It was only when Carlé and her family came to visit Jackal’s Den that I found out that she had a severe case of arachnophobia. I mentioned to her mother that our local reptile park had programs during the holidays to help people cope with their phobias and she decided that it was time for Carlé and her sisters to attend the workshop.
Carlé understandably was really not keen to go but we persisted and she agreed as long as she would not be forced to look, see, touch or experience spiders in any way. We agreed and hoped that the folk at Khamai Reptile Park would have a plan.
When we got there we were greeted by Daniel and Donald who assured Carlé that she would never have to do anything that she did not want to do. They started to talk to her about spiders and which ones are dangerous to us here in South Africa. Naturally she wanted to know what the dangerous ones looked like so she could identify them if ever she came across them. Daniel showed them to her (they were in glass cages so Carlé felt safe.) We were then taken to see the reptiles and were allowed to hold what ever we liked. Carlé has a fondness for bearded dragons etc. so she was put at ease with these creatures.
and her sisters got to play too
The dragon in the picture above has a tumour on it’s leg – it was handed in at the park in this condition. As soon as the tumour gets too large, the folk at the reptile park will remove it surgically.
We were then taken to a patch of shady lawn at the park and seated to hear more about spiders. They showed us casings of baboon spiders (shedded skins) which look exactly like the spider itself except a small portion of the back is missing where the spider emerged. We were allowed to touch and feel although Carlé held back. She did manage to watch us play with a baboon spider though.
We were all ‘oooh-ing’ and ‘aaah-ing’ after the experience because it is quite a special moment when you hold one of these creatures. They are so soft and gentle and oh-so-light on their tippy toes across your skin. (I know many of you won’t believe this because I didn’t until I picked up the nerve to hold one – now I can’t get enough)
Then we went off to feed the chameleons
and play with the baby tortoises
It was at this point that Carlé mentioned to Daniel that she may just like to try to touch the spider so he took her back inside and told her that he would just let her feel what the spider’s feet felt like. Daniel had so much patience with us and with Carlé – never pushing her beyond what she was ready for.
You can see by the way that Carlé is sitting that she is quite nervous still. I will let the following sequence of pictures tell the rest of the story.
The staff at Khamai Reptile Park were absolutely amazing with vast amounts of interesting information and tons of patience with the children. These are the folk who worked with me to get me over my snake phobia over two years ago. (Now go back and look at the last few pictures again, this time looking into the glass window behind Carlé’s head)
See – I am cured too
And now Carlé wants her own tarantula!
(photos kindly taken and provided by Ronney Reece and Erika Green)