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

Herp News Around the World
by Ellin Beltz

Volume Eight

Vol. 2 . Vol. 3 . Vol. 4 . Vol. 5 . Vol. 6 . Vol. 7 . Vol. 8 . Vol. 9 . Vol. 10 . Vol. 11

This was the seventh year I wrote for The Vivarium.

I started in their Volume Two, Number 5 and stopped in Volume 11 when the publication was bought out and closed by the competition.

Volume 8, Number 1 - 1996

Ex Africa aliqui limosi

The Egyptian circus which made the news when one of its snakes "escaped" at customs is featured in a series of reports sent by Steve Durrant of Zimbabwe, Africa. The Akef Circus arrived in that nation in August, 1995 and continued to provoke controversy as it has done for the past five years in other African nations according to the National News (September, 1995). Endangered circus animals including chimpanzees apparently are transported without proper credentials; some have been confiscated in other countries including Zambia and Uganda after authorities found that documentation had been forged. The Zimbabwe Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Herpetological Association of Zimbabwe reported on animal cruelty at the circus including lion cages too small for the animals to lie down, unclean cages and tanks, horses in violation of import procedures (for sleeping sickness, I think), as well as dead and dying reptiles. In addition, human circus workers are reportedly "abluting in holes they have dug in the ground." All this was quite civilized, but as reports later in the month show, events took a violent turn when circus workers beat up two elderly female SPCA inspectors and two journalists from the Zimbabwe Herald. The SPCA had insisted that sick pythons be removed for proper care elsewhere. Police arrested four circus employees for the assaults. The circus owner mocked the SPCA saying their general manager "wants to gain a name from the circus. I do not know who will keep her busy when the circus leaves." The circus has been accused of being a front for animal smuggling. [July 26, 27 and 28, 1995] Wonder what customs didn't see while inspectors were busy catching the "escaped" python?

Inhumanity to reptiles knows no boundary

  • A 22-year-old woman was charged with torturing animals and criminal mischief and held without bail after she ripped her boyfriend's 3-foot pet python in half during an argument. Torturing animals is a felony in New York State. [Albany Times-Union, January 21, 1996 from Sue Black; Philadelphia Daily News, January 24, 1996 from Brian Hanssens]
  • Six animals were found abandoned in an unheated Brooklyn, NY apartment by Animal Care and Control (ACC) workers after the tenant apparently moved without them. A 15-foot Burmese python, a 10-foot anaconda, two small caimans, a Nile monitor, and a tarantula were found stuffed into four small aquariums. An ACC worker said, "it was inhumane and illegal." New homes are being sought for the animals. [New York Daily News, January 12, 1996 sent by Kevin Palestino]
  • About 40 snakes and other reptiles were seized by the Marin County, California Humane Society after dead animals were found in a pet shop according to a New Year's Day report in the San Francisco Examiner. Complaints about odor had led investigator's to the downtown store; once inside they had to wear filter masks due to the stench from two dead boa constrictors, each over 10-feet in length. A veterinarian said that half the animals had received substandard care and that he expected many to die. The owner of the shop was on a camping trip. By January 3rd, the owner was back, blaming a malfunctioning space heater for killing two boas and eleven other animals in his San Rafael shop and claiming that the vet had no reptile experience. [Both articles from K and W Herp Haven]
  • Reuters news agency reports that Japanese police were following an anonymous tip when they discovered hundreds of dead snakes in boxes washed up on the shore of a Japanese island near South Korea. All but one of the snakes is reported to be of a non-venomous variety which are exported from China to Japan and Korea for food. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 5, 1996 from Alan Tuley]
  • Two Florida men were sentenced to 15 months to two years in jail for violating the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The men were stopped by Palm Beach, FL police with 372 loggerhead sea turtle eggs which they had allegedly removed from three nests on private property. [Seattle Times, February 11, 1996 from Jett]
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents found reptiles valued at about $70,000 that had been delivered to a St. Petersburg, Florida home by mail from Sydney, Australia. A residence and business in Minnesota have also been searched after a package from Australia addressed to the Florida home was seized in Memphis, Tennessee. Reptiles in the package included a black-headed python, lizards and geckos. No charges have yet been filed. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, February 6, 1996, anonymous]

How do they spell I.Q.?

The Tacoma News Tribune reports an incident which occurred in Arizona. One man was "trying to teach a friend how to hold his pet rattlesnake. But the friend didn't have a good grip on the viper's head. So when the owner stuck out his tongue to imitate the snake, his pet lurched forward and nailed him." A medical worker said, "The snake sunk its fangs way back in the guy's tongue. To make matters worse, the friend tried to yank the snake out of the victim's mouth, which ensured that a maximum amount of venom would be injected." In less than a quarter hour, the man was nearly dead. Airlifted to the Desert Samaritan Medical Center his life was saved. The snake was killed after being thrown in the freezer by the man's friend. Later, someone cut the snake's head off and put it in the microwave to thaw it so that an identification as to species could be made. No go. The head blew up. [January 9, 1996 from Marty Marcus]

Home, ssssweet home

  • A family that moved to a "Lake County dream home" discovered that other dreamers lived there first. Within a week after their first encounter with a diamondback rattlesnake in the kitchen, hundreds of other snakes were discovered in, under, and around the house. The family moved out and is worried about being able to sell the home before foreclosure. [San Francisco Examiner, October 11, 1995 from K and W Herp Haven] Anyone who has ever wanted a house full of venomous reptiles may be interested in this property.
  • "Bubba" the long-lost python, may or may not be living under a house in Compton, CA. A termite inspector found a chunk of shed skin leading residents to speculate that the snake that slithered off the porch 15 years ago may still be living in the crawl space of the home. The resident suggested that if "Bubba" is playing "hide and snake" in the neighborhood, it may explain what happened to two cats that never came home. [Los Angeles Times, January 21, 1996 from Dennis Sheridan]

Lick an endangered species

The San Francisco garter snake is one of the 15 species of endangered animals being featured on a U.S. Postal Service stamp series. The stamps will go on sale starting October 1996. [San Francisco Examiner, November 9, 1995 from K and W Herp Haven] Odd, I thought mailing snakes was illegal...

More pyro-pets

  • Officials in Munich, Germany are blaming a pet tortoise for a home fire which caused more than $20,000 in damage. Police said that the chelonian overturned a lamp from which curtains caught fire. Two women were treated for smoke inhalation but the tortoise was unharmed. [The Oakland Herald, September 21, 1995 from Matthew and Laurie Aikawa]
  • An iguana tipped over a heating lamp which started a fire in a two story wooden house. Fire fighters rescued dozens of snakes, lizards and turtles from the home. The iguana that started the fire was killed as were a python, a boa constrictor, a Japanese dragon and a lizard. [San Francisco Chronicle, February 1, 1996 from K and W Herp Haven and Matthew and Laurie Aikawa]
  • The moral of these stories is that heating appliances go where the animals cannot reach them, under or outside of the enclosure. In addition, tank lids must be snake/lizard/frog/turtle proof. Loose animals are a recipe for surprises - not all of them pleasant. Take five minutes today to look for hazards in or near your vivaria. I don't want to lose any readers, nor have readers lose special creatures.

Tried earplugs?

A woman in Sydney, Australia wants to have "frog croaking outlawed or at least brought under control" according to Associated Press reports. The problem is that her neighbor has a frog pond and anti-noise laws do not cover frog calls. The "noise" of the frogs croaking keeps the neighbor awake and "is driving her crazy." [Times-News, December 9, 1995 from Dick Thorsell] Baseline data on the woman's sanity was not provided.

Vegetarian lizard blamed in baby's death

Fulton County, Indiana health officials blame a family's pet iguana for the death of a 3-week-old boy due to poona strain salmonella. The iguana tested positive for Salmonella poona before it was destroyed. No direct link between the pet and the child was noted in the report, but officials suggest that an adult handling the pet then the child was probably responsible. Salmonella causes diarrhea, stomach cramps and fever. Most of the 30,000 cases of salmonella in the U.S. every year are caused by contaminated poultry products, but 90 percent of reptiles carry some form of the intestinal bacteria according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. [February 2, 1996: San Francisco Chronicle from Matt Aikawa; Jefferson City Post-Tribune from Vicky Elwood; Louisville Courier-Journal from Gary Kettring; and The Herald from Alan Rigerman and Louis Porras] Iguanas are the hottest pets in the U.S. right now. About 900,000 iguanas were imported in 1993; only 100,000 in 1988 according to the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council. [Tacoma News Tribune, December 13, 1995 from Alan Tuley]

Carnivorous lizards make 50 people sick

A 6-year-old boy and eight other people were hospitalized with a rare, virulent form of salmonella after petting Komodo Dragons at the Denver Zoo during a special "Dragon Days" exhibit in January. Zoo employees had held the Komodos while visitors petted them. Other visitors merely touched the wooden enclosure which held the giant lizards. Authorities speculate that fecal material was spread around the enclosure by the Komodos and then picked up by the visitors. A total of 50 people are known to have been affected; most are under 14 years of age. The dragons are now securely isolated in a glass cage and will never be put on open display again, according to a zoo spokesperson. [San Antonio Express-News, March 2, 1996 from Charlie Alfaro] Salmonella may be avoided by proper hygiene after handling the animal, its enclosure, its food dishes and so on. Loose animals cannot help but spread digestive bacteria everywhere. Salmonella bacteria is necessary for digestion in reptiles in much the same way that E. coli is required by the human gut and salmonella cannot be eradicated from the animals' digestive systems. It was unfortunate for the Zoo that handwashing stations were not provided for the visitors, nor were warnings about salmonella posted near the display.

