Friends say goodbye to Lizardman

Published 4:56 pm Tuesday, August 26, 2008

“Bert Langerwerf was truly one of a kind. Quirky, focused to the point of obsession, with a brilliant mind, a knack for mastering ten languages and a knowledge of lizards that surely will never be surpassed.” That’s the description of Langerwerf given by his best friend and colleague, Ron Tremper. Langerwerf would have liked being called quirky.

Langerwerf died on Aug. 11. He was born in the Netherlands in 1944, the oldest of three children. His father was a park and street municipal worker who repaired small engines on the side. With a degree in physics, Bert taught that subject for 15 years in the Netherlands before infatuation with reptiles propelled him to the Canary Islands, New Zealand and finally to Montevallo, where he created Agama International raising and selling captive-bred lizards.

From a very young age he loved all kinds of reptiles, but especially the lizards. His other passions were his family, music and languages. He told his wife, Hester, about going to church as a young child and hiding a Swedish language book under his Bible. He opened the Bible and then placed the language book inside so he could study Swedish during the sermon without his mother knowing. He spoke fluent French, English, Spanish, Russian, Dutch, Hungarian, Yiddish, Swedish, Chinese and others.

When, as college students, he and Hester married, she had no idea of the interesting and challenging life they would have. They worked, travelled extensively and studied together.

The lizard ranch was a family affair. The two of them, with sons Timo and Aleksis, built more than 400 outdoor terrariums. Bert was into green before that was popular. He used recycled materials and products that he could buy locally.

Langerwerf authored many books and hundreds of papers on the subject of lizards, but his final work was “Lizardman – The Life and Adventures of Bert Langerwerf.” His great sense of humor is demonstrated both in the text and on the cover where he is shown with the head of a small lizard in his mouth.

With tears in her eyes, Hester commented, “We did lots of traveling and met many interesting people. Running the business was sometimes hectic, sometimes crazy. He always wanted to raise more and more lizards. Working with lizards was his life, his oxygen, his passion, and he was not ready to give it up.”

Catherine Legg can be reached at