A Peterborough security guard with a devotion to dragons and a collection of chameleons has scaled the heights to scoop the title of Lizard Personality of the Year.
Pete Hawkins has picked up the prestigious prize for his knowledge of reptiles, amphibians and all things scaly thanks to his life long passion for the creatures.
Pete (40)started looking after his first reptile - a bearded dragon - when he was just 11-years-old, and now has a number of snakes, frogs, dragons and chameleons in his Hampton home.
He said: “I’ve kept reptiles for 30 years. I think like all kids I was interested in dinosaurs, and a pet shop in Yaxley had what I thought of as ‘mini-dinosaurs’ - which were bearded dragons.
“They were quite rare at the time, and I persuaded my mum to let me have it.
“Looking back, I am surprised it lived for as long as it did. The knowledge we have about them, and the care we can give has come on so much since the late 80s and early 90s.
“The life span of a bearded dragon in captivity in the 80s and 90s was about four years, but now it is about 10 years.
“When you are a kid, it is all about the dinosaur thing with keeping reptiles, but they are great animals to keep. They all have different traits.”
Pete, who works for Ideal Shopping the TV channel, now keeps two bearded dragons, three snakes, three chameleons, two red-eyed tree frogs, and a Pacman frog in his home.
He said: “They are all over the house, not in one room. It is a bit like playing Tetris to fit them all in, as most of them have to be kept in different tanks, as otherwise they would fight.
“They need specialist UV lighting, and most of them eat insects, although some need frozen rats or mice.
“My wife has got used to it now, after 14 years together. She knew from the start what I was like.”
Pete won the title of Lizard Personality Of The Year following a vote in Reptile Report magazine.
Pete didn’t even know he had been nominated, but won thanks to the support he gave other lizard owners across the globe.
He said: “I have set up various Facebook networks for different species. The bearded dragon group has more than 10,000 members from across the world, and I am able to offer help and advice to them.
“I really enjoy being able to help others out. I go to events across the country, and have written for Practical Reptile Keeping as well.
“It was very pleasing to get nominated and win the award.”
The awards included a number of different catagories, including Venomous Personality of the Year, Gecko Personality of the Year and Achievement of the Year.
For more information about the awards, visit http://thereptilereport.com