Barf of the month club
A radio station in Ogden, Utah
sponsored a contest titled "What's the Craziest Thing You
Would Do for a Motorcycle?" One contestant swallowed a whole
snake. Although he outraged animal lovers and the Utah
Humane Society - he didn't win. That "honor" goes to a woman
who covered herself in liquid cow manure and rolled in
cornflakes. Also a man was arrested in Sebastian Inlet,
Florida with garbage bags full of 292 sea turtle eggs.
Deputies suggested that the perpetrator may have intended to
sell the eggs on the black market to restaurants which pay
$10 to $50 per egg. They said they watched him probe the
sand after receiving an anonymous complaint. He was being
held on $31,000 bail in the Brevard Jail on three misdemeanor
charges: possession, molestation and transfer of sea turtle
eggs. If convicted, he faces $500 fines and 60 days in jail
for each charge and an extra $100 per egg, or $29,200 for the
292 eggs he was caught with. Biologists reburied the eggs at
Sebastian Inlet State Park, but they are not sure if they
will hatch because they might have been shaken around too
Also, some factory is pumping out hundreds of
"Snake, Elephant and Lizard Boots" since I've been getting
copies of advertisements for this reprehensible footware from
the four corners of the United States. One of our members
wrote Cowtown Boots (P.O. Box 26428, El Paso, TX 79926) to
complain about their product. Ms. Scott wrote: "I have
raised horses for 20 years, and never thought of getting any
boot but cowhide. I used to have a pet iguana when I was a
kid, and could not think of him as a boot. I also had boa
constrictors and anacondas. Ditto on the boot thought. I'm
sure that cow hide is cheaper, more available, and wears
better than all your fancy exotic leathers. Why not use cow
hides?...I will be absolutely sure that [no boot I buy] has a
"Cowtown" trademark until I read that you have quit using
leathers from "exotic" animals." Thanks, Randi, for a great
letter. Now, if the executives at Cowtown can read, maybe
they'll do some thinking.
Home-remedy rattlesnake capsules have been implicated in
the development of Salmonella arizona infections in
Southern California. The capsules are allegedly made of
dried ground rattlesnake meat and are available under a
variety of names (vibora de cascabel, pulvo de vibora and
carne de vibora) without a prescription in Hispanic
farmacias in Los Angeles. The Archives of Internal
Medicine [1988;148:1207-1210] reports that the capsules or
rattlesnake meat are taken for medicinal purposes, includeing
cancer, blood and skin disorders by Mexican Americans. The
practice is apparently a Mexican folk remedy. The
researchers treated 3 patients with Salmonella arizona
infections from these capsules. Capsules purchased at a
local farmacia yielded S. arizona when cultured.
Another study, reported in the Western Journal of
Medicine [1988;149(5):605], gave standardized oral
questionnaires to 200 consecutive outpatients in a county
hospital serving the indigent population of El Paso, Texas,
on the US/Mexican border across the Rio Grande from Ciudad
Juarez. Patients were asked if they had heard of the folk
medicine, meat, powdered or capsule; if they knew the reason
or reasons for taking it; and if they or a close family
member had ever used the remedy. 78%, both Anglo and
Hispanic, had heard about the remedy. 33.5 percent said that they
or their relatives had used rattlesnake remedies to treat
illnesses. The most frequently treated illnesses for which
rattlesnake is considered a "cure" are: skin conditions
(34%); arthritis (19%); stomach problems (14%); blood
diseases (13%); cancer (12%); hypertension and nervous
conditions (7%); allergies (3%) and miscellaneous conditions
(13%). Four of the 200 said that it would improve their
strength and 2 of 200 took it because it tasted good. The
authors concluded "In view of the risk of serious salmonella
infections, we concur...that education is needed regarding
the potentially harmful consequences of this particular folk
remedy. I suggest that herpers trying to stop rattlesnake
roundups copy these two articles and provide them to
journalists before roundup events. We always knew roundup
hunters were sick - but they, and their rattlesnake eating
audience, could wind up dead tiny turtles are illegal to sell because of the risk of
Salmonella, perhaps we could lobby our legislators to ban
the sale of rattlesnake products for the same reason!
Mary Anderson, of Roanoke, VA wrote me about
Salmonella in turtles: "You asked why turtles have
Salmonella in the first place. All I can say is that
they are natural hosts to Salmonella. However, the
turtles themselves do not become ill from the bacteria unless
their resistance is low due to malnutrition or other causes.
They are natural carriers of bacteria found in their habitat.
They contaminate the water in which they dine and vice-versa.
Not all turtles transmit bacteria all the time. Sometimes
they are in remission for a while and there is no shedding of
bacteria for a time. Also the count is sometimes too low to
be detected but it is there, ready to show up multiplied.
When the female turtle is ready to lay eggs, she draws up
water into her [body] and then crawls up on land to dig a
nest. The bacteria-laden water is released to soften the
groud for digging and to leave the nest moisturized. Thus
the egg becomes infected with Salmonella through the
porous shell and the baby turtles will be infected with [it]
which can show up at hatching time or later." In the
materials she sent, I learned that turtles can also harbor
Campylobacter, Aeromonas and other potential
pathogens. The Center for Disease Control states plainly,
"They are not appropriate pets for small children." Also,
the Canada Diseases Weekly Report [1985;(11-28):117-120],
reports on cases of Salmonella typhimuium from a pet
garter snake and that S. rubislaw and S. abaetetuba
were isolated from iguana droppings from a pet store in St.
John's. S. anatum was isolated from another species of
lizard. They additionally reported cases of S. poona in
children who were exposed to a tank of pet red-eared sliders.
Their grandmother cleaned the tank weekly and was careful.
The article says, "the tank did not appear to be neglected
which indicates that there is a real risk of Salmonella
infection even with properly maintained tanks." They studied
water samples from turtle tanks and found that 7 of the 17
(41%) examined were found to be positive for Salmonella,
including S. poona, S. panama, S. saint-paul and S.
arizonae. In a study of pet shops in metro-Toronto showed
that 74 percent of turtle water and 60 percent new water samples were
infected. A provice-wide wurvey was initiated and found 16
serotypes of Salmonella in 58 percent of turtles, lizards,
iguanas and frogs examined. They concuded "since not all of
these serotypes originated from turtle eggs, reptiles (other
than turtles) and amphibians remain a serious source of
Salmonella. Now that we've scared ourselves, what do we
do? I use a bleach/water solution to clean tanks and myself
when handling my tiny turtles (all removed from less than
optimal wild habitat). One of the vets who attends our
meetings recommends "Betadine." Is there somebody out there
who can suggest a solution that is readily available that
will get the Salmonella off our hands? I know it's not
safe to handle amphibians with chlorinated hands - so I
really couldn't use bleach between frog tanks. Is Betadine
safe? I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who have
given this issue a lot of thought. Please, write and share
your opinions. Salmonella is a legislators' dream - a
good reason to rid the world of slithery snakes and deadly
turtles. Let's get the answers before they start asking the
A holy crocodile that ate a 25-year-old man near Darwin,
Australia whould not be killed said tribal elders. They
asked authorities to suspend the crocodile hunt.
the new Four Seasons Hotel has opened in the Kakadu National
Park in the Northern Territory of Australia. The hotel is in
the shape of a large crocodile. The park and its reptile
fauna have been featured in the two "Crocodile Dundee"
Two tales of gopher tortoises were sent in this month.
One is about the group of high school students relocating
tortoises that I mentioned last month. The students have
marked about 150 holes on a small plot in the Silver Oaks
apartment complex in East Central Florida. It seems as
though the 37-acre plot is too small to be reviewed by state
environmental agencies. Joan Diemer, a wildlife biologist
and gopher tortoise expert with the game commission said that
where to put the tortoises is "the largest problem." A
neighbor has offered 11 acres in Lake County, but that might
not be enough for a colony accustomed to 37 acres. The
article states that about 50 colonies have been moved in the
last year and notes that some biologists oppose relocation.
The other article is about a $20,000 project to move gophers
from a site in Lady Lake near Orlando. The article does not
state the size of the parcel, but says that the project began
in August, when biologists marked 30 active holes. They came
back with a specially modified backhoe to do most of the
digging. Men with shovels finish removing the animals. The
holes are usually 9 to 15 feet deep and 25 to 30 feet long,
with twists and turns and other kinds of animals including
rattlesnakes, possums, skunks, rabbits and crickets in
residence. What I don't understand, and maybe someone in
Florida can explain to me, is why the first site - with 150
active burrows - is less important than the second, which has
30. Are the turtles just more heavily populated in the first
than the second? Why is 37 acres too small for the state to
notice? In a state with 365,000 new residents last year, it
would seem to me that the state ought to be looking at every
square meter - not just "large" parcels. Otherwise,
developers will try what they have succeeded with in the past
- subdividing large parcels into smaller ones which can
escape the notice of the state. Florida might wish to
consider the actions of the state of New Jersey which has
banned new construction in the Pinelands Region, sited above
their aquifer, thus protecting not only animals - but
sensitive habitat. I have hideous visions of going to a
macadamized Florida where the only orange is in the gang
colors of Miami and the only reptiles are purses.
Dumps and other feeding areas resulting from over
urbanization in Southern California have led to a 328%
increase in the raven population over the last 20 years.
Ravens have been implicated in the death of huge numbers of
desert tortoises. State and federal wildlife officers are
considering selective counter-measures, including shooting
and poisoning the birds in a limited area of the Mojave
Desert to see if the population of tortoises recovers.
Interesting statistics...Americans throw away enough
office and writing paper each year to build a 12-foot-high
wall spanning the distance between New York and Los Angeles.
The glass bottles and jars thrown away could fill both towers
in the 1,350 foot high New York World Trade Center every two
weeks. Please, for the sake of the reptiles and amphibians
we love - recycle. Every ounce we recycle is one less ounce
ending up in incinerators, landfills or ocean dumps.
Humankind has acquired the power to change the earth's
fundamental geophysical processes. Take one small step for
humankind - toward your nearest recycling center. In this
house, we avoid buying anything wrapped in plastic; we
recycle newspaper and use one-side-blank computer paper on
the empty side; use up envelopes left over from "dead"
companies (as anyone who has received a letter from me
knows!); recycle aluminum to a local school; and save plastic
containers and glass jars for critter containers. Our
garbage bag count has gone down from 4 per week to 1. It's
not hard to recycle, but it's imperative for the health of
Gecko lovers, take note! A cute Tokay gecko
tee-shirt is available from Ellen Nicol, Rt. 1, Box 1367,
Anthony, FL 32617 for $10.00 postpaid in silver, tan, cream
and ecru. The geckos are outlined in black, with orange and
blue spots in puff ink, making the body raised and almost
three dimensional. Monies earned by Ellen's shirt business
go toward maintaining her property in Ocala which is home to
many gopher tortoises and other terrapins. I don't usually
run "ads" in this column - but I feel so strongly about
Ellen's long-term contribution to herpetological conservation
that I just must mention these new Gecko shirts! Please
mention the CHS when you order.
A sticky substance used to fight beach erosion apparently
doesn't scare away nesting sea turtles or harm their
hatchlings says Lew Ehrhart, a biologist from the University
of Central Florida. The compound, Biodune, hardens the top
layer of sand, was applied in April on a slope and at the
base of a 180-goot strip of dune south of Floridana Beach.
Ehrhart also discovered that raccoons, which are notorious
for digging up and eating turtle eggs, destroyed half of the
nests to the north and south of the test area, but none of
the nests in front of the spray area were touched. He said,
"knowing raccons like I do, I'm amazed they would stay away."
Hatchling turtles avoid light from low-pressure sodium
lights. A study by Blair Witherington, a University of
Florida doctoral candidate, funded by Florida Power and Light
Company found that with white incandescent lights and
red-tinted lights, hatchlings were essentially disabled in
their ability to find the ocean. Yellow bug lights weren't
much better. Witherington said, "The hatchlings showed a
negative reaction to the monochromatic (pure color) yellow
light. They avoided it - moved away from it in fact, which
was not really what we were expecting to find...If we were
careful where we positioned the lights on the beaches, I
believe there would be very few problems with hatchlings
finding their way to the ocean." The University of Florida
Center for Sea Turtle Research hopes to investigate a
corollary concern, whether low-pressure sodium lights would
discourage nesting females, next summer. If low-pressure
sodium lights are the solution, communities that are turning
off their lights at night might prefer to switch to LPS
lighting. LPS lights on seaside highways may prevent the
"squishing" of thousands of baby turtles.
Yet another in a never-ending stream of articles about
religious people who are bitting while handling poisonous
snakes arrived in my mailbox this month. Church members said
that the Reverend Gerald Fleenor was bitten once in the upper
arm and was in guarded condition in intensive care at the
University of Tennessee Hospital in Knoxville. He had been
handling snakes for about a year before this bite. Minister
Swiney said "I don't pay any attention to getting bit...We
wear them around our necks and on our heads. Anywhere. I
got bit by a cottonmouth I don't know how many times this
summer, and I wasn't hurt." I know that the Bible talks
about people with great faith who handle poisonous snakes,
but isn't there also a passage or two cautioning believers
to believe for belief's sake - not to ask for signs and
portends? My granddad, a Church-going Christian, said many
times, "Snakes is snakes, you leave `em alone - they'll leave
Is a more successful iguana likely to be agressive or
submissive? Scientists studying iguanas in Belize and at the
San Diego Zoo are trying to determine whether dominant or
submissive captive-raised iguanas are more successful in the
wild. Dr. John A. Phillips, a comparative physiologist at
the San Diego Zoo, said, "We're faced with a practical
problem...The situation is slightly reminiscent of street
gang sociology in which the gang leader may dominate his pack
but may also be the first to fall afoul of the laws of a
larger society." A dominant iguana is likely to seek out
conspicuous perches for basking and may be quickly picked off
by a predator. However, dominant males mature rapidly and
may mate sooner than subordinate siblings. Iguanas
communicate with each other with body movements. According
to Dr. Phillips, bobbing the head up and down means, "Hello,
I'm a green iguana." But rolling the head from side to side
is a warning from the bully to the bullied, and is often
followed by a flick of the tail against the interloper's
flank. Bully iguanas reach sexual maturity 18 months post
hatching, eight months faster than submissive males. Dr.
Phillips has found "that the blood of submissive iguanas
contains three to four times more of the corticosteroids we
find in the blood of the tyrants." Corticosteroids are
stress hormones, secreted by the body to prepare for fight or
flight. They suppress production of testosterone, a hormone
which influences growth in much the way that illegal anabolic
steroids put muscle on athletes. The submissive iguanas have
too much steroid which retards their growth. At night, all
the iguanas clump together for a peaceful night's sleep,
regardless of social position. Dr. Phillips also said, "Meat
dealers in belize who sell iguanas to heat have been
complaining lately that very few big iguanas are being
caught. An iguana can live up to 25 years and it continues
to grow throughout its life, but most of the largest in
Belize seem to have been eaten. Perhaps the tyrant iguanas
of Belize have been discovering too late that overconfidence
can be lethal." Maybe they should take up "Tai-kwa-iguana-do."
Usually a bastion of good-taste, the British Museum is
displaying some unique "stuffed animals" from the collection
of Charles Waterton. Waterton was a serious early 19th
century naturalist and a classic English eccentric. He is
considered the father of modern taxidermy, a pioneer
conservationist, an early experimenter with curare and a
popular and respected scientists. His "stuffed animals"
include imaginary animals created for his amusement. The
centerpiece of their corner case is "John Bull and the
National Debt" - a creature with the legs and belly of a
porcupine, an almost human face, probably made from the
backside of a monkey and a turtle's shell ridden by a dragon.
Five other weird creatures prance around the base. Waterton
was a fearless explorer who reportedly once tied up a 14-foot
boa constrictor with his suspenders, then stowed the snake in
a bag under his hammock. He also captured a vicous alligator
by the foolhardy expedient of leaping onto its back and
riding it ashor. That very alligaor (all 10 scaly feet of
him) is on display in a coffin-shaped glass case. He treated
the skins with a unique chemical mix, then shipped them home
where he "stuffed" them with air. His method was too
difficult and time-consuming for others to use, but his
exemplary technique achieved wonders. Those herpetologists
lucky enough to attend the 1st World Congress in the U.K.
this fall may wish to stop by the new, permanent display.
Thanks to everybody who contributed articles, clippings,
letters, advertisements and etcetera this month. Also, I
thought you might like to know that we will be publishing
some results from our informal survey of our members
conducted on our renewal notices soon. Some of the comments
are great! The Publications Secretary has promised me some
space to quote "the voice of our members" in an upcoming
issue. If you expressed interest in volunteering - please
remember that this column is the result of individuals
sending in clippings from their local papers. We do need to
know the date and name of the publication to avoid copyright
problems, so please include it with the clippings. Other
ways in which out-of-towners may wish contribute are being
discussed. I am really impressed with the number of people
who took the time to fill out the form completely, and write
notes. Only 8 forms out of the over 500 we mailed were
returned blank! That's an incredible percentage - and one
that shows how devoted and involved our membership really is!