"Killers lurk in suburban yards"

The Queensland, Australia Sunday Mail reports that local people should be aware that venomous taipans can occur anywhere along the state's coastal belt, even in suburban Brisbane: "The taipan is possibly the world's deadliest serpent. One bite could kill 10,000 guinea pigs and children have been known to die from it in minutes... The latest victim... 33... died after the 2-meter snake struck him twice on the calf of his leg when he entered the bush to retrieve a ball at a recreation ground." [February 18, 1996 from Stephen and Terri Irwin, Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park]

Surprised by snake-lovers

Legislators in Missouri were astonished at the reaction which followed their proposed bill which would have changed the state's wildlife code to allow people to "poison, trap, kill or otherwise dispose of any wild snake" on their property. One legislator said he'd been getting complaints all week, "You can hear the fax running now. I was surprised to get this much opposition." No one supported the bill at a hearing, while representatives of the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Sierra Club and the three active herpetological societies in the state testified against the proposal. Missouri bans the killing of any wildlife not covered by a hunting season with the exception of sparrows, starlings and pigeons which are all non-native birds. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 19, 1996 from Vicky Elwood]

Conservation continues despite Congress

  • The Habitat Conservation Plan of Washington County, Utah was signed after six years of negotiations between conservationists, government agencies, stockmen, recreationalists, and developers. A 61,022-acre wildlife preserve has been established; 38,787 acres are reserved for the desert tortoise. The conservation area is in the middle of one of the fastest-growing communities in the U.S. Population has increased 86 percent from 1980 to 1990 and is expected to triple again by 2010. The tortoise agreement will expire in 2014. [The Salt Lake Tribune, February 24, 1996 from Louis Porras]
  • Californians have given up driving along the south side of a Berkeley park since November to accommodate the newt breeding season for the past seven years. Most Bay Area residents can find salamanders in their back yards reports The Oakland Tribune, but concerns about newts being crushed on roads have led to road closures here and elsewhere in the state. [February 5, 1996 from Matthew and Laurie Aikawa]
  • Residents of Seattle, Washington are involved in a lot of local projects aimed at increasing and supporting populations of native frogs including the Pacific treefrog and the red-legged frog. Some of their findings and observations are quite noteworthy. For example they found that dogs playing in ponds and wet spots degraded the habitat and interfered with amphibian egg development. The city's Youth Conservation Corps will be building three fenced-off spring-fed ponds in a corner of the park where volunteers plan to release chorus frogs. The article says that "catching flies and tending frogs in your living room year-round starts getting old, and very noisy in breeding season," but that volunteers have succeeded in building up the base stock from tadpoles collected in more pristine areas. Unfortunately, many nurseries and pet shops sell non-native tadpoles including eastern green frogs, bronze frogs, and (gasp!) bullfrogs for people to put in little back yard ponds. Bullfrogs are considered to be a factor in the decline of native California species due to their insatiable appetite for anything they can catch and stuff in their mouths. [Seattle Weekly, August 2, 1995 from Jett]

Artificial herps

  • A spermicidal foam compounded from amphibian and fish secretions may prove useful in the fight against AIDS. A vice-president of Magainin Pharmaceuticals, Inc. stated "The use of frog skin was based on an observation that frog wounds never got infected when they were placed in a tank of dirty water... small peptides... were responsible for this... It's important to note, though, that we don't have a big frog press back at our company grinding up frogs. These [peptides] are chemically synthesized. It's actually a [copy] of that natural molecule." [Toronto Star, February 12, 1996 from K and W Herp Haven]
  • The Sega Game company has released a three-dimensional video game starring Gex the Gecko. Tongue-flicks capture coins. Gex also spits fireballs, ice and electrical bolts while his tail can knock down walls. [San Francisco Chronicle, April 24, 1995 from K and W Herp Haven]

Bites-of-the-month-club

  • A jury has awarded a Texas man $6,000 compensation for being bitten by a rattlesnake at Wal-Mart even though employees were "real nice" to him when it happened and called an ambulance immediately. The man had sued for $25,000 for anguish and about $1,100 for medical costs. Snakes are not uncommon in the town, but even Wal-Mart admits shopping in a mega-mall ought to be a serpent-free experience. [The Wall Street Journal, February 16, 1996 from Sue Black, Robert Innes and K.S. Mierzwa; The Oakland Tribune same date from Matthew and Laurie Aikawa]
  • A 28-year-old Maryland snake keeper was bitten by a Gaboon Viper while he was putting a water bowl in the snake's enclosure. He had picked up the snake to put it near the bowl when the bite occurred. The man was in serious but stable condition in hospital after being treated with antivenin from the Philadelphia and Washington zoos. [The Washington Post, March 1, 1996 from Bill Messer]

Reader to reader

  • "I find it hard to believe that anyone smart enough to subscribe to Vivarium would be dumb enough to blame you for the material in your column. Apology hell! As far as I'm concerned, you can tell the jerk to take his subscription business elsewhere and I'll gladly reimburse AFH for the lost revenue. I guess you're more tolerant... probably gender related. Marty Marcus"
  • Congratulations are in order for Mark F. Miller on his article on Gila monster envenomation published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine (25)5:720.
  • Also, let's all breathe a big sigh of relief for super-contributor Wes von Papinešu who returned home from Europe when U.S. troops were sent to participate in the Bosnian peace-keeping mission.

Thanks to everybody who contributed for this issue and to Darrell O'Quinn, Robert Innes, Marty Marcus, Wes von Papinešu and Kim Heaphy, Jett, George Dugan, Alan Tuley, Valerie Haecky, Alan W. Rigerman, Philip S. Venditto, David Webb, Scott Bazemore, Bryan McCarty, Michael Shrom, and Scott Bazemore for things I enjoyed reading but didn't use for this issue. Join my favorite 0.7 percent of the AFH membership. Send me either the whole page or clippings with the date/publication slug and your name on each page.

Volume 8, Number 2 - 1996

Tripod wins Calaveras

In the story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" Mark Twain wrote: "You never see a frog so modest and straightfor'ard as he was, for all he was so gifted. And when it come to fair and square jumping on a dead level, he could get over more ground at one straddle than any animal of his breed you ever see." This year an appendage-challenged frog named "Three Legs Are Better Than None" beat 49 other entrants to win the $750 first prize at the 1996 Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee. The handler found TLABTN in a canal a week before the contest. "He theorized that having only three legs had helped the frog develop stronger hind legs," reported The New York Times [May 21, 1996 from Karen Furnweger] The winning jump composed of three hops measured 20 feet 11 inches.

Sing songs of love

An attempt to encourage endangered Pine Barrens tree frogs to use man-made breeding ponds may help to settle a 10-year-old lawsuit between a cranberry farm and the state of New Jersey. The farm has been trying to expand its 22-acre operation, and has had to file a foot-high pile of paper with various federal and state agencies because the endangered frogs were found on the property. If the frogs can be encouraged to use the new ponds, the farm can expand the cranberry bogs and everybody may end up happy. Researcher Joel Gove will survey the ponds for three years. "My wife's a biologist, so she'll come too," he said. "We'll make it a romantic outing." [The Philadelphia Inquirer, November 26, 1995 from Wayne Brown]

Arribada! At an IMAX near you...

