’t release invasive animals in the wild,” he said.
In Jeddah, he had the opportunity to home the animals in a bigger space and he took it. Tison does not only rescue, but he and his team also give medical attention to the ones who need them. He also buys the reptiles when they see someone having the same species as them so the animal in the shelter is not alone, “So we have a nice couple living together, it’s always nice for the animals to have a companion.”
The enclosures divide the tortoises, iguanas, birds, and turtles in different areas. The animals co-exist in perfect harmony. The baby tortoises dot the whole shelter and while walking one needs to be careful while walking, outside the shelter a bigger pond houses turtles and bigger fish.
Recreating the environment was difficult for them as well, the goal for Tison and his team was to create a natural cycle, the water flow is for the animals and to water the plants, the plants growing can be consumed by the animals, and in this way, everything works well.
Tison said that in the beginning when he was collecting the reptiles people thought it was strange, but the more his community grew the more people began to see the beauty because they were witnessing these different kinds of animals living in their own environment, and hence being their best.
According to Tison, reptiles are easier to care for than mammals and common house pets, “And more fun in my opinion,” he joked.
He said that living with a reptile is all about having trust and respect, the owner needs to gain their trust at their own pace and not force it on the animals.
“I let the animals be animals and keep my interference in their environment as little as possible. People think that you can’t enjoy an animal without playing with it, for me it's not about interacting with them, it's more about respecting the animal in their natural environment. When you create an environment that is healthy for them you will see them at their true nature. This is what you need to learn to enjoy the animal without being a part of their environment.” He explained.
The animal enthusiast keeps his collection of almost 50 snakes in his home as he said that they need to be kept in a temperature-controlled environment. Apart from the snakes’ reptiles are happy with being in a hot and humid climate event which makes Jeddah the best place to keep them as pets.
For the future, Tison is aiming towards opening the doors of the sanctuary to the public in the form of a public reptile zoo and extending his knowledge and love for the reptiles to everyone.