The reptile attraction at the Saint John Exhibition is drawing mixed reactions from some patrons, who think it is occurring too soon after the tragic deaths of two young brothers in Campbellton.
Thousands of people are expected to visit the exhibition and one stop may include the Maritime Reptile Zoo, a travelling attraction from Dartmouth, N.S.
The show includes a number of reptiles, including a Burmese python, similar to the African rock python that killed Noah, 4, and Connor, 6, Barthe earlier this summer.
"I wouldn't even think it would be in Canada, something like this," said Wendy Gavin as she looked at the snake.
The reaction from people, such as Gavin, is not coming as a surprise for the exhibition’s organizers.
Blair MacDonald, the general manager of the Saint John Exhibition Association, said the decision to bring the reptile exhibit to the exhibition was made six months ago.
After the northern tragedy, he said there was a discussion about whether to continue with the reptile show.
"There was some reconsideration," he said.
"But, you know, it was a terrible accident and I think we have to look at it as an accident and we're satisfied with the safety procedures in place."
The two brothers were killed when the python escaped from its enclosure at the Reptile Ocean pet store in the northern city.
African rock pythons are not permitted in New Brunswick unless an accredited zoo has received an exception under the Exotic Wildlife Regulation
Reptile Ocean is an unlicensed zoo and pet store, officials have said. The last permit obtained by the owner expired on March 31, 2001, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
Exhibit has permits
The Maritime Reptile Zoo has permits with the Department of Natural Resources to transport exotic animals, such as its five-year-old American alligator, into New Brunswick.
Mike MacDonald, the curator with the reptile exhibit, said he hopes people will visit the attraction and get a better understanding about the animals.
"To come and learn about their behaviour and learn about the animals, if anything it will give people a greater understanding of what happened, give some people a little bit of closure and just a better understanding in general of the whole situation," he said.
MacDonald said he tries to break down fears and teach his audience to appreciate the animals.
But he is making some changes to the show in light of what happened in Campbellton. Children will not be handling the Burmese python during the exhibit.
Despite the change, MacDonald said he hopes the exhibit will erase some of the fears that people have of the reptiles.
"A lot of people are afraid of what they don't know and in turn parents usually pass those fears onto their kids. Now kids come up, they're not afraid of anything we have here. They come running up, they want to be the first ones to touch it, the first ones to see it," MacDonald said.
"It's usually the parents that will say, ‘No, no, no, that's dangerous, don't touch it.’ They're passing their fear onto the younger generation."