updated 01/30/2013 AT 7:30 PM ET
•originally published 01/29/2013 AT 5:30 PM ET
He travels the world meeting exotic creatures for his new show Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan, but the Lord of the Rings actor doesn’t really need to go that far to get his creepy-crawly fix.
The L.A.-based star owns a ball python named Conquistador, a pet tarantula named Nancy, a black widow spider called Manchester and Rubix, a chameleon.
“I think owning those type of animals is a slightly different feeling than certainly what you get back from a dog or a cat,” he tells PEOPLE. “I’m not looking for comfort or a companion, I’m looking to observe something behaving as it naturally would in the wild.”
The BBC America travel-adventure series drops the animal enthusiast in wild habitats beside deadly creatures like scorpions, giant venomous centipedes and army ants – and Monaghan’s giddy at the chance to get up close and personal with them, just like he was with insects as a boy growing up in England, the son of a science teacher.
“I was the kid always with dirty fingernails,” he says. “I had bees and wasps in my pencil case when I was a kid at school, and when I was in a class that I didn’t really like I would open up my pencil case and let them fly around the classroom.”
Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on BBC America.
Click on the video to see Monaghan chilling with a ball python in our studios.