The Bundesberg, Australia News Mail, January 8, 1996 editorial: "This city attracts the international attention of scientists and tourists because it is near the site of one of Australia's largest sea turtle rookeries. Turtles nest all along our coast but particularly on Mon Repos Beach... a diligent band of... staff and volunteers spends the nights telling anyone who will listen just how tenuous a grip the turtles have on life... However... the most important thing for the future of our turtles is how much money they are worth to us alive. We need to keep the focus on the economic benefits of the turtles' nesting habitats if we are to provide long-term protection... The Mon Repos turtles represent a major tourist attraction for the domestic and international market. And, in the final analysis, the continued nesting of the turtles on our beaches is worth more than the cash value we give it. But it is the cash value and not the intrinsic worth that offers the turtles their best insurance that we will keep working for their preservation." [From Peter Richardson]

Supertramp by Stephen King

  • Two Florida biologists worry that the Brown Tree Snake which has taken over the island of Guam's ecosystem since its accidental introduction during or after World War II may get loose in their state. Writing in the Reader's Forum of The Miami Herald, they argue that the funds cut from the Pentagon budget for Brown Tree Snake study may result in Boiga irregularis arriving on the continental US: "...[it] is a frequent stowaway on cargo leaving Guam. It has already reached at least 10 Pacific islands in less than 15 years... Florida military bases serve as home ports... The snake's high densities [from] 10,000 to 15,000 per square mile, near villages, seaports, and airports plus Guam's large volume of international traffic, create ample opportunities for snakes to be passive stowaways... [they] have arrived alive in such distant sites as Southern Japan, Hawaii, and even Corpus Christi, Texas... [it] could devastate Florida's native rodent, lizard, and bird populations, as it has done in Guam... Can you imagine what would happen to Florida's tourism industry when a visitor happens to get up in the middle of the night and finds an aggressive brown tree snake in the hotel bathroom?" [April 11, 1996 from Alan W. Rigerman] I suppose it would depend on whether the tourist in the bathroom was a herpetologist or not.
  • In Broward County, residents are terrified that a mysterious dog-lizard named chupacabra is responsible for a recent spate of mysterious deaths of dozens of animals including chickens, goats and geese in Sweetwater. The chupacabra is called the "bigfoot of the Caribbean," has hideous red, fiery eyes, stands on two legs and sucks blood from living animals according to the report in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel [March 19, 1996 from James M. Abel]. A local disk jockey recorded "Goatsuckers" to the tune of "Ghostbusters" and "Chupacabrafragilisticexpialidotious" after the Mary Poppins song of a similar title. No one, so far, has suggested that Velociraptor really did escape from Jurassic Park to the mainland.

Cash value not intrinsic worth

  • Alligator meat in the U.S. is bringing about $10 million-a-year; sale of hides at an average $20 per foot is not included. "Eggs are taken from the wild and hatched, then the tiny reptiles are put into dark hothouses where they are raised about 16 months, or until they reach four or five feet." Hides go to France, Italy and the Pacific Rim. Finished articles from raw hides can sell for thousands of dollars. One farmer said, "We can't even begin to meet the demand." Florida wildlife regulators are considering removing alligators from that state's protected list. [Miami Herald, March 12, 1996 from Alan W. Rigerman]
  • A woman in Arkansas City, KS "was bitten by an Osage copperhead approximately two feet long [while she] was working in her yard... just after dark [about three years ago]" writes contributor Marty Capron who sent a clipping from the March 22, 1996 Winfield Courier. The victim's husband filed suit against medical personnel, Wyeth-Ayers Laboratories and American Home Products Corp. Each of ten charges asks for $50,000 to settle.
  • Police detained a 10-foot long boa constrictor and two 2-foot lizards when they responded to a Narcotics and Hazardous Materials problem at a Tacoma, Washington home. Equipment and chemicals for the production of methamphetamine were found in a garage behind the house. Also arrested were two residents on suspicion of drug manufacture. [Tacoma, WA News Tribune, March 30, 1996 from Alan Tuley]

Hard to swallow department

  • Sick villagers were cured after a python was found under a Cambodian house. Locals have added the python to the pantheon and are worshipping it according to a report in the January 24, 1996 Daily Telegraph from Wes von Papinešu and Kimberley Heaphy.
  • Reuters reports that a Boca Raton, FL pool cleaner was unpleasantly surprised when what he thought was a dark toy on the bottom swished its tail. "I don't even think my feet hit the patio," he said. Trappers hoisted the seven-foot gator out of the pool. The alligator apparently got in through a hole in the fence. Mating season has started; perhaps it thought it had found new habitat. [The Seattle Times, March 31, 1996 from Alan Tuley]
  • A three-foot alligator removed by five Metro-Dade police cruisers, a Florida game officer and a freelance trapper apparently changed size during capture. "When it walked, it was bigger," said a bystander who helped police chase the gator under a car and into a garbage can. [Miami Herald, April 5, 1996 from Alan W. Rigerman] Wildlife trapper Todd Hardwick said, "For me this is a signal of spring time."
  • "Poisonous cobras" escaped from a snake-farm in Semarangkai, Borneo and prompted dozens of letters of complaint to the snake-farm according to the Jakarta Post. [Lisa Marie Post, Freehold, NJ from the Asbury Park Press, March 17, 1996] When will the newspapers ever get it right? Poison is when you eat it. Venom is when it is trying to eat you.

Ribbet the creep

"Although some states permit there [sic] citizens to be exposed to obscene amphibians, at least one has stepped in to defend Western civilization: Ohio has banned [Bad Frog Beer] because of its label." [Ottawa Sun, Marc 17, 1996 from K & W Herp Haven] Apparently, the frog has some central digit extended. The question is, with only four fingers on the front appendages, which is "the bad finger"?

Welcome to global warming

  • Almost a hundred pythons were rounded up in three-weeks by authorities in Bangkok, Thailand after the snakes were flushed from their holes by flooding. [The Fairfax Journal, February 22-23, 1996 from Bryan McCarty]
  • In Durban, South Africa flooding flushed a two-headed herald snake into a garden in the southern part of the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Some are concerned that the snake is a harbinger of great misery and have asked the owner of Fitzsimons Snake Park to permit them to release it in the wild. [The Ottawa Citizen, March 4, 1996 from K & W Herp Haven]
  • In Bolivia, drought apparently forced thousands of toads out of their usual habitats into farmland and villages in search of water. "Radio reports from the [three] villages... said that the main road connecting the region with La Paz is coated with a thick layer of dead toads, and that the stench is unbearable... farmers in the area reportedly feel that the onslaught is a sign of impending tragedy." [San Francisco Chronicle, March 9, 1996 from Grizzly Gibson]

Hawaiian cleanup nets reptiles

The state of Hawaii has long been concerned by the potential threat to agriculture and tourism from illegally imported and maintained exotic animals. In three separate reports from The Honolulu Advertiser, contributor G.E. Chow of Kaneohe shows just how common this problem really is in the islands. March 18, an 18-inch corn snake was turned in by an Oahu resident after a Big Island man was sentenced to a $25,000 fine and a year in jail for possessing a ball python. Jackson's chameleons were turned in by two separate owners on Kauai the day before. March 22, a Haleiwa woman surrendered a 28-inch iguana and March 24, a 6-foot 1-inch Burmese python and a 15-inch monitor lizard were turned in to the plant quarantine station of the state's Department of Agriculture during an amnesty drive.

Cane toad predators

Snakes, birds and water rats around Townsville, Australia have learned how to kill and eat cane toads without fear of the toxins secreted by the noxious and notorious amphibian pigeon equivalent. The researcher said, "I've found toad skins in nests and dozens of skins hanging off tree branches. The kite appears to be able to flip toads over on their backs and peck their guts out. They can avoid the poison glands on their backs that way." [Brisbane Courier-Mail, September 8, 1995 from K and W Herp Haven]

Call waiting with a bite

"Bundaberg [Australia] herpetologist Peter Richardson accepts snake bites as an occupational hazard... was bitten by a taipan in 1988... correct first-aid measures were carried out and he was in hospital within seven minutes... `Having the [first-aid] certificate certainly made a big difference and having a mobile phone is handy, if you don't have to move to alert help, it is beneficial... Our research showed that in this industry [in Queensland] you can expect to get bitten every three years by a highly venomous snake.' The survey was originally prepared for the Second World Congress of Herpetology held a year ago in Adelaide. [Bundaberg Newsmail, November, 1995 from Peter Richardson]

Thanks to everybody who contributed for this issue and to Matthew and Laurie Aikawa, Philip Averbuck, Dale McDonald, Sean McKeown, Jett, Marine Mammal Stranding Center - Brigantine, NJ, FranÁois leBerre, Robert Innes, Wes von Papinešu and Kim Heaphy, Alan Tuley, and Alan W. Rigerman for more and duplicates. You can contribute, too. Send either the whole page or clippings with the date/publication slug and your name on each page to me.

