My new book!
Frogs: Inside Their Remarkable World
by Ellin Beltz

1991 HerPET-POURRI Columns by Ellin Beltz

1987 . 1988 . 1989 . 1990 . 1991 . 1992 .

1993 . 1994 . 1995 . 1996 . 1997 . 1998 .

1999 . 2000 . 2001 . 2002 . 2003 . 2004 .

2005 . 2006

This was my fifth year of writing for the Chicago Herpetological Society Bulletin.

January 1991


Three hundred species of land and freshwater turtles are affected by accelerating population decline. About 100 species require immediate conservation attention. Michael W. Klemens, an herpetologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, said "That's a very high percentage for a group of vertebrates," and attributes their imperilment to chelonian reproductive strategies. Most turtle species depend on individual longevity to insure continuation. Although each female lays relatively few eggs and hatchlings have high mortality rates, the ability of adults to reproduce for 30 or more years has historically offset these apparent disadvantages. All of this makes individual adult turtles and relatively undisturbed natural habitats extremely important. Roads and other man-made barriers can reproductively isolate portions of a previously unseparated population, reducing genetic variability and - in some cases - preventing reproduction altogether. Humans can impact turtles without cars, too. In many parts of the world, turtles are an important protein source. Unfortunately, most turtles are "collected" rather than "raised" and have therefore been overexploited in some areas. Recognizing these problems, the World Conservation Union, the American Museum of Natural History and the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology have pooled their facilities and researches to identify those populations most at risk and attempt to save some species. They identify the following categories of turtles in decline:
39 species are dwindling over a large part of their range, but the status of individual populations are not clear. These include:
  • alligator snapping turtle (southeastern U.S.) [Macroclemys temminckii]
  • bog turtle and Blanding's turtle (New York State) [Clemmys muhlenbergii & Emydoidea blandingii]
  • Mexican mud turtle (Yucatan peninsula) [Kinosternon leucostomum ?]
  • red-footed tortoise (South America) [Geochelone carbonaria]
  • big-headed turtle (Southeast Asia) [Platysternon megacephalum]
  • Egyptian tortoise (northeastern Africa) [Testudo kleinmanni]
52 species are limited to very small habitats. Further disruption could cause extinction of:
  • Geometric tortoise (Cape Province, South Africa) [Psammobates geometricus]
  • Burmese star tortoise (Burma, southeast Asia) [Geochelone platynota]
  • Berger's tortoise (Namibia, Africa)
  • Coahuila box turtle (Mexico) [Terrapene coahuila]
  • Bolson tortoise (Mexico) [Gopherus flavomarginatus]
  • aquatic box turtle (southeast Asia) [Cuora spp.]
16 species are heavily exploited for food in developing countries:
  • various river turtles in Madagascar, southeast Asia, South America
  • Fly River turtle (northern Australia, southern New Guinea) [Carettochelys insculpta]
  • Central American river turtle (Mexico, Guatemala, Belize) [Dermatemys mawi]
  • Madagascan big-headed side-necked turtle [Erymnochelys madagascariensis]
Certain other turtles are known to be in danger of extinction. This list varies from researcher to researcher but generally includes:
  • Some races of Galapagos tortoises that have not already become ancient history. [Geochelone elephantopus spp.]
  • Western swamp turtle (Australia) [Emydura australis]
  • The 15 living individuals of Geochelone yniphora, the "plowshare" tortoise (Madagascar)
All species of sea turtles are endangered species and legislatively "protected."
  • leatherback sea turtle [Dermochelys coriacea]
  • ridley sea turtle [Lepidochelys kempii]
  • green sea turtle [Chelonia mydas]
  • flatback sea turtle [Chelonia depressa]
  • olive ridley sea turtle [Lepidochelys olivacea]
  • hawksbill sea turtle [Eretmochelys imbricata]
  • loggerhead sea turtle [Caretta caretta]
Presently, nearly 50 projects which intend to conserve turtles have been undertaken worldwide with present funding of $2 million contributed by various conservation organizations. [From The New York Times, March 13, 1990, contributed by P.L. Beltz; references and scientific names primarily from Dr. Peter C.H. Pritchard's Encyclopedia of Turtles, 1979, TFH.]


At least 680 sea turtles washed up dead, comatose or dying on the Pacific coast of Colombia, South America in March, 1990. Roderic Mast, director of species conservation for Conservation International, said "these turtles washed up with no evidence of having been assaulted in any way - no wounds, no signs of trauma. That's the really unusual part about this stranding... There are reports of turtle die-offs for no apparent reason in other parts of the Pacific, indicating that something may be going on that needs further research." Anne Meylan, a turtle specialist with the Florida natural resources department in St. Petersburg said the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama has received reports from fishermen of dead turtles washing up on the Pacific coast of Panama and floating at sea in early December, 1989. Some have suggested that the turtles beached themselves as whales have been known to do. Colombian fishermen attributed the deaths to a curse put on them [the fishermen] for overexploiting the sea's resources, according to Dr. Mast. [From the Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, CO, contributed by Larry Valentine.]


Robert Brandner and Susan Basford, principal investigators on the "Saving the Leatherback" Earthwatch project report that they have confirmed that the shape of the pineal eye, or pink spot, on the top of each leatherback turtle's head is individually unique and provides a ready-made permanent marking system that can be shared by researchers around the world. Previously, flipper tags and shell filing was used to identify individual turtles. The pineal eye is a light-sensitive organ that is believed to help leatherback turtles navigate. [From Earthwatch, December, 1989, contributed by Karen Furnweger; and Wildlife Conservation, March/April, 1990, contributed by Michael Dloogatch.]


John Keinath of the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences has attached small radio transmitters to the shells of more than half a dozen loggerhead turtles. Unfortunately for the high-tech trackers and the turtles, most of the latter were retrieved from fishermen's nets. Keinath is working with Brandner and Basford attaching transmitters to leatherback turtles on St. Croix. These new transmitters will show where the turtles are as well as when and how long they dive. Hopefully these fancy devices - and the turtles to which they are attached - will not end up in shrimp nets, too. [National Geographic, March, 1990, contributed by P.L. Beltz.]


An appeals court ruling, authored by Judge James Carlisle, in West Palm Beach, FL reads, "Between 80 percent and 90 percent of marine turtle eggs deposited are fertile... We conclude, therefore, that marine turtle eggs are units of marine life..." Good news for agencies enforcing the Endangered Species Act, that can now fine egg poachers on a per egg basis. [From the Chicago Tribune, March 16, 1990.]


Suzanne Demas and co-workers at the University of Tennessee at Memphis have developed a promising technique for sexing turtles based on genetic fingerprinting techniques. DNA is fragmented from a small blood sample taken from living animals - even hatchlings. Previously the only technique that could distinguish the sex of hatchling turtles required their deaths. [From Science News, Volume 137, 1-13-90, contributed by Karen Furnweger.]


In 1989, 10 signs were installed in a well-heeled section of New York better known for its fast-lane lifestyle than conservation. The "caution turtles" signs are having a positive effect. Larry Penny, Director of Natural Resources for East Hampton, NY, says "Turtles are basically defenseless and deserve respect from motorists... People seem to really love turtles and the road signs just remind them to do the right thing. We are constantly getting calls and letters from people who have stopped their cars to help turtles cross safely over the road." Mr. Penny plans to erect more signs on local roads, but the NY State Department of Transportation will not allow turtle signs on state roads. "Deer crossing signs are okay, but turtle consciousness is not yet part of the state bureaucracy," added Mr. Penny. [From The Conservationist, New York State Department of Conservation, January/February 1990.]


The Ministry of Natural Resources in Ontario, Canada has been studying turtles taken from industrial areas in southern and eastern Ontario and has found substantial amounts of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and low levels of agricultural pesticides, DDE dieldrin and chlordane. New regulations permit the taking of only two turtles per day with a fishing licence. Total possession limit is five turtles and a season to protect nesting females has been implemented. For more information contact: MNR's Public Information Centre, 99 Wellesley Street West, Toronto, Ontario M7A 1W3, Canada.


Philip T. Coppola of Fort Collins, Colorado was hit by a car while trying to save a turtle crossing the road. He said, "I don't remember anything after I picked up the turtle...I just remember waking up with the paramedics standing over me." He suffered a broken arm, a broken leg and broken ribs. No report of the turtle's condition was given. [Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, CO, June 23, 1990. Contributed by Larry Valentine.]


  • A 2 1/2-foot iguana escaped and was lost in South Haven, IN. The newspaper headline: "Godzilla is loose." Familiar words from the bereaved pet keeper, "We were going to put a new screen in [his cage top], but he got out before we could." [The Vidette-Messenger, July 5, 1990.]
  • The Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission cited the owner of a 3 1/2-foot golden tegu for "maintaining wildlife in a manner that allows escape." If convicted, the owner could be jailed for 60 days and fined $500. [The Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, CO, June 16, 1990. Contributed by Larry Valentine.]
  • Some are calling it "Reptile Revenge of the Rain Forest." Wild alligators rise from the polluted waters of Brazil's coastal cities and terrorize boaters, joggers and children's birthday parties. The alligators are losing their native habitat, the Atlantic rain forest. In October, fireman in Rio de Janiero fished 4 alligators out of city parks, one surrounded by luxury high-rise buildings. Eleven were snagged in Sao Paulo parks. The question is, are the creatures moving in by themselves, or are they discarded pets? A pro-alligator sentiment is growing in Sao Paulo. The mayor, Ms. Luiza Erundina was photographed recenly patting a baby alligator on its head. [The New York Times, November 4, 1990.]
  • The Chinese Alligator Research Center has succeeded in artificially breeding a second generation of the Yangtze alligator, at Xuanzhou, Anhui province. The farm was set up in 1979 with about 200 wild caught animals. About 200 animals are bred every year. [Beijing Review, August 20-26, 1990.]


Several New Zealand locals apparently sighted a gecko previously believed extinct. New Zealand herpetologists, Tony Whitaker and Bruce Thomas went to the East Cape in search of Hoplodactylus delcourti. If found, it would be the largest living gecko. The fall search was unsuccessful, but fieldwork will resume in spring. [Auckland Star, April 15, 1990]


  • A "fang-tastic" contract will make a Zhejiang Province [China] resident a millionaire. Ms. Ni Lijuan raises 100,000 snakes on a quarter-acre farm, extracts venom and sells snake skins on contract for a Japanese firm. The Zhejiang Province has long had snake farms since snake is on the Chinese menu and its organs are used for traditional medicines. [Chicago Tribune, Wednesday, March 14th, 1990.]
  • The Aruba Island rattlesnake will be commemorated on postage Aruban postage stamps and on the new 25-guilder currency. This reflects a change in local people's attitudes. The AAZPA Newsletter {PLEASE ADD DATES, MUST BE AFTER MARCH 1989, page 7} reports that a majority of people asked "believed that the cascabel is part of the heritage of Aruba and acknowledged its right to exist as a part of nature."
  • China has opened its first "snake museum" in Lushun, Dalian. It cost 1.5 million yuan to build the 4,000 square meter exhibition facility which houses 25 varieties of snakes and more than 120 snake products. It is located just 25 km southeast of Snake Island in Bohai Bay. [China Today, August, 1990]
  • Two residents of Stephenville, Texas were shocked to find a 12-foot boa constrictor coiled up on an old air conditioner in their garage. When animal control officers showed up, the pair was across the street from their home. [Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, CO, July 23, 1990. Contributed by Larry Valentine.]
  • One cup of cubed rattlesnake is required to make "Texas Rattlesnake Chili," a lovely little recipe on the back of Lone Star Pasta. Also included are instructions for butchering the snakes, although they recommend saving the rattles and skin for decorations. Ugh! The folks responsible are Hershey Food Products, Hershey, PA 17033-0815.
  • A 20-foot python reportedly killed an Indonesian woman and ate her 5-month old baby in Sumatra. The report came by way of the Kompas newspaper in Jakarta and was picked up by Reuters. If anybody hears any more on this one, please send the clippings! [Chicago Tribune, November 10, 1990.]
  • Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Madison have produced an antidote to snake bite by treating hens to resist the effects of venom and extracting antibodies from their eggs. The chicken process may lead to safer antivenin treatments because chicken antibodies apparently do not cause as many complications as horse serum can. [Associated Press, October 18, 1990.]
  • "The venomous snakes of North Carolina," a video produced by the N.C. Herpetological Society with assistance from the S.S.A.R., is available on VHS for $33.00 postpaid. Write Tom Thorp, N.C.H.S., 1906 LeVance Street, Asheboro, N.C. 27203 for more information.
  • Austrialian zookeepers were recently pictured carefully cutting up a beer can to release the lethal three-foot king brown snake whose head was stuck inside. [Chicago Sun-Times, November 7, 1990.]
  • More than 2,000 venomous snakes smuggled from mainland China were burned to death at a garbage landfill in northern Taiwan in early October. The confiscated vipers and cobras had been smuggled in on fishing boats for food or Chinese medicine. Why authorities did not just sell the snakes to be tortured and butchered in Taipei City's infamous Hwahsi Street (Snake Alley to tourists) was not mentioned in the article. [Free China Journal, October 4, 1990.]
  • From the folks who still make and sell snake, lizard and elephant comes this season's hottest new fashion skin: fish leather. Fish boots are even more fragile that rattler and sell for about $290. [Insight, November 12, 1990.]


Clifford Warwick, director of the Trust for the Protection of Reptiles, sent along a page that is being used by conservationists in England to prepare letters protesting rattlesnake roundups. He has traveled widely in the U.S. and documented roundup practices. His reports have been published in British conservation magazines and journals. "It is our opinion that the only way to prevent the negative impacts and implications of round-ups on conservation of wildlife, animal welfare, ecology, public education, and public wellbeing, is to ban large-scale collection of snakes. Certain `improvements' have been recommended by authorities in OK and TX but the actual results of these are minimal or ineffective. It is most important that concerned individuals register their comments...Please always ask for a reply...[The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation] appears to repeatedly misuse a report (Fitch and Pisani, 1988), which it commissioned, by saying no evidence was found of stressed populations during the study. The report actually cited stressed populations." He gives several names and addresses including: 1.) Steven Alan Lewis, Director, OK Dept. of Wildlife Conservation, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73105; 2.) Bobby G. Alexander, Acting Director, TX Parks and Wildlife Department, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744; 3.) Daniel J. Lamey, Secretary General, Jaycees International, 400 University Drive, P.O. Box 140577, Coral Gables, FL 33114-0577. Please send copies of your letters and responses to Clifford at TFTPR, College Gates, 2 Deansway, Worcester, WR1 2JD, United Kingdom.


A three-judge panel of the Illinois Appellate Court overturned the conviction of a Chicago man based on the Illinois Dangerous Animals Act, "life-threatening" reptiles provision, March 26th, 1990, calling the statute unconstitutionally vague. In 1987, police raided Thomas Fabing's home and seized 4 reptiles they though looked life-threatening: 2 20-foot pythons, a 7-foot boa constrictor and a 4-foot American alligator. The alligator was destroyed at the Chicago Animal Control Facility before anyone could point out that it was an endangered animal. Fabing was booked on a single misdemeanor for keeping a dangerous pet but no charges were brought against CACF. Having been to a couple of court dates with Mr. Fabing I would have to say my personal opinion is that the original judge just didn't like snakes, that the Department of Agriculture official responsible for pressing this case didn't like snakes, and that the prosecutor just wanted the case over. Unfortunately for them, Thomas Fabing may have been a disabled pipefitter who liked to have pool parties with his motocycle buddies and his 20-foot snakes, but his brother Michael is an attorney. We the snake owners of Illinois could have asked for no finer test case. Regrettably, only one of the animals survived to return to Mr. Fabing after this ruling, but he still has his other seven pythons, two pit bulls and a dozen rabbits. At last report, the state still plans to appeal. [Insight, April 23, 1990, contributed by P.L. Beltz; Chicago Tribune, March 27 & 28, 1990.]


These are the believed to be the first zoo breedings of:
  • Honduran Neotropical dwarf boas born to adult snakes which had been wild-caught and held at the zoo since 1987.
  • 2 Chinese softshell turtles hatched from adults kept in an 18,000-square foot aviary with a waterfall, a stream, and a small lake which they share with 136 birds of 58 species at the Lowry Park Zoological Garden, Tampa, FL
  • 4 Malagasy Oustalet's chameleons hatched in August, 1989 at the Oklahoma City Zoo. They've had success with two species previously and report that there are about 125 more Oustalet's eggs in the incubators.
[Wildlife Conservation, March/April, 1990, contributed by Michael Dloogatch.]


Australia - as all herpers know - has experienced an awesome increase in the number of cane toads [Bufo marinus] since they were imported by hopeful sugar farmers in the 1930s. The farmers were told the toads ate cane beetles, but they didn't. Instead the toads have eaten their way through the local micro and medium-fauna and have reproduced their way into a "toxic armada" feared and despised by Queenslanders. Now the business development manager for the Office of Economic Development in Brisbane reports, "We've got mothers and children out there catching them for us." An order was placed by the Shanghai [China] Industry Foundation for 4 ounces of freeze-dried toad venom. The toad-use committee has also received inquiries from a firm in Hong Kong and is looking into the feasibility of making toadskin wallets, purses and jackets. Anybody for toad roundups? [Chicago Tribune, Tuesday, April 3, 1990.]


A Texas Parks and Wildlife Department study showed that individuals of Bufo houstonensis, a federally protected toad, were getting squashed on State Highway 21. A 28,00 foot 16-inch high plastic "toadrail" was built leading into underground toad tunnels which (as always) funnel amphibians to and from breeding ponds. [The Wall Street Journal, July 30, 1990. Contributed by P.L. Beltz.]


  • A Chinese editorial cartoon from Beijing Review (July 30-August 5, 1990) shows an oriental man with a frog on his fork. The caption quotes the frog: "Eat me and beware the mosquitoes next year!"
  • Carole Degen, the librarian for the Bay Area Amphibian and Reptile Society (BAARS) is collecting herp humor and cartoons with the exception of published Gary Larson drawings.
  • Congratulations to Wayne Hill, for being the first herpetologist to appear in Forbes Magazine. He was pictured with a slithery friend (ophidian) on page 252 of the October 1, 1990 issue. The text mentioned the first National Reptile Breeders' Exposition in Orlando in August.
  • My apologies to a fellow in Florida whose sad situation was misreported in the newspapers. You may remember the stories...a man goes on vacation, police enter man's home after burglary and find dead and dying snakes all over. What happened was that the burglars turned up the heat on all the tanks and caused the deaths of the animals. The owner, returning from his trip, was devasted not only by the loss of his animals, but by the spin put on the reports in the paper - AND picked up by this column.


...This is a reader supported column. No clippings, no column. Send your contributions to me and wait to see your name here.

