You can now dine with snakes at this 20-year-old’s new reptile cafe in Selangor
You’ve heard of cat cafes and dog cafes, but have you heard of a reptile cafe?
The concept isn’t entirely novel. Reptile cafes are super popular in Japan, a country that’s also home to… a capybara cafe?
But reptile cafes are not common in Malaysia. We had Creepy Crawlies Exotic Pet Cafe (permanently closed now) in Bintulu, Sarawak, and there’s Zoology Cafe in Melaka, though it isn’t exclusive to reptiles.
Both had opened a while back, but now there’s a newer entrant, and it’s located in Klang Valley.
Opened on December 17, 2022, it goes by the name of Fangs by Dekõri (Fangs).
Located in Bandar Sunway, Fangs is a dessert cafe with a twist. It’s home to several snakes, lizards, frogs, some adorable gerbils, and a tarantula. These animals belong to the owner of the cafe, Yap Ming Yang (Yap).
“They used to all be in my room,” he told us, joking, “It’s very lonely now.”
A true reptile lover, Yap’s fascination with animals started at a young age. He shared that he used to love catching and observing spiders from around his home.
“I like feeding them, and watching them just live,” he mused. “They’re very interesting little creatures. You just see their behaviour, there’s so much more [to them] than meets the eye.”
From those small spiders, he started to keep tarantulas, then reptiles. According to him, these communities are very interconnected.
People who keep tarantulas often keep snakes, and people who keep snakes may keep lizards, and so on and so forth.
His interest explains why he decided to pursue a degree in tropical environment biology. Before opening Fangs, he also used to import and sell reptiles.
But something Yap had always been interested in doing is starting a reptile-themed cafe.
“The thing is, I don’t have any F&B experience,” he admitted.
Instead of giving up, though, Yap decided to go another route.
Working with Dekõri to bring his vision to life
According to Yap, Dekõri, a Malaysian dessert brand, had just recently opened up its franchise opportunities.
Yap decided to take a shot and presented his ideas to Dekõri. Surprisingly, the Dekõri team was on board and even gave Yap free reign over the interior design of Fangs.
When asked if Yap had considered any other F&B brand to work with, he said no.
“I don’t think Fangs by McDonald’s would work,” he joked.
Although Fangs sports a more biophilic design compared to the usual Dekõri outlets, the menu is a standardised one that features Dekõri’s signature Kakigoris, waffles, and taro ball desserts.
However, Dekõri has two types of cafes—Premium Café and Dessert Café. As the former kind, Fangs also serves soups, pasta, and croissants.
If you’re wondering whether any insects have made it into the food too, the answer is no, although Yap quipped that he’s “always wanted to sell edible insects”. Probably not anytime soon though, and probably not through Fangs, he assured.
Maintaining a stress-free environment for humans and reptiles
One thing people often ask about reptiles, Yap said, is how costly it is to care for them. The answer? Not costly at all.
This might be surprising to some, but reptiles are rather low-maintenance. For instance, snakes only have to eat once every two weeks, while tarantulas only eat once a month.
“If you add all the maintenance of all of these animals together, it’s practically equivalent to [caring for] one dog,” he pointed out.
The tedious tasks are just changing the animals’ water and cleaning out their poop.
Another common concern for any animal café is the stress levels of the animals. For instance, the ethics of animal cafes in Japan have been largely debated and discussed.
But Yap believes that he has met all the requirements of his animals, including places to hide, so it shouldn’t be a problem.
“I’ve been keeping snakes for a long time,” he assured. “You can tell when animals are stressed.”
Because Yap is able to settle the maintenance of the animals himself, staff members at Fangs actually do not need to be adept at handling them.
Yap was able to show his expertise during our visit. Mid-conversation, he excused himself, dashing off to instruct patrons on the correct way to engage with the snakes.
“I’m actually more concerned about them injuring the snake than getting injured,” Yap commented as he sat back down. The snakes are already familiar with humans—it’s the humans that aren’t quite as familiar with the snakes.
Thankfully, there hasn’t been any incidences in the store.
Yap has also gotten clearance from the appropriate government agencies and obtained a surat sokongan (letter of support) from them. To do so, they had to write down a list of detailed SOPs within the cafe.
One such SOP is that, before eating, patrons must clean their hands with the provided sanitiser after touching the animals.
Showcasing the beauty of reptiles
One of the reasons why Yap felt inspired to start Fangs was because he believes that reptile hobbyists in Malaysia only have a few places they can go to and express their interests. Other than exotic pet stores, there don’t seem to be many other options.
As new as the café is, Fangs has already hosted a meetup for the reptile community by partnering up with Exotic Pets Studio. Many brought their own reptilian pets to the meetup, and someone even brought a meerkat.
Yap’s goal is to host a weekly meetup at Fangs for the community, as well as grow that said community.
“I would love for this hobby to grow,” he said. “Not many people know that these reptiles are easy to keep, they’re friendly.”
Many people associate snakes with danger, and oftentimes may kill them on sight out of fear. Giving these people an opportunity to actually feel and interact with a snake might put some of those fears at ease.
Holding the corn snake at Fangs, I was reminded of another café I’ve been to—the aforementioned Zoology Café in Melaka—which also had a pet snake for patrons to interact with.
Having done his own research, Yap is also familiar with Zoology Café. Compared to Fangs, though, he considers the Melakan café to be more of a sit-down restaurant that lacks the cafe vibe that he is pursuing.
In time, Yap is also interested in diversifying the kinds of animals he keeps in the store, such as fish and shrimps.
Still, reptiles seem to be where his heart lies.
“I enjoy the idea that I can let normal people come and hold the snake, something they usually wouldn’t do,” Yap expressed. “I would like to give that experience to people outside of our community.”
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