Ted Turner, watch out! Sally Frost, a researcher at the
University of Kansas, is studying how axolotls
(Ambystoma mexicanum) get their color - and why. By
administering drugs which inhibit enzymes responsible for
color, the normally brownish-green creatures who were all
brothers and sisters, changed their hue. They ranged from
bright yellow to black. Her goal is to find the genetic
basis of animal colorization.
The New Mexico Herp Society is asking for calm letters of
protest concerning rattlesnake roundups. Please send your
comments to: Mr. Bill Montoya, Director, NM Dept. of Game and
Fish, State Capitol/Villagra Bldg., Santa Fe, NM 87503.
Recently an historical site was purchased and the new owners
have plans to start a roundup. Additionally, there is an
April roundup in Alamogordo. Please send copies of your
correspondence to: Ted L. Brown, NMHS, Dept. of Biology,
University of NM, Albuquerque, NM 87131. Remember, as much
as we hate roundups - be polite!
Congratulations to the Louisiana Herp Society which has
just celebrated its first anniversary. This organization has
grown from 18 to 70 people and publishes a bimonthly
newsletter. I was especially impressed by their publication
since it contains no photocopies or reprints, instead, the 14
pages contain original material and advice from LHS members.
The only thing I was unable to find was the cost of
membership. Contact the LA Herp Soc., c/o Section on
Amphibians and Reptiles, Museum of Natural Sciences at Foster
Hall, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803 for
Want to help save herps? Dez Crawford is working to
develop an animal-rights group just for herpetofauna. She suggests the following for those interested in
supporting her goal:
- Don't patronize restaurants which
serve frog legs or turtle soup - and tell management why.
- Don't buy or eat shrimp.
- Don't buy reptile-skin
products and contact companies that sell them to explain why
- Don't buy products tested on herps. Some
companies use turtles and frogs in product testing.
- Don't patronize events promoted by companies who sell, or
designers who manufacture herp products.
- Don't attend
films or concerts, purchase records, books, shampoo, jeans or
other products promoted by models and stars who endorse herp
- Don't buy or shop in stores which sell real
- Only buy captive-bred exotic herps.
To her list, I would like to add a few suggestions of my own:
- Do talk to the meat and fish workers at your local
supermarket. Tell them about TEDs and turtles.
- Talk to
your beautician, stylist and/or manicurist about beauty
products. They buy a lot more shampoo than we do.
support public figures who support herpetofauna, Stephanie
Powers and Doris Day among others.
- Try not to buy
plastic products. They are dangerous to all life - ourselves
- Recycle or reuse everything before consigning
it to the dust bin.
- Please do not cause scenes in
public. The guy wearing snakeskin boots or the woman with
the tortoiseshell comb may not know any better. It is more
commendable to teach - not preach.
Georgia has named the Gopher Tortoise, Gopherus
polyphemus its state reptile. Gophers live in sandhill
communities with other reptile, mammal and invertebrate
species. In fact, their burrowing provides basic shelter for
many other animals. The Georgia Herp Society February
program was on rattlesnake roundups and their effects on GA
ecology. If you would like more information on Georgia
roundups, contact: GHS, c/o Herpetology Department, Zoo
Atlanta, 800 Cherokee Ave. SE, Atlanta, GA 30315.
46,579 tons of frozen frog legs were imported
into France from 1973 to 1987 inclusive. If each pair of
legs is assumed to weigh between 20 and 50 grams, this means
that one to two thousand million frogs were imported into
France in just 15 years. That's a lot of frogs! Frogs for
the international trade are either exported alive from their
countries or origin, or are killed and their legs prepared
and frozen for export. Frogs are also used for research in
laboratories and science teaching. Since 1979, hunting
either Rana esculenta, the edible frog or Rana
temporaria, the common frog has been prohibited in France.
As previously reported here, Bangladesh has stopped exporting
its frogs due to a staggering increase in insect populations
in that mostly wet country. What I don't understand is why
some enterprising French person hasn't started a frog farm.
On the other hand, maybe we could convince them that
Dendrobates are a delicacy - like Japanese blowfish.
Free to good homes... The U.S. Department of the
Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service will send you a copy of
their Resource Publication 166, "Checklist of Vertebrates
of the U.S., the U.S. Territories, and Canada." edited by
Richard C. Banks, Roy W. McDiarmid and Alfred L. Gardner.
Write: USF andWS, Room 148, Matomic Building, Washington, D.C.
Oklahoma's Fish and Wildlife Department of Wildlife
Conservation held a public meeting in December to discuss
proposed regulation setting up a season for taking
unprotected reptiles for commercial purposes. Local herpers
testified that the ODWC is not enforcing current regulations
including: 1.) You must have a hunting licence to collect
rattlesnakes; 2.) You cannot use gasoline to force snakes
to leave their dens; and 3.) You must have a permit to send
wildlife across state lines. Greg Duffy, Chief of the Game
Division of ODWC reportedly stated that enforcing these three
laws is not a high priority with his department. Herpers
pointed out that "it is the job of enforcement personnel to
enforce the law and not to decide how it should be applied."
Mr. Duffy replied that "it was not a good idea to run to the
D.A. with every little thing." All that the OK Herp Society
is asking is that rattlesnake harvesting should be done on a
sustained yield basis, without the environmental destruction
caused by gassing, and without illegal interstate transports
of wildlife. For more information contact: Bob Clark, 10204
Ski Drive, Oklahoma City, OK 73162.
California Tigers delay construction of a $7 million golf
course and airport expansion as well as a $41 million waste
treatment plant and incinerator planned to burn radioactive
and toxic residues from a nuclear weapons laboratory. The
6-8 inch amphibian, Ambystoma californiense, may live on
the land planned for development. If a few are found, the
developers and the state will work on a mitigation plan, but
if a large colony is discovered, it may affect the entire
project. The toxic burning plant also faces a lawsuit which
charges that its environmental impact study was flawed
because it did not mention other flora and fauna which may be
disturbed if the incinerator is built.
The China Snake Protection Association is petitioning
their government to establish snake farms to protect certain
species. They warn that the "wanton killing" of snakes is
threatening some species with extinction and stated that up
to 400,000 Pallas pit vipers and 50,000 non-poisonous snakes
are killed every year for use in restaurants, medical
research and pharmaceutical products. This really could be
the year of the snake!
Beauty and the Beasts... Stephanie Powers is battling to
save the Komodo Dragon. The 10-foot long, 300-pound lizard
is a carnivore with a huge forked tongue, armored scales like
chain mail and a face that could lauch a thousand horror
movies. Fossil remains indicate that relatives of the Komodo
dragon roamed in what is now the State of Wyoming aabout 60
million years ago. Ms. Powers is raising money to help
preserve and maintain the reptile's natural habitat. She
also owns and directs the William Holden Wildlife Foundation,
at the Mount Kenya Game Ranch, 125 miles southwest of Nairobi
and is establishing breeding reserves for bongos and llamas.
Several slithery snake stories arrived in this month's
Item One: Seven giant pythons have been found
out for walks, by themselves, in the tiny town of Oldsmar,
Florida. All are full-grown Burmese or reticulated pythons
native to southeast Asia. One allegedly measured 15 feet and
weighed close to 200 pounds. All are well fed and not
aggressive. Officials suspect that they recently escaped or
Item Two: Two people have been indicted by
a federal grand jury for trying to bring eight endangered
snakes from Mexico to the U.S. They have been charged with
conspiracy, unlawful importation of smuggled merchandise and
making false statements to a federal officer.
Three: Malaysia's "Snake king" is still sharing a room with
100 cobras in the National Museum in Kuala Lumpur.
Four: Wyoming officials knew better than to believe the
story of a teen who showed up at the hospital babbling about
having been bitten by a "snow snake." He claimed he was
outdoors, picked up a snake - in the snow - and was bitten.
Since doctors couldn't treat his envenomation without knowing
the type of snake, law enforcement officials finally got the
truth out of the "victim." It turned out that the animal was
a captive Pygmy rattlesnake. The bitee was "playing around
with the snake and said he was going to kiss it goodnight."
Now see what happens when snakehandlers do stupid "Kiss of
Death" routines with cobras? This teenager, and his friend,
tried to duplicate what they had seen others do and one is in
the hospital and the other is in hot water.
Sherriff's deputies discovered 38 dangerous snakes, most dead
or dying, when they responded to a burglary call at a home in
Silver Springs Shores, Florida. The homeowner apparently
raised and bred snakes ranging from Burmese pythons to
rattlesnakes in his house. He and his wife left for vacation
about two weeks before then snakes were discovered. This is
the kind of story that can get legislation passed regulating
or outlawing the keeping of animals. I know you've heard my
lecture before and I know I'm preaching to the converted,
but don't be irresponsible with your animals. Make sure
that every snake keeper in your area is working very hard to
be responsible. Try to get all the snake owners to join a
herp society. Contact rodent breeders in your area and ask
them to have other snake owners contact you.
Playboy Magazine wrote a letter to Gary Mazurek,
Collections Manager of the Herpetology Department at the
Field Museum. Seems as though Miss La Toya Jackson posed
with a snake in the March, 1989 issue. The magazine
identified the snake as a boa in the caption, because the
reptile handler was supposed to have provided a boa. Gary
closely and carefully examined and scrutinized the photograph
they sent with the letter and has identified the animal most
definately as a Burmese python.
Item Seven: Ms. Jackson
also appeared on "Late Night" with David Letterman.
Apparently he doesn't like snakes. He was quoted as saying,
"Please keep that thing away from me."
Item Last: A
researcher is studying the timeless question, "when a
two-headed snake gets one mouse for dinner, which head eats?"
Gordon Burghardt, a University of Tennessee psychology and
zoology professor, is working with a two headed black rat
snake which has been under observation at the university
since shortly after it was born 12 years ago. He said that
the two heads fought over their mouse dinners, offered twice
a month, even though the prey ended up in the same stomach.
The university got the snake from a government laboratory in
nearby Oak Ridge, Tennessee, which had obtained it from two
boys who had found the animal in their garden. Burghardt
found that "the left head ate more prey, but it was smaller.
And the right head ate fewer prey which tended to be larger."
I guess it's a case of two heads being better than one.
The New York Turtle and Tortoise Society has petitioned
the State of New York to add the Diamondback Terrapin,
Malaclemmys terrapin, to its list of protected species.
Found in the coastal waters of Long Island, the animals have
been listed as a "species of special concern" since 1983.
A large increase in the Asian population of New York City has
prompted the trapping and sale of about 10,000 turtles in the
City in 1988. Trapping, pollution and development all
threaten the animal. If protected, the diamondback would
join the bog turtle, rattlesnakes and 32 other species on
their state list. If protected, sale of the animal in the
state of New York would be illegal regardless of the origin
of the animal.
Turtle tumors are being studied by Dr. Elliott Jacobson,
wildlife specialist at the University of Florida's College of
Veterinary Medicine. "The tumors have been spotted on about
half the green sea turtles found along the Indian River
[Florida] lagoon system," he said. The tumors develop on the
soft body tissue and shell, often appearing on and around the
eyes. It is possible that they are being caused by a virus.
Sultan Qaboos of Oman has banned tourists from sea turtle
nesting beaches in the Indian Ocean. The sultan said, "To
prevent further disturbance of the turtles and damage to the
environment, it has been decided that camping and turtle
watching by day or night is prohibited."
Our February speaker was Chris Banks, Curator of Reptiles
at the Melbourne Zoo in Australia. He presented an
informative slide show on new exhibits at his zoo and on some
reptiles of the arid and semi-arid regions of Australia. He
also discussed wildlife regulations within the six states of
Australia as well as national import and export policies. We
at the Bulletin
write the most marvelous meeting summaries will again pick up
his flashlight and Parker pen and resume writing!
Mike Redmer is collecting herp related license plate
designations and so far has found the following Illinois
plates: Indigo, Geckos, Herp 1, Cynops 1, Eft 2 and a
Missouri plate: Hyla 1.
Thanks to the many people who contributed articles and
clippings this month. Please keep it up. Also, please don't
forget to send the date and publication in which the article
first appeared. This is a reader-supported column, without
you-it won't be here.
A big thank you and goodbye to long-term CHS Board
Member Holly Beardsley who has accepted a new job out
of state. Holly has given freely of her time and
abilities during her years on the CHS Board. She has been
in charge of our mall shows and Herpetological Weekends for
years in addition to being our vice president and an
extremely active member. Holly's contributions to CHS are
far too numerous to even try to list. Suffice it to say,
"Holly, you'll be missed more than you'll ever know."
A developer in Florida is coordinating the relocation of
gopher tortoises from his property to a new, county owned,
home. He has also involved an environmental consultant and
an ecology class from Evans High School, near Orlando, in the
efforts to find and move tortoises from his 37-acre site in
Pine Hills, even though he is not legally obligated to do so.
We need more developers like Mr. Wayne Rich!
Does anybody know if the cholla sold for hide/exercise
purposes in pet stores is ranched or wild collected? There
seems to be an awful lot of it in stores lately.
The World Wildlife Fund released its annual report for
1988 in which they list the projects and programs they funded
last year. Many of their projects cover physical areas,
education, research, and campaigns for the protection of
diverse groups of wildlife, but they deserve our praise for
having paid for at least 5 projects specifically directed at
the conservation of herps: 1.) marine turtle conservation,
Pacific Coast of Columbia; 2.) ecological recovery of sea
turtles, Michoacan, Mexico; 3.) sea turtle population study,
Pacific Coast, Costa Rica; 4.) conservation and management of
green iguanas, Central America; and 5.) sea turtle
conservation, Southern Thailand. You can join WWF by
writing: 1250 Twenty-Fourth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037.
The Marine Mammal Stranding Center has prepared a poster
which is being distributed throughout New Jersey. It shows a
fish with its head stuck in a 6-pack ring and a sea turtle
eating a plastic bag. The caption reads: "You can help!
Please do not discard plastics into the marine environment."
The MMSC (despite its name) documents the strandings of all
kinds of marine animals. It's most recent report, covering
August through October, 1988, lists the strandings of 20 sea
turtles. Please keep in mind that the area they cover could
be walked at a leisurely pace - from end to end - in about
six hours. One of the stranded loggerhead turtles is being
housed at MMSC for rehabilitation and will be released if
possible. MMSC is supported by donation and state grants.
If you would like to help support their efforts, please
write: MMSC, P.O. Box 773, Brigantine, NJ 08203.
Head Starting programs are being discontinued according
to a release from HEART (Help Endangered Animals-Ridley
Turtles). The New York Times also reported that head
starting programs in Florida are being eliminated.
Meanwhile, dead juvenile turtles are still washing up on our
shores. Are they from our head start programs? Why has the
government decided to stop head starting these extremely
endangered animals? At this writing, I have no details.
HEART asks that we write to Manuel Lujan Jr., Secretary of
the Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C. 20240 and
ask: 1.) Why is head starting being stopped?; 2.) Why has
the imprinting at Padre Island been halted?; and 3.) How is
the enforcement of the March 1 deadline on the use of TEDs on
shrimp boats being handled?
A new publication of interest to turtle enthusiasts sent
us a color brochure this month. The Journal of Chelonian
Herpetology will be published quarterly and if its quality
is as high as its publicity brochure, it should be a welcome
addition to any library. Write: J of CH, c/o The Tortoise
Trust, BM Tortoise, London WC1N 3XX, England for more
More thefts of exotic animals occured on Long Island, NY
recently. Ten snakes, 2 iguanas and an expensive cockatoo
were stole from two stores in Nassau County. The thieves are
confident fellows. At one store, two men entered, one
engaged the clerk, the other stole the cockatoo. The other
theft occurred after hours. Authorities are not sure if the
two are related, but report that there has been a definate
upswing of exotic animals thefts on the island since last
The Youngtown, Ohio turtle race netted its sponsor, the
Lions Club, over $17,000 to help the blind and handicapped
of the community in 1988. Before we grab our pens with
outrage, please remember that the turtles used in this event
are captured for the event and released afterward. I am
unaware of any study showing that this harms the animals,
although I would hope that the Lions Club would investigate
less exploitative forms of fund raising for such time in the
future as these events have lost their appeal.
Miscellania . . . The next time a person says that snakes
are bad because of the serpent in the Bible, calmly ask,
"Which one?" A religious member of my family recently
pointed out two quotations which make it appear as though God
really doesn't have snakes on His hate list after all.