Volume 8, Number 3 - 1996

Tragedy in Bronx

A 13-foot, 44-pound Burmese python apparently mistook one of its humans for food in a Bronx, NY housing project. The 19-year old man was found in the hallway outside his apartment with the snake wrapped around him by a neighbor. He was pronounced dead, the snake was taken to the Bronx Zoo. The young man and his brother had jointly purchased the python for $300 at a local pet store and had carried it around in the summer months and let others handle it, according to neighbors. His grandmother said: "He was a loving boy and was good to everybody. He loved that snake to death and it ended up killing him." [October 10, 1996: New York Times from Bob Deems, New York Post from Joe Sousa; New York Daily News from F. Castro] Previous human fatalities attributed to captive pythons include the 1992 death of a 28-year Toronto man and the 1993 death of a Colorado teenager.

Lock your cages, part XIV

The 11-foot snake which allegedly attacked a 5-year-old boy in Ridgecrest, CA was put to sleep at animal control after ambulance, fire, and police workers had responded to the early afternoon call. According to the police, "the child had visible ... bite wounds," although none required stitches at the hospital. The mother was apparently not watching and said that "my son must've opened [the cage] somehow." She also said the child had a habit of teasing the Burmese python which weighed 50 pounds and was 14 inches in diameter. [Daily Independent, August 14, 1996 from Glenn Fankhauser]

The kids saw the whole thing

"Paramedics sawed off the head of a family's pet python... after the 9-foot snake coiled itself around a pregnant woman's stomach and entangled her husband as well," reported the Tacoma News Tribune. The San Diego, CA family was living in a single-room apartment in a resident motel. Although out-of-work, the husband had been begging his wife to let him buy the snake which cost about $150 without a cage. So, the Burmese was apparently given free range in the room which it shared with the couple and their 4- and 5-year old children. The kids are receiving counseling. [August 22, 1996 from Alan Tuley, Tyler Morning Telegraph from K.C. Rudy, Statesman Journal, Salem OR from new contributor Kenneth C. Morod; August 23 South China Morning Post from P.L. Beltz]

Power-full serpent

Residents of Iligan, Philippines feared that insurgents had resumed hostilities after an explosion rocked their town and cut the electric supply. However, the real culprit was a 6-foot snake which workers found electrocuted on a high-tension wire. The 300,000 residents were relieved. [Providence Sunday Journal, September 8, 1996 from Joe Sousa]

Gator-aide

  • After a 10-week alligator hunt which captured the imaginations of San Francisco residents, the 3-foot, 7-pound "Mountain Lake gator" was captured by a zoo associate curator and his administrative assistant using bait and equipment provided by a Florida gator hunter that had been hired by a newspaper back in the fall. The zoo is planning on exhibiting the gator briefly although the animal remains the property of the National Park Service, which administers the lake where he was found. [San Francisco Chronicle, August 12 - October 10, 1996 from Matthew and Laurie Aikawa, San Francisco Examiner from Grizzly Gibson]
  • Not quite a gator, but an astonishing range extension for speckled caimans - Holden, Massachusetts! "The officers thought it was a crank call, but it was sure legitimate," said a Police Sergeant. "We've responded to snakes, moose... This is the first one of these things we've ever seen around here." A part-time police worker who is also a licensed wildlife rehabilitator retrieved the animal and placed it in a holding tank. Keeping caimans is illegal in Massachusetts. [The Holden, MA Landmark, August 15, 1996 from Christopher Knuth]
  • A Japanese man was arrested at Los Angeles, CA International Airport after officials found an endangered Siamese crocodile wrapped up in a cloth bag and stuffed in a shoe box with holes in the sides. The man claimed it was his pet and said, "I couldn't leave it at home. It's not like a dog." The animal died a week after it was confiscated. The assistant U.S. attorney said, "It is not reasonable that one would treat a pet, especially one on the verge of extinction, the way he did." The man faces up to 11 years in prison and at $600,000 fine. [Singapore Straits Times, July 5, 1996 from Wes von Papinešu and Kimberley Heaphy; Oakland Tribune, August 2, 1996 from Matthew and Laurie Aikawa]

Gators in the midst...

  • The Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission favors an information campaign to warn residents of the sunshine state that "alligators are dangerous." Private groups are seeking donations for a campaign of television spots, posters, and pamphlets in an eight state region in the southeastern U.S. "People, especially visitors and newcomers... don't know how to coexist with alligators," said a commission staff worker. He said that the problem is getting worse due to human population growth in alligator habitat. [Miami Herald September 1, 1996; Naples Daily News, September 22 from Alan W. Rigerman] A Miami couple has filed suit in West Palm Beach, FL claiming that Alligators as Threatened Species owe damages to them after their 9-year old daughter suffered trauma by watching her father shoot an alligator which was approaching her. The husband was arrested, tried and convicted on charges of felony poaching by the state Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. [Naples Daily News, October 20, 1996 from Alan Rigerman]

Aldabras under pressure

  • With ten times as many tortoises as the Galapagos, Aldabra Island in the Indian Ocean has a lot to lose to habitat destruction. Feral goats were eating the only vegetation, the so called "tortoise turf," as well as denuding bushes which provide the only shade on the island. The goats were multiplying due to a lack of predators and the tortoises declining until a program to limit or eliminate the goat population began this year. [Electronic Telegraph - UK, September 29, 1996]
  • Aldabra tortoises introduced to the Zanzibar Prison Island 200 years ago are still being exploited, even though the trade in tortoise meat is off the menu in most tourist restaurants. Four years ago, there were fifty animals on the island and some were estimated centarians. Now, only nine are left - 100 babies were stolen just recently. The price of each baby is more than the average Zanzibar worker makes in a year. Remaining tortoises have been moved to an apparently secure location and marked. [South Africa Weekly Mail and Guardian, September 27, 1996 - both from Wes von Papinešu and Kimberley Heaphy]

It was a very good year...

A front page story in the Florida Gulf Coast News-Press says that the 1996 turtle nesting season was better than last year. This year nearly 41,000 hatchlings emerged from 580 nests. A volunteer monitor said, "I'm not sure one year makes that much difference... Remember, only about one in 1,000 hatchlings make it." The most interesting nest was that of a Kemp's ridley on Sanibel Island from which 126 hatchlings emerged. [November 1, 1996 from Alan Rigerman] Ridley's were also reported from Padre Island, TX where thousands of "head-started" turtles were released during the 1980s and early 1990s. [Carole Allen, via Internet]

Ophidian MIAs?

  • "Pilots on Russian internal flight TU-154 last July had to remain absolutely still in their cockpit for three hours after seeing a snake. It was thought to have slithered aboard in China the previous day." [The Independent, June 13, 1996 from Mark O'Shea, Wolverhampton, UK]
  • The disappearance of an 18-20 inch Egyptian cobra in Stoneham, MA was due to his owner's habit of letting him out of his cage to "sunbathe on the lawn" did not amuse the police one bit. Petrified neighbors posted snake crossing signs keep kids alert and hope that "Tut" will be captured by the time the grade school across the street reopens in fall. [Boston Herald, August 12, 1996 and Boston Globe, August 13 both from Chris Knuth]
  • A 10-foot long Burmese python escaped from its home in San Jose, CA this spring. Its owner had left it loose while cleaning its cage. San Jose police said, "We don't investigate missing snakes." Two years ago, Santa Rosa authorities went all out in their search for a missing python which was later found wrapped around a pipe in the house from which he had been reported escaped. [San Francisco Chronicle, May 15, 1996 from Matthew and Laurie Aikawa]
  • Children playing in the yard of a burned-out San Jose, CA house found a 15-foot python in a pile of rubble. The snake is apparently not the one which escaped as above. [San Francisco Chronicle, June 12, 1996 from Matthew and Laurie Aikawa]
  • A 10-foot Burmese python was found a half-mile west of where it went missing near Winchester, VA. At the time, the "snake was attempting to eat a 30-pound fawn that had apparently died several days before the snake started snacking," according to the Frederick County Sheriff's department. A 7-foot African rock python that escaped at the same time remains missing. [Winchester Star, July 24, 1996 from Brad Ross]
  • A 5.5-foot Burmese python escaped from its home in Santa Rosa, CA. The humane society spokesperson said, "It's probably hiding under the house or under a deck. You just have to look in every nook and cranny. They just don't go down the street and do anything silly." [San Francisco Chronicle, July 26, 1996 from Matthew and Laurie Aikawa]

"Monitor lizard fails to explode in MPs' toilet"

Read the Bangkok Post front-page banner. Police investigating the report of a bomb in a toilet in Thailand's Parliament building found a box housing an abandoned monitor lizard. "Lawmakers went about their business as usual," read the wire story, although whether they were using the actual room involved in the hoax was not stated. [The Oakland Tribune, July 26, 1996 from Matthew and Laurie Aikawa]

Follow-up

Steve Durrant of Zimbabwe sent along a letter from Mrs. Meryl Harrison, General Manger of the SPCA Zimbabwe about the foreign circus which had caused such problems in that country. "Steve. Heard from SPCA South Africa last week that [the circus owner] has done a bunk back to Egypt, leaving all the animals behind in Maputo! The two relatives left behind swear that he is coming back for them. The Endangered Wild Trust have given [him] til the 14th of August to send for the animals - otherwise they are going to confiscate them. Apparently the lone python is in good condition! Regards. Meryl." The lone python was apparently wild caught during the circus' travels in Africa.

