Hadlow College is about to slither into the history books as the home of a new national reptile welfare centre – the first of its kind in the UK.
From September, the Tonbridge Road campus will house a refuge for up to 600 cold-blooded critters, offering care for everything from unwanted lizards to exotic snakes until they can be re-homed.
In the meantime, students will get hands-on experience as well as the opportunity to carry out vital research into the species and their lives in captivity.
The centre is being developed in partnership with the Reptile and Exotic Pet Trade Association and run in collaboration with The Pet Charity, which promotes the benefits of animal ownership.
Tim Wass MBE, chairman of The Pet Charity, said the centre was vital to the care and understanding of exotic species.
He said: “These animals are growing in popularity as pets, with legislation around their care and sale struggling to keep abreast of the changes.
“There are also few places that re-home reptiles and amphibians. Now is the time to change that. ”
Problems surrounding the exotic pet trade, often leading to abandonment, include a lack of knowledge about their long life spans, the size they grow to and the environment they need.
There have also been issues around fads such as a spike in the sale, and later dumping of, slider terrapins following each of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films.
It is hoped the first rescued reptiles will begin moving into the new centre in September, with the complex being fully open early next year.
The welfare centre is one of two new initiatives that will benefit undergraduates from the next academic year.
The college will also be welcoming behaviour experts Dr Robert Falconer-Taylor and professor Peter Neville, Channel 5’s resident guru on a number of its popular Make You Laugh Out Loud animal clip shows, to lecture and provide tutorial support on its animal behaviour degree programmes.