Lizards living in Shelby County worth a visit

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Ever been to a lizard farm?

Now that is a fascinating experience!

Recently we visited Agama International, a lizard &8220;nursery&8221; just outside Montevallo. The hands-on owners are Bert and Hester Langerwerf.

Bert Langerwerf gave us the grand tour. He has designed and built housing for the reptiles to resemble their natural habitat. As we walked around the farm, he explained the construction and the habits of the lizards. Most impressive was the underground hallway where there were separate cages along the walls.

Most of the lizards are hibernating this time of year, but we found three of them awake. These were Water Dragons; extremely calm and not a bit excited to have visitors.

Next we visited a structure where insects were bred to feed the reptiles. Besides the insects, they raise rats, roaches and mealworms for feed.

Throughout the operation ,efforts have been made to utilize energy-saving methods, recycled materials and the environmentally-friendly gifts of nature. Langerwerf is so proud of this that there&8217;s a twinkle in his eye when he describes the process.

When asked about the total number and varieties of reptiles on the farm, Langerwerf said, &8220;We have perhaps 800 this time of year, but in the summer that number will run into several thousands. About 20 varieties are raised here.&8221;

They specialize in the Argentine Giant Tegu, Australian Water Dragon, Bearded dragon, Chinese Crocodile lizard, Morrocon Uromastyx and Jewelled lacerta.

The lizards are sold as babies and the adults are kept for breeding purposes.

Fully grown Giant Tegus can be three or four feet long.

Sales are to buyers all over the U.S.

Most prices for typical lizards range from $50 to $100, but a very rare lizard might go for as much as $500. The Langerwerfs are enthusiastic about the lizards as pets – they are quiet, easily trained, require minimum maintenance and live for ten to twenty years.

Most are sold as pets and go to the large city areas where people are not sufficiently exposed to nature.

The Langerwerfs have been breeding reptiles, mostly lizards, since 1970.

Bert had reptiles when he was a boy in Holland.

His first was a tortoise.

That tortoise is now more than 40 years old.

In addition to the hobby of collecting reptiles, this interesting man learned different languages.

When questioned, he remarked that by the time he was twenty he had learned, in addition to Dutch; English, French, German, Spanish, and Swedish. Today he is conversant in ten languages.

He described the learning of languages, &8220;It&8217;s just a hobby of mine.&8221;

The farm clearly demonstrated great knowledge and experience.

Langerwerf has written hundreds of articles for scientific magazines and several books on the subject of reptiles.

Together, he and wife Hester built and operated a reptile park in the Canary Islands.

Later, when looking for the ideal place to breed reptiles, they landed in Montevallo.

Langerwerf explained, &8220;We liked the site because there is a large open space behind the house and it is away from the road.

The materials and supplies we need are easily available and perhaps cheaper here in Alabama.&8221;

Hester Langerwerf smilingly explained that they do like visitors, but not unannounced.

Their very interesting and informative web site is

Catherine Legg can be reached at