Updated December 21, 2016 9:04 PM
Ex St Marks School/Church
David Leroy Baxter, Elaine Baxter, Gary Robert Baxter, June Baxter, Susan Elizabeth Baxter, Linda Teresa Cooper, Pauline Mary Cooper, Debra Foster, Karl Foster, Mark Foster, Paul Foster, Sharon Foster, Stephen Gillard, Brian Holden, Christopher Holden, Stephen T. Holden, Yvonne Holden, Anthony Moran, Asha Ishvar Patel, Bharti Tailor, Jaswanti Amrahal Tailor, Vanitaben Amratlal Somabhai Tailor,
7th May 1996.
When he was about five Mark Foster was the only pupil in the class at St Mark's, Great Lever who did not mind feeding live worms to the terrapins. A childhood allergy to the fur of animals such as cats and rabbits later led him instead to an interest in creatures such as tortoises, frogs, toads and newts. He bought his first snake when he was 13 and then moved on to tarantulas, lizards and amphibians.
Now, at the age of 32, he has turned his hobby into a business with the help of the Bolton City Challenge initiative in Halliwell.
He has established the Creepy Crawlies exotic pet store in Halliwell Road and is confident that there is a growing market for non-cuddly companions such as snakes, tarantulas, scorpions and iguanas. Mark, who went to Bolton High School of Art in Hilden Street, has lived in Crompton Way, Bolton since 1977 and his little chums have bred to the extent that he now has one room and an attic full of tarantulas and snakes.
"Nothing has ever escaped," he points out proudly.
So is he married?
Well no, but Alex - his girlfriend of the last four years - is "very understanding."
In fact it was Alex who persuaded him to open the shop.
Mark has been in the army and has had a variety of jobs including gardener, lumberjack in Germany and tree surgeon in Bolton.
For the last two years he has worked in pet shops and his success with reptile departments convinced him that his own business venture would do well. He went into the Quest Centre in Halliwell for advice and subsequently joined the Headstart course at Bolton Enterprise Centre and secured interest-free cash from the Halliwell Loan Fund.
The glass cases containing his stock are already something of an attraction for local schoolchildren who go home and enquire about the prospects of having a tarantula, snake or scorpion.
"Mum usually says no-way," Mark says philosophically.
He is a member of the British Tarantula Society and the International Herpatological Society which between them have something like 20,000 members.
He advertises in their magazines and regularly takes "a car load of snakes and tarantulas" to trade events up and down the country. He has 15 different species of tarantula including the Mexican Red Knee which grows as big as your hand and costs about £120 at that stage.
It has a life-span of about 30 years.
Or how about a Columbian Pinky Red Bloom Bird Eater which costs £95 by the time it is the size of a dinner plate?
Baby tarantulas go for £4 or £5 each.
Mark says they might have a painful bite but they are not poisonous unless you are allergic to their venom in the same way that some people react to bee stings. He says his scorpions, which cost £15, do not have enough venom to kill you and the small snakes he sells are not venomous.
Should you buy a tarantula or an iguana Mark will supply you with all the live crickets you need to feed them.