When kids hear the name SpongeBob, they usually cheer and laugh.
But when OutBack Ray Andersen pulled an 8-foot-long albino Burmese Python – named SpongeBob – out of a large plastic tub, some kids screamed, others froze and a few were just mesmerized by one of the world's largest snakes that can eat a meal three times its body weight. Even a few uncomfortable moms moved to the back of the room as Andersen wrapped SpongeBob around his neck and over his shoulders.
More than 70 children and parents packed the Garfield Room at the Thursday to watch Outback Ray’s Amazing Animal Show, which featured about a dozen captive-born exotic animals.
“Our shows are always well attended because the kids love animals and these are the types of animals they don’t see every day,” says Andersen, dressed in African Safari garb. "So there's a lot of curiosity as well."
Andersen's love for exotic animals began when, as a teenager, he worked at a local pet store.
Since 1987, the South Euclid resident has performed exotic animal shows to educate and involve the audience. For example, about 10 brave girls lined up to hold SpongeBob’s 8-foot-long body from his head to tail for a couple of minutes. Soon after, about 10 boys also got to hold SpongeBob as well. They showed off a little bit by hoisting one of the world’s largest snakes high above their heads.
Most of the kids had the opportunity to hold or pet tropical animals such as Mindy, the chinchilla; Irwin, the American crocodile from Florida; Romeo, the Madagascar hissing cockroach; ZuZu, the hairless guinea pig; Anthony, the blue tongue skink; Kobe, the Honduran milk snake.
And then, there was Gabby, the umbrella cockatoo, who stole the show by saying “Hello” to the kids. The bird also fell forward on his perch after Andersen and the kids pretended to shoot the white-feathered cockatoo.
In addition to conducting animal shows, Andersen breeds and trains about 40 exotic animals. He has been featured on various television and radio shows and trains animals for commercials.