February 1991

Anniversary News

  • February 23rd, 1991 is the 25th anniversary of the founding of the C.H.S.!
  • Anniversary greetings have been arriving for the past several months. Perhaps the most exciting is this letter from the founders of the C.H.S.:
  • "Someone said everyone seems to reminisce and the other day Care and I were doing just that, and we thought it would be fun to share our memories with you. I'll start by asking a few questions: 1.) How many remember a little article that appeared many years ago asking if there was anyone interested in reptiles? 2.) How about the first meeting at a two-story house on Troy Street and displaying our pets on the pool table? 3.) How about the thrill when the Chicago Academy of Sciences offered us a place to meet?
    I think you all have the idea by now. When Care and I got the herp itch we had a few turtles and a lot of questions. We went to Lincoln Park Zoo, the reptile house, and one great guy (Eddie Almendarz) for help, which he offered readily and made the suggestions that we put an article in the paper to see if we could find others that were interested in keeping reptiles and caring for them.
    So a small article was put in the Chicago Tribune and with that about twenty-three people responded. Then we held the first meeting at our apartment, received the offer of a meeting place - and the C.H.S. was formed. At first, we were a group of hobbyists looking for answers, and then we grew. The rest is history.
    Now, as you know, we moved away from Chicago twenty years ago and have lived in Florida ever since. We have stayed involved in one way or another. First off we still have some turtles. I've taught environmental science at St. Petersburg Science Center and also a herp class. We helped form the Florida West Coast Herp and Conservation Society. I've tagged sea turtles with the Caretta Research Team and I've helped with several environmental projects. We went down and visited Esther Lewis when she moved down here. We look forward with pride to the Bulletin each time we receive it; it seems hard to believe that twenty-five years ago we would have never in our wildest dreams thaought that C.H.S. would have progressed so far.
    Congratulations on twenty-five years and hoping we'll be around for your 50th!. Our best to all... Bob and Care Marek."
  • One of the most prolific herpetological writers of this century wrote:
    "Although the Chicago Herpetological Society counts its official birthyear 1965, it had a long preparturition developmental period, going back to the era of the Kennicott Club and the Chicago Herpetologists' Club which met regularly at the Chicago Academy of Sciences. Back then the only herpetologists to speak of were what we'd call professional or semiprofessionals. There were few amateurs. How times have changed! Now there are few so-called professionals, and many presumed amateurs. Taxonomists and generalists like K.P. Schmidt and Howard K. Gloyd dominated the meetings then, whereas now the focus of interest is in conservation of the faunae made known by earlier workers. There was little emphasis then on either captive breeding or conservation.
    The seemingly inevitable global proliferation of human populations, accompanied by its twin evils of habitat destruction and pollution, has changed emphases of herpetology completely. Amateurism - with very little prestige - became professionalism, at least tolerated if not encouraged by all. A large proportion of current literature now pertains to various aspects of herpetological husbandry. Technical books on herpetological maladies abound, mostly by highly trained veterinarians, whose counsel is widely sought by the burgeoning number of herpetoculturists. Herp husbandry has become respectable, and its adherents dominate herpetological meetings everywhere. Local herp societies have proliferated to such an extent that they can scarcely be counted. Most publish their own journals, which tend to reflect the overwhelming conservation drives of their society members. The concept of conservation has come to include not only protection in nature, but also captive breeding as a means to protect wild populations from over-collecting, although eager breeders who are unsuccessful may well turn out to be part of the problem instead of its solution.
    However that may be, the evangelistic zeal of herpetoculturists has raised severalfold a public awareness of an obligation to value the lives of captive animals - to give them the best possible care through understanding their individual needs.
    The members of the Chicago Herpetological Society can take well-deserved pride in their role in fostering and advancing this new trend in modern herpetology, electing leaders who most effectively implement the aims of the majority. No other local group in the country has done an equally good job in personal and public education in herpetological conservancy.
    Congratulations are in order to all of the members of the Society for their exercise of such outstanding good sense, and especially to their officers for so eminently meeting the challenges their responsibilities constitute, and for so thoroughly justifying the faith placed in them by their fellow members.
    The background of accomplishment now forged gives every reason to hope and expect that in the future the Chicago Herpetological Society will maintain its stature as the best if their kind. Hobart M. Smith," EPO Biology, University of Colorado - member since 1965.
  • A well-known veterinarian and member since 1966 wrote:
    "I have always found the (Bulletin) articles to be informative and interesting - and helpful at times to my veterinary practice. I am always surprised by the number of people who own herps and do not know of the society. They never leave our office without knowing about C.H.S., and hopefully they seek out membership... It hardly seems that 25 years have passed, but we can't argue with the calendar. I wish you and the society continued success for the upcoming years. Yours truly, Herbert A. Lederer, D.V.M." Berwyn Veterinary Associates, Berwyn, IL.
  • From the current Curator of Herpetology at the Lincoln Park Zoo:
    "Mike (Dloogatch) deserves many kudos for his many years of great effort...I do hope to become more active...Congratulations on your anniversary. Best regards, Clarence Wright."
  • From one of our best known members:
    "We've enjoyed visits from old friends from Chicago including Roger and Holly Carter, Dick Buchholz and his daughter April, and Tom Weatherly and daughter Pam. Have really enjoyed the Bulletins lately. My two tortoises which I've had for so long are doing fine. They enjoy it here in Florida. Snoopy is now 38 years old and Zacky, though larger in size and heavier, is still in his 20's. Twenty-eight really. They are kept in my utility room at night or when I'm not home. I'm glad I brought them with me. I miss my other reptiles so much. Best wishes. Esther Lewis."
  • From the Curator of Herpetology at the Chicago Zoological Park, and past president of the C.H.S.:
    "In the early days of C.H.S., there were a lot of really dedicated, active people like Bob and Care Marek, Sid and Hedda Saltz, Lyman and Jean Nash and many others. We wanted to really have a range of members, not just to cater to professional or nearly professional herpetologists. We said let's attract everybody! Time and trends were on our side and the membership became increasingly sophisticated as it grew.
    We see a more enlightened visitor group now (at Brookfield Zoo) in the Reptile House. In the old days the most asked question was `Are they alive?' Now the questions are more educated, people want to know where the animals come from, how they live in the wild, if they are endangered, etc. I feel that the C.H.S. is considerably responsible for this change in the attitude of the general public towards reptiles and amphibians.
    The C.H.S. is functioning in an evolutionary model, paralleling the generic reptile. It continues to adapt to a changing human environment. I hope that it, like the turtles and crocodiles, will always be around - making its presence felt! Ray Pawley."

Since many C.H.S. members (myself included) have only been around for a few years, I thought it might be fun to do a brief history. However, the more I got into the subject, the more details I discovered! We've been a busy bunch!

March, 1966 - The first publication of the C.H.S., the Reptile Review, was published. The cover and text were stenciled and covered how the herp society came about (see Bob and Care's letter above). In April, a rule banning the sale of reptiles at the Academy was enacted. The July/August issue had the first part of Care in Captivity.

1967 - Publication continued regularly, and the publication name was changed to the Bulletin. Four Board Members resigned over the issue of the keeping of venomous reptiles. The Society was incorporated with by-laws authored by attorney Sid Saltz. Reference was made to the overcollecting of herps at the Palos Forest Preserves, and one author lamented that "alligators are practically extinct" in the U.S. The first display advertisement appeared in the Fall issue. The first Show and Tell meeting was called "Bring and Brag."

1968 - Two issues of the Bulletin were published and the Newsletter began with Frank Candreva as editor. Typed labels replaced hand-addressed issues. Newsletters cost 6 cents each to mail!

1969 - The first use of computers in the C.H.S. was for mailing purposes. Robert Rubens became the editor of the Newsletter, Lyman Nash edited the Bulletin. Dick Buchholz was a guest on Today in Chicago and displayed several herpetological specimens. The first mall show was at Ford City on October 4th.

1970 - The Bulletin switched to photographic covers and offered a prize of $10 for the best article to be published in that year. The Show and Tell meeting was so named and the first panel discussion meeting was held in September. The ban on selling animals was again discussed.

1971 - The first auction was held to raise funds for the Society in March. Ross Allen was the guest speaker in April. Phil Drajeske appeared on television discussing turtles. The Library was moved to the Academy. Four candidates ran for president and the proposed ban on the sales of live animals at the Academy was upheld by the membership. Dues income was $1,164.50 for the period of November '70 to October '71.

1972 - Stanley Dyrkacz became editor of the Bulletin, and Mike Dloogatch took on the newsletter for a few months. In August, there was $500 in the treasury and 292 members.

1973 - The C.H.S. participated in the Flower and Garden Show at McCormick Place. Dues were increased from $7.50 to $10.00 for individuals, families from $10.00 to $12.50.

1974 - The Bulletin began to use the familiar "wrapped" covers instead of loose, stapled binding. A contest was held for the C.H.S. logo with the current design being selected in October.

1975 - The first photocopies of clippings appeared in the Newsletter and bulk mailing was adopted to cut postal charges. John Murphy became newsletter editor in June. Logo decals first produced and sold for $1.00 each. Insurance for the Woodfield Mall Show was purchased for $44.00. The first Vita-lites were ordered and sold to members.

1976 - Membership cards were designed and typeset by Karen Furnweger. Phil Drajeske suggested a Membership Handbook be sent including the By-laws, Care in Captivity pages, and the membership list. It was approved and the first ones were mailed in July. Lee Watson hosted the picnic. The first Bulletin boxes were purchased. Fund-raising alternatives to the annual live animal auction were discussed, but no action was taken.

1977 - The office of Corresponding Secretary was added to the Board. Dave Farber was appointed as first book sales coordinator. John Murphy became the editor of the Bulletin as well as Program Chairman. The possibility of changing the site of the meeting from the Academy due to lack of seating was discussed, but no suitable alternative could be found. Kathy Murphy arranged for the production of the first C.H.S. T-shirts. Embroidered logo patches were ordered and sold for $1.25 each. The C.H.S. animal display module was built by Len Franklin, Mike Dloogatch, Mel Bruns, Ron Humbert and Henry Youker among others.

1978 - Continuing the tradition of using the best technology available, an IBM-Selectric typewriter was purchased to produce the Bulletin. A proposal to increase the size of the board by two members at large was defeated. "The Adventures of Spot" by Don Wheeler debuted in the Newsletter.

1979 - Mike Dloogatch takes on the Newsletter as editor again. Ron Humbert leads the first salamander safari to Palos Forest Preserves in April. A trailer to carry the module and other show supplies was donated, but was too small.

1980 - July was the busiest month ever for C.H.S. shows with 3 in 4 weeks, followed by 3 more between August and October. The First Turtle Swim was held at the Hyatt Regency Chicago in August. The first letter protesting C.H.S. involvement in turtle races was printed in the September Newsletter.

1981 - After two years of discussion, a trailer was purchased for show supplies. The C.H.S. contributed to the purchase of Massasauga Prairie in Warren County, IL by the Nature Conservancy. The winner of the 2nd Turtle Swim was a 13-inch softshell rescued from certain destruction by a friend of Mel Bruns.

1982 - The raffling of live animals at general meetings was prohibited. Dues were raised from $10 to $12.50 for individuals, $12.50 to $15.00 for families and new catagories were created for non-U.S. and institutional members. The Board firmly established rules regarding animals at the Academy: 1.) Non-venomous only; 2.) No commercial transactions inside the building; 3.) Secure containers only; and 4.) No animals out of containers in the auditorium, lobby only.

1983 - A wider range of herp supplies were offered including plastic cages, hide boxes, Aztec heaters, cage tops, etc. The first HerPETological Weekend at the Academy was a great success. The Newsletter was produced by computer with dot matrix printing beginning in December.

1984 - The first Bulletin of the year was a joint issue with the Northern California Herpetological Society. People parking on the grass at the Academy were regularly ticketed. The display modules were refinished in Bernie Kean's yard one weekend. He also painted the C.H.S. logo on our trailer.

1985 - The C.H.S. surveyed Wadsworth Prairie on behalf of the Lake County Forest Preserve District prior to its construction into an ambitious man-made water-reclamation marsh. Frozen mice were added to the product line. The "Life-threatening reptiles" clause was added to the Illinois Dangerous Animals Act by the Legislature.

1986 - The nationwide insurance crisis precipitated a C.H.S. insurance crisis - it now cost $1,200 for only 15 show days. The McHenry County Conservation District sponsored a C.H.S. field trip to some of their sites. A computer was purchased to produce the Bulletin. In December, the monthly Newsletter/quarterly Bulletin format was changed to the current monthly Bulletin.

I hope you've enjoyed this brief look at 20 years of the C.H.S. Since the last few have been so busy and have brought so many changes to the Society, I think I'll leave 1987-1991 for later. The passage of time often makes the temporarily important negligable, after all.

This column will return to its regular, clipping-oriented style next month. Please send in any you may find, including the date and name of the paper in which they were originally published. Don't forget the birthday party on Saturday, February 23rd, 1991, 4 p.m. to midnight. (omitted a list of all past CHS board members)

March 1991


The state of Colorado considers rattlesnakes a small-game animal. There is no restricted season, but a hunter must have a license and must not have more than 6 live snakes at any time. There is no limit on the number of dead rattlers a hunter can have in his or her possession. [The Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, CO, November 22, 1990, contributed by Larry Valentine.]


The new two dollar coin struck by the British Royal Mint for the government of Bermuda shows a tree frog on a leafy twig. The frogs were originally imported into Bermuda, too, having come via a shipment of imported orchids about 1880. The other side shows Queen Elizabeth II. [From Ribbit, Ribbit, the newsletter of the Frog Collectors' Club, January/February, 1991, contributed by Merelaine Haskett.]


What would France be without frogs? Even a popular television puppet show features a bright-green politician, "Kermitterand." And Gaulish gourmets are famous for their love of frogs - perhaps they've loved too much. A serious frog shortage began about 30 years ago. In a typical year, about 8 tons of frogs (more than 3 million animals) were being removed from the environment for table use. At the same time, development and industrialization were having their typical impacts. In 1977, the French government banned all sales of native frogs. But demand for frog legs soared with worldwide consumption now estimated at 100 tons of live frogs per year. Overharvesting and development are apparently wiping out much of the amphibifauna in both the First and Third Worlds. Mosquitos love it. Malaria cases are increasing. But help is on the way. Pierre Darre, director of the Centre Jean Rostand, has 30,000 farm raised frogs getting plump in man-made ponds in Western France. He attributes his successes feeding frogs a special diet. The three French frog farms have released several million frogs back to wet spots all over the country. They hope to have stable populations, able to tolerate tightly regulated harvesting, within 10 years. All this is private effort, no government funds are involved. [Wall Street Journal, November 29, 1990.]


Patrick David, a C.H.S. member from France, wrote me a letter about the above situation: "I am not fond of this dish...Most edible frogs are imported [into France] from Yugoslavia, Albania, Egypt or perhaps Turkey...Frozen frog legs are imported from Southeast Asia and are readily available, and cheap, in any frozen products store. I don't think that the shortage is there. It is true that large populations of green frogs are less and less numerous in France, but I think that most restaurants use imported legs. In my opion, I would rather suggest that this shortage just helps restaurant owners, who can offer frog's legs `made in France' the highest price."


Is the apparent decline, or outright absence of cricket frogs in northern Illinois a case of Acris de-crepitans? [Contributed by Eloise Beltz-Decker.]


Downtown Memphis, TN recently lost several million residents overnight when the 51 year old Selph's Cricket Ranch moved to Mineral Wells, MS. Some of their former neighbors were sorry to see them leave apparently not being as accustomed to crickets loose as most of us. [The Commercial Appeal, January 9, 1991, contributed by William Burnett.]


  • The C.H.S. now has a recorded announcement giving information about upcoming events. Please use it if you need to know the who, what, when, how and why of any C.H.S. event.
  • A joint project of the Chicago Public Library and the Chicago Veterinary Medicial Association is their informative "312-DIAL-PET" message system. Callers tell the operators what tapes they'd like to hear by the numbers. Tapes are five to seven minutes long. Herptile titles include: #106-Care of lizards, #135-Myths about snakes, #136-Poisonous and non-poisonous snakes, and #137-Snakes as Pets. You may also find #105-Care of mice and rats, and #134-Terrariums and vivariums of interest. [Pet Patrol, Winter, 1990, contributed by Robert J. Keough, D.V.M.]
  • You can call the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society at 212-459-4803 if you think that turtles advertised for sale may be illegal. They will determine if the turtles for sale are illegal and contact the appropriate authorities.


The Golden Toad, Bufo periglenes, was first described in 1963 from the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica. In 1990, it was reported to have become extinct. Just a few years ago, thousands of these two-inch amphibians clogged mountain-top rain puddles in a frantic 6-week breeding extravaganza. None emerged this year. The forest has been protected since 1972 and - to our limited vision - appears pristine. [Tropicus, Conservation International, Fall, 1990.]


The New York Times, December 27, 1990 reports new warnings about salmonella in turtle eggs. Dr. J.Y. D'Aoust, of Health and Welfare Canada, and colleagues sampled 28 lots of turtle eggs imported from four turtle farms in 1988. Six lots (approximately 40,000 eggs) were infected with 37 different species of salmonella. Thirty of those were resistant to gentamicin, an antibiotic used by the turtle farmers in an effort to produce salmonella-free turtles. The U.S. domestic sale and distribution of turtles with a shell less than four inches long was banned in 1975 by the Food and Drug Administration based on scientific reports that 15 percent of human salmonellosis in the States was attributable to tiny turtles. The export of millions of baby turtles and turtle eggs for hatching has never stopped. [Contributed by P.L. Beltz.]


A 7-foot Burmese python was recovered by its owner 1 month after it had slithered its coop. It apparently escaped through a toilet after being left to excercise in the bathroom of the appropriately named "Wet Pets" in Alexandria, LA. [The Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, CO, September 16, 1990, contributed by Larry Valentine.]


  • Vincent Congro, owner of VJ's Wholesale Reptiles, was featured in the About New York column in the New York Times (January 12, 1991). The reporter who visited his Brooklyn, NY, headquarters wrote: [He] "is devoted to his thousands of reptiles. In July, he gave up a well-paying job as a plating-company executive in Queens (also NY) to open the store and squirm for his dream."
  • Former board member Bernie Kean is known to us as a wonderful leader of snake programs at libraries and nature centers. Most recently he presented "Snakes Alive" for children from 8 up at the Niles Public Library. Several Chicagoland papers had nifty stories and, even better, pictures of Bernie, snakes and quite fearless children.
  • The Gainesville, FL Herpetological Society (a CHS Exchange Member) wants our help! The Herpetology Department of the Florida Museum of Natural History is so underfunded that they can't even buy all the current books and subscriptions they need, and are raising funds toward an endowment to enable the Department to survive and prosper. This is not only a worthy cause, loyal readers, but a book-worms' responsibility. Even if you can only afford a couple of bucks, send your tax-deductible donations to Dr. Walter Auffenberg, Herp Division - FMNH, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.
  • A studbook for Shinisaurus crocodilurus is being mainted by Andy Snider, Reptile Department, Audubon Park & Zoological Garden, P.O. Box 4327, New Orleans, LA 70178.
  • Darrel Frost, Curator of Herpetology at the American Museum of Natural History, NY, was quoted on the topic of roach-eating geckos, "If you really have a roach problem, they will work OK, but you need to keep them warm. I don't really recommend the practice. Big pythons are natural predators of rats, but I wouldn't recommend that people buy pythons." I wonder if the reporter knew that Darrel was from Kansas when the article was titled "Lizard of AHS"? [New York Times News Service, November 15, 1990, contributed by William Burnett.]


Send clippings, letters, notes, etc. to me in care of the CHS or to my home address.

April 1991

With great big thanks to

Everybody who volunteered for the Anniversary Party including: John Christianson, John Levell, Brian Jones, Meg Shepstone, Ilene Sievert, Todd and Amy Hixon, Eloise Beltz-Decker, Howard Weiner, Joel Weiner (with family and friend), John Raymond, Holly Collins, Stacy Miller, Ron Humbert, Don Wheeler, Mike Dloogatch, Ralph Shepstone, Ken Mierzwa, Paul Sievert, Matt Morris and Daelyn Erickson. Our guests included founding members Yolanda and Kris Erickson - and Ellis Jones, the only current CHS member who was also a members of the Chicago Herpetologists' Club. Entertainment included exceptional geckos by Jim Zaworski and marvelous gecko slides by Mike Miller. Several people suggested making a party a regular part of our year.