Neither was an enchanted prince

A Middleboro, MA registered nurse resuscitated an 18-inch pet iguana after it fell in a pool. The woman said that after about 45 seconds of mouth-to-mouth, the iguana's eyes began to flutter and it started breathing. In minutes, the animal was apparently fully restored. The woman had seen a television program where another lizard had been saved by an alert passerby. [USA Today, July 10, 1996 from S. Fold; KIRO Radio News Fax, July 11 from Alan Tuley]

How to live forever

A man licensed by the state of California to take care of confiscated turtles and tortoises said "There is one [tortoise] at a zoo in India that arrived there in 1843, and he was full-size then. Of course, if you ate nothing but vegetables, slept for more than half the day, and had sex every time it got warm, you'd live for 200 years too." [The Oakland Tribune, August 5, 1996 from Matthew and Laurie Aikawa]

Or not at all

Full moon in August, 1996 shone down on a turtle nightmare which began when a new anti-government guerrilla group attacked the town center of a tourist area. Mexican Federal Marines left guard posts on turtle beaches to protect the town and hundreds of turtle poachers descended on Escobilla Beach. "They scooped hundreds of thousands of eggs the size of ping-pong balls from the sand and butchered untold numbers of exhausted female turtles as they flailed frantically back toward the sea," according to the Washington Post. [Miami Herald, October 11 from Alan Rigerman, Providence Sunday Journal, October 13 from Joe Sousa] Even after the opening of a million dollar Turtle Center attracting 80,000 visitors, eco-tour businesses and a Body Shop cosmetics factory, residents claim to be worse off . They blame foreign environmentalists for the closure of a sea-turtle slaughterhouse which was the primary employer and food source in the area. Officials hope to restore the population of turtles and reopen legal egg harvest seasons. [San Francisco Chronicle, October 10, from Matthew and Laurie Aikawa]

Pet trade loophole closed

New Hampshire passed new rules to protect four native turtle species making it illegal to catch, keep or sell Blanding's, wood, spotted and Eastern box turtles. "From 1989 to 1994, it is estimated collectors paid more than $102,000 for 4,692 spotted, bog and wood turtles in the U.S... [even this is] a small fraction of the seldom-studied turtle trade, which saw about 26 million live turtles pass through U.S. ports during that time," reports the Telegram & Gazette. [June 3, 1996 from Christopher Knuth and the Providence Journal-Bulletin from Joe Sousa]

Cruelty, not culture the issue

San Francisco's Chinatown residents are incensed at city efforts to study and hold hearings concerning the conditions under which live food, including turtles and frogs, are being held and how the animals are slaughtered. Some residents feel that their entire culture is being put at risk by the hearings, especially if they lead to a ban on live food in Chinese markets. Commissioners disagree and point out that they are also studying the handling and sale of live crabs at Fisherman's Wharf and lobsters in supermarkets. The owner of one food store claims his animals are content even though the frogs were totally dry and other animals were stacked alive on top of each other up to a foot thick, "If they were unhappy, they'd be moving around trying to get out." [Tacoma, WA News Tribune, August 6, 1996 from Alan Tuley]

Alert readers will join me in thanking this month's contributors and Alan W. Rigerman, S. Fold, Mark Paul Henderson, Steven L. Lysenko, Mike Kilby, Jerry L. Boyer, Karen Furnweger, Matthew and Laurie Aikawa, and Chris Knuth as well as noticing that the dates on some of these items are older. The long lead time from writing to production in 1996 resulting in an accumulation of items too good to pass up without passing along. However, the backlog is nearly gone and your contributions of newspaper and magazine clippings with the date/publication slug and your name on every piece are needed. Please use tape rather than staples - of just leave the newspaper page whole and mail to me.

Volume 8, Number 4 - 1997

New recruits?

  • "Police in Java say they plan to start using venomous cobras to break up mass demonstrations and compel crime suspects to confess... [Police are] working with snake handlers... to develop the `poisonous' weapon," reports the Shropshire Star [January 13, 1997 from Mark O'Shea].
  • The Shropshire Star reports: "A jilted woman released six cobras in a crowded karaoke bar in central Jakarta [Indonesia] to teach her former boyfriend a lesson... One of the cobras was clubbed to death by policemen and the bar's security guards but no one was bitten." The Independent reports that "The woman and the cobras were taken into police custody." [Both January 21, 1997 from Mark O'Shea.]

Great karma, bad ecology

  • Some Buddhists free captive animals in an effort to generate merit and improve their karma. Unfortunately this practice can lead to ecological nightmare as recently happened when seven people from a Manhattan temple released 2,500 pet shop goldfish free in a reservoir for the city of New Brunswick. One monk said that there are at least 20 temples in New York City who make a habit of releases, usually in large numbers. State officials have found dead turtles that on necropsy were found to have died of exposure. Neighbors report seeing people in yellow robes releasing the turtles at the state park. The wildlife pathologist said, "These kinds of releases generally have bad outcomes. The person releasing the turtles may have meat well, but it was fatal to these creatures." [The New York Times, January 11, 1997 from P.L. Beltz] Meanwhile in Bogota, Colombia government officials are planning to spend $79,000 dollars in an effort to eradicate introduced American bullfrogs which has begun to "destabilize the natural order in some areas because of its voracious appetite for small amphibians and insects," reports the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), October 29, 1996 from Wes von Papinešu and Kimberley Heaphy.
  • Wildlife agencies releasing animals taken on a "nuisance" basis may need to revise their programs based on work being done with Western diamondbacks near Sedona, Arizona. Seems the snakes are either site specific or struck with a form of wanderlust which results in them roaming and never quite settling down. Most snakes have regular patterns and the control group in the recent study showed that they have a relatively small home range. A Canadian study showed that relocated snakes can't seem to find suitable hibernation sites; the majority die over winter. Of the seven snakes moved in the present study, two returned home, four are wandering and one disappeared the night after it was released. Another Tucson study showed that of eight snakes with transmitters, one died by being bulldozed for a housing development, one was eaten by a badger, and one killed by humans. The other five are still out there, somewhere. [Tucson Citizen, November 8, 1996 from Jerry L. Boyer (I think, no name on clipping)]

Now here's a thought

G.D. Gearino of Raleigh, NC wrote: "If it turns out heaven is run by snakes, a whole bunch of us are in trouble. It could happen. Remember, we're all God's creatures, so it's possible that when your soul arrives at St. Peter's gate for its pre-induction physical, some snake will be there giving everyone who passes through the once-over. `That's him!' the snake will shriek as you approach.. `That's the guy who sliced off my head with a hoe. Don't let him in." So you'll be pulled aside and made to explain how it is you came to decapitate this creature... It won't matter what I say. It'll be clear I'm a serial snake-killer. In short, it's time for me to become a friend to snakes." Attending a snake-petting session at the museum apparently helped. [The News and Observer, October 4, 1996 from K & W Herp Haven]

