Drew Desjardins gives his iguana, Spot, some attention Saturday at Mr. Drew and His Animals Too in Lewiston. Desjardins said he had about 50 shows canceled because of the coronavirus and had to close the museum. Desjardins said that feeding and caring for his snakes and reptiles will go on. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — Local businesses have been rocked by the arrival of the coronavirus in Maine, and Drew Desjardins said that he, like many others, have felt the virus’ impact.

Drew Desjardins gives two of his tortoises a snack on Saturday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Desjardins, who runs an educational outreach program with more than 150 animals in Lewiston called Mr. Drew and His Animals Too, has been working with exotic animals for more than 35 years. He takes in and cares for them and travels across New England to schools, birthday parties, Boy Scout and Girl Scout gatherings, and educates people about the animals he has taken in.

On March 15, he held what will likely be his last public show until the summer.

“I had to cancel 50 or so shows throughout March and April,” Desjardins said Saturday afternoon. “That’s a big chunk of change for us.”

He was also forced to close the museum at his location due to Gov. Janet Mills recommending that gatherings of 10 or more people be prohibited through the end of March.

Desjardins said that schools and businesses being closed and the gathering ban leaves him very little options to make up the lost income.

“We’re probably $25,000 in the hole,” Desjardins said.

He said while he is still finding ways to buy food for his animals, it’s made much more difficult with the lack of shows.

Desjardins said that he has been able to make a little bit of money by selling feed to people for their animals, but “that money goes toward buying more feed to take care of the animals. I’m selling food to buy more food.”

The situation has been exacerbated by an influx of people bringing their animals to the animal shelter, Desjardins said.

“I take in whatever the humane society doesn’t, and with the virus, people seem to be getting rid of their animals at a higher rate,” he explained. “They need to be fed and they need to be treated. The money disappears fast.”

Despite the lack of business, he said that he’s hesitant to ask for assistance through crowdsourcing or donations.

“Everybody’s in the same boat right now with this virus,” Desjardins said. “I do what I do because I’m passionate about it. There’s no money to be made in what I do but I still do it. Everybody needs help right now, and I don’t want to be asking for anything when everybody’s struggling.”

Some people suggested he make a Patreon account, a crowdsourcing platform that people can use to get fans to pay for their work, and upload Youtube videos talking about animals, but Desjardins disagreed.

“I might just make the videos for free, so people have something fun to watch and distract them,” he said.

While Desjardins faces an uphill battle over the next few months, he said that he is already booking shows for June and July, when he hopes the spread of the coronavirus will have slowed down.

“I’m just sick of the political divide and the conspiracy theories and the arguing,” Desjardins said. “All I want is for everyone to sit back and say, ‘What do we need to do to get through this together?’”

[email protected]

Desjardins has an Amazon wishlist on the Mr. Drew and His Animals Too Facebook page featuring items necessary for the program, and a button on the Mr. Drew website where people can donate.


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