Membership at our 25th anniversary

Membership was at an all time high of 1663 on our Anniversary comprised of: 1232 individuals, 245 families, 70 sustaining, 6 contributing, 36 institutions, 58 exchanges, and 16 honorary members. The anniversary posters were given out to members and the rest were mailed 3rd class bulk rate. In 1990, we had 650 new members. To February 28th, 1991, 152 new members have joined. Practically every herpetological society in north America was able to include notice of our anniversary in their publications. Walter Allen of the California Turtle and Tortoise Club even sent a great birthday card which our historian, Tom Anton, will add to his ever growing pile of anniversary related items. [Also please see Linda Maxon's letter reprinted elsewhere in this issue.] We are as always looking for old photos, slides, and clippings. The Ericksons brought a copy of what looks to be the first ever C.H.S. clipping from 1966! Our librarian, Ralph Shepstone has a photocopied copy of the original minute book of the Chicago Herpetologists' Club. We are still working on obtaining or copying a full set of all Newsletters. Call Tom or myself if you'd like to make a contribution to the history.

News on the herps and herpers of England

Frank B. Gibbons, Secretary of the South Western Herpetological Society in Devon, England writes:

This country includes only a very limited variety of herpetofauna: 3 anurans, 3 urodellans, 3 saurians and 3 ophidians, but no chelonians or crocodilians as the climate is not conducive to such reptiles. The three tailless amphibians are the common frog (Rana temporaria), the common toad (Bufo bufo) and the Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita). The three tailled species are the common or smooth newt (Triturus vulgaris), Palmate newt (Triturus helveticus) and crested newt (Triturus cristatus). Lizards include the common or livebearing lizard (Lacerta vivipara), the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis) and the legless slow-worm or blind-worm (Anguis fragilis). The snakes are the grass snake (Natrix natrix), the smooth snake (Coronella austriaca) and the viper (Vipera berus). Up to about 40 (maybe 30) years ago, these were all fairly well established throughout the country, but in the last dew decades, most have rapidly dwindled in numbers. The Natterjack toad, crested newt, sand lizard and smooth snake are all on the endangered list and are heavily protected. Heavy fines can be expected for interfering with the natural habitats of any of these.

The smooth newt is now no longer common in this corner of the country; the common lizard is not so easy to find, and the chance of finding a grass snake is extremely low apparently throughout the country. The viper, an extremely shy snake at the best of times, is probably our most common snake. Slow-worms are the likeliest of all reptiles to come across. Common toads and common frogs are not so prominent as in the past, but are still surviving fairly well.

This of course, all boils down to the destruction of habitats, mostly from human hands although the weather cycle has changed considerably over these last years, and acid rain and other facts have all helped towards these diminishing stocks, and the general destruction of all wildlife.

There are occasional reports of introduced (either intentionally or otherwise) herps. A few years ago, it was reported that an Aesculapian snake (Elaphe longissimma) had escaped from a Welsh zoo or collection. A further report mentioned 3 separate age groups of the snake. Presumably, the escapee had been gravid and had produced offspring following its slither to freedom. These in turn had given birth and this seems to have been habit-forming. A third generation seems to be existing. Another report was of the clawed frog (Xenopus laevis). It seems that some had escaped from a scientific collection and had colonised themselves - also in Wales.

In the past, many species had been put loose in the hopes that they could colonise in the wild. Now this is against the law, of course. In 1979, a colony of Alpine newts (Triturus alpestris) had been reported in a garden in Surrey. In the same year, midwife toads (Alytes obstetricans) had been reported in a former nursery garden in Bedford, and also in an area near Worksop, in Nottinghamshire, as well as in a garden owned by the late Lord Chaplin, in Devonshire.

Edible frogs (Rana esculenta) had been reported, again in 1979, in Norfolk; Surrey; Devon and Somerset. It is thought that edibles were introduced into Southen England around 4,000 BC, possibly by Roman gourmets. It is known that they had been introduced into Cambridgeshire in the 1770s, but there is no evidence to show how. Between 1840-1910, several introductions were made in various parts of England as well as one in Scotland. Some of these are thought to be still extant. Between 1929-1961, many were found in various gravel pits in Surrey; Twickenham; Teddington; Sudbrook and Richmond Parks. A colony on Esher Common from before 1958 could possibly still be in existance. More recently, a colony had developed close to Newton Abbot, in Devon, thought to have been from adults escaped from private gardens.

In 1979, marsh frogs (Rana ridibunda) had been reported in Kingsteigton, Devon, and also in the Romney Marsh area of more than 100 square miles. These had probably escaped originally from the garden od Edward Percy, the playwright. European treefrogs (Hyla arborea) were also known to be in existance in the Beaulieu Abbey Estate, from 1962, and also in St. Lawrence, in the Isle of Wight.

Dice snakes (Natrix tesselata) had probably escaped from a firm in Newdigate, Surrey during the 1950s. These had been seen in 1979. And from the same area, probably from the same source, painted frogs (Discoglossus pictus) and fire-belly toads (Bombina bombina) and Italian crested newts (Triturus cristatus carnifex) had been sighted.

Twelve wall lizards (Podarcis muralis) were released at Farnham Castle in Surrey, in 1932. Two more followed the next year, and these were rediscovered in 1951 in the garden of a nearby estate. In 1937, 300 were released in the grounds of Paignton Zoo, and these were still in existance in the late 1960s. In 1954, Lord Chaplin released 15 into the garden of his estate near Tornes, Devon; and by 1976, these had been known to have multiplied to around 100. In 1980, two flourishing colonies had been discovered on the Isle of Wight, and from 1957, another colony is still believed to be extant - in Hampton Court, in Middlesex.

In a private garden in Bishopsteignton, near Newton Abbot, Devon, the previous owner had kept a thriving colony of yellow-belly toads (Bombina variegata) and marsh frogs (Rana ridibunda) in his walled-in garden. It is not known whether they are still existing there.

Finally, green lizards (Lacerta viridis) had been let loose in the grounds of Paignton Zoo, by its previous owner and they were also known to be somewhere in Gloucester.

Collectively, I don't know the present state od any of these for sure, but I would say there is a pretty good chance of several small colonies of Un-English species surviving in England.

Our Society was formed in 1972 for the purpose of promoting an interest in the study of reptiles and amphibians, both in the wild and in captivity...Meetings are held monthly, generally on the second Sunday afternoon of the month, and these are followed by the issue of a Newsletter...We also publish an Annual Journal which includes original articles, many of them from the members themselves, as well as many other interesting facts, etc..." Annual non-UK dues are 12 pounds, payable in pounds. Our copy of the Newsletter of the SWHS arrives like clockwork about 1.5 months after the cover date and is always amusing, informative and interesting. Some of the ads require and English/American dictionary.

Tortoises, tortoises

  • Over 40 percent of the land area on the Seychelles Islands (north east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean) has been designated as natural parks and preserves. The government, while seeking the tourist dollar, also limits their number to not more than 100,000 by allowing only 4,000 hotel sleeping rooms on the country's 115 islands. Existing hotels can be expanded, but no new sites must be taken. The island of Aldabra is a totally protected, remote atoll 500 miles south of the main island. However, tortoise shell products from hawksbill turtles are easily found in Seychelles' markets. Some tourists have enven called Lindsay Chong Seng, the director of the country's tourism support services and a British-trained biologist, to complain about the items. Mr. Chong Seng points out that the country has no means to enforce its law against killing hawksbills but concludes that the turtle questions may become a sticing point in the new environmental management plan, sponsored by the United Nations and the World Bank. (New York Times, August 9, 1990)
  • The Tortoise Trust devoted its entire Autumn, 1990 issue to an article by A.C. Highfield and J. Martin titled, "Is there a tortoise AIDS in our midst?" Their argument is that although the exact combination of parasite problems, bacterial infection, jaundice, liver disease, and other symptoms vary in individual cases, the sheer number of deaths and their timing and location suggest an organism which destroys its host animals' immune system. In over 50 autopsies of suspected infected animals performed by Professor Walter Sachsse of Germany, electon microscopy has revealed "nuclear inclusion bodies of at least three different viral forms" accompanied by "an inflammatory, fatty swelling of the liver, often with local necrosis." Prof. Sachesse also commented that the "external symptoms do not fit into any clinical picture because they are determined by an overwhelming of the weakened animal by opportunistic, commensal microbia of the most different kind." The authors propose that tortoises imported from Turkey, from 1976 to date, may be carriers of whatever it is that is killing other tortoises. Turkish tortoises (Testudo ibera) were introduced into collections in England and Europe after which long-term healthy tortoises in those collections began to die. They state that T. ibera was also imported into California and speculate that the agent may have infected Xerobates agassizi kept in captivity which then infected wild desert tortoises. They suggest not taking tortoises to shows and other places where they may come in contact with possibly infected animals, not transferring or boarding tortoises with other tortoise keepers, careful hygiene, and 6 month quarantine of new animals from established animals. Please contact the Tortoise Trust, BM Tortoise, London, WC1N 3XX if you want more information. They also publish guidebooks for tortoise maintenance.
  • Support the work of the Desert Tortoise Preseve Committee and receive a nifty, full-color patch. Send $3.50 to DTPC, PO Box 453, Ridgecrest, CA 93555. They also send information about the Preserve with the patch.
  • Biologists Todd Esque and Eric Peters of Colorado State University have been studying desert tortoise eggs and wild behavior and have found that tortoises seem to be calcium starved. They speculate that the calcium shortage began when settlers and developers killed off countless species of calcium-rich weeds and succulents which were preferred tortoise food. Tortoise shells constitute up to 80 percent of the skeleton and require and enormous amount of calcium to grow and maintain. Female tortoises need an even higher calcium intake to produce strong, sturdy eggs. Researchers have reported finding porous brittle bones in dead tortoises and suggest a resemblence to human osteoporosis (also caused by calcium deficiency). Tortoises in the study area chewed on bones when provided by the researcher. (Leesburg Daily Commercial, January 26, 1991, contributed by Bill Burnett)

Quote of the Month

"As human activities increase, native species are lost. When we lose keystone species, we can expect fairly rapid and unexpected changes. This shows we need to more about what kinds of species have disproportionately large effects when present or removed, something surprisingly little research has been done on." Dr. James H. Brown, Professor of Biology, University of New Mexico. (New York Times, December 25, 1990)

Stamp on Snakes, 1991

It's Rattlesnake Roundup season again. People who find clippings on this subject are especially urged to send them to me. People opposing these events need to have as much information as possible, so every single clipping counts.

Snakes on Stamps?

Maybe, if Carole Degen and the Bay Area Reptile and Amphibian Society (BAARS) successfully convince the U.S. Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee to include threatened or endangered herpetofauna on upcoming issues. Write BAARS at P.O. Box 663, Ben Lomond, CA 95005 or call Carole at (408) 336-5612 if you are interested in having input on this worthy project. I cast my vote for Eumeces gilberti cancellosus.

Weighty Ideas

Herp societies around the world are discussing legislation; wild animal laws, pet animal laws and such. Two interesting suggestions arose from correspondence between the New England Herpetological Society and a regulatory agency: 1.) Consider exempting albinos and all obvious color morphs derived from captive breeding; and 2.) Use weight rather than length as a criteria for large snake regulation although what criteria could be used to define "too big" by either weight or length is unclear.

Sea Turtles, TEDs and Ninjas

  • Green and hawksbill turtles are threatened by war-related Persian Gulf spills and burnoffs. Nesting grounds along island beaches may also have been fouled. (Chicago Tribune, January 28, 1991)
  • Four species of sea turtles nest on Florida beaches and communities in the prime nesting areas are working with the FL Department of Natural Resources to resolve lighting and other beach uses. Beach-cleaning vehicles, recreational driving, sea walls, egg thieves and egg-eating predators all contribute to hatching mortality. Some nests are relocated from areas of greatest hazard. (Leesburg Daily Commercial, November 4, 1990, contributed by Bill Burnett.)
  • 967 Kemp's ridley sea turtle nests were counted on beaches at Rancho Nuevo, Mexico, more than in any year since careful surveys were started in 1978. 420 females are believed to have nested in 1990, up from 308 in 1989. (Center for Marine Conservation News, Winter, 1990)
  • In the first 10 days of the Texas shrimp season, 31 dead turtles, including 17 highly endangered Kemp's ridley turtles, and tons of dead fish washed up on Texas beaches. Enforcement officers found that some shrimpers weren't using the TEDs they had on board, or else had tied the escape hatches closed. National Marine Fisheries Service increased the penalties, fines are now $25,000 per violation. In the first three weeks after the penalties were increased, 23 people were arrested and compliance rose to 80 percent. TEDs don't hurt shrimp harvests either. The 1990 catch was 92 million pounds, while the average annual catch is 55 million pounds. (CMC News, Winter, 1990)
  • Three Galveston shrimpers were sentenced to jail and fined for unlawfully possessing a Kemp's ridley sea turtle after Coast Guard officials caught them trawling for shrimp without TEDs. Also discovered was a female Kemp's ridley tethered to the boat by means of a line attached through a hole that had been drilled in its shell. The turtle is recuperating at the National Marine Fisheries Service in Galveston, TX. (Houston Chronicle, January 25, 1991, contributed by Carole Allen)
  • Ninja fans can order the infamous Ninja/Kemp's ridley Issue from HEART for $2.50 postpaid. The cowabunga brigade takes on the evil Cap'n Mossback, a man so vile he won't even use a TED! HEART raises funds for head-starting about 2,000 Kemp's ridleys a year. Write them at Box 681231, Houston, TX 77268-1231.
  • A Houston, TX man pleaded guilty to illegally importing endangered sea turtles and selling boots made from their skin. He was sentenced to 4 years probation, 200 hours of community service and fined $10,000 for violations of the federal Lacey Act. (Houston Post, February 14, 1990, contributed by Carole Allen)

The Greater Cincinnati Herp Society

is seeking a new newsletter editor and helpers. Write them: c/o The Cincinnati Museum of Natural History, 1720 Gilbert Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45202.

Being a reader-supported column

isn't easy. It helps to get some material! Please send your contributions either directly to me or addressed to me c/o the CHS. I'm sure you've noticed I've been trying to include news about members. So, if something nifty happens to you, let me know.

May 1991

The Collins's Strike Again...

One of the most attractive and interesting publications to land on my desk in the last month was written and photographed by CHS members Joe and Suzanne Collins of Lawrence, Kansas. Titled "Reptiles and Amphibians of the Cimarron National Grasslands, Morton County, Kansas," this 60 page publication has 40 magnificent color photos, 3 figures and a cover illustration by Marty Capron. The book was jointly put out by the U.S. Forest Service, KPL Gas Service, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and the Kansas Herpetological Society. This impressive list of sponsors does not indicate that the publishing venture is not-for-profit, but it is. The cost is $7.00, postage included. Write U.S.F.S., Cimarron National Grasslands, 242 Highway 56-E, P.O. Box J, Elkhart, KS 67950 to order your copy.

Product of a fertile mine

Bricker's Organic Farm in Augusta, Georgia is offering a new type of natural fertilizer reported to be better than most types of natural fertilizers although bat guano is richer. Surprisingly it's made from a byproduct of herpetoculture and is brand named "Kricket Krap." The recipe is to stir three tablespoons of "Kricket Krap" into a half gallon of water. For people with a lot of crickets, use five pounds per 55 gallon garbage can. Let the resulting "tea" sit in the sun for a few days before watering around your favorite plants. Just for the record, Bricker feeds his crickets a high-protein diet composed of fish, soybean meal, ground corn and molasses. Bricker's crickets are so "fertile" that they've produced a pile about 25 feet high from which the final product is mined. [Horticulture, December 1990, contributed by Ilene Sievert]

Herps Humorous

  • A young snake once asked his mother, "Are we venomous?" She replied, "Yes, dear. Why do you ask?" The neonate replied, "Because I've just bitten my tongue!" [Natural history corrected, but adapted from Readers Digest, May 1990, contributed by Chester Mierzwa]
  • A tourist in China was admiring a local man's necklace. "What's it made of?" she asked. He replied, "Alligator teeth." She was startled but replied, "Well I suppose they hold the same value for you as pearls do for us." The villager smiled and said, "Not really, miss. Anybody can open an oyster!" [From MM, April-May, 1991, contributed by P.L. Beltz]
  • In the most recent Bulletin of the Victorian Herpetological Society of Australia is a well-written article by Simon Kortlang, V.H.S. titled "An alternative food for reptiles - fish." After carefully discussing the pros of fish for snakes, he mentions the fact that the snakes thrash around when catching the fish and get the prey item covered in their substrate. I thought, perhaps the snakes are just trying to enjoy that typically British meal, fish and chips!

Good news

Railway police in the People's Republic of China have re-released over 300 Andreas salamanders back into the wild after confiscating them from smugglers in the western city of Xian. The salamanders sell for up to $50 each at Hong Kong restaurants, although Taiwanese pet owners and gourmets have been known to pay several hundred dollars for each amphibian. Maybe we could persuade the restauranteurs to offer Swinney's captive-bred tigers as appetizers instead of rare Chinese specimens... [Chicago Tribune, March 22, 1991, contributed by P.L. Beltz]

Millions Still Get Squished

The Wall Street Journal (March 27, 1991) reports on the latest efforts of toad-lovers to help toads cross roads. The U.K. has installed 6 toad tunnels and one newt tunnel since 1987. The Germans have built over 150 toad tunnels in the last 12 years after a Bavarian road accident where several people lost their lives after their car skidded on toad kills. [Contributed by X. Francis Nolan]

Quote of the Month

Don Stickles, Massachusetts hunter: "When you kill an animal, you take responsibility for that creature, just like I'm sure you do when you buy part of a cow wrapped in plastic."

Speaking of dead animals...

