By Ashley Mackin | SDUN Editor
Resting in the front window of A Glass Jungle on University Ave. between Fifth and Sixth is Cleopatra, a fifteen-foot albino tiger python. Some people want to touch her, some want to run, but many stop to just look at her.
Behind Cleopatra, throughout the store, is the other half of the store’s premise: glassware, ranging from water pipes to statues. Taped above her cage is a sign that reads, “Come pet my snake,” which, for storeowner Hiroshi Motohashi, is the first step in one of his major goals. He wants to inform people about reptiles.
“I love to educate people about the animals and let them see things they wouldn’t normally see…and I want people to see how they could take care of these animals responsibly,” he said.
Information is key to Motohashi and the people he works with when it comes to responsible ownership.
Stephanie Gallop, a friend of Motohashi who works at the store, says people think reptiles are easier to care for than other pets, “People need to realize that every animal is a commitment, it is a life, and you need to care for it for its entire life,” she said.
Gallop said one of her concerns is the lack of understanding when it comes to how big snakes can get. Parent snakes like Cleopatra are always up front, both to draw a crowd and to show how much and to what size they can grow. Many boa constrictors, a common choice for snake owners, can reach six to ten feet in length.
Motohashi says a big part of finding the right reptile is the size. One has to factor in how large the snake will get and whether they can accommodate that growth in their living situation, such as an apartment building.
That could mean getting a new cage every few months to buying extra heat lamps or climbing trees.
“When you’re trying to raise an animal that’s not from around here, you have to alter the conditions
for the animal in order to thrive,” he said, referring to the exotic snakes and lizards he sells, “otherwise they would live out here in the wild, but they don’t.”
However, Motohashi says one of the things he loves about reptiles as pets is their lower maintenance.
“What’s cool about reptiles is they can be left alone. They’re fine with it. For the social ones, maybe you want to get a couple of them, but you can also interact with them, hold them, bond with them but still take off for the weekend,“ he said.
San Diego resident Eddie Uncangnco says the biggest issue he had when buying his snakes was whether his roommate would be okay with it. “People who are scared of snakes seem to have a stereotype about them. Snakes are just like every other animal. They have their own personalities, and sometimes you get the nippy ones and sometimes you get the cuddly ones,” he said. Uncangnco purchased all three of his jungle carpet pythons from A Glass Jungle.
In case full snake ownership is not for you, Motohashi’s door is open to community members who just want to see or hold a snake for a little while, without needing to clean it or feed it.
Working to remain as local as possible, Motohashi breeds the reptiles himself, and works with local artists for the glass statues, figures, pipes and smoking equipment at the store, as well as the paintings that cover its walls.
When asked about the inspiration
for opening a glassware and reptile shop, he laughed and said, “I just want to fill the store with stuff I like.”