Numbers 21: 8 and 9 says, "And the Lord said to Moses: Make a
brazen serpent and set it up for a sign: whosoever being
struck shall look at it, shall live..." John 3: 13-15 refers
to the brazen serpent and uses it as a metaphor for the Son
China has issued a stamp to commemorate the Year
of the Snake. Designed by Lu Shengzhong, a teacher at the
Central Academy of Fine Arts, the stamp portrays the reptile
in a positive light. He said, "Snake designs on pottery and
bricks dating from the Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AC) show that
originally the snake was a symbol of safety. In folk
stories, it is often related to love and kindness. The stamp
is spare and shows a flowered and decorated snake coiled on a
white background. The overall design represents traditional
Chinese beliefs that the earth is square and the sky round.
ical. The forked tongue of the snake which is usually a symbol of
evil, was replaced with a sprig of the Chinese herb used to
symbolize the power to restore life. In much of Chinese
tradition folklore, the snake is one of the "five evil
things," along with scorpions, toads, geckos and centipedes.
In modern China, the snake is being put to "practical" use.
Venom is an ingredient in a variety of medicines, snake's
gallbladder and medicinal herbs are combined to make
effective cough medicine, snakeskin is used to produce
handbags and shoes for the export trade, and in southern
China, snakes are considered a delicacy - a custom considered
strange in the north. Chinese astrology says that people
born in the year of the snake are intelligent, mysterious,
tender, and kind!
Three teenage boys threatened a
13-year old girl with a snake, dragged her off, and raped her
in a Rockford, IL building. The perpetrators were taken into
custody. The 5-foot water snake exploited in this incident
is in the custody of a CHS member who is also an Illinois
State trooper. . .
By now everyone has heard that William
Haast was released from the hospital following his
envenomation. Efforts to find proper serum led to the USSR
and Iran. Now if Iran could just make an antivenin for A.
khomeniana!. . .
Korean movie distributors released
live snakes during showings of American films in Seoul movie
theatres. They are trying to frighten audiences away from
the movies. . .
Bad joke time 1.) [Q] What do snakes
like for desssert? [A] Mice cream! 2.) [Q] What did the snake
say after eating a chameleon? [A] I ate the anole thing!
A local pet store has as its mascot an Aldabran tortoise
which just "celebrated" its 40th birthday. Every time I go
to this store, I want to cry. The animal is being kept in an
approximately 20 foot by 25 foot room with a vinyl tile
floor. The furnishings consist of a bank of clamp lamps, a
water dish, and food spread on paper on the floor. There
do not appear to be any Vita-lites or other ultraviolet light
sources in the room. There is no soft area, or soaking bath,
and no privacy. The store is open late and the lights in
the area are not turned off while the store is open. This
area also faces a major street and has floor to ceiling
windows through which light from cars and from the street
can shine unimpeded 24 hours a day. The publicity newspaper
for the pet store suggests that people send birthday cards to
"Methuselah" at Noah's Ark Pet Center, 2430 E. Oakton, Elk
Grove Village, IL 60007. Noah's Ark is very active in the
sale of reptiles and amphibians and I have been told by other
herpers that the care rendered in that store is adequate -
but I feel that keeping Methuselah reproductively isolated
and under the above described conditions is not the best way
he could be treated. What do you think? If you write the
store - please be very polite. Noah's Ark is at least
trying to provide proper care for their animals; there
are many other stores which don't even make the effort.
The New England Science Center in Worcester, MA reports
that a live Blanding's turtle and a mounted (dead) mongoose
were stolen from the Center on March 18th. Blanding's
turtles are listed as threatened by the state of MA and
anyone possessing one must have a permit issued by the MA
Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. The stolen turtle has
special dietary and health requirements that must be attended
to if it is to survive. Anyone with information can call
(508) 791-9211 and speak to James David Moran.
Tom Taylor, of the Arizona Herp. Society wrote with an
answer to the cholla question: "Cholla cactus wood is quite
plentiful in some areas of the desert east of Phoenix. As
far as I know, it's legal to collect and sell the cholla
"skeletons," as they are called locally, but the living
cactus may not be collected and sold (that goes for all
Different strokes ... William Meyer sent in a clipping
from the District Digest of the Cook County Forest Preserve
which has an article titled "Miniature Serpents" by Sue Hall.
The article describes the life history of the DeKay's snake,
northern redbellied snake, Kirtland's snake and the western
smooth green snake and concludes: "... all four are harmless
and should be treated in a respectful manner." Compare this
with H. Ross Perot's recent comment in the New York Times,
"If you see a snake, just kill it - don't appoint a committee
Taoist 3-legged toads are on display at a New York
gallery. The exhibit features bronze sculptures, created in
the orient from 1100-1900 A.D. The Chinese Taoist toads bear
gods of prosperity on their backs and functioned as incense
burners. Both the toads and their passengers grin and one
god is shown dancing. Perhaps the god's were saying, "I toad
to you be happy."
The Memphis Zoo is proud to report the successful
hatching of green-eyed geckos at their facility. Steve
Reichling, assistant reptile curator at the zoo, says that it
"is one of the first times it's been done in an American Zoo.
They also have a half-dozen species of other geckos,
including a breeding colony of leopard geckos and a group of
day geckos. Guess where Mike Miller is going on vacation?
Dr. Scholl's corn pads helped heal a toad! Dr. Coffee
Pertz, zoo veterinarian at the Utica Zoo in NY, had been
trying a variety of remedies to heal a 5-pound marine
toad named "Arthur" with little success. Arthur wasn't
eating and was losing weight. The large and painful sore on
his foot just wouldn't heal. Dr. Pertz then installed a Dr.
Scholl's corn cushion over the sore and reported, "In just a
few days the improvement was remarkable. Arthur began to eat
almost immediately and is now back on exhibit."
Schering-Plough, the company that manufactures the corn pads
has sent a life time supply to the zoo, just in case.
Perhaps he got the sore because his toad shoes were too
A tenant with snakes has filed suit against the city
of Sterling Heights, MI to prevent their removal of his 16
roommates - all of whom are real snakes. He has anacondas,
boa constrictors and pythons. City officials say he's
violating a city ordinance that prohibits the keeping of
"uncommon pets" within 300 feet of a dwelling. The tenant
was turned in by an anonymous tip from a neighbor.
An 8-unit subdivision threatens Cowles Bog in northern
IN. Opponents of the plan say that the subdivision will
destroy wooded dune slopes, and that a lack of drainage plans
will contaminate the bog with lawn chemicals and road run
off. The bog is in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the
proposed development is on private land. The local Plan
Commission is under no obligation to approve the development
as requested if the developer can't answer questions about
septic flow, surface drainage and slope construction. Since
the bog/dunes complex extends over the boundaries of the
federal park, residents are seeking to have the property
purchased and included in the National Lakeshore. Your
comments on this matter can be sent to Congressman Peter
Visclosky [IN], 420 Cannon House Office Building, Washington,
DC 20515 and to Representatives from your area.
Chinese medicine has long been famous for remedies
based on wildlife, but a recent article in the Chicago
Tribune says that certain Chinese are convinced that a dose
of toad fat, can eliminate kidney troubles, amnesia, bad
eyesight, fatigue and ease menstrual pains if mixed with red
dates and boiled in water for 52 hours. The fat is taken
from toad thighs and costs about $15.00 for a match-box sized
The composer of the Frog Concerto is seeking croaking
singers for her new work, "Concerto for Active Frogs." The
chorus will be dressed in green plastic garbage bags and
croak in accompaniment to a tape of real frogs. The
composer, Anne LeBaron, studied music at the University of
Alabama and earned a Fulbright Scholarship to study music in
Germany where the Frog Concerto was performed by singers
dressed in just as much as frogs usually wear. "After all,"
explained LeBaron, "a frog's croaking is a mating call." Le
Baron occasionally positions the human singers throughout the
audience to simulate the scattering of real frogs in a swamp.
Her next piece is "Ode to a Golden Toad." And we thought that
this kind of stuff was reserved for the swimming pools at
Biodegradable diapers and other products are available
from Seventh Generation, 10 Farrell Street, South Burlington,
VT 05403. Send $2.00 for a full catalog, or a self-
addressed, stamped long envelope for a reply.
Gopher races? The Lion Magazine, reports that last July
4th the Panama City, Florida, Lions Club held "their annual
gopher race...The event netted some $15,000 for sight
conservation programs and three hours of television time on
the leading local station." The picture accompanying the
article makes clear that they are talking about gopher
tortoises. While I'm all for the Lions work with helping the
non-sighted, it seems that this event might not be in the
best ecological taste. What about it, CHS members in
Florida? Is the event going to happen again now that gophers
have been given official status in that state?
Another oil spill, this one in Hawaii, may threaten
endangered sea turtles and humpback whales. About 10,000
gallons of bunker fuel oil is being cleaned from more than 20
miles of beach on Lanai and Molokai islands. The source of
the spill is suspected to have been a passing merchant ship.
The effects of this spill may be long lasting since the oil
may taint algae which is eaten by green sea turtles. This
spill was the second off Hawaii in less than two months. On
March 2nd, the tanker Exxon Houston ran aground off Oahu,
spilling more than 30,000 gallons of oil and polluting 2
miles of shoreline. I can see the commercials now, "This
ecological disaster area has been brought to you by the Exxon
Corporation, building a better world with petrochemicals."
The kinder and gentler administration of President
George Bush has proposed reducing the funding for sea turtle
recovery which had been allocated to the Fish and Wildlife
Service by a quarter of a million dollars for fiscal year
1990, which begins October 1st, 1989. Also proposed is a
$1.5 million cut from their budget for recovery of other
endangered and threatened species. This will result in the
elimination of staff positions, most sea turtle conservation
activities on southeastern national wildlife refuges, and
joint efforts with Mexico to recover the Kemp's ridley
turtle. Congressional committees will decide if this cut
will stay or go in their version of the budget. We learned
in the TED debate that letters to Congressmen do get read and
do have an impact. While you are writing about this funding
reduction, please comment on the following. This columnist
received a call from a source who shall have to remain
nameless that Senator Heflin (of the shrimp fishing states)
has made a "behind closed doors" deal with the new Secretary
of Commerce to implement a regulatory 2 month delay in the
enforcement of the TED requirements. Ask your congressperson
if they like having their decisions circumvented in this
sneaky and underhanded manner and mention that the Federal
Law (passed by both houses and signed by the President just
last fall) requires TED use on all shrimp boats within a 200
mile limit of the coast of the continental U.S. at all times
after May 1st, 1989. It seems that the shrimpers just never
give up. I gave up, too, and haven't had one shrimp for the
last two years.
Last month's rumor about the newest delay in TED
implementation is, unfortunately, fact. Help Endangered
Animals-Ridley Turtles (HEART) reports that on April 28th,
Secretary of Commerce Robert Mosbacher granted the shrimp
industry a 60 day grace period in the enforcement of the TED
regulations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). TEDs not
only save turtles, but billions of pounds of finfish
currently wasted in shrimp nets. Conservationists had worked
for three years getting TED regulations through Congress.
The amendment to the ESA called for industry-wide
implementation May 1st, 1989. HEART requests that we all
call or write Robert Mosbacher, Secretary of the Department
of Commerce, Washington, D.C. 20235 (202) 377-2000.
Additionally, they suggest sending a copy of your
correspondence to your senators (c/o US Senate, Washington,
DC 20510), your congresspeople (c/o US House of
Representatives, Washington, DC 20515), and to HEART, P.O.
Box 681231, Houston, TX 77268-1231.
Florida has acted to protect sea turtles in its waters.
Prompted by the strandings of 172 dead sea turtles on West
Florida beaches so far this year, the state's Marine
Fisheries Commission endorsed a proposal requiring
TEDs on all shrimp nets in state waters, 3 nautical miles
into the Atlantic and 9 nautical miles into the Gulf of
Mexico. The commission's unanimous vote outraged more than a
hundred shrimpers who packed the meeting. Shrimpers
testified that they feel they are being unfairly blamed for
turtle mortality and suggested that poaching and pollution
are unconsidered factors. The commissioners based their
ruling on evidence from federal studies indicating more than
11,000 sea turtles are drowned in shrimp trawls each year.
South Carolina previously issued state TED regulations.
These state laws are in force now - while our federal
government and the Louisiana/Texas shrimp fishermen play
Two shrimpers who deliberately killed 3 sea turtles
aboard their boat have been arrested and charged with
unlawfully taking an endangered spcies and conspiracy to
violate the ESA. The shrimpers face a maximum penalty of
one year in jail or a $100,000 fine. Federal marine
enforcement agents learned of the killing from a third crew
member who photographed the dead turtles before they were
tossed overboard and who has also agreed to testify. In the
first two weeks since the turtle excluder law took effect, 20
dead sea turtles have washed up in West Central Florida.
Several have been mutilated, shot, or decapitated. The
informant in this case reports that the captain of the boat
ordered the turtle's throats slit and said he wanted any
turtles caught in the nets killed, too.
The Nature Conservancy has purchased 1,800 feet of
beach-front property on the Atlantic Coast of Florida from
the Walt Disney Company. Barbara Schroeder, sea turtle
recovery coordinator for the state Department of Natural
Resources, said that although sea turtles nest as far north
as North Carolina and in the Gulf States, most sea turtle
nesting occurs on the east coast of Florida making that area
crucial for conservation. The US Fish and Wildlife
Service is considering joining the State of Florida in
acquriring 9 miles of beaches in East Central Florida to
protect them from construction and development. The Center
for Marine Conservation requests letters be sent to the
Secretary of the Interior. Apparently there are unutilized
monies in the Land and Water Conservation Fund which could
be used to purchase the beaches. Loggerhead, green and
leatherback turtle nesting season began early in May and
continues through September. Just think of all those male
and female sea turtles trying to get to their ancient
beaches. Between the deeps and the beach are hundreds of
shrimp trawlers greedily sucking up everything from the
undersea grass beds. It hardly seems fair.
Another million gallons of oil, has leaked from a
"super" tanker, this time in the Red Sea. At risk are coral
reefs and turtle-breeding grounds. Workers are attempting
to contain the 50-mile oil slick.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is funding
a one-year study to determine if the state is properly
managing its diamondbacked terrapins. It has been noted that
DNR regulations prohibit watermen from taking terrapins with
a bottom shell less than 6 inches long. Since only mature
females reach that size, environmentalists pointed out that
this rule would seem to interfere with the maintenance of
breeding stock. The DNR has not established a bag limit.
Last year, Maryland watermen harvested 9,919 pounds of
terrapin. In 1987, they took 4,152 pounds. The average
weight per animal is slightly over one pound. The New York
Turtle and Tortoise Society, the Center for Marine
Conservation and others have petitioned the State of New York
to place diamondbacks on the state list of game animals. A
recent survey on diamondback status throughout the range
(Massachusetts to Texas) has revealed that the species is
subject to a number of threats including incidental capture
and habitat destruction. An interesting piece of trivia on
this subject - in the late 1800's Gilded Era, terrapin was an
extremely popular menu item. Diamond Jim Brady was reported
to have eaten 20 at one sitting at Delmonico's. The
insatiable demand for terrapins led to a quick decline.
Turtle farms were established in many areas of the east
coast, and since those breeders were not careful, quite a few
of today's diamondbacks are hybrids. Demand for terrapins
decreased in the Depression, and breeding stocks were
released as the farms closed.
Greek sea turtles can nest a little easier since the
Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece has been able to set
up nest protection porgrams at sites in the southern
Peloponnesus and the island of Rhodes. The Society has
promoted a closer relationship with local residents and hotel
operators and has built a second information kiosk on
Rattlers, 150 - Opp Jaycees, 0 After years of
"ketchin' an' killin'" rattlers, the operators of the Opp,
Alabama rattlesnake rodeo decided to return their entire 1989
catch to the wild!!! Jerry Hartzog, head snake handler said,
"We've been getting criticism for years from
environmentalists, animal-rights groups and others about the
way we did some things. They say we could be putting the
Eastern diamondback in danger of extinction or something, so
we've started working with them." Mr. Hartzog also tried to
allay community fears by saying that the Jaycees were not
going to dump all the snakes in one place. He said, "We're
going to release the snakes back into the wild as close to
where each was caught as possible." However, this
year's roundups in Fitzgerald, Claxton and Whigham proceeded
just as usual. 356 Eastern diamondbacks were captured,
milked, killed and skinned in Fitzgerald alone. The
newspaper clipping I have says that their snake serum is
shipped to Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories in Philadelphia. Does
anyone know if this is true?
Indiscriminate hunting was blamed for the decline of
some Chinese wildlife. The Standing Committee of the
National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China
passed its first law protecting wildlife in November 1988 to
help combat poaching and smuggling. The Beijing Municipal
People's Congress passed regulations on April 2 that are
expected to serve as model laws for other Chinese cities.