  • The Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, N.J. found the first ever Green Sea Turtle washed up at Beach Haven. The apparent cause of its recent demise was that it's last 6 feet of intestines were impacted with digested vegetation. Other deceased turtles in their latest report included five Leatherback Sea Turtles and four Loggerhead Sea Turtles. Several of these had propellor cuts, but the rest were too decomposed to determine the cause of their deaths. MMSC is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of marine mammals and sea turtles. Write MMSC, P.O. Box 773, 3625 Brigantine Blvd., Brigantine, NJ 08203 or call (609) 266-0538 for more information.
  • Prices for farm-bred alligator skins have declined from a high of $35/foot to about $23/foot due to the easy availability of skins in the 4 to 5 foot range. There were only 3 alligator farms in Louisiana in 1977. Now there are 126 in the state and another 40 in Florida and Texas. The industry is worth about $25 million a year to Louisiana alone. 85 percent of the market value is the skin which can leave the swamps of Louisiana, get tanned in a foreign country and return to the U.S. to be sold in high-end boutiques like Hermes or Neiman-Marcus. [Daily Commercial, Leesburg, FL, April 1, 1991, contributed by Bill Burnett]
  • One thousand residents of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia captured 1578 toads on a January evening at the city's Botanic Gardens. Whole familes arrived with flashlights and plastic bags into which the toads were placed, then frozen in an attempt at humane euthanasia. Cane toads are commonly believed to be harmful to native fauna, although some researchers say that certain native animals have figured out ways to eat the toads without being affected by their toxins. [New Scientist, February 2, 1991, contributed by Mike Dloogatch]

Death's the pits, and then you fry

One hundred eight protesters attended the Sweetwater, TX rattlesnake roundup this year. Hosted by CHS-member, Bob Sears, the participants legally and carefully made their opposition to the proceedings known. National Geographic sent a camera crew to collect footage for their Explorer series. Signs carried by the protesters included "Support our troops and snakes;" "Rattler's are Texans, too;" and "Rednecks for Rattlers." If you would be interested in participating next year contact Bob Sears. Don't kid yourselves, though. This can be dangerous, and not just right at the roundup. One protester (apparently observed on her way home) was physically and verbally assaulted by a rattlesnake roundup supporter in a washroom over 100 miles from Sweetwater. [Contributed by Dez Crawford]

Kissimmee once, Kissimmee twice

Never before has government set out to restore a natural landscape as large as half the state of Florida. The Army Corps of Engineers is proposing to de-channelize the 98-mile canal it built from the meandering Kissimmee River and designing a system that will allow water to flow across a water conservation area and unter the Tamiami Trail. The South Florida Water Management District proposes to establish 25,300 acres of marshland to filter pollution north and northwest of Fort Lauderdale. The Federal Government plans to buy 107,000 acres to add to the 1.4 million acre Everglades National Park. The acquisition will permit water flowing in from the north to spread across a 30 mile-wide basin known as the Shark River Slough. All in all these projects have a combined price tag of at least $700 million dollars. This restoration will be as much a test of political skills as of engineering techniques. Do be sure to write your legislators in Washington expressing your support for the restoration of the south Florida ecosystem. Just think of all the smiling alligators and crocodiles that will benefit from this restoration! [New York Times, March 11, 1991, contributed by P.L. Beltz]

News from the Madras Crocodile Bank

Harry Andrews runs the Madras Crocodile Bank in the Tamil Nadu State of India. He is also the holder of a rather unusual claim to fame...he has measured more crocodile penises thany anyone else on earth! Harry writes: "Busy to heck around here, the crocs have started nesting and this year we'll probably have 500-550 nests of mugger alone, which would mean about 13,000 eggs to process, incubate, hatch, mark, feed and grow out, and I'm not thinking of any of the other species. We may have to start feeding crocs to crocs if we run out of dough to keep `em. It's going to be a croc eat croc world out here, and we're all geared up for a long hectic season ahead. In the meantime, we are in need of more subscribers and donors to Hamadryad (the only Biannual herp journal with colour and black and white plates from south east Asia), where people could get to read about and see pictures of herps they've never heard or seen before. We are also looking out for persons/organisations who would be willing to sponsor the cover productions and cost of the Hamadryad or the plates. Things we have to offer from here are old world herp reprints, both old and current, and herp books at nearly cost plus postage." Harry forgot to add how you can subscribe to the Hamadryad, but I'm sure he'll be glad to send you such information if you write him at: Madras Crocodile Bank, Post Bag #4, Mahabalipuram 603 104, Tamil Nadu, South India. India is a very poor country with very odd import laws, but I would strongly recommend that you send him a herp book, reprint, photo, newsletter or some other article of value when you write since it will cost him to correspond with you. I do know that currency cannot be mailed into India, so be sure to ask just exactly how you should pay for your subscription and follow his advice to the letter. Harry also sent a big pile of newspaper clippings about the Croc Bank and its founder, Rom Whittaker, along with the welcome news that Rom will be visiting the U.S. this year on a film publicizing tour. Other herp societies please take note. Rom is a dynamic speaker and a wonderful photographer and would certainly be an asset to any herp society meeting. You may wish to send an invitation to him. From the clippings: 1.) The Tamil Nadu Chief Wild Life warden set fire to a huge stock of contraband reptile skins on December 17, 1990. India has totally banned the trade in reptile skins in an effort to prevent decimation of rat-eating species. [Indian Express, December 18, 1990] 2.) Eleven years ago, the Irula tribals of the Madras area formed a co-operative to produce and sell snake venom. The quality of the venom sold by the co-operative is excellent since they use only 'fresh' snakes and release the animals after a milking. Most anti-venin centers milk the snakes until they die. This last practice considerably shortens the lifespan of the snake, and produces progressively poorer venoms. Now the Irula Tribal Women's Welfare Society has been formed and is planting trees on "wasteland" around the city of Madras. Three hundred acres have been planted by the women in drough resistant, multi-use species of trees. The local village leaders (not Irulas) have agreed to fence the tree lots with prickly growing hedges as well as provide watchmen for the trees. The Irulas will share the tree products with the villages 65/35. The Irula Society also hires local people to help with land preparation. The "model forest" includes 1,500 trees per acre. About half are fast growing species and the rest a mix of indigenous trees that produce everything from berries to timber, fodder and fuel wood. There will be a continuing thinning out of trees, providing a renewable resource for both the Irulas and the villages. [Illustrated Weekly of India, August 27, 1989] 3.) The Irula religion is based in part on ancient serpent-worshipping cults, whose deities were known as Nagas, and generally represented as Cobras. Irula lore remains filled with Cobra-naga stories: women who want to conceive male children pray to Shesha-nag, the world snake of Hindu mythology, and the Irula shamen are said to consult Naga-Kanni, a serpent goddess, over important village and tribal concerns. Some of the tribal elders even feel that it was the skin industry which engendered the Irulas' problems: they were killing their goddess Kanni every time they took a snake. Those ancient beliefs are ddeply rooted in the Irula consciousness. Cobra bites are frequently interpreted as deserved retribution for an affront against the Nagas and the non-use of available antidotes is a way to allow the will of the offended Naga to be carried out. [Irula, circa February 1991] Thanks, Harry for all the clippings!

Also regarding venomous snakes

The April issue of Notes from NOAH has a large section devoted to letters about so-called "venomoid snakes," animals which have had their venom apparatus removed. The dialog has apparently occupied parts of their last several issues. Notes from NOAH has recently undergone a format change from faint typewriting on darkish paper to nice, crisp laser printing on paler paper. The format change has induced me to begin to READ this publication which formerly I skimmed since I found it to be headache inducing. NOAH is the second largest regional herp society (after CHS) and the fourth largest herp society in North America (after AFH, CHS, and SSAR). If you are interested in the venomoid issue, or wish to obtain a copy of their fabulous "Battle Package" (clippings and facts about herp exploitation) write: NOAH, Department of Biology, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 44106.

Excellent suggestions

Stan Grumbeck wrote a thought provoking article in the March, 1991 issue of the North Texas Herpetological Society Newsletter. He suggests: ..."maybe it's time we adopted a new term to describe this pastime of ours...we should impress upon new herpers the importance of not `collecting' every animal they encounter in the field. Catching the animal is fine and indeed may be necessary for identification and certainly for photographing; but once you're finished with the animal, release it where you caught it unless there is a specific need for this particular (specimen)...when you go `herp watching' the area should look the same when you leave as it did when you got there." If you'd like to comment on Stan's proposed designation of "herp watching" instead of "going collecting," you can write him, c/o NTHS, P.O. Box 470771, Fort Worth, TX 76147.

Great news!

On the edge the newsletter of the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust reports that a specimen of the Jamaican iguana was turned in by Mr. Edwin Duffus to the Hope Zoo in Jamaica. The last specimen was seen, dead, in 1969. It had been feared extince. The Jamaican iguana, Cyclura collei, is endemic only to Jamaica and was described by Gray in 1945. Habitat destruction and hunting had decimated the populations and the introduction of mongoose in 1872 brought the species to the brink of extinction. The species is still very much in danger and a conservation and breeding program is being proposed by an inter-institutional group headed by Dr. Peter Vogel of the Zoology Department of the University of the West Indies. Cyclura collei is one of Jamaica's largest land animals and it is hoped that experience with breeding iguanas on the mainland of Central America will lead to solutions in breeding this endemic species. Write JWPT for more information on how you can support this and other worthy breeding programs: Les Augres Mano, Trinity, Jersey JE3 5BF, English Cannel Islands, United Kingdom.

Please send clippings

with date and publication attached to me. All clippings used herein will be acknowledged to their contributors. Also, if something particularly interesting happens to you or another member of CHS, write it up and send it. New crib lizards and breeding records of family members will be considered as will embarrassing moments in herpetology, good herp ideas and bad herp jokes. Hope to hear from you soon!

June 1991

Members' News

  • We regret to inform the membership of the death of Dr. Loren Moehn of Jacksonville, Illinois. Dr. Moehn was a long-time member of CHS as well as being a member of the Ohio Herpetological Society (later SSAR) and many other herp organizations around the country. Donations in his memory can be sent to: Illinois College, Biology Honors Society, Dr. Chapman, Department of Biology, Jacksonville, IL 62650.
  • John Levell, Tony Janowski, Richard Pick and Chester Pieniazek are just back from a week in Texas, Louisiana and other points south. John reports "great herpin' and great herpers" down there.
  • Steve Swanson, Director of the Grove in Glenview, is in the U.S.S.R. on a collecting trip with Ray Pawley, Curator of Herps at Brookfield Zoo. This fantastic trip was planned after a visit last year from Soviet zoologists collecting Sistrurus catenatus, eastern massasauga rattlesnakes, for a cap- tive breeding program at the Moscow Zoo. [Niles Journal, April 24, 1991, contributed by C. S. Mierzwa]

Ridley Yourself of Guilt by Giving

Carole Allen writes, "Although HEART has donated tents and contributed to funds needed for a real building in which scientists stay at Rancho Nuevo, and although we have contri- buted a generator for the new `north' camp there, the camp itself was up and running long before I came on the scene. The building I call the Heart Hyatt was built by funds from HEART, USFWS and the Gladys Porter Zoo.[HEART] has bought all the turtle food since 1982 for the Galveston Lab, and it's true to say that HEART's work in building a political constituency has prevented the government from cutting the head start program from the federal budget " Donations to HEART are as always needed to feed some of the thousands of hungry little turtles. To feed a turtle for a year, and have your name added to the thousands of hearts on the Galveston facility walls, send $5.00 to HEART, P.O. Box 681231, Houston, TX 77268-1231. Also, if you'd like a video of headstarting, TEDs and Kemp's ridley sea turtles, a 30 minute color film prepared by Houston television station KTMD is available from HEART for $22.40 postpaid.

Cricket Timing

The official formula for determining the Fahrenheit tempera- ture by counting cricket chirps is: temperature equals 50 + (chirps per minute - 40) / 4. There is also an approximation formula: count the number of chirps in 14 seconds and add 40. Of course, a thermometer in your livestock room might be easier. [Chicago Reader, May 3, 1991, contributed by Eloise Beltz-Decker]

What We Do for Free

You can now pay $80 to an Ontario, Canada, dating service called Science Connection if you'd like to be included in their program to help unattached adults interested in science or natural history meet others with a similar interest. [Chicago Tribune, May 1, 1991]

Quote of the Month

"Hast thou named all the birds without a gun; loved the wood-rose and left it on its stalk?" Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), Forbearance.

If You Like to Write Letters

The Center for Marine Conservation has begun to send ac- tion alerts to interested people who will write letters as asked. Write: CMC, Sea Grassroots Activist Program, 1725 De Sales Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036. It's once again time to write letters in support of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. Last year the ACNWR re- ceived enormous support from around the country, and even the turtles expressed their support with more than 16,404 loggerhead and 588 green turtle nests within the boundaries of the refuge! Federal funds to buy these beaches come from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. In 1990, the U.S. Congress allocated $2 million. The Carr Refuge needs con- tinuing appropriations to continue operations. You can help. Write your U.S. Senators and Representatives, especially Rep. Sidney R. Yates (IL) and Senator Robert C. Byrd (WV). They are on the Appropriations Committees and will be most able to have their voices heard. Address both Senators and Representatives as "The Honorable (name)." Please be polite and mention that $15 million would be nice, especially since the state of Florida is spending $10 million on the project in 1991. Mail letters to either 1.) The U.S. Senate, Washing- ton, D.C. 20510; or 2.) The U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515. Buttons, color brochures, fact sheets and decals in support of the Refuge are available on a limited basis from CMC (address above). Illinois residents are urged to write their state representa- tive in support of House Bill 2554 which, if passed by both houses and signed by the Governor, would require owners to get a permit before draining and/or filling a wetland, or to create a new, larger wetland elsewhere in the same water- shed. In the Chicago region, Lake County has the most wet- land acres (30,487), with Cook (15,177) and Will (14,881) next in descending order. By percentage, Lake still leads (10.2%), but is followed by Du Page (3.9%) and Will (2.8%). Remem- ber, wetlands and wetland edges are some of the best herpeto- fauna habitat. Dr. Deanna Glosser, Vice-president of the Audubon Council of Illinois, said: "If we pass a good version of HB2554, I think we'll be on the leading edge of wetlands protection [in the country]." [Chicago Tribune, April 22, 1991, contributed by P. L. Beltz]

Don't Tell the Department of Agriculture

In the premier issue of Animal House Magazine, a commercial publication out of Cypress, California, writer Todd Jarrett manages to misunderstand just about every facet of snake keeping, with the capper being the following quote attributed to snake keeper Harlan Woods: "pythons can be vicious, and are venomous, whereas boas are not." Also, Glen Carlton, a "licensed animal health technician with the Los Angeles chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals" was quoted: "[the snake is] an animal I can abuse, but still not hurt it." I have already written to the editors about this issue, but you may wish to too: Marsha and Chuck McIntosh, AHM, Inc. It is truly unfortunate that their writer either totally misunderstood what he was told or selected ignorant sources for this article. There are so many intelligent snake keepers in California; surely he could have written a much better article. [Animal House Magazine, April 1991, contri- buted by Greg Naclerio]

Did Anyone Tell Them about Killer Bees?

One hundred five Nile crocodiles were imported in 1989 to a "top-security facility" in southern Brazil for a captive breeding program aimed at selling their skins abroad. Dr. William Magnusson, a crocodile specialist at the Institute for Ama- zon Studies in the city of Manaus remarked that if they get loose, "they'll certainly attack and eat many humans, but that's trivial compared to the destruction they'll do to the continent's ecosystems." [Chicago Tribune, May 9, 1991, contributed by P. L. Beltz]

Earthwatch Trips for 1991

Earthwatch is requesting volunteers for three herp-related projects this year. Project one is titled "Saving the Leather- back Turtle," and will take place at St. Croix, Virgin Islands. Night patrols will find and record data from up to 500- kilogram nesting mothers, measure nest temperatures, move erosion-prone nests, and later in the season, chaperon hatch- lings to the sea. This is not a trip for the weak, for couch potatoes, or for people who simply cannot stay awake after midnight. Accommodations are modern. Project two is "Diamondback Terrapins, What Role Do Turtles Play in America's Most Threatened Ecosystem?" Dr. J. Whitfield Gibbons, Jeffrey Lovich and Anton Tucker will lead volun- teers on their mission at Kiawah island, South Carolina. Expedition members will capture terrapins, weigh, measure and tag the animals, analyze their scats, hatch eggs and re- lease the turtles and their offspring. Kiawah Island is com- posed of 1,500 hectares of dunes, forests, marshes and lakes. Amenities are modern and this program is not as physically rigorous as Project one. Project three is titled "Australia's Island Lizards." Led by Garry Connell and Dr. Dale Roberts, volunteers will work on three islands, trapping, observing and radiotracking lizards, and performing some lab work. Amenities are modern and the project will be based in the Jurien Bay Islands off Western Australia. Earthwatch volun- teers pay their own way to the projects as well as part of the the project cost. Call Earthwatch at 617-926-8200 for more information. Please mention the CHS when you call.

And Don't Forget Your Sunscreen

The Environmental Protection Agency announced that the ozone layer has been depleted in many areas of the globe, not just in the so-called "ozone hole" over Antarctica, and that the loss over the United States is proceeding more than twice as fast as scientists had previously predicted. Ozone depletion increases the risk of skin cancer and eye cataracts in humans and has been implicated in the worldwide decline of amphib- ian populations, although quantitative data for its effects are lacking. [New York Times, April 5, 1991]

Japan Pledges to Protect Turtles

U.S. President George Bush gave Japan a 30-day reprieve from possible trade sanctions after the Japanese pledged to end all imports of hawksbill turtle products. Japan had ear- lier agreed to stop importing the skin of the olive ridley but had previously resisted the ban on hawksbill shells. For centuries Japanese artisans have made expensive and prized combs, ornaments and household implements from the translucent, striped shells. No time limits were announced although one report quoted a letter from President Bush to Congress announcing that he would postpone taking any punitive measures against trading with Japan, "pending an assessment within 30 days of the adequacy of Japan's actions." Personally, this time I hope he really means NO NET LOSS. [New York Times, May 18, 1991; Wall Street Journal, May 20, 1991; contributed by P. L. Beltz.]

The Mice Man Cometh

Robert Bremel, a professor of dairy science at the Univer- sity of Wisconsin, is using mice to test new genetic combi- nations that alter the protein levels in milk. Mr. Bremel says, "the hope is to make milk a specialty product." It's a lot simpler and easier to get the process right in small ani- mals with a fast breeding turnover. But milking mice re- quires patience and a very small milking machine. Each mouse produces less than a teaspoon of milk a day. Who knows what comes next pizzas with mouserella cheese, even mice cream! [Wall Street Journal, May 16, 1991, contributed by P. L. Beltz.]

Thanks to all who contributed this month

If you don't like how short this column is, how about sending in some news, notes, clippings or letters to me c/o the CHS?

July 1991

Major contributor hospitalized twice

Readers of this column will recognize the name of P.L. Beltz, this columnist's seventy-something father who has contributed about 80 percent of all articles used in this column in 1991. Unfortunately, he may not be able to continue to contribute with the regularity and consistency that he has in the past. Will C.H.S. readers take the challenge and begin to send in herp-related articles, or do C.H.S. readers really not care? Send your clippings, get well cards, letters, member news, etc. directly to me.

Does imprinting work?

HEART (Help endangered animals, Ridley turtles) reports: "On April 30 about 10 a.m., a female Kemp's ridley sea turtle crawled out of the water about one mile south of the National Park Service ranger station at the National Sea Shore near Corpus Christi and laid 107 eggs. A couple from Houston alerted the park rangers who photographed her and moved the eggs for incubating. No flipper tag scar was visible so we don't know if it was a head-started turtle; but it's still great news! Hopefully, there will be many more nestings on the Texas coast." [Heart Newsletter, June 1991, contributed by Carole Allen]

Sea turtle strandings continue

Cynthia Gaya (the west coast HEART coordinator) wrote me a letter recently urging "all sea turtle enthusiasts and conservationists to write letters to the following governmental agencies, demanding firm and appropriate action be taken in response to the strandings of over 100 endangered sea turtles on the East Coast between April 1 and May 15. This number increases daily and does not take into account dozens of unreported or unfound carcasses. The deaths of these healthy specimens can be directly attributed to the beginning of the shrimping season, as well as dredging activity going on up and down the East Coast. The new Turtle Excluder Device regulations have yet to be published, as as a result many shrimpers are still operating without properly installed TED nets. Dredging can be conducted at another season in the year which does not conflict with annual migration and nesting patters of sea turtles, yet year after year poorly timed efforts result in mutilation of countless healthy turtles. HEART wants you to demand that the government stop dragging its feet and placing sea turtles at the very bottom of its priority list. DEMAND that TED regulations be published immediately and properly funded and implemented. DEMAND that all shrimpers who violate TED regulations be severely punished, or they will continue to disregard the laws. DEMAND thorough and effective investigations into the causes of these repeated deaths. Request that dredging be continued at a more appropriate time of the year which will not endanger so many turtles. Urge that turtles be given a high priority in funding, before it is too late. Extinct means forever, and that is the way sea turtles are headed due directly to man, unless we all act NOW! Write those letters today to: 1.) Dr. John Knauss, Undersecretary, U.S. Department of Commerce, 14th and Constitution, N.W., Room 5128, Washington, D.C. 20238 or FAX #202-377-8203; 2.) Dr. Terry Henwood, National Marine Fisheries Service, 9450 Roger Boulevard, Saint Petersburg, FL 33702; and 3.) Major Ellias S. Smith, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, P.O. Box 889, Savannah, GA 31402-0889. For more information on sea turtle conservation write HEART, P.O. Box 681231, Houston, TX 77268-1231. Thank you." I'd like to add that HEART has several hundred to a thousand hungry little turtles to feed, so if you write, include at least a self-addressed stamped envelope - and, if possible, a donation.

