"It's the best pet you could have - it's quiet, it doesn't bite, it doesn't scratch and it doesn't smell and it's food is free," says Matan Golan, who raises Australian walking stick grasshoppers of the extatosoma tiriatum genus - fondly known as ET - in an aquarium at his home.
Golan, a 24-year-old student at the Hebrew University Faculty of Agriculture in Rehovot, first heard of the walking stick grasshopper from his girlfriend, who is studying biology at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She told Golan that the university had given her class ETs to study in the laboratory, but that lecturers had warned them to treat them carefully because of their high cost - around $80 a head.
The astute Golan saw the opportunity to make some money to pay for his studies and do something he loved. When he logged onto the Web to do some research on walking stick grasshoppers, he discovered, much to his surprise, that there are hundreds of sites devoted to ETs. Most of them described the life of the extatosoma tiriatum accompanied by stunning color pictures. Some of them even offered the critters for sale.
A year ago, Golan purchased via the Internet 30 walking stick eggs for NIS 20. A female walking stick lays about 1,500 eggs in its sole year of life. Golan currently has thousands of eggs that will soon hatch into ETs. He says that pet shops have shown a lot of interest in his walking sticks and that he has already started selling them as pets.
"In Europe people grow walking sticks in little boxes or in the garden. Kids love to take care of the walking sticks and to play with them, and parents aren't bothered by them either. They walk slowly, don't run away and they only have to be fed about once every two weeks," Golan said.
Following his success with the walking sticks, Golan is planning to breed colored frogs which he wants to import from the rainforests of Brazil. "The color of the frogs are amazing - blue, yellowish orange, red, all the colors of the rainbow," Golan says.
"But keeping frogs is much harder than keeping walking sticks and is suitable only for those really willing to invest time and care in them."
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