The cities are important in the Chinese equation because so
many unusual creatures are killed for food or pharmaceutical
use and sold in cities. The Guangxi Wild Animal Protection
Assocation reported that poaching was way up last year.
Animals on the list to be protected include monkeys,
pangolins, civets, eagles, pythons, lizards, and frogs. The
giant salamander populations are reportedly much reduced by
harvest for the food trade.
Newcity reports that the Japanese import millions of
tons of shells from endangered turtles even though its
people are environmentally conscious and active. Demand is
still high in Japan for foreign tropical hardwoods, musk oil,
furs, hides, and ivory. Is this a case of let's save our
house and the heck with yours?
Thai crocodile breeders sell South American caiman
goods to American buyers raising two interesting questions:
1.) Where are they getting the caimain skins; and 2.) Where
are they selling their own products? American
alligator farms are a post-modern success story. The
number of farms has doubled since 1984. Harvested between 4
and 6 feet in length, alligator meat is low in cholesterol
and high in protein. The meat is selling for $5 to $6 per
pound and the skins for about $36 per foot. In total, the
industry earned $2 million last year in Florida alone.
Gators don't reproduce as well in captivity as they do in the
wild. Breeders are trying different methods, including
culling older breeders to use younger stock, tranquilizing
the females prior to artificial insemination, and studying
environmental factors. "Nuisance" alligator trapper,
Columbus White killed Florida's biggest gator ever in early
May. It measured 13-feet 10 inches and weighed 1,043 pounds.
An alligator that bit and punctured a car tire in
Dickinson, Texas had to be destroyed because it was injured.
The gator had also taken a chunk out of the bumper.
Allegedly, the driver had stopped about four feet away from
the animal when it attacked the car.
Thanks to everybody who sent clippings this month.
I would hope though that more people would cut and mail.
Last month, "MAD" said "It's a short one!" and this month is
just about as short. If more members send articles this
column will be longer. If you don't - it may cease
50,000 square miles of rain forest, were burned in 1988
in the Brazilian Amazon region alone. However, this figure
is down from 1987, when 80,000 square miles were burned into
fields and pastures.
A park ranger issued a $50 ticket to a man who used
a boat paddle to kill a copperhead snake that was allegedly
threatening his companion. The latter said, "the snake was
the same ... color as the ground ... I didn't see him until
he drew his head back like a cobra does when he's about to
bite. He was inches from my foot... I panicked and
screamed." His friend then killed the snake. A park
ranger who had been watching through binoculars issued the
ticket by authority of a federal statute that bans killing
any wildlife on national park land.
Finally, a use for Bufo marinus. Dr. Alex Stalcup, a
San Francisco drug treatment official commented on the craze
for sampling a mind-altering chemical secreted by certain
toads, "it's amazing the lengths to which people will go to
get high. If you tried to lick this toad, it would be a
A rattlesnake and a hawk apparently battled to the
death in Thomas County, GA. The area had been deliberately
burned for restoration early in the day, later two
researchers from Auburn University found an immature
red-tailed hawk and a rattlesnake - both dead - and
apparently so from the efforts of each other. Part of the
snake's head and skin were missing. Necropsy of the hawk
revealed that it had eaten snake muscle, skin, jaw bones, and
a fang. It had also apparently been bitten on the leg by the
snake. I guess it's just a case of biting the leg that's
feeding on you.
An information request was received from Dr. Julie
Dunlap, Associate Director, Higher Education Programs, The
Humane Society of the United States, 2100 L Street, NW,
Washington, DC 20037. She's seeking information on herp
abuse in the frog dissection and food trade.
Thanks to the many who signed petitions and offered to
go to meetings, the Trailside Museum in River Forest, IL
apparently has been "saved." Cook County officials say that
they intend to close the facility only temporarily to make
some structural changes recommended by the Department of
Agriculture. It has also been suggested that a new facility
be built nearby rather than renovating the current building.
Letters of support for the facility are still welcome and can
be sent to the Trailside Museum, 738 N. Thatcher Avenue,
River Forest, IL 60305.
In 1851, the Religious Tract Society of London
published an article on salamanders. Some fascinating
superstitions reported include the famous story of
salamanders leaping from fire, and the belief (which persists
today at least in Mexico where I first heard it) that
salamanders are deadly poisonous The author of the tract
wrote that in the middle ages, asbestos was regarded as
"salamander's wool, either from its incombustibility, or
because it was really supposed to be some preparation of that
animal; for they could not be so ignorant as to think it a
wool-bearer. Cloth of salamander's skin was shown to Marco
Polo; but the traveller at once perceived that this
fire-proof fabric was of mineral origin."
In the old days, herpers had to watch out for malarial
mosquitoes, now it's Lyme disease. Chicago-area newspaper
and television reporters have really covered this issue -
sometimes hysterically - lately, but the Chicago Tribune
reports that Illinois only had 12 cases last year. However,
infected ticks have been found in forest preserves in
northwest Cook County, and as far south as Carbondale. The
disease has spread over 55 of Wisconsin's 75 counties with
the lowest rates in the counties bordering Illinois. Since
most herpers cannot avoid the brushy, scrubby areas where
mice and ticks abound, we should wear head-to-toe clothes,
with pants legs tucked into socks, and possibly a tick
repellant (if you can stand it) such as Permanone. Public
health officials say that the tick must be on your body for
12 to 24 hours before it can attach itself, so you have time
to find the little blighters before they bite.
Chemical Business Magazine reports "Vitamin K is an
effective antidote to most anticoagulants, but the length of
the treatment varies." and warns "Danger of poisoning is also
a problem for controlling rodents in the wild, where they are
an important part of the diet for owls and other animals."
It's been almost a quarter century since Rachel Carson's
Silent Spring; isn't it amazing that we're still trying to
poison pests at all?
The Jupiter Beach Hilton is sharing its 3-mile beach
with nesting sea turtles and has launched a "turtle watch"
program for its summer guests. They have an on-staff
naturalist to lead hotel visitors to watch nocturnal nesting
and egg-laying. Later in the season, hatchlings from
protected beach pens are released. Daily lectures and slide
shows and a nearby children's museum help educate vistors on
the invisible side of the turtle's existence. The area
surrounding the hotel is environmentally controlled to
provide bird habitat and plant sanctuaries. Can you see the
loggerhead and green sea turtles out talking in the Sargasso
Sea? One says to another, "Have you laid at the Jupiter
Beach Hilton, yet?" Humans who wish to visit can call
The "take 3 grains of salt" story of the month was
reported by Associated Press on May 21, 1989: "Manila. A
giant sea turtle towed 5 weak and weary survivors to safety
after their boat sank during the height of tropical storm
Brenda ... reported ... the nationally circulated
Philippine Daily Inquirer." One of the survivors reported
that the five had stayed afloat for 3 days on a makeshift
raft before they spotted the sea turtle and tied the raft to
one of its legs. The turtle then towed the craft for 2 hours
before they were spotted by fishermen. The survivors
released the turtle after they were rescued.
In descending order dogs, cats, snakes and the
President of the U.S. are the 4 most often researched
subjects in the World Book Encyclopedia according to a
company press release.
No license plates this month but an alert reader sent
in one of the most magnificent headlines ever: "5 1/2 foot
Boa Caught in Toilet; Woman Relieved." Authorship of this
lovely item can be credited to the Sun-Tattler, Broward
Their trash dooms them. Up to 1,500 ravens will be
culled in the Mojave Desert to protect desert tortoises.
Some ravens appear to be more fond of turtles than others.
Researchers can tell because turtle-eating ravens usually
stack the shells up right by their nests!
Disgusting business of the month awards for Cheyenne
Outfitters, P.O. Box 29, Cheyenne, WY 82003-0029; and Don
Morgan Boots of Dallas, TX. A concerned CHS
member sent me some pages from Cheyenne's catalog. Listed
are belly-cut python boots; back-cut boa boots;
handcrafted lizard boots; diamondback rattlesnake boots,
wallets, and belts; cobra boots; and elephant leather
products. Another tastless company distributes golf
clubs covered in dead snakes. There are putters with rattles
($195), rattlesnake drivers ($250), white cobra drivers
($325), and snakeskin balls ($10). For the deskbound golfer,
L.A. Hauser, P.O. Box 49053, Austin TX 78765, offers a desk
set with the rattlenske putter and golf ball.
Congratulations to the Arizona Herpetological
Association which celebrates its 20th Anniversary this year.
Members receive a bi-monthly newsletter. Those near enough
can take advantange of education talks and slide shows or
their free reptile-removal service. Memberships are $12.00
for individuals and $17.50 per family. Write: AHA, 1433 West
Huntington, Tempe, AZ 85282.
Carole Allen from HEART received a confusing letter
from Phil Gramm, United States Senator from Texas (I
quote exactly, and all italics are mine): "Dear Ms. Allen"
Thank you for contacting me concerning the Kemp Ridley sea
turtle. I appreciate having your views on this issue. I
understand your concern for sea turtles and the need for
protecting our nation's wildlife resources to insure their
survivability for the benefit of future generations. Under
the recently passed Endangered Species Act, a study of the
turtle protection problem would be conducted next year by the
National Academy of Sciences, and the government could waive
the 1990 requirements for Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) if
other protective measures are developed in the meantime. I
have shared your comments with my colleagues on the Senate
Energy and Natural Resources Committee as well as Department
of Commerce officials, and you may be sure that I will
continue to monitor this matter with your views foremost in
mind. I appreciate having the opportunity to represent you
in the United States Senate. If I can ever be of service to
you, please let me know. Yours respectfully, Phil Gramm."
Carole's cover letter said, "found this letter very
disturbing. Thanks for the CHS check. I'm worried about
what [Secretary of Commerce, Robert] Mosbacher is going to
do. More letters are needed. Carole." The Center for
Marine Conservation is also urging citizens to contact their
representatives in Congress and Secretary Mosbacher pointing
out the following: 1.) Shrimpers have already had more than
a year of delay in complying with TED regulations; 2.)
Congress, the federal courts, and the Department of Commerce
have rejected shrimpers' arguments time and again; 3.)
Shrimpers won't pull TEDs until they are sure the feds are
serious about the law; and 4.) Mr. Mosbacher should
immediately implement enforcement efforts. Address the
Honorable Robert Mosbacher, U.S. Department of Commerce, 14th
and Constitution, NW, Washington, DC 20230. Your senators
and congresspeople are listed in your local telephone
directories. Call their local offices and talk with the
secretaries or legislative aids. Summer is a help to us.
Our "men in Washington" are home, not in session, now.
Please call and express the opinion that if we don't start
using TEDs now - we may never need them for Kemp's ridley
again - there just won't be any left to protect.
Let me change hats here and become for a paragraph your
Membership Secretary. The U.S. Postal Service reports that
properly adressed and prepared bulk mail suffers only a 2.6
percent non-delivery rate. The situation can be more
annoying if you are part of the 2.6%. However, the USPS does
not forward bulk mail to your new address if you move. The
CHS Bulletin mailing list is prepared between the first and
the fifth of each month. If you move, please send us your
new address. If you don't get your Bulletin by the 30th of
any month, please write me and I will send you a replacement.
Please do not wait 6 months to tell me which issues you did
not receive. We only have a certain number printed, based on
our membership, and 6 months to a year later, we may be (and
in some cases are) completely out. Please do not write
grumpy letters. They only ruin my day - you'll still get
your back issue if it's available. Please do not write and
ask "tell me everything about reptiles." If I started now
and typed for the rest of my life, I could not type all the
books that have been written to date on reptiles. Specific
questions will receive specific answers - if I know them.
Please always use the scientific names of the animals about
which you are inquiring. Most books don't list common names.
Even those that do may not be using the "common" name given
you by the pet shop. Please do not despair that "Care in
Captivity" will never appear. I am trying to get it out as
quickly as possible. It is an incredibly complicated and
time consuming project - but (thankfully) one that is very
I would especially like to thank everyone who
contributed material this month. As Abraham Lincoln once
said, "People who like this sort of thing will find this the
sort of thing they like."
David Lazcano writes, "I would like to ask you if
anyone in the Society has anything concerning the use of
vitamin B complex in snakes that are low or not eating
well...We here at the University of Nuevo Leon [receive so
little funding] that it's difficult to keep up with
It never hurts to ask department... A letter received
this month has to be the most unusual letter addressed to the
CHS membership secretary yet. "I was hoping I could send the
money later, and get the monthly magazine." A perfectly
filled out application was attached!
A price list arrived with snakes priced by the foot.
I didn't know they had feet... But seriously, folks, why sell
animals collected from the wild? And what are you doing to
populations when you can afford to sell some for as little as
$3? That means high volume collecting and high volume
selling or you wouldn't be able to afford to sell that low.
Giant salamander-nappers were caught by Chinese
authorities with 194 animals which are eaten on special
occasions in southeastern China, including Guizhou.
Authorities estimate the street value of the salamanders
interdicted to be $3.8 million. Newsweek reports that
Taiwanese customs agents seized 94 tiny "green-haired"
turtles native to mainland China along with Tibetan mastiffs
and amphibious "baby fish."
Speaking of eating herptiles, did you know that a
restaurant in Oak Park, Illinois regularly serves
rattlesnake? The New York Times reported that Memere's,
22 Chicago Avenue, serves snakes with the head
and tail lopped off with a spicy sauce. Patsy Younghouse,
the proprietor said, "You have to be a devoted snake-lover to
eat snake." She also keeps a list of people who wish to be
called when rattlers are on the menu. I wonder if she knows
that a lot of rattlers are captured with the gasoline-vapor
method and that the carcasses may contain hydrocarbon
Box turtles may be less common in Chicago area pet
stores since a Missouri sting operation netted a black
marketeer in Utah. The Utah man recruited people around
Springfield, MO to illegally collect and ship turtles to him
which he subsequently sold to pet stores, especially in
Chicago. Missouri Conservation agents sent him a shipment of
marked animals, then federal agents raided his store in Utah
discovering all but 60 of the turtles. The case is going to
a federal grand jury and under the Lacy Act, could bring
maximum penalties of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine
per count for transporting wildlife across state lines for
commercial purposes. A word to the wise - Missouri has a
very well thought out and workable code protecting their
amphibians and reptiles, a very active conservation
department, and a state herpetologist. It's definitely not a
good place to collect illegally.
A DuPage County, IL road will be redesigned to protect
a population of northern watersnakes living in a retaining
wall that supported a segment of the old road. DuPage County
is experiencing "rapid growth" which means lots of bulldozers
and very little concern for habitat destruction. Efforts to
save some habitat are underway and the agreement reached on
this project in Naperville will undoubtedly spur other such
efforts. Congratulations to all who worked on the project,
including our very own Mike Redmer.
Snakes of a different sort were featured in the 100
ideas under $100 section of Better Homes and Gardens, July
1989 issue. Under the title "Kid Pleasers," patterns and
instructions are given for three herptile seweing projects.
"Sweater sleeve serpents: whip up a whole nest of vivacious
vipers from layers of old sweater sleeves and scraps of felt.
Roll back each sleeve, and watch the snakes shed their
skins!" They also designed bags shaped like alligators and
turtles. Full-size patterns for the bags are also available
(#01531, $10.95) from BH andG, Dept 28A, Box 374, Locust at
17th, Des Moines, IA 50336. Even if you don't make any of
these cute items for the kids on your Christmas list, just
think - all over America kids are cuddling snakes,
alligators, and turtles. What a difference from the old days
when herptiles were rarely presented to children as loveable
A frog named "Heavy Metal" won the 61st annual
Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee with a leap
of 19 feet, 9 and 3/4 inches. Each frog gets three jumps
from the center of a circle and the distances are added to
total the final score. The world record was set in 1986 by
"Rosie the Riveter" at 21 feet, 5 and 3/4 inches.
Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizards now have a 13,000
acre reserve valued at $25 million near Palm Springs, CA.
The conservation plan permits development in their historic
range, but provides mitigation in the form of the set-aside
reserve and financial contributions from developers. Native
Americans, developers, and conservationists agreed on the
plan without litigation. Developers were delighted at the
concept of creating a "park for the lizard" which may someday
be as much of an island as New York's Central Park. The
director of the preserve, Cameron Barrows said, "It does the
right thing to protect an endangered species and an ecosystem
and at the same time it allows intelligent development to
Desert tortoises were placed on endangered species
status, July 26th because the populations in some parts of
the West are threatened by a fatal respiratory disease. The
designation was applied to the Mojave Desert west and north
of the Colorado River, including southern Utah, southern
California, Nevada and northwestern Arizona. Fish and
Wildlife studies have found western Mojave populations have
declined 58 percent since 1985. Steve Robinson, acting
director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, ordered the
change even though it is expected to anger cattlemen
concerned about the its impact on their grazing rights to
federal land where the tortoise is found.