Herpetological destinations

  • In 1980, a snake zoo was established near the Wuyi Mountain Nature Reserve in Fujian Province, China. There are some six tons of living snakes on view in enclosures designed to resemble natural habitat. A research institute and snake restaurant are attached to the zoo. [Fujian, China's Undiscovered Land of Mists and Mountains, Passport Books, 1991, contributed by P.L. Beltz]
  • Rayne, Louisiana is home to the largest bullfrog mural in the United States. Painted by Robert Dafford in 1990, it shows Rana catesbeiana amid swamp plants under a crescent moon. [Bucyrus, Ohio Telegraph-Forum, May 11, 1991, contributed by Bill Burnett]
  • Coney Island, New York has always had its share of the weird and unusual. Now it is home to an old-style sideshow - a snake charmer. Katherine Zavartkay is billed as "The Elastic Woman" and works with her boas nightly in one of the seaside clubs. [Chicago Tribune, May 27, 1991]

Oh, boa - a pig snake!

Maxwell, the pet of a New York police station house, may be ordered to appear in a Manhattan court in connection with a murder case. The judge has ordered the First Precinct police to keep Maxwell alive and ready for a possible appearance at a suppression of evidence hearing. The defendant claims police threatened him with the seven-foot snake to force a confession. Maxwell's been the police station's pet since he was a foot long, and dines on a large rat every three or four weeks. One officer was quoted (NYDN): "We don't like to feed Max too often, only when he gets hungry, or else he'll grow too big for his aquarium." [New York Times, June 12, 1991, contributed by P.L. Beltz and New York Daily News, May 24, 1991, contributed by Phil and Dan, New York Reptilia]

Don't bite the hand that feeds you

The former governor of Illinois, James R. Thompson, has sponsored the care and feeding of a timber rattlesnake at Brookfield Zoo. Other supporters include an Illinois State University sorority that cares for a python, a Barry Manilow fan club in Country Club Hills sponsoring a python and David Letterman who supports a giant cockroach colony. [Chicago Reader, circa May, 1991, contributed by H.S. Yu]

Herpetologists invited

The Third Central Illinois Prairie Conference will be held in Charleston at the Eastern Illinois University Union Hall. For information, call Professor John Ebinger. [Contributed by Hanna Eiler, Chicago Audubon Society]

Finding the racers' edge

Three years of planning, and a determined snake study by a developer has led to approval to built a 122-lot subdivision in Kennebunk, Maine. The houses will be build on 465 wooded acres adjoining a significant wildlife habitat. Before Mr. Kasprzak of Waterboro, Maine, could apply to the town or state for permission to build his salt boxes, he had to prove his development would not harm the only known population of black racers in the state. He spent $60,000 on the study which used radio tracking to determine that the snakes stayed on the blueberry plains next to the forest in which he wants to build. Only 15 percent of the 465 acres will be developed with 265 acres being reserved as a buffer between the homes and the plains. In addition to the black racer, the plains support a threatened wildflower, grasshopper sparrows, ribbon snakes, trembling fallow moths and toothed white-topped asters. [Real Estate section, New York Times, June 16, 1991, contributed by P.L. Beltz]

New assault on wetlands

Pressured by the Farm Bureau, oil and chemical companies, timber interests, land developers and the road construction industry, the government at all levels is weakening wetlands protection efforts. Industry efforts are concentrated on HR 1330, titled "The Comprehensive Wetlands Conservation and Management Act of 1991," it is sponsored by Congressman Hayed (D-LA). Another bill is expected to be introduced in the U.S. Senate by John Breaux (also D-LA). If passed, these bills will: 1.) designate the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as the sole regulatory authority, eliminating EPA's ability to veto 404 permits issued by the USACE; 2.) create a system of high, medium and low value wetlands and limit the amount of wetlands classified as high value to 20 percent of a county; and 3.) determine that Section 404 is not a wetlands protection provision. The result would be to open about 10 million acres to development. The strength of the current policy is that it affords general protection with room for case-by-case exceptions. The solution is not to change the policy and automatically give away more wetlands. It is to improve the current system to make more sensible, efficient exceptions. Your help is needed now to oppose House Resolution 1330. Write to your congressional representatives asking them to oppose HR 1330. Write your senators asking them not to co-sponsor or support Breaux's bill. For those in doubt how to contact your representatives and senators, please consult your local phone book. I've been traveling a lot lately and every local phone book I've looked in lists reps' and senators'. If that doesn't work, call your local city hall and ask them. Remember, loss of wetlands means loss of herps, birds and other animals. We've already lost 75-80% of pre-European settlement wetland areas, let's not lose the rest. [Developed from the Chicago Tribune, May 22, 1991 and Compass, the newsletter of the Chicago Audubon Society, June 1991]

Professor proposes building swamp

Mr. William J. Mitsch, a professor of natural resources at Ohio State University, wants to build a 30-acre swamp just north of the Columbus campus. It would be the site of important ecological research, attracting muskrats, beavers and waterfowl. Actually, Professor Mitsch envisions several interconnecting swamps on a flood plain near the Olentangy River on university-owned land. He figures the whole project would cost between $200-500 thousand, but the school has no plans to fund the project. In an effort to prevent his project from getting bogged down, Mr. Mitsch will seek private funding. [Wall Street Journal, May 21, 1991, contributed by P.L. Beltz]

Not sharper than a serpent's tooth

The American Medical Association is symbolically pulling in its fangs and putting on a smile as it prepares a new logo, more suited to the kinder, gentler 1990's. The old AMA serpent wrapped around the staff of Aesculapius (the Greek god of healing) had a lean and hungry look, its forked tongue protruding, tensed as if to strike. The new plumper serpent sits placidly atop the staff, its mouth primly closed. The group spent $800,000 to survey physicians for their opinions of the organization and to design plans for change. The old design was adopted in 1912. [Chicago Tribune, June 5, 1991, contributed by P.L. Beltz]

New, green and slimy

A new childrens' book by Jon Scieszka, titled "The Frog Prince, Continued" has been published by Viking ($14.95, unpaged, illustrated by Steve Johnson). It picks up where the legend of the frog prince leaves off. He's already been kissed by the princess and is now a nice yuppie-looking man in suit and tie, but is still not happy. His wife wants him to stop sticking out his tongue as if he's catching flies, and she never wants to go down to the swamp anymore. The Prince leaves and tries to find a witch to change him back into a frog. I'd spoil the tale if I told you more, but I must share the fact that one witch uses a VCR-zapper to work her spells. The book is supposed to be for children, but I loved it - and I think you will, too.

Tourists pester Malaysian Leatherbacks

Spurred by travel writers' eager descriptions of female turtle nestings, tourists in droves have descended on Malaysian beaches this year, interfering with nesting turtles and disrupting the ancient patterns of reptile reproduction. Some leatherbacks are finding their reception so disturbing that they return to the sea without laying their eggs. Fisheries Officer Ahmad Tafiq says that so little is known about the animals that even attempts to help protect them sometimes do more harm that good. He said that 33 nests will be fenced-in at the exact site chosen by the females rather than moving them as has been done in the past. He also despairs at the circus side-show atmosphere and believes it is driving the turtles away. He said there are as many as 1,000 tourists on the beach sometimes with only eight enforcement officers to control them. He reported children riding on turtle back, kicking sand over them, pulling at their flippers and so on. "The turtle cannot stand to see so many people around. Sometimes even I myself feel suffocated standing inside the crowd" said Mr. Tafiq. The Malaysians have already done much to save the turtles, limiting construction, egg collecting, and fishing offshore, although lack of enforcement officers remains a problem. Tourists are now barred from 70 percent of the beaches, but local guides (who are paid by each tourist) often circumvent these regulations. A villager who used to be a guide said, "I myself would put a fence around the whole beach and make tourists look at the turtles with binoculars." He says the sight of crowds harassing the turtles makes him so angry he can no longer bear to go down to the beach during turtle season. [The New York Times, May 19, 1991, contributed by P.L. Beltz]

August 1991

New Illinois Herp Regs Take Effect

For anyone who may not have been a member for the last two years, or for those who didn't read the articles about House Bill 2700, please be advised that it is now ILLEGAL to collect reptiles or amphibians in Illinois for commercial purposes. It is also (temporarily) illegal to collect any reptiles or amphibians for any reason in the State of Illinois without a scientific collecting permit. "What?" I hear you scream, "I heard nothing about this! They're taking away my god-given right to herp when and where and how I want." Well, every C.H.S. member was repeatedly given the opportunity to have input on this law, and although it was discussed repeatedly at board meetings and on the pages of this publication, only 4 people bothered to write down their thoughts on the issue and send them in as requested. Now, I'm sure, we'll get 200 letters of outrage, but I will want to know where you were two years ago before I print your cries of anguish.

Let's review the situation... The Illinois Department of Conservation [IDOC] wanted a law which would prevent commercial collecting of reptiles and amphibians for pet, laboratory and school-dissection trade. The result was House Bill 2700. However, several big concerns of the C.H.S. were not answered by that bill and so IDOC prepared an administrative rule. The Bill passed both the House and the Senate and has been in effect since July 1, 1991. The proposed administrative rules have been passed along to me this week. The new rules will establish possession limits for native amphibans and reptiles as well as defining what can be caught and how it can be taken. If all the public hearings and so forth go smoothly, the administrative rules may take effect in December, 1991. What follows is an exact quotation of the Proposed Rules:

Title 17: Conservation
Chapter I: Department of Conservation
Subchapter b: Fish and Wildlife
Part 880: The Taking of Reptiles and Amphibians

Section 880.10 Prohibition of Commercial Use
It is unlawful to take, possess, buy, sell, offer to buy or sell or barter any reptile, amphibian, or their eggs or parts taken from the wild in Illinois for commercial purposes unless otherwise authorized by statute.

Section 880.20 Methods of Taking and Capture

  • a.) Only those persons who hold a valid sport fishing license may take or attempt to take turtles and/or frogs [Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 56, par. 5.1].
  • b.) Turtles may be taken as allowed by the Fish Code of 1971 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 56, pars. 3.12 and 3.24].
  • c.) Bullfrogs may be taken as allowed by the Fish Code of 1971 [ Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 56, pars. 3.6, 3.7 and 3.12].
  • d.) No person shall take or posses any species of reptile or amphibian listed as endangered or threatened in Illinois (17 Ill. Adm. Code 1010), except as provided by in 17 Ill. Adm. Code 1070.
  • e.) All other species of reptiles and amphibians may be captured by any device or method which is not designated or intended to bring about the death or serious injury of the animals captured. This shall not restrict the use of legally taken reptiles or amphibians as bait by anglers.
  • f.) Any captured reptiles or amphibians which are not to be retained in the possession of the captor shall be immediately released at the site of capture.

Section 880.30 Daily Catch and Possession Limits
The daily catch limit for reptiles shall be eight (8) of each species and for amphibians shall be eight (8) of each species. The possession limit for reptiles shall be sixteen (16) of each species and for amphibians shall be sixteen (16) of each species.

Section 880.40 Captive Born Reptiles and Amphibians
Captive born offspring of a legally held reptile or amphibian, not intended for commercial purposes, shall be exempt from the possession limits of Section 880.30 for a period of ninety (90) days.

Section 880.50 Protection of Habitat
Habitat features which are disturbed in the course of a search for reptiles and amphibians shall be returned to as near their original position and condition as possible, e.g. overturned stones and logs shall be restored to their original locations.

Write or call to protest roundups

This year, over 30,000 people gathered in Sweetwater, TX for the "World's Largest Rattlesnake Roundup." About 100 hunters supplied more than 4,500 pounds of meat. Each snake weighs about a pound. This is the 23rd year for this event which organizers say is primarily to teach people about rattlesnakes. Ann Drummond, editor of the Gainesville Herpetological Society Newsletter suggests that herpetologists teach Sweetwaterans about rats and ecological balance. She's even suggested that they substitute annual "Rat Roundups, and do something festive with the testes."

Update on Croc Penises

Harry Andrews of the Madras Crocodile Bank writes, "You're quite right, I have just entered the Limca Book of Records (the Indian version of the Guinness Book) for having sexed the most number of crocs in these parts. Don't ask me how." He also mentions that the annual subscription rate for Hamadryad is $25.00 U.S. The next issue is to be mailed in August. If you have an interest in Indian reptiles, this publication is for you! The address is in your membership list, under "Non-U.S. Herpetological Societies."

Shockingly stupid

This item is so totally weird that I'm going to quote it verbatim: "A study of 218 rattlesnake-bite incidents released last year by the University of Arizona Poison Control Center included a report on one man who had been bitten on the tongue while kissing a snake. Panicking, and apparently armed with a hazy understanding of poisons, he tried to break down the venom by wiring his tongue to a six-volt battery. By the time the hospital was finished with him, he had lost one lip and part of his tongue." [Chuck Shepherd, News of the Weird, Chicago Reader, July 5th, 1991, contributed by K.S. Mierzwa]

"Python upstages dancers"

The New York Times (June 29, 1991) reports, "It is not often that the real star of a dance production is a snake - not a serpentine dancer, but a live python..." The writer pans the human dancers as childish and ineffective and continues, "The python, however, was ever lordly. A Minimalist, it seldom moved. Yet when it occasionally shifted position to assume a new pose, it did some stylish vogueing." Vogueing is the new "club" word for striking poses, "modeling" or "posing" would perhaps be what we over-30's might call it. A few years ago, the New York Times never did "animal stories" at all, even having a formal editorial policy against mentioning the lower orders. Times change and I'm really pleased that not only are animals being mentioned in this publication, but they are being treated sympathetically and with fascination.

Rattler remover

A resident of a suburb near Sacramento, CA is on call to remove rattlesnakes, primarily from areas near the American River used for recreation. As we all know, rattlesnakes would rather leave than bite. Mr. Tim Garcia receives once to three calls a day during "snake season" to remove animals that are "bothering" local residents. He says he takes them into the foothills and releases them. [The Fresno Bee, July 6, 1991, contributed by Robert W. Hansen]

Fangs for your Memories

Visitors to the American International Rattlesnake Museum in Albuquerque, NM can earn an official "Certificate of Bravery." Proprietor Bob Myers says only two people have balked at entering the room in which live snakes are displayed behind glass. The Museum gift shop sells shed fangs and shed skins as well as a wide variety of rattler-related items. For more information write the A.I.R.M. at 202 San Felipe N.W., Albuquerque, 87104. [The Albuquerque Journal, February 2, 1991, contributed by Tom Taylor, Arizona Herpetological Association.]

Happy birthday to...

Ethelyn Rieves writes, "Please mention that the Houston Turtle and Tortoise Society has been meeting the first Saturday of each month since September of 1990. Programs have been presented by veterinarians who treat turtles, professional herpetologists and members.

Pollution threatens turtles

Karen Bjorndal, director of the Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research at the University of Florida said, "Surface currents in the ocean bring all components together - turtles, plastics, tar balls - everything that floats on the sea. This is disastrous to little turtles, because they feed on anything that comes past their noses." [Leesburg Daily Commercial, June 21, 1991, contributed by Bill Burnett]

Indonesia to farm turtles

The poverty-stricken nation of Indonesia which has been condemned by environmentalists for allowing mass slaughter of turtles in its tropical waters announced that it is committed to turtle protection. Environmental Minister Emil Salim said, "We will farm protected and unprotected turtles. The Protected turtles will be left in the sea and unprotected ones will be developed for consumption by the Balinese and for handicrafts." [The Memphis Commercial Appeal, July 13, 1991, contributed by Bill Burnett]

Thanks to all who contributed this month

As you can see, this column was significantly shorter than usual - even with the addition of the legalese from the state. If you like news and notes columns, if you like this column, now is the time to leave off your aestivation and send in clippings or letters. This column will only be as long as you make it.

September 1991

Urgent appeal for funds

Several very deserving turtle and tortoise projects around the world need funding to continue. Time prevented me from having my coverage of this reviewed and approved by the program co-ordinator prior to publication, but I'll have a full report in next month's issue. So, if you're interested in making your tax-deductable contributions to these projects, give me a call at home some evening and I'll let you know all about them and how to participate. One project is headed by a CHS member and will not be able to continue if an absurdly low sum of money is not achieved by January, 1992.

Don't bask on "The Rock"

While I was out of town last week, my homeowners insurance was cancelled. Why? Because Prudential Insurance Company has decided that my frogs, salamanders, lizards, turtles and snakes are "exotic animals" and they won't cover anybody who keeps "exotic animals." The fact that all my animals are local critters found within 100 miles of the City of Chicago has no bearing on the definition of "exotic." Needless to say, should I ever become herp-less, Prudential will still never be considered by me again.

30 Ridleys die of stupidity

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is responsible for the headstarting of Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles (Lepidochelys kempii) at its Galveston, TX, facility. Recently, it was decided to send 99 Kemp's Ridley turtles to another facility in Florida run by a former NMFS worker who is a highly-respected green sea turtle biologist. He was going to run tests with the two year old turtles to determine the effect of new turtle excluder device (TED) designs. Presumably the turtles would have been removed before drowning if the TEDs didn't work as promised. However, in a horrible oversight, all 99 were placed in one enclosure and then not properly supervised. 30 of the 99 turtles died of bite wounds inflicted by other turtles. The size of the enclosure was increased, but the fighting and aggression continued. Why the turtles were housed together is unknown. Kemp's Ridley turtles are well known to be aggressive little beasts and are housed separately from their hatch day until they are separately boxed and released in the Gulf of Mexico. The 99 turtles sent to Florida were shipped in individual containers by the H.E.A.R.T. folks in Galveston who also provided enough food for the 8 to 10 pound animals for the duration of their stay at the testing lab. 40 of the surviving turtles were allegedly released immediately after the deaths of the others, but no proof has been offered to the press or the public. All of the 30 deceased were necropsied and it is believed that their wounds were the sole cause of death. Eleven of the remaining animals are being housed separately in a Panama City, FL facility; 18 were returned to Galveston. Incidentally, the NMFS has now killed more Kemp's Ridley turtles in 1991 than have been stranded and presumed drowned by shrimpers this year. [From many sources, primarily Houston Chronicle, July 30, and 31, August 3 and 7, Poughkeepsie Journal, July 31, 1991; contributed by Carole Allen, Dez Crawford and Nicholas Scire]

Illinois Legislative Update

The Audubon Council of Illinois sent me some material by fax today about wetland bills, both good and bad currently being considered in the Illinois House and Senate. There will be public hearings for the Illinois House of Representatives in Lake County, September 23, Southside Chicago, September 23, Champaign, September 24, and Mt. Vernon, September 25. Call Joan O'Shaugnessy at 312-554-0086 or Virginia Scott at 217-544-5954 for times and places of these hearings. When the pioneers arrived in Illinois 23% of the state was wetlands covering about 8.2 million acres. Due to draining, filling, planting, paving or poisoning (or all of the above), 90% of Illinois wetlands have been destroyed. Only 2.6% of the state is now wetlands covering only about 920,000 acres. Bills, both good and bad for wetlands have been introduced... Bad news first: House Resolution 1330 would reduce the number of wetlands to be regulated in the state of Illinois by 60%. Please oppose this bill, both in hearings and by writing or calling your state representative. Another bad news bill is Senate Bill 690, the so called "Wetland Protection Act." It proposes the identification of high quality wetlands by the agricultural community which would then provide voluntary protection for these wetlands. Please write or call your state senator to oppose this bill. (Call 312-939-INFO if you need their name or number.) On the good side there are several bills which would increase wetlands protections: 1.) House Bill 2554, The Wetlands Preservation Act of 1991, would establish a goal of no net loss of wetlands, types and transition areas. 2.) H.B. 2426, The Natural Area and Wetland Fund Act, provides funding needed to implement a wetland protection program through impact fees. 3.) H.B. 2430, Revisions to the Stormwater Management Act, identifies wetland protection as an element of stormwater management planning in order to clarify existing authority. Please do take a minute to communicate with our elected officials. I hope you will be able to attend the public hearings. Without wetlands, we will lose all the herpetofauna that is dependent on this vanishing habitat type. Surely, we can do with one less shopping center, or a few acres less in corn, soybeans, or winter wheat, in order to pass along a legacy of wetland wonder to our descendants. [Contributed by Deanna Glosser, Vice-President, Audubon Council of Illinois, Inc.]

