A Model Career For Herpetology
Practical Reptile Keeping|March 2017

There are a lucky few people whose career helps them to pursue their interest in studying reptiles and amphibians – sometimes in unexpected ways. David Alderton talks with one of them.

Mitchell Robinson's career as a model is on a stellar trajectory. His career highlights to date include a L'Oréal campaign; featuring in the magazine Harper’s Bazaar in a shoot with the famous photographer Richard Burbridge, and appearing as a RoboCop alongside Lady Gaga in Times Square, New York, promoting the release of one of her albums. Growing up in the small southern town of Acworth in the state of Georgia, he was spotted by a model scout on the streets of New York and is now represented by a top NYC agency.

Mitchell’s rise to the top, as is often the case, has involved a combination of luck, determination and hard work. Long before his career took off though, he had acquired a early and lasting fascination with reptiles, as he explains.

Early days

Q What are your first memories of reptiles? 

A My parents should have known they had a problem on their hands when I would play with lizard-shaped fishing lures when I wasn’t even two-years-old! By the time I was walking, I was never seen without a critter-keeper (container) in hand, catching every anole lizard in sight. I think that I was born with an obsession for reptiles.

Q Does growing up in Georgia alongside alligators and rattlesnakes have any impact on how communities and the people within them view reptiles? Did this affect you in any way?

A Although I had a pet alligator named Chip, who used to keep all the family awake bellowing at night, the most venomous thing you’d encounter in Acworth, Georgia is a copperhead snake, and they certainly do often bite unsuspecting dogs and humans. I was raised on a property with a creek that was full of snakes and other critters. I learned that snakes are good to have around to eat other animals that you don’t want in your house such as rodents. Growing up in the country definitely had a huge impact for my love of nature and wildlife.

Establishing a collection

Q How did you start out keeping reptiles?

A At seven years old, I received a book on geckos from my dad and it opened my eyes to these fascinating reptiles. I was enamoured by the virtually endless number of species, colours and varieties. My parents recognised and acknowledged my developing passion for the subject, and took me to reptile expose right across the eastern United States. This spawned into hundreds of purchases and is how I acquired my knowledge of the Madagascan species.

Q What are your best moments, keeping and breeding herps?

A I partnered with another enthusiast who shared my same passion and lived not too far away! When I moved, I integrated my collection into his as New York City is not the place for delicate rare species. I praise Adam Jessien for his countless successes with tending to and breeding upwards of 50 species of day geckos (Phelsuma) and leaf-tail geckos (Uroplatus).

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