Alligators in the Florida Everglades have been found to
have high concentrations of mercury in their bodies. The
latest group tested at an average of 2.9 parts per million
[ppm] of mercury. Six of the animals were higher than 3 ppm.
Frequent consumption of food containing 1 ppm can cause
health problems including brain damage. Sales of alligator
meat may be banned if further testing reveals widespread
contamination. The state's 2nd annual alligator hunt is set
for September. Last year the hunt caught more than 2,900
alligators which yielded about 90,000 pounds of meat.
An unfortunate incident in Kansas City, MO may
prejudice more people against giant snakes. A man lost
conciousness and was taken to the hospital after his 15 foot
pet python wrapped him up and squeezed. The paramedics
reported that "when we arrrived, the patient was in critical
condition." He was upgraded to fair at the hospital. The
snake was taken by Kansas City animal control officials who
were uncertain what would become of the animal. Meanwhile
in Memphis, the zoo has a new giant python courtesy of the
Bronx Zoo in New York. She is about 12 years old, 16 feet
long, eats 22 or so large rats (on public display) per
feeding, and has become the most popular critter on display
at the reptile house.
Exchange member, Instituto Butantan was featured in a
recent Chicago Tribune article. The 88-year old research
institute is the world's foremost center for the study of
poisonous snakes and the leading producer of serum antidotes
for poisonous snake, scorpion, and spider bites. Brazil
regularly exports anti-snake serum from I.B. to the US and
Europe along with fruit exports, just in case. There are
60,000 snakes of more than 2,000 species in their preserved
collection, along with over 5,000 live snakes sent in from
throughout the country in an unusual collection program. The
Institute distributes wooden boxes and snake hooks around the
country. Brazilians who collect snakes for the Institute are
guaranteed lifetime supplies of serum. The national railroad
and airlines transport the snakes, free of charge, to I.B.
The Institute also has a ranch with 1,000 horses which
produce their serum and a hospital for snake, scorpion, and
spider bite victims.
The Associated Press reports that deaths of endangered
sea turtles have dropped sharply in northeast Florida.
Marine officials say that turtle excluder devices [TEDs]
deserve the credit. Captain Don Stratmann of the Florida
Marine Patrol said there has been "a high level of compliance
in utilizing the TEDs, and we think that is having a good
effect." Jeff Brown of the National Marine Fisheries Service
in St. Petersburg said, "over 70 shrimpers have been boarded
by the Coast Guard, and only nine written warnings have been
issued." Getting caught without a TED in Florida is costly,
with a civil fine of up to $8,000. Even so, Florida
shrimpers are annoyed by the requirement, saying TEDs reduce
their catch. Marion Jones, a shrimp fisherman in Fernandina
Beach, agreed that TEDs probably help turtles, but added, "we
really don't catch that many turtles."
Shrimpers win ruling on TEDs. Secretary of Commerce,
Robert Mosbacher suspended regulations requiring shrimpers to
use TEDs on July 24th. His decision was apparently
influenced by angry weekend protests by shrimpers who blocked
ship channels along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast and
threatened violence if the regulations were not changed. Two
months ago, I contacted Mosbacher's office asking for a
position paper on his continued flaunting of the
Endangered Species Act. To date, I have received
nothing from this "public servant." Carole Allen of
HEART points out that:
HEART and other environmental groups are asking
for letters and calls to the White House asking for
Mosbacher's resignation over this issue. The White House
telephone number is (202) 456-7639. Send polite letters to
"President George Bush, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania
Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20500. The National Wildlife
Fund has filed for a federal injuction against Mosbacher's
delay and is being joined in this suit by other conservation
groups including the Center for Marine Education. Until such
time as this issue is settled, the conservation groups are
asking that consumers (you and me) stop buying shrimp. As
has been proven by lettuce, grapes, Icelandic fish, and tuna
- boycotts do work. Please do your part to save the turtles.
Last year, the National Marine Fisheries Service estimated
that 500 nesting ridley females were left. Shrimpers catch
about 10,000 sea turtles a year. What chance do these
animals have? Seabrook Seafood president Tom Hults, whose
company does 70 percent of its business in shrimp said that
using TEDs will devastate the shrimp industry. Let's
devastate 'em until they start using TEDs.
- he has held no hearings on
this issue which is contrary to federal regulations;
- he has unilaterally defied the will of the Congress by
single-handedly blocking the enforcement of TED legislation;
- has far overstepped the role of his department on
As always, sincere thanks to everybody who contributed
clippings and articles this month. Also thanks to those who
mailed in their change of address notices on official Post
Office cards. Did you know that every Bulletin is
hand-stuffed and labeled? If you don't get your book list,
or there is something else wrong with your subscription,
please do not hesitate to write. Membership lists were sent
with the May Bulletin. If you have been a member longer
than one month and haven't received your list, please let me
know. If there is anything wrong with your mailing label -
change of name, apartment number, or anything except the
extended zipcode which our machine won't handle, please write
and enclose the label itself or a copy thereof. Any changes
received by the CHS on the last day of each month will be
included on the subsequent list. Our memberships run from
when you join to a year later - so the list is in constant
flux and mistakes can happen.
Wanted: bog turtles. Bern Tryon, of the Herpetology
Department, Knoxville Zoological Gardens, writes: "A recent
availability of bog turtles (Clemmys muhlenbergii) has
been noted on a number of reptile price lists. This is
disturbing as it coincides with reports of collecting
activities in North Carolina and perhaps other southern
states in recent months. Although the turtles may or may not
have been illegally taken at the time, subsequent reports
have confirmed that a number of these turtles were taken from
sites where long-term ecological studies on the species were
being conducted, and some of the animals taken were marked
study specimens. Some known turtle populations in VA, most
in NC, and all those in TN contain marked individuals. ID
marks on those in NC and TN are made with a triangular file
and appear as a small, V-shaped notch in one or two marginal
scutes. These markings are permanent and differ on each
specimen from within the same population area..." If you see
any bog turtles, "closely examine them for such ID markings.
If these are present, please contact me, PO Box 6040,
Knoxville, TN 37914 (615) 523-4023 or Dennis Herman,
Herpetology Department, Zoo Atlanta, 800 Cherokee Avenue, SE,
Atlanta, GA 30315 (404) 624-5618.
A 250 pound python was captured by Pesky Critters
Relocation Service in Fort Lauderdale, FL. It was apparently
a released or escaped pet that took up residence under a
home and was reported to gobble down raccoons like they were
Tegu to be true?Wildlife skin exporters and
environmentalists have entered a remarkable partnership to
benefit the tegu lizard which is threatened, but not
officially endangered. The tegu is one of the dominant
species of the Grand Chaco ecosystem, found east of the Andes
Mountains through sections of Bolivia, Paraguay, and
Argentina. An average of 1.5 million tegu skins, valued
between $15 and $20 million, are exported legally each year
from Argentina. Most are shipped to Texas and become boots.
The industry is 50-years old and supports up to 30,000
workers in tanneries as well as rural people who hunt the
tegus. A single skin is worth more than a day's wages for an
agricultural worker. The meat and fat are also used.
Obviously, just saying "ban all tegu sales" would have turned
people into poachers. Instead the Chamber of Reptile Tannery
Industries of Argentina has paid $200,000 so far to start a
captive breeding project and a study of wild tegu populations
which is now in its third year. The Argentine National
Wildlife Service and the World Wildlife Fund are providing
help to the researchers. The population study is researching
the density, feeding and behavior. Provincial wildlife
agencies have agreed to monitor the harvest for the first
time in January, 1990. The captive breeding program focuses
on the conditions and costs of raising tegus in captivity and
semicaptivity. Skin traders are hoping that small-scale
captive operations run by families can eventually replace
hunting altogether. It's really great to see "savers and
takers" sitting down and trying to work out amicable
Columbia Pictures Television sent us a press release
about their new series "Peaceable Kingdom" starring Lindsay
Wagner that premiers September 20th, 1989 on CBS. It says,
"This new prime time television program will tackle tough
zoological issues such as quality of life for animals in
captivity, the re-creation of natural environments and humane
interests..." An animal consultant has been hired to train
cast and crew as well as care for on-set creatures.
Additionally, a representative of the Humane Society will be
on the set at all times. Comments about the program can be
addressed to Welton Smith, C.P.T., 1438 N. Gower Street, Los
Angeles, CA 90028.
More boots... Jim McDonald sent pages from Gander
Mountain catalog, 1-800-558-9410, showing more exotic
boots including boa, shark, lizard, and elephant. He wrote:
"Although the reptile-skin items bothered me (as always), I
was shocked to see elephant boots advertised. Is this still
legal? And if they're not really made of elephant skin,
wouldn't the wording in this catalog constitute fraud?"
Well, readers - anybody know if they're legal or not?
Now that we've saved Trailside let's work on behalf of
North Park Nature Village. In the recent flurry of budget
cutting, one staff position was "non-funded" which means that
when one naturalist left - she was not replaced. This has
left CHS member and full time naturalist, Laurel Ross, the
only staff person left at NPNV. She needs volunteers.
She has about 25-35 animals in the center on any given day,
leads tours and school groups, answers the phone, coordinates
everything and etcetera. In other words, she needs about 20
new helpers and a pair of roller skates. We can also write
to our city alderpeople and hizzoner da mayor asking/begging
for more funding for one of Chicago's most unusual resources,
a nature center with real wild animals within the city
limits. Chicago's City Hall is at 121 N. LaSalle Street,
60602. NPNV membership $10 for individuals, $15 for
families. They offer stargazing, nature walks, bird
watching, maple syrup and many other programs. Members
receive a quarterly newsletter and calendar of events. You
can join by writing, NPNV, 5801 N. Pulaski Road, Chicago, IL
Federal game wardens arrested a suburban Lombard man
for transporting alligators to Chicago for commercial
purposes. He pleaded guilty and paid a $450 fine for
violating the Endangered Species Act. Northwest Airlines
contributed first-class cargo space to transport the 3-foot
alligators back home. The relocation of these animals is a
wonderful precedent. So many times when wildlife agents
seize shipments, the animals have to be destroyed which makes
the enforcement efforts seem rather worthless.
Wanna see an alligator etching? Gregg Murray, a
Florida artist, and the UF School of Forrest Resources are
offering limited edition prints ($111) and fine art posters
($18.40) of Gregg's scratchboard works of alligators from an
alligators eye view. All proceeds benefit research funds.
To order, write the FL Wildlife Federation/Alligator Research
Trust Fund, PO Box 1702-186, Gainesville, FL 32602-1702.
The National Aquarium is conducting a nationwide
contest to name 3 baby alligators. To enter, send $3 plus
your suggestion for each baby to Michael Bailey, Curator of
Reptiles, National Zoo, 3000 Block of Connecticut Avenue, NW,
Washington, D.C. 20008. The entry fees will help fund the
aquarium which lost all its federal funding in the early
1980s. Prizes are a $200 US savings bond, a 1-year
membership, and a case of Gatorade.
Jaycees please note that research shows that
indiscriminate snake hunting can be very harmful to snake
populations. Snake Island, less than one square kilometer of
rock and bush, is 12 nautical miles from the coast of
Liaodong Peninsula, Bohai Bay, China. All the snakes
are black-browed vipers, Agkistrodon halys. There have
been three phases of human/snake interaction there. In
ancient times, the snakes were revered and worshipped.
Snakes flourished. Next came a time of rampant exploitation.
Before the 1930s there were half a million snakes on the
island, but locals took them by the thousands and as many as
7,000 animals were removed by the Japanese in 1937. Now
there are about 13,000 left. About 1,000 are born each year.
They are eaten by introduced rats during hibernation and
estivation - but manage to eat their share of rats when
active. They also eat migrating birds and nesting birds
eggs. The island is now completely protected as a nature
reserve. There is a research center and venom laboratory on
the island. Any visitors need permission from Beijing.
A free publication from IDOC offers pond owners advice
on the "management of small lakes and ponds in Illinois."
For your copy call, (217) 782-6424. One hopes that even
though it was prepared by the Division of Fisheries -
herptiles have been considered.
As everyone with a local paper knows, Turtle Excluder
Devices have become a hot topic. Rather than editorialize on
the situation this month, I'm going to share some interesting
quotes from writers around the country.
Marydele Donnelly, Center for Marine Education, wrote:
"Four times Secretary Mosbacher has delayed enforcement
requirements; four times in the last three months! The first
delay (from May 1 to July 1) was said to allow time for
fishermen to buy TEDs, although they had already had more
than a year to prepare. Then on July 10, Secretary Mosbacher
suspended TED enforcement while he spent more than $100,000
to send vessels on a survey of the Gulf of Mexico. Why?
Fishermen complained that heavy concentrations of seaweed
were clogging their TEDs. These complaints were bogus:
fishermen who complained to us admitted that they were not
using TEDs anyway. And the government researchers found
seaweed in less than a dozen of the nearly 400 samples they
took in the Gulf of Mexico. When Secretary Mosbacher called
for resumption of enforcement two weeks later, some shrimpers
in the Gulf blockaded ports in TX and LA. Shrimpers threw
wrenches through the windows of Coast Guard cutters
attempting to open navigation channels for public ferries,
recreational boaters, and commercial freighters. Businesses
large and small lost tens of thousands of dollars. On
Monday, July 31, after a meeting with Gulf congressmen,
Secretary Mosbacher announced that he was once again
suspending the TED regulations for 45 days, regulations that
the Commerce Department had twice successfully defended in
federal court against challenges by the State of LA.
Mosbacher also announced that at the end of the period he
planned to allow fishermen to limit their tow times instead
of using TEDs...He ignored his biologists, who said that such
a measure would jeopardize the continued existence of the
critically endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle. And he
ignored his attorneys, who told him that such an action would
violate the Endangered Species Act...We know TEDs save sea
turtles and catch shrimp. In South Carolina, where TEDs have
been used by nearly all fishermen this summer, the number of
dead turtles stranding on beaches has dropped by 95%."
Steve Moyer, National Wildlife Federation: "The most
important reason [to use TEDs] is the biological reason. The
government's own environmental impact statement shows an 18
percent turtle mortality rate" using limited trawling times,
not TEDs. "We're really skeptical about how well this can be
enforced. We just don't believe the agency has the resources
or that using the resources in this fashion is an effective
way to enforce the law."
Dan Kipnis, FL Fisheries Commissioner from Miami:
"Twenty-five years of research on this has got to mean
something. You [Concerned Shrimpers of America] can blow
smoke in court all you want trying to put down scientific
evidence and you're not going to win it."
Charles Lee, senior vice president of the FL Audubon
Society: "We're not going to back off. We would not
hesitate...to move through legislative channels to effect
that [shut down of all shrimping in the Gulf] if it becomes
necessary. We're hopeful that TEDs will not only save the
turtle and prevent the extinction of the turtle, but we're
hopeful that the TEDs will prevent the extinction of the
industry. The federal government, in the face of hooliganism
and threats, has backed down on a very important part of the
environmental law that was proposed to protect the endangered
species and have done so, we believe, in a very irresponsible
Edward Proffitt, director, FL office, Center for Marine
Conservation, St. Petersburg: "He [Mosbacher] calls these
actions [suspended TED enforcement and proposed trawl limits]
a compromise; we call them an outrageously gutless response
to political pressure and threats of violence. His ruling is
outside the scope of the federal regulations passed by the US
Congress to protect sea turtles and, as such, is clearly
illegal. Consequently the CMC and the National Wildlife
Federation are jointly filing for a preliminary injunction
against the actions of the secretary to overturn his illegal
decision...It is also unfortunate that certain of the
shrimpers' leaders have brought them to the edge of violence
and marine terrorism in the unfounded and ill-conceived
opposition to TED regulations. Shrimpers who
conservationists and scientists have spoken with in private,
away from the influence of their peer group leaders, have
admitted that while they do not necessarily like the TEDs,
that the devices can be made to work properly without
significant loss of shrimp."
Joe M. Hardin, St. Petersburg: "Are we expected to
allow the wholesale decimation of another species in the name
of sympathy for an industry not willing to keep pace with the
demands of an environmentally endangered world?"
Daniel M. Jessup, Largo: "If there aren't enough
shrimp in the gulf to allow all of [the shrimpers] a decent
living while using a device to protect extinction of an
animal, they'd better get out of the business - there's too
many of them....Eating shrimp doesn't set well with me. I
think I'll give it up till some morality returns to this
greedy business. [Shrimp is] loaded with cholesterol
National Audubon Society, press release:"By refusing to
buy shrimp you are sending a message to Gulf Coast shrimp
fishermen that you don't condone their refusal to use the one
device that can prevent them from killing turtles,
TEDs...While shrimpers refuse to use TEDs, sea turtles will
continue to drown. It's that simple. Until shrimpers stop
catching sea turtles, let's tell them to not bother catching
Dez Crawford, Reptile Defense Fund: "Speak out!"