New pesticides may be frog-friendly

Mycogen Corporation has won approval from the Environmental Protection Agency for its genetically engineered bacterial pesticides. No opposition to their product has been voiced since the bacteria that deliver the pest-killers are already dead. The process uses heat killed Pseudomonas bacteria to deliver Bacillus thuringiensis, a well-known organic pesticide. However, this system is not in itself a panacea. Insects can become resistant to Bt just as they can to any other pesticide. In the long run, biotech companies hope to include a gene into plant seeds that will let the plants make their own pesticide. [The New York Times, July 17, 1991. Contributed by P.L. Beltz]

Quote of the Month

"The total number of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians in all the world's zoos is only about 675,000. About 94% of all the mammals in accredited North American zoos were born in zoos...There are more than 700 facilities in the U.S. that call themselves `zoos,' but only 137 of them are accredited by my organization...This is a time for those who care about wildlife to work together for its survival. With human population increasing at 90 million each year, zoos must be helped and encouraged to do more for wildlife preservation; for many wild creatures, zoos are their last chance." Robert Wagner, Executive Director, American Assn. of Zoological Parks and Aquariums. [The New York Times, July 6, 1991]

Gila be in jail a while

A California man was arrested in a 2 1/2 month undercover operation during which he sold officers several protected lizards and snakes (including Gila monsters). The value of animals in his collection at the time of his arrest was reported at over $5,000. The man may face 14 charges relating to importation, possession and sale of resticted or illegal wildlife. If convicted, he could receive a maximum of 15 years in prison and $150,000 in fines. [Arizona Republic, June 22, 1991, contributed by Tom Taylor of the Arizona Herpetological Association]

Federal Legislation pending

Bills introduced in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives are essentially timber industry wish lists which give timber harvest levels priority over all other environmental requirements, including the Endangered Species Act. The bills, H.R. 2463 and S. 1156, both called the Old Growth Forest Resources Management Act, also severely limit the right of citizens to challenge, in court, government actions which violate existing environmental laws. If enacted, the sweeping effect of these bills will be felt not only in the Pacific Northwest, but in every national forest in the country. Write to your reps and senators, now, asking them to oppose the weakening of the Endangered Species Act. Call 312-939-INFO if you need the name of your congressman. Alternatively, House Resolution 842, The Ancient Forest Protection Act of 1991, would protect tracts over 200 acres and strengthen the Endangered Species Act. Although Congress adjourned the 1991 session in July, your letters and comments on issues such as these are still needed. It would be nice for all our reps and senators to get back from vacation to full mailboxes, don't you think? [From many sources, primarily the Chicago Audubon Society and the National Wildlife Federation.]

4-H offers 5th-H

For the first time, Porter County Indiana 4-H club has offered a project in herpetology. Jon Orthman, 9, one of the participants said, "Kids in herpetology, they're different, but I can't put it into words." Dan Rozhon, 14, said, "we're more intelligent." The 5th-H project was organized by CHS member Chuck Keating. [From the Chicago Turtle Club Newsletter, June-July 1991.]

Snake terrifies Memphis housing project

A frightened family called 911 to rid their public housing apartment of a "green and black snake the size of a police nightstick." A half dozen police and animal catchers searched the apartment, some with shotguns ready, looking in closets, heating ducts, dresser drawers and anywhere they thought the snake might be. After 45 minutes, the search was called off. The alleged kingsnake (for such he must have been) apparently slithered out the way he came after all the commotion began. I wonder if he's back in his burrow watching re-runs of Miami Mice... [Memphis Commercial Appeal, August 4, 1991, contributed by Bill Burnett]

Alarm sounded for hot frogs

A radiation safety bulletin released by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Tennessee) said, "Frogs exhibiting detectable levels of radiation, some dead and some alive, have been found...Should a frog hop into or be found in your area, contact health physics (personnel) and have the frog checked for radioactivity...Return the frog to the retention pool if it is alive. Manage the frog as radioactive waste if it is dead and found...emitting detectable levels of radiation." The frogs gre up in the contaminated mud of a half-acre holding basin for wastewater from the lab's nuclear research conducted in the 1940's and 1950's. The lab's evnironmental coordinator, Frank Kornegay, said, "The frogs are not surface contaminated. You can't be (harmed) by rubbing them, picking them up or moving them around. Burt they are contaminated internally." He added that the frogs "aren't particularly cute, so I don't think anyone is going to take them home as pets." [Memphis Commercial Appeal, August 3rd, 1991, contributed by Bill Burnett]

Short takes

  • Florida authorities arrested a 38 year old Riviera Beach resident for digging up 111 sea turtle eggs. The judge can fine him up to $100 per egg. [Leesburg, FL, Daily Commercial July 19, 1991, contributed by Bill Burnett]
  • A Dade City resident is recovering from alligator bites he claims were received in self-defense, the authorities believe that he was trying to capture or kill a gator out of season. [Leesburg, FL, Daily Commercial, July 31, 1991, contributed by Bill Burnett]
  • Ellen Nicol's new book "Life with Turtles" is hot off the press. Softbound, this 4 1/2" by 8 1/2", 130 page book has 25 pen and ink sketches. The topics include 22 years of personal experiences with turtles and general advice on a variety of turtle-related subjects. Send $10.00 post paid to Ellen Nicol, P.O. Box 248, Anthony, FL 32617.
  • Iguanas lost and found in Memphis gave rise to slimy reporting including the now-famous "Leapin' Lizards" and other scaly jokes. The first escapee was reunited with its owner rapidly. Another loose iguana in Memphis become lost when it jumped off the owner's shoulder in a midtown parking lot. It was (at last report) still missing. [Memphis Commercial Appeal, July 19, 20 and 23, 1991, contributed by Bill Burnett]
  • A two-headed corn snake is alive and well at San Diego Zoo. The 3 1/2 foot long double header was received from a private collector. The heads are separate and perfect twins, which join into one body with a single spine and one set of internal organs. [Telegraph-Forum, Bucyrus, OH, July 9, 1991, contributed by Bill Burnett]
  • Anne Mazer, well known for charming children's books, has authored one which should be dear to our slimy little hearts. "The Salamander Room" is a story of a boy who brings home a little orange salamander and then tries to take care of it. Warning: if you don't keep salamanders now, this book will make you want one. [Chicago Tribune, July 14, 1991]

Roadside zoo loses animals

Two alligators purchased by the Rimrock Deer Park and Trading Post as an attraction either were released or escaped from their chain link enclosure in early July. The owner of the Post claimed he had proper permits, but the Colorado Division of Wildlife had written him a letter telling him to get rid of the critters, or else. One of the two was captured on the 16th of July while basking on the bank of the Colorado south of Fruita. The Colorado Division of Wildlife subsequently confiscated the gator and three alligator snapping turtles from the Trading Post. The other gator is presumed dead, although fishermen are calling the Wildlife folks daily claiming to have seen its beady little eyes peeking out of the chocolate colored waters. The snappers will be taken back to Louisiana. Continental Airlines has offered to fly the turtles to a wildlife rehabilitator in New Orleans. [The Daily Sentinel from early July to July 27th, 1991, contributed by Larry Valentine]

Request for information

Allen Salzberg of the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society wants to know if anyone knows of an humane way to passively trap snakes. Apparently there is an exterminator in New York that uses glue boards to capture unwanted herpetological animals. My personal experience is limited to one pet shop animal that went wandering one night and got stuck. We released him by rubbing with oil, but his next shed was not complete and he later died. His death could just as well have been a factor of bad care after the glue board incident, or it may have been related to his sticky capture. Persons with more information about snakes, glue boards and other methods of passive snake catching are urged to write NYTTS.

CHS member misquoted

You may remember an item in this column in June 1991 about a new magazine that completely misunderstood herpetological animals as pets. I said that the quotees had either been ignorant or misquoted, not knowing that their names hadn't even been spelled correctly! The "Glen Carlton" mentioned was really our own "Glen J. Carlzen" who has sent me a copy of the article, his list of corrections and his demand for a retraction which I reprint here, along with his note to me about the situation: July 15, 1991. Dear Ellin: This is a copy of my letter for a retraction. I was hoping no one would print or mention Animal House Magazine, so I am compelled to send you this letter and a copy of said article. Best wishes, Glen." His letter specified the article and the dates then continued: "I request you print a full retraction for the above mentioned article. I find this article to be a blatant example of yellow journalism. The article has no main focus or direction of purpose or content. This article as printed seriously damages my personal and professional reputation. I strongly urge you to write a full retraction to this article and print the correct information...Sincerely, Glen J. Carlzen." I hope that this situation gets taken care of by the editors of the magazine, but I know that they haven't responded to my letter, so maybe they just don't care.

With special thanks to all who contributed this month

My father's recovery is continuing nicely, but your continued efforts to send clippings, news, notes, letters and etcetera will result in longer (and I hope, more fun) columns. Next month, "What I did on my summer vacation" and more of the usual insanity. Please continue to send your contributions to my house, it speeds up the process immeasurably!

October 1991

"Everything was dead.

- Fish, turtles, snakes, everything in the immediate vicinity," said Maureen O'Neill, a Louisiana state water quality officer after observing the site of one of the baffling fish kills that have resulted in the mortality of not less than 750,000 dead fish this summer in that state. The Federal Environmental Protection Agency said that if a pesticide, azinphos-methyl, was behind the deaths, the Louisiana incidents would be among the largest pesticide related kills of the past decade. According to the State Department of Environmental Quality, fishermen and others have observed crop dusters spraying over or near bayous and canals before some of the kills. Three pilots have had their licenses suspended and one was arrested on charges of negligent injury after a spraying incident on August 9th when 6 people were treated at hospitals for injuries relating to the spraying of the town of Grosse Tete by the crop dusters. In a July incident in the same town, 80 gamefish and 7 bass died in a spring-fed pond behind the home of Cesar and Ruby Romero. Mr. Romero said, "The pilot was so close, our neighbor could tell he was blond." Declining amphibians, anyone? [The New York Times, August 21, 1991, contributed by P.L. Beltz]

Mutilated sea turtles

and other dead marine fauna continue to wash ashore on the beaches of Texas and Louisiana according to the most recent H.E.A.R.T. mailing: "Revised regulations strengthening conservation and enforcement for sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico have been delayed for months due to the tactics of Louisiana Representative Billy Tauzin. Since National Marine Fisheries Service was recently able to require TEDs (Turtle Excluder Devices) during the off season on shrimp trawls on the east coast, we expect the Gulf (of Mexico) regulations to be published - at last - in the Federal Register within a few weeks. They should call for TEDs year round in the Gulf as well as other improvements in the current regulations... There will be public hearings, but we must get many, many letters written within a short period... At present, shrimpers with smaller boats working in the bays can catch a sea turtle and drag it for 90 minutes without being penalized. This unenforceable rule which is a green-light for catching turtles must be dropped. Turtles are also caught and drowned during the off-season when TEDs are not required. We must not be forced to settle for a part-time use of TEDs... Only last week, a head-started turtle with a tag was found mutilate near the National Seashore at Corpus Christi. Carole Allen" The attached stranding report shows that although we are at half the average number of strandings from 1986-1990, the number of strandings reported is still and unacceptably high figure of 122. Reported strandings do not include hatchlings, and may not include juveniles. The data are also only indicative of how many dead, adult turtles are (a) washed ashore, not out to sea; and (2) found by someone who cares enough to report it. The actual figure is probably much higher. Please take a moment to write your representative and senator about the need for immediate implementation of administrative rules to make TEDs mandatory year-round off all U.S. coasts as well as in bays, rivers and estuarine habitats. Call 312-939-INFO if you need political information.

Scary numbers

were released in a United Nations report, The State of World Population 1991. In 1800, there were about one billion humans. There were two billions in 1920 and now there are 5.3 billion. By 2025, at current rates of growth, there will be 8.5 billion humans. It is fairly obvious that with such explosive growth rates there will be little room left for wildlife. We do need to protect what we still have. Please participate in conservation programs. The earth needs YOU. [Copies of the report are available from UNFPA/Division of Information, 220 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017 or call 212-297-5026.]

We'll missss you

- Clarence Wright, our beloved curator of reptiles at Lincoln Park Zoo, who came to Chicago five years ago to fill the position vacated by the death of Eddie Almandarz has left LPZ for another position. Recent reports in the Sun-Times newspaper (August 6th, and August 20th, 1991) may have led some readers to an erroneous conclusion that this resignation was sudden - or precipitated by events surrounding the recent acquisition of Goliath frogs by the Zoo. Clarence had first discussed resigning over a year ago and had submitted a formal, written resignation as of September in June, 1991. The loss of several Goliath frogs happened after June - and regardless of the stories being spread by Andy Koffman and other reptile importers - did not influence Clarence's position or intent to leave Lincoln Park Zoo. The black cloud cast by these irresponsible people on Wright's reputation should be repudiated by any CHS member forced to listen to their fantasies. Clarence Wright worked miracles in our reptile house, limited (as are all curators at that highly unionized institution) by factors known to all who are familiar with LPZ. We wish him well in his new position and are very sorry that he won't be with us in Chicago for the construction of the new reptile house that has been designed for LPZ under his direction and guidance.

Lincoln Park restorations

- CHS members are probably most familiar with Lincoln Park as a tough place to park on a last Wednesday when going to the Chicago Academy of Sciences. However, it has a long and interesting history beginning as dunes and wetlands in 1865, and developing into the present day 1,212 acre linear park/beach/zoo/parking lot complex we know and struggle through. 20 of citizens' groups and the Chicago Park District have just completed their Status Report on Management and Restoration for Lincoln Park and are looking for volunteers to begin the implementation... Please be advised that no matter how much time you devote to this project you will still not be able to legally park on the grass at the Academy!

"Hunting is a croc"

proclaimed animal activists' signs at a recent protest of alligator hunting in Florida. The occasion was the permit lottery for the states' fourth legal hunt to control gator population. Permits are $250.00 and 186 were issued. 15,209 people applied for permits, 25 demonstrators showed up at the protest. [Daily Commercial, Leesburg, FL, September 3, 1991, contributed by Bill Burnett]

Television may have saved his life

George Blinn, a 71-year-old retired autoworker fell into a canal that leads into Florida's Withlacooche River and was grabbed by an alligator. The gator bit him on the left hand, then turned him over in the water in an apparent effort to drown his `prey'. The autoworker said he had long been a fan of nature shows such as Wild Kingdom, and knew about the animal's general behavior. "I wasn't a bit afraid. I knew what they usually do. I was more concerned about getting away from him." the victim said. He jammed his thumb in the alligator's eye. The gator promptly let go and the man escaped. "People who are attacked should fight for all they can and hope the gator lets them loose." Mr. Blinn said. The alligator was destroyed by Florida Game and Fish. [Daily Commercial, August 17, 1991, contributed by Bill Burnett]

Indonesian frog bands

are explained in a hand-out from Eastern Arts a store located in New York's Greenwich Village. "The Balinese believe the frog to be symbolic of the transmigration of the soul (evidenced by the various stages of development from egg to tadpole, to full grown frog). Buy why the instruments? One has only to go to Bali and stand amidst the rice fields at night to be able to fully appreciate the symphony that a thousand frogs can create with their varying multipitched voices, to be able to understand how easily the Balinese might conjure up images of frogs toting instruments in the velvet dark of a typical night in Bali."

Indonesian turtles

will be protected according to the minister for the environment in Jakarta. Six species, some protected by international accords, live in Indonesian waters. Tourists spend millions of dollars annually on turtle products such as shells and jewelry. [Wall Street Journal, July 10, 1991, contributed by P.L. Beltz]

Tick, tick, ticks

Which carry the dread Lyme Disease? Only the small ones as we've been told time and again. But, how do you know which small ones have it after you've been bitten? The Illinois Natural History Survey can help. Send the tick in question to John K. Bouseman, I.N.H.S., Center for Economic Entomology, 607 E. Peabody Drive, Champaign, IL 61820. [North Park Village Nature Association Newsletter, Summer, 1991, contributed by Laurel Ross]

Revenge of the amphibians

According to a Reuters report from the Nicosia, Cyprus bureau (August 29) that was reprinted in the International Section of the New York Times, August 30, 1991: "The Iranian port of Qazian has been invaded and occupied - by frogs. The Iranian new agency said today that frogs had been `occupying city streets and encroaching on houses in large swarms' since Monday. The agency blamed rising water levels in nearby marshes and a defunct frog-breeding and canning factory that has been closed since the 1979 Islamic revolution." [contributed by P.L. Beltz] This report comes from the same bureau that sent out the story (still unconfirmed) that a snake shot an Iranian hunter by triggering a dropped firearm.