Snakes on the loose

  • Tut, the Stoneham, Massachusetts Egyptian cobra missing since last August was found in early November by a fourth grade student reaching for his lunch box. The 9-year-old said, "I jumped about three feet back then I saw it. I was scared." Three cheers for the fourth grade teacher, though; by the time authorities arrived Tut was trapped and secured in a recycling bin. The teacher said, "Well, now we can use the [grassy] field... it puts some closure on the whole thing. We don't have to worry where it is anymore." [The Boston Globe, November 7, 1996 from K & W Herp Haven]
  • A 7-foot Burmese was found slithering around in a Fort Worth, TX neighborhood early one morning after it had gotten into a garage and was trying to eat a kitten it found there. The kitten was rescued by a neighbor who endured python bites resulting in six stitches and a blast of antibiotics. [Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 10, 1996 from Jonathan C. Lewis IV]
  • The Weekly World News featured huge banner herpetological headlines which I'd summarize for you but it's too hard to type with one hand while my other hand is holding my nose shut. In one article the mother who rescued her 5-year-old son from the mouth of a 12-foot Burmese python. The photo shows the mom waving a poker and a bloody knife. [October 15, 1996 from Spering Scott]
  • An 8-foot long king cobra escaped from exhibit at "Temple Ruins" in the Tropical Discovery exhibit at the Denver Zoo. Spokesperson Suzanne Juhas said. "At not time was the public ever in danger," however the "danger to zoo staff was deemed unacceptable... [and the cobra] was shot by keepers after efforts to capture him failed," according to The Rocky Mountain News [December 10, 1996 from Petra Lowe]
  • Poor St. Patrick must be spinning! After all his efforts to banish snakes from the Emerald Isle, the snakes win. An office worker in Belfast puttering with a fritzy photocopier found a black and yellow snake. He said, " I shot back about ten feet." Seems the shop downstairs, City Reptiles, had misplaced the "American grass snake." [The Times, London, January 3,1 997 from K & W Herp Haven]
  • A Lancaster, Pennsylvania family had a really big surprise one morning at 5 a.m. when they discovered a 2-foot-long python. The husband told his wife, "You won't believe this... There's a snake in the bathroom. It came out of the toilet bowl and pushed the seat up to get out." She called 911; officers responded and took the snake out of the medicine cupboard and took him off to city hall. The next day, a 22-year-old woman claimed the snake as the one-year-old ball python she had misplaced about 10 days previously while she was moving out of the building. How did "Athena" get out? The woman said, "I had taken her out for exercise. She was crawling on my neck and then crawled down on the floor while I was reading a book... when I looked for her, she was gone." [New Era, December 30 and 31, 1996 from Michael J. Shrom]

South African news

  • Animals confiscated from an Egyptian traveling circus by the government of South Africa were due to be released in early November. The six lions, three tigers, an African python, three horses and five dogs had been abandoned to starve when the circus left Maputo. Three of the lions genetic material indicate they may be a species of Barbary lions previously believed to be extinct. They were being held pending confirmatory testing. [South Africa Saturday Star, November 23, 1996 from K and W Herp Haven]
  • Pretoria Zoo suddenly received 2,000 reptiles when a shipment from a reptile farm in Mozambique to Florida was opened and discovered in "appalling condition," according to reports from The Citizen and The Star. Officials didn't speculate why the people who shipped the animals left half the consignment behind, but stated the case was one of "gross neglect," that the crates were substandard and that up to 200 animals died of suffocation. "Puff adders and sungazer snakes were packed in bags on top of one another," said the SPCA spokesperson. [July 11, 1996] Contributor Mike Penrith, head of the Aquarium and Reptile Park of the National Zoological Gardens of SA Pretoria, wrote, "... When opened, only 210 of the 295 Chameleons were still alive and another 40 plus died within 48 hours. There were deaths among the other reptiles and arachnids as well but not as extreme, thanks mainly to the animals being removed from the shipping containers in time."

On the other coil

Contributor Mary McDonald writes: "After all the `python kills tot' stuff in our tabloids, its nice to see that The New York Times thinks snakes are fashionable and it's not snake skins." The attached photoessay shows chic New Yorkers with stuffed, fake fur snake-shaped neck-warmers. Apparently, it's become quite the thing in the Big Apple to stroll around in summer with something big and serpentine wrapped around your neck. [December 1, 1996]

Hop-, slither- and wriggle-news

  • The Lancet reports that the number of people killed by poisonous caterpillars has now surpassed deaths from snake bite in some regions of Brazil. [South Africa Mail and Guardian, October 18, 1996 from Wes von Papinešu and Kimberley Heaphy]
  • A Mexican artist was earning up to $20,000 a piece for large, colorful oil paintings - until gallery owners discovered that it was really his pet boa, dipped in paint, making the designs. [Weekly World News, June 25, 1996 from K & W Herp Haven]
  • Headline: "Goodby cruel world: $10,000 trained frog hops into toilet bowl - and gets flushed down the commode." Accompanying photo: the frog's companion people are shown mourning at the porcelain pit fall. They had spend months training the frog, who in hoppier days had been featured by the paper in his own tiny decorated rooms - including a bathroom! [ Weekly World News, December 3, 1996 from Wes von Papinešu and Kimberley Heaphy]
  • A Largo, Florida resident, trying to protect his poodle, shot a local alligator which he felt had come a bit too close for comfort. He said, "I don't think I did anything wrong. I wouldn't have done it if I had known it was a felony," reports The Argus. The wounded alligator was only a little one, about three feet, and it was taken care of until it died by a wildlife rehabilitator. The man is out on $1,500 bail. [August 12, 1996 from Matthew and Laurie Aikawa]
  • The Bangkok Post reports "Damam, UAE: A Saudi woman complained of `strange movements down her back' during a plane flight to see her daughter. At her destination, the daughter pulled back the folds of her mother's dress to take a look, and was bitten by a poisonous viper... The girl died." [October 29, 1996 from Wes von Papinešu and Kimberley Heaphy]
  • It was reported that a tourist to Ecuador brushed against a poison arrow frog which resulted in the man being taken to hospital with a violent reaction. Local people suggested that he might not make it. He did; and for the next eight months suffered joint pains and other odd symptoms. [Weekly World News, January 12, 1997 from Wes von Papinešu and Kimberley Heaphy]
  • Two teenage boys dipped lizards in gasoline, set them on fire and released them. The resulting flames destroyed several homes including one which housed a herpetological collection of research materials and reptiles. [Nevada Appeal, June 27, 1996 from Allen Salzberg]

Hoppiness is seven stories about frogs

  1. "Hero frog hops five miles to save master's life" shouts Weekly World News. The critter pictured is an Argentine Horned Toad (Ceratophrys ornata). The story they report is that a man had taken his pet frog along on a day fishing trip, as he was in the habit of doing regularly, and passed out on the bank of the stream. The frog supposedly hopped five miles back to the house, and alerted the man's wife and brother that something was wrong. [August 23, 1996 from K and W Herp Haven]
  2. "Fly-sized frog found hopping it up in Cuba" reports the Tacoma, Washington News Tribune. The story which had great "legs" tells of a frog small enough to sit on a dime (actual size about 2/5ths of an inch) being found in a Cuban rainforest by researchers. When found, one female was actually with her egg. Researchers speculate that the frog lays only one egg at a time due to her tiny body size. [December 6, 1996 from Alan Tuley]
  3. Have three frog species gone extinct in New South Wales, Australia? The Frog and Tadpole Study Group's annual frog survey revealed that three species are entirely missing from this years' census. If you'd like to volunteer: FATS, P.O. Box A2405, Sydney South, 2000 Australia. [Sydney Morning Herald, November 6, 1996 from Wes von Papinešu and Kimberley Heaphy]
  4. "The mystery of the frogs: deformed amphibians with extra or missing legs... are being found around the U.S." was addressed by The Los Angeles Times. The take-home message of the article is scary: "Since the investigators have no idea what they are looking for, unraveling the mystery could take years. Even if they narrow their search to pesticides, there are hundreds to test for - and infinite combinations." [November 25, 1996 from new contributor Joseph M. Luna]
  5. The Globe and Mail (Toronto) reports: "Zoologists at the University of Michigan have taken photographs of an East African amphibian, the Scolecomophrus kirkii, popping its eyes out of its head on stalks." [October 22, 1996 from K and W Herp Haven]
  6. O.K. froggies, exhale. Researchers at the University of New Orleans have learned how to synthesize a chemical venom for which the only previous source was live, wild-harvested frogs. "The frog population was being devastated," said a research chemist at the University. [Electronic Telegraph (UK), October 22, 1996 from Kimberley Heaphy and Wes von Papinešu]
  7. The South African Star reports: "Once upon a time there were thousands of frogs who hibernated on one side of a busy British [road... and crossed it every year to breed.]... Sadly many were crushed by cars in their lust for life. So the scientists built them a tunnel of love under the road, a sort of concrete condom to guarantee safe sex. But while the toads were dying for love, they refused to use the tunnel: it was too cold and airless... scientists are planning to install air conditioning and heating. And so the mad frogs and Englishmen lived happily ever after." [November 18, 1996 from K and W Herp Haven] Worse than any preceding, the Star's headline read "Frigid no more."


Thanks to this month's contributors and to: Debra Patla, unknown in Philadelphia (please put your name on every clipping!), Roger Featherstone, Alan Rigerman, P.R.S. (?) Funk, Mark Paul Henderson, Jerry L. Boyer, Matthew and Laurie Aikawa, Christopher Knuth, Alan Tuley, Bryan McCarty for sending clippings, articles, photos and cards. You can contribute, too. The best way is to take the whole sheet(s) of newspaper, fold a minimum number of times, and write your name on each piece. About five pages and an envelope are one ounce (a mere $0.32 in those days!). Think about all the fun you'll have showing friends and family your name in an upcoming column! Join my other fantastic contributors and keep my mailman svelt.