Currently, the shrimpers' voice is the only voice being heard
by Congress, President Bush, the Secretary of Commerce and
the media. If you care about the fate of the Kemp's Ridley
and other sea turtles, please...write to: President George
Bush, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC 20500;
Secretary of Commerce Robert Mosbacher, US Department of
Commerce, 14th and Constitution Avenues, NW, Room 5522,
Washington, DC 20230; your own Congressional Representative,
The Honorable (insert name), US House of Representatives,
Washington, DC 20515."
Eighteen baby Kemp's ridley turtles hatched on Madeira
Beach in Florida in August. 55 days ago, their mother
crawled ashore, right in town and laid about 100 eggs.
Kemp's ridley turtles primarily nest in Ranch Nuevo, Mexico,
but for some reason "mama turtle" apparently thought this
beach was ok. Perhaps she was tired of swimming past shrimp
nets or perhaps she is one of the "head-started" turtles
released in the last 10 years from various areas in FL and
LA. In any case, 18 eggs hatched. The remainder were dug up
and analyzed by the state Department of Natural Resources.
A turtle egg thief was sentenced to 2 years in prison,
the longest such sentence imposed under the Endangered
Species Act to date. The felon had pleaded guilty to taking
818 green and loggerhead sea turtle eggs from 17 nests on
Jupiter Island Beach in August, 1988. Six weeks earlier,
wildlife officers had caught him poaching 1,088 eggs from a
state park in Riviera Beach. He told investigators that
customer paid him up to $15 for a dozen sea turtle eggs.
In 1851, the Religious Tract Society of London
published an article from which I have excerpted the
following: "In ancient times, tortoise-shell was as highly,
and perhaps more highly valued than at the present day; but
the abundance then supplied to the luxurious inhabitants of
the great cities of Europe, was obtained exclusively from the
east; India sent not only ivory and gold, but also
tortoise-shell to Rome...For ages, then, has war been
directed against this oceanic creature; not for the purpose
of supplying the wants or necessaries of man, but for the
purpose of ministering to his pride, ostentation, and taste
for luxury...this system of extermination has been carried on
for ages, and still is carried on;...and as in days gone by,
its fishery is a source of commercial enterprise, of profit,
and employment...Thus trophies meet our gaze which proclaim
the destructive agency of man throughout the lower orders of
Thanks to all who contributed this month. As you see,
the more you send - the more you can read. Especial thanks
to our members and others on the Gulf Coast and in Florida
who have spent time and money keeping the CHS up to date on
the ongoing TED tragedy. Please, even if you have written or
called before, write again. Maybe school groups could write
the first lady, Barbara Bush. Remember the expression about
how great men get that way. Speaking of great men, Ken
Mierzwa, my partner in columny and I got married in July. Of
course, after the ceremony, we dropped in to the local state
park and flipped some surface cover! After all, he did
promise to love, honor and herp with me, forever!
Report from the First World Congress of Herpetology
The flight from Chicago's O'Hare Airport left at 7:10 pm
Sunday the 10th of September. It was uneventful except for some turbulence over northern
Ireland (an intriguing metaphor for a highly unpleasant sensation). Arriving at Heathrow at 9:00 am on Monday, I found the conference tour agent, EcoTravel, waiting with a
Chameleon sign to indicate a reserved coach from the airport to the conference center at the University of Kent at Canterbury. This was a great relief since I had been
planning a tube ride to Charing Cross followed by a British Rail train to Canterbury with a mile and a half uphill hike to the University. Several CHS members were
on the coach including Joe and Suzanne Collins and Dr. Herndon Dowling. The trip took about an hour and a half including a detour around a tunnel entrance blocked by an
overturned lorry (truck to us Americans).
We arrived at the University and I went to their "Senate" building to register.
Even though I had no prior registration, the staff quickly
and efficiently placed me in University housing (Eliot
College) and registered me for the conference. All delegates
received handsome plastic briefcases screened with the
Chameleon design and containing the 1 inch thick book of
abstracts, the 1/2 inch schedule book and the special
conference edition of Adler, Applegarth and Altig's new work,
"Contributions to the History of Herpetology." I dropped off
my luggage and the 100 pound box of special conference book
lists and back issues of the CHS Bulletin at Eliot and
went to see the first showing of the Adler/Dennis slide show,
"Herpetologists Past and Present." The show has been
completely reworked since its last showing in Michigan and
had a much more international scope. The very last slide
in the show is a cartoon by our own Don Wheeler showing
"Spot" recumbent on a nest of Earth-like eggs below the
Chameleon logo of the World Congress. The caption reads,
"Let's see what hatches from the 1st World Congress." Then
we went to dinner and drinks at the dining hall and pub in
Eliot. I talked to so many folks from the States I hardly
felt that I had left home!
Tuesday, Sept. 12th
I ate breakfast with Dagmar Werner, the "Iguana Mama" working
in Costa Rica. I mentioned to her the concern of one of our
members about just raising iguanas for stew. She said that I
would understand the situation better after seeing her
presentation later in the week, but in brief - it is not her
intention to "restock wild populations" which do not yet need
such help, but rather to create a new, self-sustaining
protein source for poor central American farmers. It seems
as though iguanas eat far less than any other type of meat
producing animal and grow quickly enough to be profitable to
work with. Additionally, the iguanas require trees and this
encourages farmers not to cut trees on their properties as
they would have to do to raise grain or ranch cows or goats.
She is looking for an American volunteer to help co-ordinate
a proposed "Adopt an Iguana" program. Adoptees would be
breeding stock - not soup. If you would like to volunteer,
please contact me and I will put you in touch with her.
Reading the schedule after breakfast, I realized that there
was no possible way to attend every talk that I would like to
hear later in the week. There were concurrent sessions on
many fascinating topics located on opposite sides of the
campus. So I went looking for a person who would be
interested in sharing notes.
The organisers provided coaches
to central Canterbury's Marlowe Theatre for the opening
sessions. British English speakers begin their addresses
with "my lords, ladies and gentlemen," since it is highly
likely that there will be at least one person in the audience
with a peerage. We posed for the group picture, ate lunch
and returned to the plenary sessions in the afternoon. All
the plenary lectures are available on audio cassette tape,
an intriguing innovation I hope we will emulate at future
conferences in the U.S.
At dusk, we attended a reception
hosted by the Lord Mayor of Canterbury, and were greeted by
that personage as well as the Sheriff of Canterbury. We were
entertained by the Canterbury Bagpipers and the local Morris
dancing troupe. The reception was in the formal garden of
the old West Gate and fortunately the fog/rain stopped long
enough to make the party a raging success. The coaches returned
us to campus where most delegates returned to the serious
business of partying in the two colleges (Eliot and
At this point I would like to take the
opportunity to discuss the accommodations. The rooms in the
colleges are intended for undergraduate students. The
colleges are mirror images of each other, aligned in such a
way as to provide sweeping vistas of the Cathedral through
the large windows in the dining halls. The buildings are
octopoidal with no square corners. Each has several floors,
absolutely identical with few distinguishing characteristics.
Consequently, everybody was completely confused. There
is a pub in each college. All the tables had specially
printed beer coasters with the Chameleon design that was
the ubiquitous logo of the World Congress. After having
consumed pints of specially brewed "Tortoise Bitters," some
delegates were totally incapable of finding their rooms! The
rooms themselves were spartan but more than adequate - except
for soundproofing - which meant that dedicated party animals
were audible up to two floors away. I doubt if many at the
conference slept much. I know I couldn't. The colleges also
have the typically British arrangement of shower, bath and
toilet in separate rooms down the hall. Some American
delegates rather rudely checked out of the college
accommodations in favor of quaint, if quiet, rooms in town
with attached bathroom facilities.
Wednesday, September 13th
The dealer's bazaar opened today. Book dealers were the
primary occupants, but Tom McFarland of Tom's Turtles and his
lovely helper, Beverly, set up shop and did a brisk business
in both his usual tee-shirts and turtle sculpture as well as
his new line of absolutely stunning handcrafted pins (called
"badges" by the British). ACO Polymer Products, manufacturers
of specialised toad tunnels also had a display and were selling
tee-shirts, stickers and a special book about "Toads on Roads."
The most interesting talk today (in my opinion) was given by
CHS exchange member Romulus Whittaker of the Madras Crocodile
Bank Trust [MCBT] in India. He stated that the Indian
Crocodile Recovery Project has managed to build the
population of the Gharial Crocodile from about 200
individuals in 1975 to 30,000 crocs today. In 1976, the
government of India stopped the snake skin exploitation even
though this action severely set back many tribals who had
depended on the skins for their livelihood. Previous to the
ban, 5 to 10 million skins were shipped out of India every
year. In 1987 and 1988, the frog-leg industry was shut down
by the Indian government and a sea turtle recovery program
was initiated. In 1988, the Ganges river clean-up and a
freshwater turtle recovery program were started by the
government. For those who may not have seen the
Hamadryad, the publication of the MCBT, it is a nicely
prepared magazine, edited twice a year by Rom's wife, Zai
Whittaker. Subscriptions are U.S. $14.00 for two years.
Donations in U.S. dollars are of course welcome since the
trust has many very hungry crocodile mouths to feed and is a
research station into the life and natural history of
varanids, crocodiles and fresh-water turtles.
featured some interesting statistics: 1.8 million tegu skins
are exported from Argentina each year; about 100,000 people
are involved in the skin trade; in no one area has the
hunting wiped out tegu populations; and the researcher felt
that the pet trade had no impact on wild populations
whatsoever. For those out there who keep Tupinambis, I
would like to pass along the facts that they mate from
October to December which is the warm season in South
America, and are inactive from April to September. The males
have wide ranges and apparently scent-mark their territories
while the females stay in smaller territories year-round.
Maturity is in about three years and females lay about 30
The Jersey Trust for Wildlife hosted a reception for
conference delegates where we were treated to a talk by
Gerald Durrell, its founder and director.
I went shopping in
the Student Union and found that even though many products
are similar to those in the U.S., the packaging is often very
different. It took me quite a while to shop, since I had to
read every package to try and figure out what was inside.
(Anacin=Anadin, Party Spots=M and M type candies, Lynx creme
deodorant for men=Brut, etc.) One interesting thing, in
England they don't add tax at the cash register, so if a
price tag reads "2.99" that is exactly what you pay, leading
to a pocketful of 1 pence coppers.
Dinner was the by now
familiar quiches, pastried meats, cold chicken and processed
potato balls. After dinner, a round-table discussion on
"What is succeeding in conservation?" was held in the Cornwallis
lecture hall. Some highlights included: recent research
indicating that there is a new "tuatara," actually Sphenodon
in New Zealand; the tortoise village in France [SOPTOM]
received all its tortoises from people who had kept them as
pets and runs an effective Adopt a Tortoise program; the
World Wildlife Fund [WWF] is spending about L20 million a year
worldwide on reptile conservation; WWF surveyed the entire
coastline of Turkey in an effort to target important
loggerhead sea turtle nesting sites; WWF suggests the use of
popular or "sexy" animals to drive conservation efforts since
people seem to identify better with spotlight animals than
with ecosystems as a whole. The ensuing discussion
highlighted the fact that conservation solutions can often be
very different in Third World and developed nations. Third
World projects often have a difficult time raising "hard"
currencies and any support that those of us in developed
countries can send is most greatly appreciated. The problems
with the TEDs for Kemp's ridley turtles were mentioned and
the chairman and Steve Edwards from IUCN got together after
the round-table to draft a proposed resolution to George Bush
from the World Congress. Afterwards, the delegates went pub
crawling between the colleges and, after the pubs closed at
11:00, crawling in and out of each other's rooms.
Thursday, September 14th
The fog/rain weather finally lifted enough for us to see that
yes, the sun does shine in England, albeit briefly. The two
concurrent sessions I would have liked to attend were
Health and disease and Evolution and life histories of
turtles. I took the latter, chaired by Justin Congdon of
the Savanna River Ecology lab. We heard Brooks on life
history in the common snapper, Chelydra serpentina,
Galbraith on life history evolution in Chelonia, Gibbons on
long-term ecological studies with fresh water turtles, Frazer
on life history of sea turtles, Georges on how Australian
turtles cope with wet/dry cycles and Congdon on life history
evolution in turtles. An interesting note from Dr. Brooks is
that some of his snapping turtles are dying off.
Acidification may be killing off their food, but the turtles
are being eaten by an increasing otter population. Many of
the talks focused on a two year, breeding/nesting cycle
observed in many species, to wit that females may require a
whole year off from egg laying in order to rebuild
nutritional reserves necessary for ovulation and egg
production. I pass this along to those of you who are
breeding chelonians as a possible addition to your other
I had a lovely
discussion with some British Herpetological Society
people, one of whom went on at length about the problem
in England of people's pet cats running loose and killing the
local small fauna. With all seriousness, he turned to me and
asked, "and what do you do about loose pussies in Chicago?"
Before dinner, Darryl Frost and I went down into Canterbury
and toured the Cathedral. After dinner, I was all done in
and retired to my cubicle, so tired that even the party
animals could not keep me awake.
Friday, September 15th
Today was planned as a "free day" with excursions to various
areas as near as Dover or London and as far as Paris, France.
I decided that since my own funds were limited, and that many
people in similar straits were 1.) likely to stay on
campus, and 2.) be more likely to be interested in CHS
discount books, to remain behind with my dwindling supply of
book lists and sample Bulletins.
Leo Borkin, of the
Leningrad Museum, and I spent a glastnost morning
lunching with other members of the Soviet delegation, some
Americans, and other delegates. He wrote out for me the
names of reptiles and amphibians in phonetic Cyrillic.
Interestingly enough, "zh-aba" or "toad" in Russian, sounds
very like "Jabba" in English and brings to mind the
possibility of a cross-lingual pun in the Star Wars saga.
Leo also mentioned the upcoming formation of the
Herpetological Society of the CCCP [USSR] and their 7th
Herpetological Conference to be held from 10/26/89 to
10/01/89 in Kiev, Ukraine, USSR. The Leningrad Museum is
sending an exhibit of "Snakes of the USSR" to at least the
Museum in Ottawa, Canada. I rounded up a few American zoo
people and they discussed the possibility of moving the
exhibition around the U.S. after its Canadian opening.
Anyone who would like to participate in this exhibit tour
should contact me for Leo's address.
I then went into
Canterbury on impulse. While there, I saw the most
interesting procession. Every group had the kind of banners
that are on posts on both ends. Down the medieval street
came a group of very tweedy, very British folk carrying a
banner which read "Anglicans for the Environment." Behind
them came the "Hari Krishnas for the Environment." They were
similar to those we see in Chicago, but far more warmly
dressed. Then came some Scots bagpipers ("Scots for the
Environment"). Next were "Catholics for the Environment"
with several brightly dressed priests blessing the crowds
which had by now gathered on the narrow pavements to watch.
After the Catholics came a group with a sign "British Youth
for the Environment." I found their apparel intriguing. Most
were all in black clothes, with many zippers, interesting
shaved hairstyles and death's-head and snake earrings. I was
told they are called "Skinheads" by their detractors. This
parade and two others composed of Sikhs, Hindus, Bahai's,
Jews and other religious groups converged on the Cathedral
where they were greeted by the Lord Mayor and the Sheriff and
formally welcomed to Canterbury Cathedral for the weekend
programme of "Faith and the Environment." As no apple is
without its worm, this gracious welcome was marred by the
actions of a right-wing Anglican group we spuriously
nicknamed "Britons for religious intolerance" who followed
these brightly dressed pilgrims into the Cathedral and
desecrated the altar. The police came running, and I
heard my first police sirens on this trip. It seemed prudent
to return to campus. The schedule showed a reception hosted
by ACO Polymer Products Ltd., entitled "The World
Conservation Union Reception." Lo and behold if it wasn't the
organisers of the "Faith and the Environment" weekend! They
explained to us that the pilgrims had been traveling, some up
to five days, by foot from religious sites all over England
and Wales to attend the programme which had been planned to
coincide with our conference.
I must at this point remark
that the preconference publicity in and around the South-East
of England must have been remarkable. Almost everyone who
saw our Chameleon badges mentioned that they knew about the
Congress and many said that although they had lived in the
U.K. all their lives they hadn't known that there were any
herpetofauna native to the country, "except those toads, of
After the reception, I went to the Senate building
to ask the organisers some questions and found that Fiona
Swingland (the wife of the primary conference organiser) was
having an extremely rough day. The typewriter had been
fouled up by a delegate, some hotel accommodations had been
mislaid, and as many times as she had tried to close down and
get out - people had shown up with new problems. I did what
little I could to help, after all, we in the CHS know all
about cancelled hotel reservations, and other conference
detrita after last year's little fiasco at the Midway
"hotel." We went to the two colleges posting some "see me
now" notices on World Congress poster stock printed with
the by now familiar Chameleon logo. She invited me to
accompany her to her husband's [Ian's] office for a party
with the volunteer stewards who had been and would continue
helping keep us delegates happy, healthy and in proper order.