New turtle crossing signs

were installed on Pennsylvania Route 252 at Springton Reservoir in Delaware County. The signs urge motorists to be alert for turtles crossing the roads to lay their eggs in surrounding areas. Harold Schaeffer of Broomall convinced the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to erect the signs after seeing too many meandering turtles crushed last year. The first batch of signs were promptly stolen and PennDOT put up new ones two months later. [Daily Times, Delaware County, August 12, 1991, contributed by Pattie Marrandino]

One hundred seventy years ago

on October 8, 1871, the first Academy of Sciences burned to the ground. Recently, I received a photocopy of a book written by M.E. and E. W. Blatchford describing the Chicago Fire for their children. I assume the book is both privately printed and rare, and therefore would like to share with you the eyewitness account of the appearance of the Academy when Mr. Blatchford and Professor William Stimson, the first Director of CAS, saw their formerly beautiful building: "The east front of the Museum in its dreadfully wounded condition rose supplicatingly before us. On an improvised ladder we worked out way, aided by men, into the first story. What a tangled, complicated mass of ruin met our gaze! Gas pipes wildly hung in every direction; iron supports and delicate gallery railings strangely mingled. The choice glass and metal cages were demolished and robbed of every precious form of animal life. And the dear Library! containing our invaluable collection of Natural History literature, of the many richly illustrated works, a favorite form of gifts from friends...only surpassed in our own country by that of the Smithsonian...All, all were gone. The polished southern-pine floors had furnished a savage fuel to complete the distressing destruction on every hand. Words fail to depict the scene." Of particular interest to both men was the fire-proof vault that was in the basement because it contained the only copy of Stimson's manuscript on the fishes, illustrated by some of the best known artists of the day. Stimson's fishes was considered by its reviewers, including S.F. Baird at the Smithsonian to be the best work on the Ichthyology of the new world to its date. When Blatchford and Stimson had themselves lowered into the basement: "[We]... over accumulated rubbish worked our way to the vault. I was astounded beyond measure to find its iron door partly torn from its hinges and the vault open! ... The heavy stone cornice of the building had fallen and crashed through the vault's ten inch thick roof, strange but fatal fall, and admitted the fire. What a sight was before us!...The precious manuscript - one of the scientific treasures of the century...lay a blackened charred mass on the floor...We were speechless, Stimson leaned heavily upon me. A dire blow had been given him.." Stimson never recovered from the shock of the loss of his life's work and died soon thereafter. Also lost in the Chicago fire were the specimens collected by Robert Kennicott, although some were replaced by pieces of the collection he had deposited at Northwestern University. The Academy of Sciences was rebuilt by the Blatchfords and other wealthy Chicagoans in its present location in Lincoln Park, twelve years after the destruction of the first Academy. [Thanks to the rare book librarian at the Chicago Historical Society]

Big snakes on the rampage

Several recent news items have documented loose and badly treated large reptiles. Here is a selection: 1.) NY Newsday, June 24, 1991: "A 12-foot pet python wrapped itself around a 9-year-old boy and was trying to swallow him when help arrived to rescue him...`The snake had its mouth around the boy's foot,' said Fire Department spokesman Bob Caldon. `It was looking for its next meal.'" [contributed by Allen Salzberg, NYTTS] 2.) "Pet boa eludes snake hunt by owner...[Lisa] Relph, who has had snakes and other reptiles as pets for much of her life, now suspects that [her 6-year-old boa constrictor] Civa might have been stolen when she was gone from home last weekend. `In the five years I've had him, he's never gotten out of his tank once,' she said of the 6 1/2-foot red tailed boa, which she says is worth $1,000." [The Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, CO, contributed by Larry Valentine] 3.) "Cops put squeeze on fugitive python...This snake's street-slithering days are hiss-story. The 10-foot python was coolly slip-sliding down Lafayette Street near Canal yesterday wondering wy everyone was recoiling in horror. Rattled neighbors called the cops and Fifth Precinct Police Officers David Chen and Pete Cruz begged the creepy crawler...The python was `starved,' according to ASPCA manager Dan Russell, who took custody of the delinquent reptile...Some of the cops at the Fifth dubbed the beast `Brennan' in honor of their well-loved precinct captain, Patrick Brennan. How does the snake feel about that? You'll have to asp him." [The New York Post, July 9, 1991, contributed by Allen Salzberg, NYTTS] Does anybody out there think that after the so-called deadly garter snake incident and the continuing string of snake escapes and attempted human feedings reported in the press that we may be facing even more restrictive reptile legislation? The python eats boy story was reported in at least 20 clippings sent to me by alert readers, it was even picked up overseas by German and Japanese newspapers. Some reports said the snake was loose in the house, others said that the boy had been playing with it. This is the sort of story that merely adds fuel to the fire of fear experienced by reptile-haters. Please, if you know inexperienced or careless keepers, do try to get them involved in responsible herp-maintenance. Try to have them join their local herp society and show them how to make escape-proof lids a part of their life. A sheet of plywood and a rock is simply NOT ENOUGH.

Snake-a-way, snake repellent

was studied by Harvey B. Lillywhite, Department of Zoology at the University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. I've just been sent a copy of the study by Tom Ellis, Business Manager for Dr. T's Nature Products Company which markets the stuff. In brief, the study used neonate and freshly caught snakes of different types in enclosures of both "Y" and "O" shapes. The repellent worked better on some snakes than others and always worked better in the Y-enclosures. Rattlesnakes and boids were most affected by the product, but cottonmouths didn't seem to notice it. Lillywhite concluded: "Snake-a-way could be sold as a general snake repellent provided that package labeling for the product informs potential buyers that results will vary with species and not all snakes can be expected to avoid the product...It would be appropriate for the label to say that the product works especially well against rattlesnakes and repels about 90% of such snakes during field tests...Thus, it seems that Snake-a-way has the potential to be of service to many people who are concerned about the presence of snakes. Moreover, biologists and other persons interested in ecological stability, biodiversity and the conservation of wildlife should favor the use of a product which allows people to repel snakes from their property rather than killing them." If you'd like more information about this rather unusual product, contact Dr. T's, P.O. Box 682, U.S. 19 North, Pelham, GA 31779. [The original clipping on this was sent in by a member, and unfortunately mislaid. However, a big "thank you" to whomever it was, you know if `twas you!]

Atrox-ities continue

John Levell sent in a copy of an article from CHIC [October 1991], which he says is "a sleazy men's rag on the order of Hustler mag. Please note; altho the article states `diamondback' the photo is obviously of a trimber rattler, Crotalus horridus, probably a canebrake." The article is an interview with John McDilda, a car repair person from Claxton, GA, who has been the person responsible for collecting the most ratttlesnakes turned in to the Claxton, GA rattlesnake roundup. The article also claims that this roundup is the biggest in America. Buried down amidst the rest of the manure about pouring gas into holes in the ground is a little tidbit that roundup protestors might find interesting: "CHIC: What happens to the snakes once the roundup is over? McDILDA: They sell them at $10 a foot. A company buys them, milks them five or six times for their venom, then chops off their heads and makes belt buckels out of them. Then they skin them, take the hide and can the meat. They use every part of the snake. CHIC: Do you ever eat diamondback? McDILDA: Yeah, we were cookin' it at the festival till the FDA stopped us. It's a real white meat - tastes kinda like a pork chop. Once you cook it at 104 degrees [F or C not stated] there's no venom." I'd like to know for what reason the FDA stopped the sale of rattler meat at Claxton and if those reasons would also stop the sale of rattler meat at the Oklahoma and Texas roundups. Can anybody track this down?

Thanks to all contributors

this month's column is as big as and maybe bigger than last month's. There's still some material that's been sent in that I haven't used yet - but don't stop sending those strange clippings, letters and quotes. Sooner or later, they all get used!

November 1991

Membership Information

As many of you know, this will be my last term as C.H.S. Membership Secretary. Steve and Jan Spitzer who have been handling membership mailings for the Chicago Turtle Club will be taking over the massive task of maintaining the membership list, mailing out all the cards and packages, as well as developing new memberships and representing the C.H.S. at meetings and events. Please let's give them a chance to get started without too much confusion! For example, WRITE - don't call, if you have changes of address. We have almost 1900 members, I get about 100 calls a month on address changes, name changes, membership problems, new member requests, etcetera (3 per day). Steve and Jan have two adorable toddlers who take naps and play and distract their parents and eat phone messages! Please, pick up a pen and write your request, then mail it to: C.H.S., 2001 N. Clark, Chicago, IL 60614. Can't be that tough to write, type or scrawl - plenty of people do it. ALSO, if you are one of the students who changes address two or even four times per year, please write and send your changes in advance to the Society, Steve and Jan won't know who you are and even though I will be showing them what I do and how I've done it, that's no guarantee that personal services such as gypsy changes will be remembered. Also, please remember to type or at least write neatly. I used to work for a medical doctor and can read just about anything, Steve and Jan shouldn't have to try to figure out hieroglyphics just to change your address. The Membership Secretary job takes about 40 hours a month, now that I know what I'm doing. When I started it was every Saturday and Sunday for several months, 8 to 12 hours a day. In those days we only had about 800 members! Best of luck to Steve and Jan (they're going to need it).

Chicagoland uber allium

The Chicago Wild Onion Alliance, a group of concerned environmentalists, planners and friends is beginning to publish their bioregional newspaper here in the Windy City. Called Downwind, this author has made a small contribution to the C.W.O.A. by drawing a cartoon of a treefrog clutching an Allium stem with the headline of this paragraph for a caption. If enough interest is generated, tee-shirts will be made.

Wooden yew know

For years concerned folks have been saying, "We've got to save these plants and animals, because any one of them could contain a cure for cancer." For years, we've been scoffed at and ridiculed by non-environmental people who say, "We can make what we need with chemicals." Well, we now have a classic example in the Pacific yew trees that grow (or grew) in the ancient forests of the Pacific northwestern U.S. Loggers have cut and burned out the trees believed to be "yews-less", but a derivative of yew bark has found to be an effective cancer fighting drug. As much as 87 percent of the Pacific yew habitat (with all its faunal allies) has been cut, burned or otherwise ruined. The Department of Agriculture and Bristol-Myers Squibb have signed a management agreement for yew trees growing on national forest land. The agreement provides funds to inventory and study the remaining trees. Finding a cancer drug in this tree formerly considered a "weed" underscores the need not only to protect this tree, but entire ancient ecosystems. Mother Nature has had millions of years to play with her chemistry set - we shouldn't ruin it all in two human generations. [National Wildlife, EnviroAction, September, 1991]

Snake reunited with owner

Sammy, a 5-foot ball python, lived undetected in a house for nine months, seven months longer than his owner who had moved. The new tenants discovered the python on the floor of a closet. The police were called. Two officers were unable to catch the snake, but snake expert Ed Alcorn did. Sammy had a slithery reunion with his 12-year-old owner. How did he get out in the first place? The owner said, "This one piece on the screen was broken and she pushed it up." Now please, a screen lid for a python? When will they ever learn? Plywood, screens, plastic sheeting and glass with rocks or books on top is NOT ENOUGH to keep in a large and active animal such as a python. Buy a big Neodesha and lock it or bolt it. The C.H.S. sells these tanks which are just about as escape proof as you can get - and they look nice, too. [Leesburg Daily Commercial, September 8, 1991, contributed by Bill Burnett]

Another Oregon Herp Society Newsletter

For the third time in three years, this writer has received an Oregon Herp Society Newsletter. I really don't know if they only publish one a year (or so) or whether they send me one every once in a while so I can publicize their organization in this column. The newsletter is laser printed this time and is very readable. It mentions quite a few meetings and events they've had and will have. If you've an interest in the herpetofauna of Oregon, are a compulsive newsletter collector, or reside in the Northwest, you may want to subscribe. Dues are $5.00 per year, send your request to Deanne DuFresne, OHS Treasurer, 380 East 46th Avenue, Eugene OR 97405-3417. [Contributed by John S. Applegarth]

A glimpse of stocking is looked on as something shocking

Rural Missouri Magazine (September, 1991) reports on several snake rumors that simply won't die: "No, the Missouri Department of Conservation is not swapping wild turkeys for rattlesnakes and it certainly isn't dropping rattlers from helicopters over Callaway County, Howell County, or any other county for that matter. Apparently the Conservation Department is so plagued by persistent rumors of `save the rattlesnake' type activity it has decided to attack the stories head on. A recent news release says that rumors of snake stocking have been around since the Depression. The department says the rumors have prompted angry outcries from `everyone from farmers to congressmen' but none of the stories are based in fact. According to the release, the Conservation Department has never stocked rattlesnakes anywhere in the state. `It's one of the most stubborn myths we've ever encountered,' reptile specialist Tom Johnson says of the rumor. `Sometimes I think we'd have to find out where it sleeps and drive a stake through its heart to get rid of it.'" [Contributed by Mr. Laverne Copeland]

Possible source of Missouri's new rumors

Several readers including K. Ellett (Greenville, NY) and Ron Caspari (New York, NY) sent clippings from the New York Times and the New York Post, both dated July 31, 1991. Apparently a hiker abducted 5 timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) last year. When he found out that what he had done violated New York State Law, he contacted state environmental officials, turned the animals over and paid his $100 fine. The animals were kept at the Wildlife Resources Center while their condition was analyzed and then released in an unknown but remote area in Orange County. Officials warned local residents of fines up to $1,000 if any rattlers are killed or harmed - even in self defense. One New York Assemblyman, John Bonacic, blasted the released, allegedly saying that the animals should have been shipped out of state! He said, "It's the most asinine thing I ever heard of. It increases the danger to the community and makes no sense." Another Assembly member, Nancy Calhoun said, "Anyone with small children would be very upset to find out the state is putting additional rattlesnakes in our area." Edward S. Feldmann, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Conservation said, "When a species is endangered or threatened, we guard their numbers very carefully. The fact that these happen to be rattlesnakes, not four-legged furry things that go hippety-hop is not relevant here." Alvin Breisch, a senior wildlife biologist for the state, said that he estimated the odds of someone being bitten by one of the snakes just released as "very very close to zero." He also mentioned that all recorded cases of rattlesnake bites in New York State involved people who had picked up the snakes or were trying to feed them. The New York Times said "a variety of state lawmakers said today that they did not know enough about the matter to comment on it" a tasteful understatement not shared by the more sensational New York Post from which the legislators' comments were quoted. One assumes that these articles were repeated through the rumor network and ended up as the most recent bunch of Missouri non-urban legends.

Slowly, slowly he lived

Two residents of Wooster, Ohio found a box turtle with carving on both sides of the shell. One of the carvers is still alive and, although he didn't remember carving his name and the date, when shown the turtle said it was something he would have done as a child. The turtle has been crawling around the Wooster area at least since 1931. The carver said, "I guess they only get so big. It's probably the same size now as it was then. That area there - it's all strip mines. With the farmers planting, the mining equipment and the automobiles crossing the roads, that turtle's survived a pretty good life." The finders will release the turtle where it was found. [Wooster Daily Record, Wooster, OH, September 13, 1991, contributed by Steven Frantz]

Zoovival extinct

Alert readers of many natural history publications may remember an organization by the name of Zoovival that advertised widely in 1989 and 1990. They said that individuals could make money breeding endangered animals and were mentioned in publications from Smithsonian to Buzzworm. They wanted $2 or $3 to send an information package. I sent them the money, read all the material when it arrived a significant time later, discussed the material with our editor (MAD) and filed it in a category I have of "when I'm sure they're real, I'll mention them." Now come clippings from two C.H.S. members (Phyllis Ruther and Mike Gascoyne) which give the whole sad story... Zoovival was founded by Gregory Cunningham in 1989. Members paid $24 to receive information on how to purchase breeding stock and a quarterly newsletter. Over 3,000 people signed up. Even with all that money, Cunningham said that they couldn't pay their expenses. At the end of 1990, Zoovival split into the non-profit Biosurvival Trust, directed by Nicole Duplaix and the profit oriented Biosurvival, Inc. run by Cunningham. Cunningham claims that Biosurvival went under because a former employee stole about $30,000 worth of animals, tools and other items, leaving the organization broke and about $5,000 in debt. Charges were not filed, the date of the theft or the former employee's name not made public. Cunningham has pledged that he will personally repay the $5,000, which primarily represents deposits paid by members for animals on order. Cunningham says that something like Zoovival/Biosurvival will be refounded by him when this cloud has been cleared. The article says that both these organizations were based in Clearwater, Florida, although I was unable to get either an address or phone number to pass along. [Chicago Sun Times, August 24, 1991]

Turtle study solves mystery

Jonathan Art, assistant professor of pharmacological and physiological sciences at the University of Chicago Medical Center has been studying the function of hair cells in human ears. Just how they work isn't fully clear, but Dr. Art has solved some of the mystery by studying plain, old red eared sliders. No, he's not studying the ear flashes, but their actual auditory system which has the unique property of continuing to function for 12 hours without oxygen. [Good Health Magazine, Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, October 6, 1991]

The "I don't know if this is true" department

National Enquirer, always known for the high quality of their science reporting writes: "When a colony of African reed frogs faces a `manpower shortage' they solve it in an astonishing way - the female frogs simply turn themselves into males!...`The frogs change sex only when there are too many females,' said Dr. Edward Linsenmair...professor of zoology at the University of Wurzburg in Germany...The reed found in Africa, south of the Sahara desert. The hardy little creature can withstand daily temperatures of 100 degrees for up to 100 days without ever taking in moisture or food. Scientists are baffled by the frog's ability to sit under the blazing African sun so long without getting sunburned. [Contributed by Mark Paul Henderson, no date on clipping, but too good to pass up anyway]

Stamp out extinction

If you've ever wanted to lick the dorsum of a sea turtle or other reptile, perhaps you should take a minute to write to the Citizen's Stamp Advisory Council asking for endangered herps on U.S. postal stamps. [From California Turtle and Tortoise Club, Tortuga Gazette, September, 1991, contributed by Jill Horwich] It's kind of a shame cane toads couldn't be considered... it would be a legal way to lick `em.

Rob Streit strikes again

Rob is the only herpetologist I know about to have made syndicated columnist Dave Barry sit up and notice. He also has an astonishing number of family members all of whom are listed as C.H.S. members! Now, he's sent in a clipping in Czechoslovakian which he translated into English, typed up neatly and mailed. Talk about extra effort! Anyway, the clipping is from Mlady svet magazine, Volume 33, Number 21, 1991. Titled "Pomoc! Morsky had!" the English is "Help! Sea Snake! For several years now we have been reading scientists' warnings of all the things that could happen to our planet as a result of the greenhouse effect and atmospheric warming. To the list of catastrophic predictions we may now add one that will alarm first and foremost the inhabitants of coastal areas. According to British zoologist Monty Pried, the rising temperature of the seas and a shift in ocean currents will cause one of the world's deadliest snakes to appear in great numbers along the shores of Western Europe, the sea snake Pelamis platurus, which now inhabits areas of the Indian Ocean and Pacific." The 80 cm long snakes spend 87 percent of their life below the surface and can dive to 50 meters. They can stay down for over three hours on occasion, even though scientists believe that their reserve of oxygen should only be good for about 17 minutes. New studies reveal that they absorb more oxygen from sea water. Their venom is reported to be twice as potent as cobra venom and they will be inhabiting the shores of Western Europe only if the waters become warmer than 18 degrees C. The article fails to mention that if that much warming does occur, the melting of polar ice will probably submerge many of those coastal areas long before sea snakes would pose any threat to human life. In any case, this clipping is perhaps the most unusual one I've received since I started this column in November, 1986.

Legislative Update

Glen Kruse, Project Manager at the Illinois Department of Conservation has sent me the most recently published copy of the proposed rules for the taking of reptiles and amphibians. He stated in his letter that CHS members could comment until October 20. I received his letter far too late to put it in the October Bulletin. Glen's letter reads, "Not much has been changed since the first draft that you have already seen. We added Section 880.20 (c) and 880.20 (d) to better define legal methods for taking turtles and frogs. This had always been vague in the Fish Code." Section 880.20 (c) reads: "Bullfrogs may be taken only by hook and line, gig, spear, bow and arrow, hand, or dip net." Section 880.20 (d) reads: "No person shall take or possess any species of reptile or amphibian listed as endangered or threatened in Illinois (17 Ill. Adm. Code 1010), except as provided by 17 Ill. Adm. Code 1070." Since neither of those sections says much about turtles, I'm also including Section 880.20 (b) which says: "Turtles may be taken only by hand, hook and line, or dip net." I think what Glen may have meant to write was that 880.20 (b) and (c) had been changed. I don't see any other changes to what we previously published nor do I personally have a problem with any aspect of these administrative rules.
Legislation Pending in U.S. Congress - would phase out and subsequently outlaw importing wild birds into the United States. The World Wildlife Federation, the National Audubon Society and the National Wildlife Foundation support the two companion bills introduced in Congress. Known as the Exotic Bird Conservation Act of 1991, H.R. 2541 and S. 1218 slowly outlaw imports while promoting captive breeding to supplant the demand for pet birds and thereby undercutting the black market. The bills will 1.) establish a regulatory system to govern legal imports of wild birds after the phaseout; 2.) establish civil and criminal penalties for violations; 3.) authorize citizen suits to force compliance; and 4.) establish a fund to support the conservation and management of birds in exporting countries. H.R. 2541/S. 1218 should not be confused with two other bills (H.R. 2540 and S. 1219). Concerns have been raised that the latter pair are too restrictive of legal imports and not supportive of captive breeding. [National Wildlife, EnviroAction, October, 1991]

Cruelty to reptiles

For the first time in Massachusetts history, a complaint has been issued by the Haverhill court against a man for cruelty to a snapping turtle. Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) investigated neighbor's complaints that the defendant had boiled a snapping turtle to death and eaten it. The enforcement officer, Lisa Greaney, told the man "this was against the law. I told him it's inhumane. I told him it was painful to the turtle. And he said, `But I have this cookbook...' He thought what I was saying was a joke.'" If convicted the boiler could receive fines up to $1,000 and one year in jail. [MSPCA Magazine, Animals, July/September 1991, contributed by Larry Pearson, D.V.M.]

