Fangs pets for the company
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.
Ben Dessen with his pet tarantula named Nikki Webster