August 31, 2010 / 10:20 PM / 7 years ago

Iran's animal man shares home with snakes, croc and monkey

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Filming with animals can be frightening for actors but a man living in a tiny apartment in Tehran with his crocodile, three snakes, an eagle and a miniature monkey says he can help.

"There are many actors and actresses who are afraid of animals. I try to help them overcome their fears and communicate with animals," says Amir Rahbari, a 37-year-old professional trainer who chooses to live among his animals.

In a cramped 20-square-meter (215 sq ft) flat in a tower block in the north of the Iranian capital, Rahbari holds two big pythons around his neck, explaining that, to him, they are family.

"These animals are my children, my family, they made me famous and helped me to convey my thoughts and my job in the world."

Rahbari has worked on movies and television projects, teaching actors that their fear of animals is not instinctive but something they learned as children learn from their parents.

He says he can cure actors' animal phobias in less than 30 minutes.

Due to his lifestyle, and the problems it causes with neighbors, he has to move homes two or three times a year.

But Rahbari likes sharing a small space with his reptiles and other creatures. "I can see my animals more when I live in a small apartment. We are together when I am eating or sleeping but living in a big apartment prevents us from being together all the time."

Keeping animals as pets is not common in Iran, so Rahbari is aware that his set-up is highly unusual.

"I don't want to bother my neighbors. I have a garden outside Tehran where I keep my dogs and wolves. They are all talented and most of them have taken part in different movies."

He firmly believes that animals are not for show and is uncomfortable with the fashion among affluent Iranian youth to keep dogs as a status symbol, despite Islamic law banning humans from living in close proximity with dogs.

"Keeping them requires special conditions. It should not turn into fashion."

Pointing to Melissa, his 3-meter (10-ft) yellow python curled in her basket, he added: "They go on hunger strike and put an end to their lives if they are not comfortable with the place they live in."

Editing by Paul Casciato

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