Fangs pets for the com­pany

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - NEWS - Maryanne Taouk

WHEN you think of furry pets, bird-eat­ing spi­ders are prob­a­bly not what come to mind, but Ben Dessen says his taran­tula Nikki Web­ster is his “fluffy pal”.

“She is very mis­un­der­stood,” Dessen says. “But all spi­ders are re­ally mis­un­der­stood, they’re hairy and large and some­times ven­omous, so that’s alarm­ing to peo­ple.”

Nikki is an eight-year-old taran­tula from the North­ern Ter­ri­tory who Dessen houses along with four other pet spi­ders in a ter­rar­ium.

“She can be moody, but I think all pets can be a bit moody, or have dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties,” Dessen says.

“I’ve had her for a while so I can han­dle her pretty well, although she does take some coax­ing and kind words to get her out of her en­clo­sure on some days.”

This type of taran­tula can be ag­gres­sive and pet own­ers are of­ten ad­vised against han­dling them as their bite can be painful, with fangs as long as snakes.

A bite can also cause nau­sea and vom­it­ing but is un­likely to cause death.

“They’re an ob­ser­va­tional pet” Dessen says.

“You’re not go­ing to get a whole lot of in­ter­ac­tion from them, but if you have lim­ited space at home and want some­thing cool I think they fit per­fectly.”

Dessen, who works in the rep­tile depart­ment at Kel­lyville Pets, lives on a 12ha an­i­mal sanc­tu­ary in Du­ral.

He says he has al­ways had an affin­ity for strange an­i­mals and con­ser­va­tion.

Dessen also keeps scor­pi­ons, which he says have grown in pop­u­lar­ity as pets, along with snakes, lizards and in­sects.

“I’ve al­ways been fas­ci­nated by creepy crawlies,” he says.

“I think I would call it a healthy re­spect for all things un­usual. My par­ents bought me my first pet snake when I was six years old.

“I would hope if peo­ple learn more about spi­ders and see how gen­tle they are they’d think twice about grab­bing the fly­swat­ter.”

Dessen says spi­ders are crit­i­cal to the en­vi­ron­ment.

“I re­ally hope once peo­ple are ex­posed to them they’d get to love them as much as I do,” he says.

Pic­ture: Peter Kelly

Ben Dessen with his pet taran­tula named Nikki Web­ster

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