Auckland bug man Brian Lawton shares his home with thousands of lizards, eels, exotic insects, rats, turtles and several tarantulas.

Now the 60-year-old wants to turn his abode into an interactive creature centre, where people can come to face their fears and school children can get up close and personal with creepy crawlies.

Lawton has been collecting creatures as far back as he can remember, and now runs two businesses Creatures Unlimited and Hands On Creatures - which both revolve around his pets.

One sources creatures for the movie and advertising industries, and the other is dedicated to bringing "creature experience" to the people.


"Small family groups can come, spend a couple of hours and experience totally everything . . . touching, handling, smelling, whatever," he said.

"Kids can feed, and feel, and I mean how many New Zealand kids will ever get a chance to touch or see a live tarantula close up.

"It's still a work in progress, but people will soon be able to come and experience some of New Zealand's amazing wildlife hands on."

His will turn his garage into a "warm animal centre" to house the thousands of insects, spiders and geckos.

Currently, it is home to several species of lizards, skinks and a bearded dragon.

In the living room of the house, which he shares with partner Tikvah and stepsons Baruch and Hezron, are where the rats and turtles are.

At the back of the house is a bug lab where he keeps his tarantulas, Avondale spiders, locusts, frogs and maggots.

A notice outside the shed describes it as a "quarantine containment facility" where "animals must not escape or be released into the wild".

The former live animal curator at the Auckland War Memorial Museum breeds most of the animals - except for the tarantulas because he didn't have a male.

He said the new facility - which would run by bookings only - will also be used to help people with creature phobia and arachnid anxieties.

"Hollywood, with movies like Arachnophobia, have played a big part in making people freak out when they see big spiders," he said.

"But there's really no justification, and the chances of someone getting killed by spider bites is virtually zero."

With the hundreds of cockroaches he has, Lawton has helped a woman overcome her fear of the insects.

Auckland's bug man has also used his many other creatures to help people he meets at fairs and shows to overcome their fears.

Lawton says he can run programmes in a more organised manner when he starts the new centre, possibly next year.

Under the Wildlife Act 1953, administered by the Department of Conservation, some animals could only be kept by people with specialist skills.

These include scientists conducting research or those breeding native animals for release into the wild.

Some of his animal require special licences, but Lawton said most of what he keeps are not endangered or rare.

Lawton said he was born with a "disease known as a fascination of natural history".

"I get excited when I meet other children with this same fascination, and I want to do what I can to encourage them to pursue it."