The State News caught up with MSU zoology senior Zach Brinks to talk about his wild room, which is accentuated by dozens of animal holding tanks that surround the perimeter of his bedroom in his Lansing residence. Brinks, who transferred from the University of North Texas last year, works for Petco Animal Supplies Inc. and the MSU Botany Greenhouse to fulfill his dream of working with animals. He said he owns about 23 species. Brinks breeds, trades and sometimes sells some of the reptiles and amphibians in his room. He feeds the animals crickets, as well as fruit flies and beetles that he breeds himself. The unique setup and operation of Brinks’ room is the topic of discussion in today’s SN Decor.
The State News How would you describe your room?
Zach Brinks My room is a 30-feet-by-12-feet piece of unfinished basement. I sleep down here — it’s great in the winter. When it’s nasty, stormy, (and there are) 10 inches of snow outside, I can come down here and it sounds like the jungle.
SN What kind of animals do you have living in your room?
ZB Right now, I have various kinds of dendrobates or dart frogs, a few specialized tree frogs, various geckos and bearded dragons.
SN Do you consider these animals your pets?
ZB I don’t necessarily consider them my pets, kind of almost like my awards. They are animals, they are property, but that doesn’t mean we have any right to mistreat them or anything. They’re all very well taken care of.
Most people would set up these types of tanks with one or two live plants and put them in a 10-gallon (tank) and call it good. I see these as kind of like a living work of art.
SN Why not cats and dogs?
ZB I was raised in Houston right outside industrial centers and everything. As a result of that, I had horrible asthma and allergies — horrible cat hair allergies. I used to break out in hives when I was exposed to stuff like that. Reptiles seemed like the safe alternative and I’ve been grabbing frogs and toads since I was 2. Then, when I was 14 or 15, when I realized you could actually make these things reproduce in captivity, it kind of boomed into what it is now.
SN What do your mom and sister (who live upstairs) think about the setup?
ZB They’re kind of against it, especially because I lived on my own for three years down in Texas, so when I moved up here, they were kind of surprised by the amount of animals I acquired in that time frame.
But they’re really supportive. They like it, they know I’m passionate about it and it’s something I want to do.
SN What would you call this display?
ZB I guess I would call it a collection. A lot of people who do these mass-scale breeding are in it for the money. They still take care of their animals — don’t get me wrong, but I kind of like the whole display. I want it to look nice. I want to be able to take people down here and them to be like “Wow!” Plus, I’ll be honest, I almost never watch TV. It’s so nice just to pull up a chair, sit back, and relax or study. During the day when all these frogs start calling and everything to each other, it’s quite a show.
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