Volume 8, Number 5 - 1997

Herps squash Info Highway to Silicon Valley

In a twist on the age-old tale of herps smashed on the road, two endangered herps put the brakes on a new fiber optic cable installation to Half Moon Bay, CA. The red-legged frog (Rana aurora) and the San Francisco garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia) live in the huge Crystal Springs Reservoir bisected by the road and the copper phone wires and so county, state, and the San Francisco water district all had to sign off on the environmental and endangered species issues for the new cable. The bay is in an area isolated by the ocean, the mountains and the reservoir, but it is close to Silicon Valley, so the demand for high-speed frame relay connections is putting a lot of pressure on the phone company to resolve the issue. For now, more copper wire is being slung on poles. A computer programmer who recognizes the importance of the environmental issues said, "The day you can manufacture a red-legged frog as easily as you can manufacture fiber-optic cable is a long way off." [San Francisco Chronicle, February 10, 1997 from Matthew and Laurie Aikawa]

"Komodopthalmologist?"

A veterinary team in Springfield, Va apparently successfully removed a cataract from the eye of a female Komodo dragon on breeding loan to the U.S. National Zoo from Ueno Zoo in Tokyo. It is the first time this procedure has been done on Varanis komodoensis. The veterinary ophthalmologist said that "Muffin" shouldn't have pain or side effects from the procedure and will be able to see clearly a day or two after surgery. [February 6, 1997: San Francisco Chronicle - Jack Corning, Matthew and Laurie Aikawa; Telegram and Gazette - Christopher J. Knuth; Jefferson City Post-Tribune - Vicky Elwood; The Washington Times - Bill Messer; The Roanoke Times - vet team] The background of the photo shows that this may also be the first surgery on a Komodo dragon recorded by at least four different photographers; still and video!

Tortoise ultrasound

A veterinary radiologist recently did an ultrasound examination on the Kansas City Zoo's Aldabra tortoise and found that the 300-pound 60-ish "Daisy" has developing eggs. Hatchlings of this species are reported to be rare in captivity with the last birth being recorded seven years ago at the Atlanta Zoo. [Kansas City Star, February 27, 1997 from Vicky Elwood]

Nothing threatens New York toads

Thousands of endangered Wyoming toads were bred in hatcheries ranging from Colorado to New York City's Central Park branch of the Bronx Zoo (Wildlife Conservation Society) and - in "an amphibian version of Pickett's Charge" were released in Rocky Mountain National Park, according to the San Francisco Chronicle which added, "The risk is clear, but researchers argue that it's time to abandon scientific caution. The toad cannot afford to wait any longer for an answer to why it is being killed off in the Colorado mountains." Some toads have been radio tagged and others have been pit tagged to help researchers determine where they go and what they do. One reports that of the 104 released, 54 were found later in the season, so whatever is or was endangering the Wyoming toads elsewhere wasn't getting the repatriates. Some of the native New York Wyoming toads were moved to their namesake state, more are breeding in Central Park and are on display at the Conservation Center. [WCS Members News Winter 1996-1997 from Michael Perez]

"Golden Gator" captured

An associate curator of the San Francisco Zoo caught the 7-pound 3-foot long alligator reported swimming in Presidio Mountain Lake with a fishing pole and some raw fish. [San Francisco Examiner October 9, 1996] A couple of months later, Goldie was not drawing the crowds anymore. Zoo officials planned to send him and Antoine LeBlanc, the 6-foot white gator they borrowed from the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans back to the bayou, but discovered that Antoine had outgrown his shipping crate! [December 4, 1996 both from Grizzly Gibson]

Two countries, two systems

  • "An alliance of 33 tortoise-loving Members of Parliament has protested to the Swedish authorities after the [latter] froze 1,000 illegally imported specimens to death. The animals were destroyed despite offers from both the British-based Tortoise Trust and the SAS airline to cover the cost of returning them to Tadjikistan... The Swedish Charge d'Affaires in London... said there was no rescue-centre in Sweden willing to take the animals [Testudo horsfeldi] and they were not fit for transportation," according to The Independent. [December 11, 1996 from Mark O'Shea]
  • It all began at the airport late last year, when a British citizen flying in from Hong Kong was discovered to have hundreds of baby star tortoises in his carry-on luggage. Then on January 22, 1997 the Government of Canada "announced that 105 of the 232 Indian star tortoises that were smuggled into Canada from India will be transported to a new home in the United States... [the baby tortoises] were discovered ... by Customs Canada and Environment Canada officials... [they have an] estimated retail value of as much as $250,000 Canadian." The babies were sent to a US zoo which will distribute them to several zoos in the states that are breeding the species. [News release January 22, 1997] The smuggler pleaded guilty to importing the tortoises without a license, was fined $10,000 (Can.) and deported. [The Toronto Star, January 23, 1997 both from Wes von Papinešu and Kimberley Heaphy]

Cobras, $12 a day!

An entrepreneur in Harare, Zimbabwe has been capturing wild Egyptian cobras, putting them in the homes of people who are away on vacation, and posting signs and drawings (for illiterates) in an effort to deter burglary which is reportedly rampant in this African nation. However, the Zimbabwe Herpetological Society and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals opposes this use of the species for obvious reasons, and contributor Steve Durrant of the ZHS suggested one I didn't think of - what happens if you can't find all the loose cobras when the owner comes home? Curiously, the entrepreneur claims a bachelor of science in herpetology from Illinois State University and says that the campus he attended is the "one near Boston." The New York Times reports: "If that can be overlooked, he has other distinguishing marks of a snake handler - two tattoos and evidence of four bites, the last of which cost him half his index finger... He said, `My wife, uh, tolerates me over this.'" [February 9, 1997 - Bryan Lorber; Miami Herald - Alan Rigerman; San Francisco Examiner - Matthew and Laurie Aikawa]

$5,000 cobra, one day

Regular readers may remember the story of "Tut" the 2-foot Egyptian cobra lost whilst sunning one day across the street from a grade school. It was a three-day sensation until two fourth graders saw the cobra in school months later and it was taken away by authorities without further incident. Hopefully the final 15 minutes for this story comes from the Worcester, MA Telegram and Gazette: "The Stoneham owner of an Egyptian cobra that escaped last summer has been fined $5,000 for violating wildlife protection laws." [February 27, 1997 from Christopher J. Knuth]

Venomous snakes, $5,000 a day (minimum)

  • "Slade, KY snake expert James Harrison survived his tenth venomous [snake] bite, in part by staying conscious long enough to tell doctors how to administer his own anti-venin... [the] founder of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo... was bitten on the thumb... while extracting venom from a five-foot adult Cape cobra... [He] has been handling snakes for 21 years and has already lost part of a finger to one of them. `The odds catch up with you eventually,' he said... [He] had milked about 40 snakes... when he picked up the South African cobra... [The Zoo]... maintains 80 species of venomous snakes" [January 7, 1997 The Courier-Journal, Kentucky from Gary H. Kettring] Harrison had done everything possible to prepare for snake bite including having a written protocol, antivenin for all the species he handles, a brother close by who is equally well informed on venomous snake-bite available to medical personnel, an assistant to drive him to the hospital, and the coolness of nerve to put the snake away properly before leaving for treatment. [Dayton Daily News, February 8, 1997 from Brian Menker]
  • A Jacksonville, FL man was bitten by a 5-foot diamondback rattlesnake and was in critical condition after having been transferred from the local hospital to the University Medical Center. The 35-year-old man told an animal control officer that he was milking venom from the snake "because it is worth a lot of money." The officer did not know if the man "had any experience in milking rattlesnakes," according to the Miami Herald. [January 25, 1997 from Alan W. Rigerman]

Happy pythons

  • Firefighters had already found the dog - dead in the ashes of a totally destroyed home in Manteca, CA when they found the family Burmese coiled up in the remains of a closet. The fire Battalion Chief said "It was kind of funny. It reminded me of that movie Raiders of the Lost Ark... I could just hear our guys saying `Why does it have to be a snake?'" [The Oakland Tribune, November 3, 1996 from Matthew and Laurie Aikawa]
  • A 20-year-old, 3.45 meter female African rock python had a vertebra crushed when it was run over by a car. So far, no news. What's new though is that an orthopedic surgeon and a veterinary surgeon collaborated to repair the break at the 112th vertebra. The snake is expected to make a recovery from its injuries. South African rock pythons (Sebae natalensis) has 306 vertebra and 268 ribs, otherwise its spine is similar to other vertebrates - including humans. The species is in the process of being listed as endangered in South Africa. [Natal The Cape Times, January 22, 1997 and The Toronto Globe and Mail, January 23 from Wes von Papinešu and Kimberley Heaphy]

Taxes, a croc?

