Among exotics

By Laura TomassiniLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

From teenage hobby to full-time job: Jeff Schreiner, at 27, already has his hands full. As one of Austria's only experts in veterinary medicine for exotic and wild animals, his expertise is in demand in many places. An insight into the world of the Luxembourg reptile specialist, which is full of colourful and rare animals.

First a long, thin tail, then a few claws, finally the whole body – this is how one of Jeff Schreiner's monitor lizards climbs its way into the interview. In the background, a part of the large terrarium can be seen, but its inhabitants, like most lizards, are rather shy. Around 40 so-called reptiles are at home in the Luxembourgian's flat, "all behind glass", as Jeff notes with a twinkle in his eye. The 27-year-old is a trained veterinarian for exotic and wild animals, his specialty being herpetology, i.e., the field of zoology that deals with amphibians and reptiles, which Jeff has been fascinated by since he was a little boy.

"When I was eleven, my best friend at the time wanted a snake and my first reaction was, 'Aren't they poisonous?' Although I had grown up with pets, I had to realise how little I actually knew about reptiles and through this lack of knowledge my interest in them grew", the veterinarian recalls. Like so many other schoolchildren, Jeff was well acquainted with the common types of pets in Luxembourg, such as dogs, cats and guinea pigs. However, Jeff didn't know anything about banded water snakes, which would later become his first home exotics.

A home breeding station

"I read up on the subject and at some point, I asked my parents if I could keep a snake. To his astonishment – and probably that of many others – Jeff's parents agreed to his unusual request, but under certain conditions: "There were three rules: "I was not allowed to keep snakes that ate rats or mice, as we had these as pets, only small species that did not grow larger than one metre, and no poisonous animals. Then over the years I broke one of those rules after another and my domestic population exploded."

At times, more than 100 snakes were at home with the Schreiners, besides which the young animal lover bred countless species of tarantulas and scorpions, kept monitor lizards, was enthusiastic about geckos and discovered the colourful poison dart frogs. His love for more "normal" pets never changed but his fascination for all things wild has only increased. By now, the 27-year-old works as a veterinary expert for exotic and wild animals at the AniCura Veterinary Clinic in Hollabrunn, the Schönbrunn Zoo and the Aqua Terra Zoo Haus des Meeres in Vienna, where he observes, cares for and provides medical care for his animal charges on a daily basis.

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