I dashed out to watch the BBC coverage of the parades with
Steve Edwards who was having a hard time believing my stories
of their amazing diversity in belief and dress. The telly
backed me up, although it did not report on the fracas within
the Cathedral. Apparently, there is a law in the U.K. which
bans the media from reporting anything which will
subsequently go to court. Since several of the intolerants
had been arrested I presume this is why the desecration was
Later I went back to Eliot pub and had the
great pleasure of meeting Drs. Duellman and Trueb, authors
of the incomparable Biology of the Amphibia, on an
evening when they were relaxed and being quite amusing with
each other. I tried to go to sleep, but the noise in the
college was quite impossible and so returned to the public
area to out wait the party animals. As they say, better to
join in the noise than complain in the morning. The full
moon rising over the Cathedral was truly spectacular and I
found the timing of the ecumenical weekend and our conference
quite in keeping with ancient Hyperborean traditions.
Saturday, September 16th
Bleary eyed, I awoke to another foggy day. I really should
tell you about the morning food service. Imagine if you will
a room about four stories tall and about a quarter the area
of an American football field. In the room are long rows of
wood tables and chairs, fully packed with tired and hungry
delegates. Amidst the rows and around the room are young
British food service workers attired in traditional servant
garb, little "French maid" outfits on the females, black
pants and formal white shirts with ties on the males. These
people were apparently in great fear of losing their employ
since they were speedy and compulsive in removing any plate
which was emptied. Perhaps they just didn't have enough
flatware and plates, but the constant grabbing away of
utensils and dishes was a bit discommoding. The coffee/tea
machines had a perverse hatred of foreign delegates. You had
to put your tiny cup on the grill and carefully - with a
smooth motion - push a button labeled with your choice of
coffee or tea. If you pushed too weakly, nothing would come
out, if you pushed too hard or too long a double or even
triple dose of coffee would cascade into, over and out of
your cup. I learned several new swear words in various
languages while waiting in queue for my turn. Since I was
"self-catering" which means getting tickets for just those
meals I wanted to eat, I can't tell you what was offered
for breakfast, since I never got into the cafeteria lines
in the mornings.
Even though four of the six concurrent
sessions this morning were of great interest to me, I decided
to attend the meeting of the British Chelonia Group being
held in Darwin College. After an introduction by their Madam
Chair, we were treated to Peter Pritchard's presentation on
"the last turtle." No they haven't all gone extinct...the
title refers to Peter's game of one - his desire to see,
alive, every genus of turtle currently on the face of the
earth. His last beastie was to be Chitra indica, an
unusual Indian softshell turtle. Not only is Peter an
incomparable speaker, but his photographs, particularly
habitat shots, are enough to take your breath away. I hope
that he will have published one photo in particular. It
depicts a misty morning in the Galapagos. Framed in dark
branches is the mud wallow of about a dozen giant tortoises.
The grey mist, dark branches and shiny shells of the animals
perhaps more than any picture I have ever seen, express the
wild and exceptional beauty of those amazing islands. His
journey led from there to a Thai turtle temple in Bangkok
where people release turtles and spend time meditating and
feeding the turtles, then to a tortoise village by the
Cambodian border where man and turtle have lived side-by-side
in peace for years. He searched the river Kwai for
Chitra with no success then went through the 3 Pagoda
Pass into Burma, where he found a sizeable village completely
abandoned by its inhabitants. Next he traveled to Bangladesh
where he visited a temple pool inhabited by Espidirites
[Trionyx] nigricans, a very large softshelled turtle. The
turtles must navigate a set of steps and then wedge
themselves out between a building and a fence in order to
reach their nesting grounds behind the temple. They are
about 3 feet long with a 6" wide head and reportedly have
eaten the pendulous genitals of at least one devotee who had
gone swimming with them. Then Peter traveled to India,
journeying to Calcutta where he saw the dead shell and still
beating heart of a recently butchered Chitra in an
illegal meat market. He visited Rom Whittaker at Madras,
only to find that their Chitra had just passed away.
Then he went south with Dr. Das, to Delhi and visited the
Taj Mahal. Finally, at the Chambal Sanctuary for the Gharial
Crocodile, he found his Chitra. If you have the
opportunity to hear this talk at an upcoming herpetological
conference - it is an experience not to be missed. I have
only touched on the high points and can do no justice to
Peter's narration, wide knowledge of all things chelonian,
cultured manners, humourous anecdotes and lovely accent.
Madam Chair closed the meeting of the BCG and we went outside
for a group photo.
After lunch, I attended the session on
Amateur contributions to herpetology, chaired by
Wolfgang Bohme of West Germany, containing talks by H.G.
Horn, W. Sachsse, H. Zimmermann, and R. Guyetant among
others. In a round-table after the talks, we discovered that
many countries around the world are trying to severely
regulate herpetofauna and that many places are using so
called "exclusion lists" which basically make verboten
all species of reptile and amphibians in amateur hands.
Needless to say this was very disturbing and several
attendees stayed after the roundtable to draft a resolution
for the World Congress recognizing and encouraging the
contributions of amateurs to the profession.
Then we went
to the formal Banquet, which was held in two parts, those living
in Rutherford in one hall and those living at Eliot in the
other. They had split the dignitaries so we each had a head
table, and having sat close to it, I can tell you they ate no
better than we. Later we went to the Discotheque Party at
Darwin College where the disc jockey played all old American
music, some Beatles, some old Rolling Stones and looked quite
surprised when some Americans asked for anything by the Sex
Pistols or Echo and the Bunnymen. Maybe it was the full
moon, or perhaps the pounding music, but I would suggest an
interesting graduate project on the relative testosterone
levels of male herpetologists before, during and after
conferences. We females were outnumbered about eight to one,
which led to some interesting cocktail aggregations vaguely
reminiscent of the Manitoba garter snake pits. Of course,
with the Disco for a warmup, the dorms were rocking until the
Sunday, September 17th
As we had been invited on Friday, Mrs. J.R. Dixon, Peter
Pritchard, myself and several other delegates attended the
high mass at the Cathedral officiated by His Grace
the Archbishop of Canterbury. The liturgy and many of the
musical pieces were specially written for the event and
tolerance of all other religions even extended to communion.
Recognizing that all would not be Anglican, those who could
not partake of the host or wine were blessed by the priests.
I found the Benedicte Lament written by Martin Palmer of WWF
particularly moving, the refrain is "save us," and it is sung
from the point of view of the earth, the woods and the animals.
After the service, His Grace personally received every
attendee with a handshake and brief chat. Peter and I walked
back to campus past typical British houses with lovely
gardens. The sun was shining and the temperature was - if
not hot - tolerable.
After lunch, I briefly attended the
reception at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and
Ecology, then went to the session on Captive management of
amphibians and reptiles. The list of presenters of this
session is too long to print here and so many delegates
attended that the stewards warned us that we were in
violation of the fire codes. Upcoming conferences should be
aware of the great interest in captive breeding amongst both
amateur and professional herpetologists and schedule more
time and larger quarters for this topic.
Dinner was the
usual, although they must have gotten more plates, since the
servers were less frantic than previously noted. After
dinner was the Business Meeting of the World Congress.
Although organisers had planned for an overflow crowd, those
attending fit quite nicely into the comfortable Gulbenkian
Theatre. The Constitution was passed quite more quickly than
I think its writers had expected. The Budget was passed.
Then two resolutions passed with flying colors. The first
was to the European Parliament asking them not to forget
herpetofauna. The second was to George Bush requesting his
immediate assistance in getting the shrimpers to use TEDs.
The final resolution - that recognizing amateur contributions
to professionals in herpetology - was shot down in flames.
Lest you think that amateurs are unappreciated, we were
assured that was not so. Delegates were afraid that if they
stated that they encouraged captive husbandry and propagation
"certain unscrupulous amateurs and dealers" would take their
resolution as a carte blanche to continue in their
unsavory ways. All I can say is that it was a terrible
disappointment to the multi-national group which had drafted
it - and I think it means that we amateurs must become more
self-policing. The "K-mart of herps" attitude at some events
certainly cost respectable and wonderful breeders a statement
of recognition richly deserved. The Business Meeting
adjourned after hearing a presentation from the delegate from
Adelaide University in Australia inviting consideration of
that site for the second World Congress in 5 or so years.
Monday, September 18th
I slept late and had to run down the hill with two other
delegates to the closing session since we had missed the
conference coaches. The final plenary lectures were given by
Tim Halliday, Zhao Ermi, Armand de Ricqles, S.D. Bradshaw,
Eric R. Pianka and David B. Wake. The coaches then shuttled
delegates back up the hill, past the familiar Chameleon
signs to the colleges, between which had been erected tents
for our final night Barbeque. We were entertained by a
marching, martial band and then by a popular music
septet. Just as the last herpetologist had been served
delicious steak, chicken or sausages, the rains came! Being
hardy, most stayed outside eating in the rain, until the
chill downpour forced most inside to the warm, dry environs
of the college pubs.
Then Joe Collins and Ruth Zantzinger
auctioned off wonderful herpetological items for the benefit
of the Conservation Fund. A few highlights included: a
signed copy of Amphibians of Mongolia by Leo Borkin for
L50; the original David Dennis painting of Heloderma
charlesbogerti for L400; the registration stamps with the
ubiquitous "Chammie" for L19 to L26; tee-shirts, books,
drawings, and Dennis prints for diverse amounts; and an almost
full set of the Transactions of the Museum of Natural History
at Lawrence, Kansas for the hard-earned sum of L120. The
parties this night were more like wakes, many friendships had
been made and many renewed and all were sad to be leaving on
The final total indicates that the Congress was attended by
1,300+ delegates from at least 69 countries worldwide.
Congress organisers deserve great praise for the meetings and
accommodations, which provided those interested in scientific
study and conservation of reptiles and amphibians a forum for
learning about recent advances in the field as well as a
social venue in which to meet their colleagues.
Next month I hope to have remembered how to read and
write American and will treat y'all to the 1 and 1/2 pounds
of clippings, letters, and etc. that arrived in my mailbox
whilst I was away. Thanks to everybody who wrote this month
and I'm sorry that space doesn't permit the inclusion of at
least a few other items.
A big thank you to Bill Schiefen and the Wisconsin
Herpetological Society for their kind words about the CHS in
their August, 1989 Newsletter. Bill wrote, "Joining [the
CHS] is recommended, because in addition to discount books,
you'll receive [the Bulletin] - another great source of
herptile information...This society is BIG with all the
benefits of a big society."
Kristin Valley writes: "I was watching the Home
Shopping Club on TB when I saw genuine snakeskin pumps. (They
retail for $80 and were being sold for $38.75.) I called
their toll free number 1-800-284-3200 and registered a
complaint and continued to call during the duration of the
item's time on the screen. The last thing I want to see is
lower prices on dead reptile skin! I told them I was
organizing a boycott of their station. I would suggest
similar action for anyone interested." Thanks, Kristin. For
anyone interested in getting some muscle behind protests of
this sort, please contact Ms. Dez Crawford, founder of the
Reptile Defense Fund, at (504) 767-6384. Our lead time is
unfortunately such that by the time I can publish these kinds
of items, some of these retailers have already discontinued
reptile products, which, I suppose, is good - although
frustrating for their switchboard operators.
Gregory Greer, a keeper at Zoo Atlanta writes: "This
letter is in response to a letter titled Goon Patrol,
printed in the September issue of Herptale, the
Massachusetts Herp Society Newsletter. The following is an
excerpt from the letter: 'Three separate cases of rampant
goonism have been reported by the media this week (August
20th). In the most serious one, which your editor heard
second hand, some goon in Florida apparently made two fatal
mistakes. First, he got bitten by a diamondback rattlesnake,
then he failed to get proper medical attention. He died.
The details are unknown to your editor, but there is no
reason why anyone should die of a rattlesnake bite nowadays,
especially in Florida where the snakes are still found in
reasonable numbers and anti-venin is certainly available.'
I believe that these remarks are premature and without
justification. The circumstances involving a fatal bite of a
keeper by an eastern diamondback rattlesnake does not warrant
calling the victim a Goon! People working venomous animals
as a profession are at high risk because they are exposed to
these animals all day long, five days a week. Usually when a
keeper makes a mistake, it passes unnoticed to those around,
but the keeper, however, wonders to himself how he could have
been so careless. On those rare occasions when someone is
bitten, a percentage of those victims will die. The writer
of the "Goon Patrol" stated that `there is no reason for
anyone to die of a rattlesnake bite nowadays.' This
statement shows a lack of compassion for the victim as well
as a lack of understanding of the complexities of snakebite
envenomation. When a 6' eastern diamondback bites someone,
and the venom is injected into a vein or artery, it is a
potentially lethal situation. This is what happened to
Curtis Davison at Silver Springs, Florida. Antivenin was
administered but the venom could not be neutralized and its
effects could not be reversed. Let this unfortunate
circumstance be a reminder to all of us that venomous snakes
can still, even in this day and age, deliver a lethal bite.
I offer my condolences to the Curtis Davison family, friends
and colleagues. I take this opportunity to plea to
journalists to withhold the reporting and commentaries of
questionable information until all of the facts are known.
In this way, embarassment to the herpetological community can
Dr. Susan S. Lieberman, Associate Director of the
Humane Society of the United States writes: "...The Humane
Society of the United States (HSUS) is involved with several
issues of herpetological interest. On behalf of our more
than 980,000 members and constitutents, I would like to
discuss the private ownership of reptiles. You quoted Mark
Paulhus, the Director of the HSUS Southeast Regional Office,
in your recent newsletter. Mr. Paulhus indeed correctly
stated HSUS policy on the keeping of snakes in captivity.
The HSUS is opposed to the keeping of wild animals as pets,
including reptils. Few private individuals are sufficiently
equipped to properly care for captive reptiles. The
mortality rates in captivity are astronomical. It requires
countless hours to determine and provide captive snakes and
lizards the specific environmental and physiological
conditions to meet their needs. Animlas have evolved unique
characteristics to cope with specific habitats and
environmental conditions, which can never fully be duplicated
in captivity. Reptiles and other animals are captured in the
wild and then imported into the U.S. for the lucrative pet
market. The HSUS is strongly opposed to the importation of
any live animlas for the pet trade, including reptiles,
because of the tremendous animal suffering that results.
Tens, if not hundreds, of millions of animals die every year,
due to inhumane and brutal capture and transport methods.
This is particularly true for reptiles, amphibians, and
birds. We oppose this needless suffering in order to satisfy
the desires of pet owners for exotic animals. The
international pet trade endagers wild populations of reptils
and other animals. The HSUS believes that under most
circumstances wild animals should be permitted to exist
undisturbed in their natural environments. We do recognize
that zoos can serve demonstrable purposes for the benefit of
endangered species and the education of the public to the
needs of wild animals and their role in ecosystems. We do
however oppose the keeping of wildlife in captivity as pets.
A lucrative illegal trade in smuggled reptiles exists out of
Mexico. It is the legal trade that fuels the market for
these smuggled animals. Smugglers hide behind the facade of
legal importation. The pet trade is anathema to the
interests of conservation. I did my own doctoral research on
the reptiles and amphibians of the tropical rainforest in
Cetral America; while I realize that everyone cannot see
these marvelous animals in their native habitats, it is
incubent upon all of us to work to maintain those habitats,
and to maintain healthy populations of wild animals. I have
enclosed some materials about the wildlife trade and
rainforests. I have also enclosed a copy of our Captive Wild
Animal Protection Bill, which we distribute and advocate as
model state legislation dealing with this issue. Please
don't hesitate to contact me if I can provide you with any
additional information." Her address is HSUS, 2100 L Street,
NW, Washington, DC 20037. If you would like a copy of their
model law, please contact her. I have read it and referred
it to Ken Mierzwa for his study and comment. There are
exclusions on their list for certain species of captive-bred
parrots, parakeets, ducks, finches, doves, pigeons and
canaries. I suggest that those among us who are captive
breeding certain reptiles and amphibians contact the HSUS.
At present, all reptiles and amphibians would be prohibited
by any state that adopts this model law.
Earthwatch has two projects of particular interest to
herpetologists this season. The first will be led by Drs.
Tim Moulton and Bill Magnusson to the Ilha do Cardoso, Sao
Paolo Province in Brazil. Volunteers will survey one of the
last unspoiled chunks of coastal Brazilian rain forest for
herps, especially the threatened broad-nosed caiman. Trips
leave in January and July, 1990. The second, led by Robert
Brandner, Susan Basford and Ralf Boulon will patrol the
turtle nesting beach on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands
for the ninth continuous year. Volunteers will record data,
protect and relocate some nests, and may help outfit femals
with radio transmitters. Trips leave from April to June,
1990. For further information contact: Earthwatch, 680 Mount
Auburn Street, Box 403, Watertown, MA 02272.