C.H.S. Member, Whit Gibbons on the Reptile Expo

Dr. Gibbons, the President of the Herpetologist's League, and researcher at the Savanna River Ecology Lab in Aiken, S.C. is a columnist for The Tuscaloosa in Alabama. This particular column was syndicated to the Florida Leesburg Daily Commercial (September 22, 1991) whence it was clipped by contributor extraordinary, Bill Burnett. To quote Whit: "The captive-bred reptile trade is controversial at many levels. The Expo is attempting to dispel some of the doubts critics have about the profession. One criticism is that reptiles acquired as pets are often ill-housed, poorly fed, or otherwise mistreated, mainly because many owners do not know how to care for them. Another controversial issue associated with captive breeding of wild animals is whether this is truly a form of conservation. One position is that making a species available to the pet trade through captive-bred stock reduces the incentive to capture the species in the wild. And captive-raised animals are often more desirable as pets because they are healthier and free of parasites. However, opponents of this position claim that development of a pet trade creates a market, thus encouraging the capture of wild specimens... When it is legal to sell only animals born and raised in captivity then poaching, smuggling, and illegal importation of wild-caught specimens occur." I'm going to stop the quoting for a second here to comment that those three little dots don't represent any reasoning sufficient to arrive at the sentence after them; and that the last sentence is just as much a non sequitur in the original clipping as it is here. Perhaps some editor's scissors took the reasoning - or perhaps Whit thinks the reasons are obvious. I don't follow it, though. He continues: "Illegal activities are most likely to occur when it is cheaper to catch an animal in the wild than to raise one to the same age or size. However, once it becomes appreciably cheaper to raise a species in captivity, illegal practices involving wild capture dwindle in response to the profit loss. The issue is a difficult one to resolve for the simple reason that regardless of the profession, some do not play by the rules." He said he enjoyed the Expo so much that he never visited any other attractions in Orlando! I'd like to point out that in reptile-breeding and dealing has just been recognized, in print, as a "professional" activity. Let's keep it professional - and police our own. Don't hesitate to let your fellow herpers know about unsavory characters and activities in the trade. Don't forget to complain to the persons themselves. Don't buy illegal animals and don't participate in illegal activities. Violators just wreck it for the rest of us!

CHS readers

have certainly begun contributing to this column in record numbers! Believe me, it is appreciated... A few months ago I mentioned I'd report on my summer trip wherein I met quite a number of herpetologists (including Roger Conant!) and had a few herpetological adventures. The number of articles contributed keeps pushing this to the background but, someday you'll hear all about it. Just a quick note, I've never before experienced "professional/amateur" prejudice before this year, but boy did a couple of Ph.D.'s rip into me this year. It's really ironic since I've just restarted my academic career and intend to join their lofty ranks one of these days. I promise, no matter how many degrees I get, I'll try never to act like that to anyone, degreed or non-degreed. I've heard about that attitude, but nothing could have prepared me for the sheer venom aimed at me for just answering their questions. Perhaps they're jealous... C.H.S. is now known to be a larger society than two of the "professional" groups. If the attitude I was treated to is any indication, we're growing because of we are much nicer to potential members!

December 1991

Rafael recovered

Jose Canesco, better known as a slugger for the Oakland Athletics baseball team, also keeps tortoises at his home near Danville, CA. Recently, a 30-pounder named Rafael escaped from his backyard cage. The sheriff's department found and rounded up the escapee and returned it to the cinder block cage which Rafael shares with other tortoises, some of whom weigh up to 100 pounds. [Mount Vernon, IL Register-News, October 10, 1991, contributed by Debbie Hatchett]

The kiss of pet

An 8-year-old Hutchinson, KS boy and a foot-long turtle ended their best-buddy relationship with a lip-lock. The boy had been repeatedly warned to keep the pet away from his face by his parents. The child had a swollen lip, the turtle will be going to the local zoo. [AP, Gary, IN Post-Tribune, November 14, 1991, contributed by Chuck Keating and Grand Junction, CO, Daily Sentinel, November 13, 1991, contributed by Larry Valentine]

Floridian saves freak turtles

Ken Robertson, of Lakeland Florida, has three weird turtles. The 4-year-old has two heads and is described by its owner as "real shy, but if it's me, he'll come up to the top." His 3-year-old two header is "kind of nosy, it wants to know it all." The youngest is a "Siamese turtle," different from the two headers in that it has two shells, joined down the middle, and the usual two heads and four legs. From the newspaper photos, all appear to be red-eared sliders. [The Ledger, Lakeland, FL, October 30, 1991, contributed by Melody Smith]

Eggpoacher wins court case

Readers of this column may remember James Bivens who was fined $100 per sea turtle egg he had collected from the John D. MacArthur State Park on Singer Island, FL in early 1989. In September, 1991, the 4th District Court of Appeal overruled the first judge's ruling which would have fined Mr. Bivens $108,800 for the eggs. The court ruled that because lawmakers excluded "turtle eggs" from the penalty section of the state law, a judge can only fine a poacher for taking a turtle, not turtle eggs. Sounds like it is time for the Florida herpetological societies to get busy and get this law changed! I suspect this is not the last we will hear of Mr. Bivens and turtle eggs. [Leesburg, FL, Daily Commercial, September 20, 1991, contributed by Bill Burnett]

Sidelined by rattler

A high school football player in Leesburg, FL had to stay out of a recent game because he had been bitten by an 8-inch pygmy rattler. He admitted it was his own fault, that he had not been paying attention and had been walking around without shoes. The paramedics applied a tight tourniquet and transported him to the nearest hospital where he received antivenin. [Leesburg, FL, Daily Commercial, September 19, 1991, contributed by Bill Burnett

Electroshock again

A snake rancher in Pine Bluff, Arkansas who catches and raises snakes for snake skin was bitten by one of his water moccasins and went to Jefferson Regional Medical Center. Dr. Jesse Clanton handled the case by administering electric shock from a stun gun kept by a nurse in her purse for self defense. The swelling allegedly went down after treatment, but the Dr. Clanton says that he wouldn't necessarily recommend it to others. [Arkansas Gazette, July 23, 1991, contributor from Little Rock forgot to put their return address on the envelope. Thanks anyway!]

On the other hand

a recent report in the Annals of Emergency Medicine [1991;20:659] describes possible untoward consequences of using electricity as a snake bite treatment. The case discussed is that of the patient bitten on the upper lip while handling his pet rattlesnake. The man then was helped by his neighbor to shock his lip with a spark plug lead, while the other man revved the engine for about five minutes. The patient became unconscious with the first charge. Rescue workers transported him to a hospital by helicopter. He developed severe facial laryngeal and neck swelling, coagulation, a hypersensitivity to antivenin and hypotension. Four days later he was released, although he required reconstructive surgery to his upper lip where the tissue loss had been greatest. Dr. Peter Chyka, the director of the Southern Poison Center in Memphis, TN, writes "Until proven effective, electrical therapy for snake bite is not warranted as first aid for snake envenomation in this country." Dr. Chyka's article on proper snake bite treatment appeared in the Memphis Health Care News, July, 19, 1991 - four days before the above incident in Arkansas! [contributed by Robert Greene, M.D.]

Flower power?

BBC Wildlife Magazine [September 1991] reports that the Madeira lizard Lacerta muralis dugesii a local subspecies of the widespread European wall lizard appears to regularly drink the nectar of flowers. Such behavior has never been reported previously in any lizard species and it is presently unknown whether the lizards do any pollinating in exchange for their sweet treats. [contributed by Jim Harding]

Owner loses pet alligators

After two rulings in his favor by lower courts, John M. Butler of Miami, FL, has lost an appeals court case, effectively denying him the ability to keep two 4-foot alligators as pets. Mr. Butler had applied for a state permit in November 1989, but game officers denied the request after checking out his mobile home in suburban Miami. The decision of the Third District Court of appeals read, "When the officers arrived they found both alligators in the respondent's bed." Mr. Butler was bleeding from gator bites at the time. The assistant state's attorney noted, "This put these officers on notice that something was not right there." Game officers confiscated the alligators and cited Butler who sued, arguing his property had been taken without a hearing. [The Grand Junction, CO, Daily Sentinel, November 1, 1991, contributed by Larry Valentine]

Wildlife forensics

are being developed to trace illegal animal and animal parts shipments by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Forensic Laboratory in Ashland, OR. Researchers can tell the differences in many products that were hidden inside legal shipments, such as illegal elephant ivory claimed to be legal Siberian mammoth ivory. Work proceeds on other groups including snakes, crocodilians and turtles. [The New York Times, October 29, 1991, contributed by P.L. Beltz]

"Lunching lawmen liberate lifted lizard"

proclaims the Southtown Economist in a banner headline on page one [October 23, 1991]. The lizard in question - and the captured thief - have both been in the news before. The same man, Jeffrey A. Mrozek, stole the same lizard, Ziggy a pet shop's mascot, last spring. In the most recent incident, he entered and exited the pet shop quickly. The owner called police immediately and two lunching officers had just heard the theft described on their radios when Mrozek walked into a local dining spot with Ziggy on his shoulder! The shop owner was summoned and retrieved the reptile directly from the restaurant. Mrozek was charged with felony retail theft. The perpetrator was quoted by the shop owner as saying, "He told me we weren't paying enough attention to the iguana when he was in there, that's why he took him. He said he wouldn't have taken him if I had been playing with him." [contributed by K.S. Mierzwa]

Quote of the Month

Sallie Tisdale on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times, October 26, 1991: "People versus people. The salmon are squeezed in the dams, between fishermen and the power companies. The spotted owl is driven from one shrinking island to another. The loggers are hurting, like the fishermen, like the cancer patients. My mother died of cancer a few years ago and both my sister and I are at risk for a death like hers. I would welcome almost any cure - but I reject the notion that our human future requires the sacrifice of the human habitat, the earth...The forest, like any ecosystem, is an organism greater than the sum of its parts. Take away all the tall trees, or all the spotted owls and it slowly bleeds to death. Whole, the forest makes and keeps great secrets: secrets like taxol, going up in smoke." [contributed by P.L. Beltz]

Recipes from hell

Readers may remember a man prosecuted for cruelty to reptiles who claimed he was just following a recipe. Alert reader, Robert Sliwinski, loaned me a cookbook from which I believe that recipe to have been taken. The snapping turtle recipe is not the only awful advice on the preparation of reptiles as food. excerpts from these horrors: "Lay two dozen frogs on their backs. Cut from the neck along the side of the belly and cut again across the middle of the belly..." "Success in preparing turtle depends a great deal on proper dressing of your catch. Scrub all mud and dirt from turtle, cut off head and toes. Secure turtle to a large plank, breast side up by piercing centre of breastbone with a spike..." "Stewed terrapin. Terrapins must be alive. Plunge four terrapins into boiling water and let them remain until the sides and lower shell begin to crack..." "White Stew of Terrapin. Cut off heads and soak in cold water to draw out blood..." The cook book is called "Wild Game Cook Book II" and is published by Gateway Publishing Co., Ltd., 811 Pandora Avenue W., Winnipeg, Manitoba R2C 2Z9. It is the type of cookbook "overprinted" for fundraising use by local organizations so will appear with a variety of covers and sponsors. There is also a U.S. sales office: Gateway Publishing Co., Inc., 830 South 48th Street, Grand Forks, ND, 58201. They claim to be "North America's most diversified fund raising publisher." With today's litigious atmosphere, though, they might think twice about continuing to publish these recipes that encourage what has been ruled "cruelty to animals."

Snakes used to guard drugs

are being turned over to herpetologists around the country. David Chiszar, a University of Colorado herpetologist, was quoted in the Gary, IN Post-Tribune [November 13, 1991] as saying that the use of large or venomous snakes is the latest tactic of drug dealers. The reptiles are usually used to dissuade thieves or rival dealers, not to scare away police. However, a Philadelphia narcotics officer who found a 10-foot python wrapped around crack vials and glassine bags under a mattress during a raid apparently screamed so loud and so hard that a fellow officer thought he had found "the mother lode of coke." The snake was turned over to an animal shelter. Other reptiles confiscated include vipers in Chicago and Dallas and a crocodile confiscated from a California crack house. [contributed by Jack Schoenfelder]

Dear Abby on snakes:

"Snakes have gotten a bad rap ever since one made its debut in the Garden of Eden. A few more reasons why snakes make good pets: They're quiet, you never have to walk them and you'll never have to worry about anybody stealing them." This is a marked change from just a few years ago when Ms. Van Buren was condemning the keeping of all reptiles, but somebody who has suffered a major snake theft ought to write her about the last part of her comment. Send letters to Dear Abby in care of the editorial department of the local paper that carries her column. [The Chicago Tribune, October 25, 1991, contributed by Eloise Beltz-Decker]

40 more are missing

Willie, the 7-foot watch snake, is back on duty at Monster Motors, a Lilburn, GA, car dealership, but Gwinnett County law enforcement authorities have to wonder how many other boa constrictors are crawling around their county loose. After reports that the boa had been found, Gwinnett County Animal Control received more that 40 calls from people who tried to claim Willie as their own lost boa. [Chicago Tribune, September 22, 1991, contributed by R.G. Schmitt]

King snakes

are being studied by Dr. William Gutzke of Memphis State University in an effort to develop a natural rattlesnake repellent. Rattlers and other snakes avoid the ophiophagous king snakes. Researchers have found that a line of the king snake chemical odor drawn on the ground will prevent rattlesnakes from crossing the line. Campers now use mothballs or creosote, both dangerous substances in an effort to repel snakes. The widely touted Snake-a-Way repellant is also naptha-based. Dr. Gutzke hopes to synthesize the kingsnake odor as a natural way to prevent the use of naptha and creosote, which are both potential carcinogens. [The Memphis, TN, Commercial Appeal, October 15, 1991, contributed by Bill Burnett]

John Rossi, D.V.M. on Reptile Expo

"I strongly support all captive breeding efforts... however, I must express my concern and displeasure over several policies and occurrences at the Expo which I feel need to be corrected if the Expo is to retain its' name and continue to achieve its' goal of being a showcase for reptile breeders. First, the allowance of peddlers of reptile parts should be eliminated...If the specimens were captive raised for this purpose, I suppose it would be no different from raising minks for their fur, but this is not usually the case with reptiles at this time. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, wild caught animals and young animals born to wild caught animals were being sold at the Expo. I have photographs of non-native ticks in situ on leopard tortoises sold at the Expo. Fecal exams of these tortoises revealed five or six different species of parasite, some of which have indirect life cycles which could not have been completed in captivity. As to the sale of captive born but not captive bred babies, I realize that we must start somewhere. However, the state of Florida considers these animals to be wild also reduces the value of true captive bred animals and the value of true captive bred animals and placed them at more risk of infection...Keep [the Expo] a true showcase for captive breeding. Don't let it become just another reptile show." [From a letter to Wayne Hill, republished in the Newsletter of the Jacksonville Herpetological Society, P.O. Box 26463, Jacksonville, FL 32218 - a new CHS exchange member]

Letters are needed

to your Senators in support of Senate Bill #1491 which would provide $25 million to help state fund conservation programs for disappearing fish and wildlife. The House has its own version (H.R. #3195) which will also need to be passed. Write Senators: U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510; Congressional Representatives: U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515. [National Wildlife Federation, September 1991] If you're still in a letter writing mood, how about a few to Jay D. Hair, President of N.W.F. asking him why there are so few articles about reptiles and amphibians in N.W.F. publications and why there are no new reptile or amphibian items in their annual catalog. One sea turtle item and a frog tee shirt are left over from last year and no new items have been added. Frogs are extremely hot collectibles and snake stuff is also very popular. I wonder if N.W.F. isn't more an organization of the cute and cuddly set - or perhaps their merchandise buyers misread their audience. [N.W.F., 1400 Sixteenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036-2266]


the herpetology on-line network now has this column from 1990 and 1991 available to computer bulletin board users. If you would like to search a particular topic in herpetology, whether from this or other publications, call 215-464-3562 with your computer modem. Herp-Net is user friendly and will guide you through the log-on process.

Tax-deductions in herpetology

include many worthy groups and projects worldwide. Here's a few near and dear to me that I hope you would consider as December 31st nears: 1.) Ed Moll's Batagur project which will have to be cancelled if sufficient funds are not received by the end of this year. Counting Batagur not only benefits our knowledge of this species (which is so rare it was believed to be extinct in India), but also benefits local people and Indian herpetological researchers. Make your check payable to AMNH-Batagur and send it to Michael Klemens, American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY, 10024-5192. If every C.H.S. member sent just $4.00, the Batagur study would be saved by our efforts alone. Talk about contributions in herpetology! 2.) The Gopher Tortoise Council seeks the wise management and perpetuation of this animal and its natural habitat. Contact the G.T.C., c/o Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611. 3.) Help head starting of endangered Kemp's ridley turtles, Lepidochelys kempii, by contributing to H.E.A.R.T. As little as $5.00 will feed a baby turtle for a year. The head-starting program is in danger of federal funding cutback or even elimination. This is the time for us to support H.E.A.R.T. as much as we can. Write H.E.A.R.T., P.O. Box 681231, Houston, TX 77268-1231. If you want to attend their annual Heart/Valentine's day Open House, it will be held February 15, 1992 from 10 to 4 at the NMFS Facility, 4700 Avenue U, Galveston, TX. For more information, call 713-444-6204. 4.) Regardless of its name, the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, P.O. Box 773, Brigantine, NJ 08203, is very involved with rescue and conservation of turtles. When I visited there this summer, the director, Bob Schoelkopf showed me a box turtle they were rehabbing that had the top of its shell sheared off by a lawn mower as well as sea turtles recovering from close encounters with boat propellers. Bob has developed a really nifty method for putting sea turtle shells back together. Wildlife rehabbers can call him at 609-266-0538, or 609-348-5018 for a description of his still unpublished technique. New Jersey members with box turtle and other reptile permits are also urged to contact MMSC. They need a resource list of permitted reptile keepers.
Please be generous with these and other herpetological not-for-profits, and don't forget your local wildlife rehab centers and nature centers. Give the gift of conservation. I'd rather receive a note about a donation than just about any other kind of present, wouldn't you? Volunteer if you can't give cash. Keeping these programs going and these centers open is far more important than a new tie, hanky or Nintendo cartridge.

Thanks to everyone who contributed this month

As you can tell, however, the number of items received has dropped off. This column is reader supported. No material means no column. Please send clippings, news, notes, letters and etcetera to me. As many of you know, I will not be continuing on the CHS Board and may not be at meetings regularly due to my school schedule, so mail addressed to me c/o CHS is unlikely to arrive on a timely basis.

Merry Chrysemys

to you and your critters. I hope that each and every one of you has a healthy and happy holiday season!

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