Felice Rood, in Sacramento, California sent a brochure
from Sorcerer's Touch Video Services, Stockton, CA 95209 which reads: "First time on video!
Turtle and Tortoise Care in Captivity. A comprehensive guide
designed for use by the turtle or tortoise fancier presented
in non-technical, everyday language. Write them for more
BAARS, the Bay Area Amphibian and Reptile Society, has
received their new, enamel logo pins, with an ubiquitous
chameleon rampant over their initials and logo. Postpaid,
these 1 1/4 inch pins cost $6.00. BAARS is also
circulating a petition for getting more herptiles on U.S.
Cynthia Gaya is starting a California support group for
HEART (Help Endangered Animals, Ridley Turtles). If you live
in that great state, you may wish to help her get
Lepidochelys kempii into the conciousness of
Most unusual request this month comes from the
Epigraphic Society, 6 Woodland Street, Arlington, MA 02174.
Epigraphy is the study of ancient inscriptions and they
request that herpetologists keep an eye out for any rock
cuttings, carvings, paintings, engraved pebbles, unusual
coins or tokens, etc. Since herpers are usually off the
beaten track, have cameras, and are peering intently at the
ground and rocks, the epigraphers are asking our help. They
need photos of the objects and exact locality data. Send
photos to the attention of Dr. Barry Fell and please mention
the CHS when you do.
Well folks, that about wraps up the letters received in
the last two months. The clippings will, unfortunately, have
to wait for next month. I hope you will forgive me for a
short column, but I also hope that you like your new copy of
the Care in Captivity which is being mailed to you along
with this issue of the Bulletin. In light of Dr.
Lieberman's comment about the countless hours required to
research the needs of reptiles and amphibians - I would again
like to thank all the friends and members of the CHS who have
made this project such a success. We do really mean it when
we ask for your comments, criticisms, etc., but we already
know about the typo after the word "Shedding" on the
garter snake page! As always, thanks to the people who have
been sending clippings for the last two months. Just because
I haven't used any for two months doesn't mean that you
Herptiles honored by U.S. states include: the alligator, FL
and LA; the ridge-nosed rattlesnake, AZ; desert tortoise, CA;
ornate box turtle, KS; eastern box turtle, NC; and the
red-spotted newt, NH. National Wildlife Federation also
reports that several states have honored fossils with an
"official" designation. Certain states honor animals
currently therein extirpated through very recent human
TEDs on, by law, no kidding - just in time for the end of the
1989 shrimp season. Whether some representative or senator
will try to tack on a "no TEDs" amendment to any other piece
of legislation from now until forever remains to be seen.
Somehow I don't think we're really through with this issue...
Loose snake department
- In Chicago, a 14 1/2-foot python
named "Death Lord" got loose in late October. Its owner used
to like to carry it around the neighborhood draped on his
shoulders. He said, "I'm upset, really." If he ever gets it
back, he may also get a visit from the Illinois Department of
Agriculture, since an administrative rule for the "Dangerous
Animals Act" makes illegal every snake over 6 feet kept in
- An 8-foot Burmese Python escaped in
Binghampton, NY in September. It apparently exited its
owners house through a screen window. Whether it was caged
inside the house was not mentioned in any of the articles CHS
member Peter Cole sent. The snake was found basking by the
side of the house three days later.
- The capture of a
20-foot python in Fort Lauderdale got press around the
country. It had apparently been slithering around that
residential community for years before it was caught.
16-foot reticulated python dropped out of a tree onto a
construction bulldozer in South Florida, near Miami
International Airport. Todd Hardwick who also captured the
snake in item 3 above says that these situations should
remind people that releasing exotic pets is illegal.
Officer Carlton Whitworth, a former full time member of the
Woodstock, GA police department was fired for his
unauthorized use of a weapon (which incidentally killed a
snake - although that is not why he was suspended). He was
on patrol and was stopped by a teenager who pointed to a 3 to
4 foot long snake beside the road. He proceeded to beat on
the snake with a wooden post found nearby and then shot it -
five times. What was left of the snake was later identified
as a king snake. The police chief said, "He discharged his
weapon five times in a heavily populated subdivision,
needlessly endangering the lives and property of [the]
Joe Robson of Maspeth, NY wrote recently about a rattlesnake
bite that was widely if variously, reported in the press.
According to the clippings, the victim was reaching into the
terrarium where he kept a 4-foot timber rattler as a pet when
the snake bit him. He arrived at the hospital in a coma and
was listed in critical condition. State officials made sure
the press knew that keeping rattlesnakes without a permit
violates NY state laws, since they are on the state
endangered species list. Environmental Conservation Officer
Scott Steingart said, "He had the snake in an aquarium with a
towel over it." The snake was placed in the woods following
the incident, but later was shot because "it posed a threat
to other people." Conservation Officer George Ezzel, with the
department's Endangered Species Unit, said the Dept. of
Environmental Conservation had to kill the snake in order to
perform an autopsy to determine if the snake had any diseases
which could have affected the victim's condition. The victim
was issued a summons for possessing a protected species. Mr.
Robson reports that "[the victim] did not get bit while
reaching into a tank but he was carrying the snake in his
arms while walking outside. He was bitten three times,
passed out after two minutes, and had blood coming from
[every orifice]...Instead of calling in somebody to remove
the snake, the authorities destroyed the snake (which is a
regular practice by small town police, I understand)."
Breck Bartholomew of Murray, UT sent in a clipping about two
women in Salmon, ID who hunt rattlesnakes and make belts and
etcetera from their remains which they sell through a local
country store. They usually just put the snakes in the
freezer until the snakes die, but the clipping mentions a
time the women took a ball of frozen snakes out to thaw for
skinning and two of the snakes were still alive. Breck
writes: "I looked at my local library, but they didn't have
the right phone book to get these barbaric old ladies
addresses... It would be nice to swamp them with letters of
protest. I plan to call the Idaho Wildlife Resources to find
out if indiscriminate killing and commercialization of
rattlesnakes is legal."
Two municipalities reached very different decisions on snake
- In Tucson, AZ, the Pima County Board
of [Zoning] Adjustment voted 3-2 to permit Philip and Barbara
Inzel to continue raising non-venomous snakes in their home
in a residential subdivision. They have about 400 animals
plus mice to feed them. Philip Inzel said, "You don't know
where [snake research] is going to lead. It is important to
remember that many medicines and anti-coagulants have come
from snakes. It is no accident that the symbol for doctors
is two serpents."
- In Lorain, OH, a man accused of
violating a city ordinance prohibiting wild and exotic
animals was arraigned for trial. At issue is his 8 1/2-foot
Burmese Python, and the fact that the Lorain Health
Department told him to dispose of the animal. The defendant
said, "My snake is not a wild animal. It's a domestic
animal. It's been born and bred in captivity." He was turned
in by a complaint from a neighbor who feared the snake would
harm her grandchildren. The owner of the pet store where he
bought the snake said the outcome of this case could affect
the future business of pet stores in the area, since it would
limit what pets they could sell. The part of the city
ordinance in question defines wild animals as "any animal
other than domestic dogs and cats, which in the wild state
are carnivorous or ... are capable of inflicting serious
physical harm or death to human beings."
Stevens Point, WI has installed new "Frog Crossing" signs,
the old ones having vanished since right after they were put
up in July, 1987. At first, officials decided that it was
pointless to keep putting up new signs, but they have decided
to have T-shirts made of the sign designs and hope that the
signs stay up. Realistically, they also welded the bolt
Australians near Brisbane are apparently waging all out war
on cane toads (Bufo marinus), which were originally
introduced to their continent from South America to end a
beetle plague that was destroying crops. If their campaign
to eradicate these alien pests succeeds, the state of
Queensland is expected to be toad-free within five years.
The Brisbane Council, however, decided against offering a
bounty for every toad. Greg Stegman, the city councilman in
charge of the eradication scheme explained this decision:
"knowing the Australian entrepreneurial spirit, they'll start
breeding them." Plans include ringing the city's suburbs with
recordings of the males call and scooping up any toads that
hop out in response. The state of Queensland is also holding
a biggest toad contest. The current contender is 6 pounds
and about a foot across.
5.7 million animals, of which 3 million are frogs, are
sacrificed annually in the interest of biology instruction.
R.O. Flagg, vice president of Carolina Biological Supply
Company, one of the nation's largest suppliers of dissection
frogs, says leopard frogs are a staple of their $42 million
annual sales. He says that they are plentiful in nature and
can be collected without harm to the species. The frogs are
wild caught and then gassed with alcohol fumes and preserved.
Shipped to schools, they can cost as little as 63 cents
Jack Rudloe, author of Time of the Turtle will be
speaking at the Shedd Aquarium, Friday, January 12th at both
7 and 9 pm. His talk, titled "The Erotic Ocean" will discuss
the fecundity of the ocean, lives of various sea creatures,
as well as turtles, shrimp and TEDs. Admission is $10, or $5
if you belong to the Shedd, and reservations are required.
Call (312) 939-2426, extensions 363 or 359 for more
Letters and appeals from the community were apparently heard
by the Daley administration in Chicago's City Hall, since
I've just heard that North Park Nature Village Center has a
new naturalist, Ms. Donna Eyre. As many of our members
know, NPNVC has a collection of reptiles and amphibians in
the Center building and our Board Meetings also take place on
the property. Also, they would like to hear from people
interested in doing "something reptilian" in conjunction with
their "Earth Day" celebration, April 21st, 1990. Please give
them a call if you are interested in volunteering for this or
any of their other fine programs, (312) 583-3714.
"How do snakes reproduce?" asked a reporter. Clarence
Wright, curator of Lincoln Park Zoo's reptile house
reportedly answered, "in black and white, when you photocopy
them!" Since each snake in their collection has an individual
belly pattern, copies of the snakes enable his keepers to
identify individual snakes in a group of the same species.
Numbers are assigned so diet and other records can be keyed
to the individual animal. Wright did say that "photocopying
snakes is faster, more accurate and the snakes don't seem to
mind." But can you see taking your collection to a public
"The potential impact on Las Vegas could be horrendous," said
Paul Selzer, a lawyer from Palm Springs, CA. No he's not
talking about the return of Solar Max, but of the recent
Federal designation of the desert tortoise as an endangered
species. Mr. Selzer was involved with the establishment of
the Coachella Valley refuge for fringe-toed lizards and he
was hired by Las Vegas officials to draw up a plan to save
the tortoises while still allowing development. He said,
"It's now a crime to move the tortoises from your building
site and it's a crime to hurt them in any way." At least one
mega-development of 25,000 acres west of town will be stopped
cold. They've only graded 350 acres, the rest will have to
remain as is until they can reach a solution. The developer,
Summa Corporation, joined other regional homebuilders in a
federal suit, filed in Washington which contended that the
endangered species designation should be geographically
limited. The Federal judge refused to take action on their
suit, but the plaintiffs do plan an appeal.
The San Francisco quake released more than a big jolt of
earthen energy. Several hundred reptiles escaped from their
cages October 17th when the quake smashed the glass and
overturned other types of enclosures. About 400 animals were
recaptured almost immediately but about 100 were still
missing at last news report. Owen Maercks, one of the owners
of the East Bay Vivarium stated that none of the missing are
venomous. The Vivarium was home to 10,000 herptiles and is
located about 50 feet from the flattened section of the
Snakes were mentioned 41 percent of the time in a recent poll by the
Roper Organization. Unfortunately, the question was "What
are you most afraid of?" Public speaking was second with 24%.
More than 100 neglected exotic animals were found by the
Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. They had been
abandoned for about two weeks. The dead included a dozen
large iguanas, two reticulated pythons and a number of
lizards. Six species of turtles and four species of mildly
venomous snakes survived and were taken to Hillsborough
County Animal Control.
Some residents of the Sea Islands in Georgia assisted in the
evacuation of rare Madagascar tortoises during Hurricane Hugo
this fall. Several hundred animals live at the St.
Catherine's Island Wildlife Survival Center, a breeding and
research compound run by the New York Zoological Society.
Most of the animals stayed on the island during the storm,
but a few - including the tortoises - were moved inland.
Animals had to be taken by boat to the mainland and then
loaded into cars for their trip. 50 breeding adults and all
of this year's young were removed. About 35 other tortoises,
zebras, antelopes, some primates and birds were left to their
instincts during the storm. Some have survived other
hurricanes, including David, in 1979.
The British Customs Service feels the number of illegally
imported dangerous and rare reptiles has increased over the
last year. Recent cases have included a consignment of
venomous gila monster lizards and rattlesnakes which were
sent through the post with their tails taped and wrapped in
socks. Customs also seized 7 protected sungazer lizards from
South Africa and 40 green and orange Madagascan tree frogs.
In 1987 1,395 illegally imported reptiles were discovered, in
1988, the number had climbed to 2,284. Mr. Dave Risley,
head keeper of the reptile house at London Zoo, said: "Many
of these animals are now protected species. It is very
harmful as well as dangerous, and some species are in danger
of becoming extinct because of selfish collectors who are
simply gratifying their possessive desires...They are being
imported by a hard core of specialist collectors who are
unlikely to hold the necessary license[s]...I am sure what we
are seeing is only the tip of the iceberg."
A tortoise identity parade was held by West Midlands police
after a turtle was found crossing the M6 highway in England.
Its 13-year-old owner was able to prove his ownership. Five
other owners of missing pets picked out the wrong tortoise.
A tunnel is being built under a French motorway for the
endangered Hermann's tortoise. It will be about 38 yards
long, two yards wide and a yard deep and is the first
underground highway for tortoises. Up to 2,000 tortoises are
expected to use the tunnel under a highway which had cut
their range in two. A French construction company is
contributing the estimated $30,000 cost and it should be
ready for its first tortoise in 1991.
The chief neurosurgeon of the main hospital on the
Mediterranean island of Cyprus performed a 45-minute
operation on the brain of a sea turtle apparently injured by
a ship's propeller.
Two hundred hatchling sea turtles were dazed by high pressure
sodium street lights and crushed by motor vehicles when they
walked on a highway in Delray Beach, Florida this fall. Just
three days earlier, police, residents and tourists had
discovered another group of baby turtles trapped in a
hatchery that was supposed to protect them and was apparently
supposed to be regularly monitored. Dr. Peter Pritchard of
the Florida Audubon Society said, "They should be released
within hours of emerging from their eggs." State officials
said that the sea turtles exhausted their energy and died
from dehydration when they were trapped.
Australian scientists reported that they have discovered a
fossilized skull of a 16-foot Pliosaur from about 100 million
years ago sticking out of a creek bed on a remote cattle
ranch. It is a previously unknown species of this type of
marine reptile which swam in the Great Artesian Basin, the
bottom of which is now topsoil in the northern state of
A complete set of Tyrannosaurus rex bones was recently
discovered in the badlands of eastern Montana. The dinosaur
appears to have died on a slope in a wooded area near water
and was buried before something else ate it which allowed it
to be preserved intact. The entire skeleton will be
assembled and examined at the Museum of the Rockies under the
direction of John R. [Jack] Horner, a paleontologist known
for the discoveries of baby dinosaur skeletons in their nests
beginning in 1978. Among the first bones of the new skeleton
to be identified were those of one of their short, stubby
arms. Since to lower arm bones have been examined before,
this find may help answer questions about how and what for
these giant creatures used their tiny appendages. (See Bull.
Chi. Herp. Soc., March, 1989.)
A mysterious crocodile was found by a Davie, FL police
officer who was called out to capture a nuisance alligator by
local residents. The animal was taken to a nature
reservation in nearby Hollywood. Mike Johns, the reptile
curator at the reservation said his best guess is that the
animal is a Cuban crocodile, now extirpated in the wild but
still being kept on crocodile farms on Cuba. Johns also
speculated that it might be a cross between a Cuban and a
North American crocodile, but an expert from Miami's Metrozoo
will be called in for a final opinion. If anybody hears how
this comes out, please let me know!
With thanks to everybody who contributed letters, clippings,
and other items for this year - I would like to wish each and
every one of you a very happy new year and new decade.
Hopefully, the 1990's will be an era of new attempts to
understand the delicate interrelationships between man and
the environment, as well as a decade of action.
Herpetologists, both professional and amateur have a lot to
contribute to this effort. Some of our favorite creatures
are desperately in trouble. We need to look, learn, read,
and breed like crazy. Oh yes, don't forget to communicate
what you learn. Perhaps your new year's resolutions could
include writing an article about herps for this - or any
other - publication. If 41 percent of the people in America are
most afraid of snakes, we've got some educating to do.