The curator of Egyptian papyrus documents at the Hearst Museum in Berkeley, California is one of five team members in a nationwide project to decipher thousands of tax records and other "junk paper" found inside mummified crocodiles sent home from an 1899 archaeological dig. It is reported that the papyrus documents were discovered when one crocodile accidentally broke open revealing the Egyptians' recycling scheme. [Oakland Tribune, December 11, 1996 from Matthew & Laurie Aikawa]

Crocodile redundancy

Only 13 people have been killed, and another 20 survived salt-water crocodile attacks in Australia over the last 25 years since the Northern Territory government banned hunting. Crocodylus porosus is the largest of the crocodile species on earth, but were no match for human hunting improvements. In 1971, there were only 5,000 left. They now number about 70,000 and are beginning to impact human activities again. "Salties" have been reported from suburban parking lots to urban beaches in Darwin and even invaded the popular swimming holes in the Kakadu National Park where scenes of "Crocodile Dundee" were filmed. Recently an engineer on an oil rig 120 miles out in the Timor Sea between Australia and Indonesia reported seeing a salty lurking around. [The Wall Street Journal, February 5, 1997 from {your name here?}]

Just get the Sweetwater Jaycees...

The $1 million proposed by the Interior Department to study and capture brown tree snakes (Boiga irregularis) on Guam ran into a "wise-use" counterproposal to pay local kids on the island $1 per snake to capture this venomous species. The Senator who made the proposal said that the department had "misguided spending priorities." The Interior Secretary replied that "The brown tree snake is a major disaster looming across the Pacific, pointed at Hawaii and perhaps the southern United States. The entire island [of Guam] has been overrun. Plant species are going extinct. They are everywhere, shorting out power lines, coming in through plumbing systems. It's a mess." [Jefferson City Post-Tribune, February 27, 1997 from Vicky Elwood]

Joy of Living

  • The recent flap over the recipes for sea turtles in famous US cookbook Joy of Cooking sent me to my copy of the first edition, published before the Endangered Species Act. Sure enough, there was the offending section, insensitive remarks about cutting off the shell, recipe for sea turtle soup and all. The representative of the Sea Turtle Survival League who was quoted on the Reuters Newswire said that they have contacted the publisher of the highly successful book - but have received no reply. [January 7, 1997 from Wes von Papinešu and Kimberley Heaphy]
  • "Nicaraguan authorities have banned the eating of the threatened green iguana, the main ingredient in a favorite Holy Week dish. Each year just before Lent, the reptiles are hunted in the wild and killed, to be cooked with vegetables and ground corn... the ban is intended to prevent the slaughter of the iguana at the height of its reproductive cycle," according to the San Francisco Chronicle. [February 8, 1997 from Matthew and Laurie Aikawa]

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this column and to Mark Paul Henderson, Alan Rigerman, Alan Tuley, F. Castro, P.L. Beltz, M. Pilotte, and government:Canada for its continuing support of herpetological news services, as well as five new contributors. You can contribute, too! Please send the whole pages from newspapers or magazines including date/publication slug with your name on each sheet to me at the address on the masthead. All contributions will be acknowledged in upcoming columns.

Volume 8, Number 6 - 1997

Snake ancestor had legs

Researchers say they've determined that the first snakes had legs. A reevaluation of fossils found in an Israeli limestone quarry revealed that animals formerly classified as lizards are actually snake ancestors. They date to about 95 million years ago, however, far too old to have lived in the Garden of Eden which was dated to approximately 4,004 B.C. by the Reverend Ussher in the late 1800s A.D. [The New York Times, April 17, 1997 from new contributor Anne W. Polster]

Frogs in the news

  • A frog named "Bud-Wiser" jumped 20 feet four inches to win this years' Calaveras County frog-jumping contest. It was collected the week before the contest by a man who won the top prize of $750 in addition to sponsorship money from the beer company that has used frogs in advertising for about a year or so. [San Francisco Chronicle, May 19, 1997 from Matthew and Laurie Aikawa]
  • The San Mateo County Transportation District voted to buy a reserve for red-legged frogs and San Francisco garter snakes living in wetlands to be crossed by an extension of the BART public transport system. The red-legged frog was immortalized by American humorist Mark Twain in the story which inspired the annual Calaveras County jumping frog contest. [The Oakland Tribune, May 20, 1997 from Matthew and Laurie Aikawa]
  • A new antibiotic compound has been developed by Magainin Pharmaceuticals from the skin of an African frog. Researchers announced that it has shown to be effective in treating infected diabetic foot ulcers. [The Providence, RI Sunday Journal, April 27, 1997 from Joe Sousa]

Painless ownership

You can adopt a sea turtle without federal permits or building a 50,000 gallon tank in your yard by joining the Adopt-A-Turtle group of the Caretta Research Project of the Savannah Science Museum at the Wassaw National Wildlife Refuge. You can volunteer to work on the research program, too. Contact Kristina Williams, Director, Caretta Research Project, Savannah Science Museum, 4405 Paulsen Street, Savannah, GA 31405, 912-355-6705. Adoption fees range from $25 for a hatchling to $100 for a nesting female and are tax-deductible to the full extent provided in the US-IRS tax code.

Iguana be too much to handle

  • You have to watch what you ask for... A conservatory in Eden Park, San Diego, CA added one iguana to its plant collection to make the place seem more real. To keep the first iguana from being lonely, local iguana owners left a few more iguanas in the greenhouse. Now, the iguanas are eating their way through the plant collection. Manager, Ruth Ann Spears said "They've eaten so much... it's barren." They finally had to catch the gang of iguanas but can't catch the owners who keep releasing more and more iguanas, including one 6-footer that officials think was dumped off through the handicapped entrance. [The Cincinnati Enquirer, June 6, 1997 from Jennifer Sieczka and Richard Mone]
  • A three-alarm fire at a high school in Napa, CA is being blamed on a caged iguana which knocked over a heat lamp igniting combustible material. The fire caused about $750,000 in damage. "Iggy" was found alive, but injured and was sent to another school until his classroom is rebuilt. Over two thousand students had class outside until mobile classrooms were delivered. [The San Francisco Chronicle, April 16, 1997 from Matthew and Laurie Aikawa]
  • Another iguana named "Iggy" at the Mercer Island, WA high school has been blamed for pulling the chain on the fire alarm with his tail. Several false alarms disrupted school days; finally an alert student noticed that the cage was too close to the chain handle. [Jefferson City, Mo News Tribune, May 24, 1997 from Vicky Elwood]
  • So many iguanas have been taken from the wild, that they have become endangered in Honduras, Central America. Local children hawk baby iguanas at the roadside in an effort to get money to put food on the family table. One local man has established a farm with 10,000 iguanas in an effort to breed babies for the international pet trade. [Cable Network News, June 4, 1997 from Wes von Papinešu and Kimberley Heaphy]

Barn - again

Following the fracas out of Florida for a reptile dealer's barn in an agricultural area comes this story from Baltimore, MD where a reptile breeder was granted permission to construct a barn for his collection. Neighbors saw the foundation and began protesting the decision of the zoning board which had ruled that the snake breeding effort qualified as a "reduced-acreage" farming enterprise. The breeder said, "Not only are [the snakes] too valuable for me to be careless... but they're my pets. I've had some of these snakes for years." Currently the collection is housed in his basement. More than 200 boas and pythons live in six-foot locking plastic cages. Babies live in a separate room until shipped in special containers to clients who include the National and San Diego Zoos. [North County News, April 10, 1997 from Danny Brotto]

Primitive lizards meet civilized people

  • There are now about one million alligators in the state of Florida which works out to one gator for every fourteen human residents of that state. [Miami Herald, May 8, 1997 from Alan W. Rigerman]
  • The death of a 3-year-old boy in the jaws of an 11-foot alligator received nationwide press. There are a few things to remember from this tragic event. First is that only eight people have been killed by alligators in the 53 years that the state has kept records. Second is that the child and his tiny dog were playing in the shallow part of a lake which was posted as alligator habitat. Third is that every body of water in Florida may contain alligators. They've been found in canals, ponds, ditches, watertraps on golf courses, sewers and the beach. State officials say that they could put warning signs on every body of water in the state and that people would still forget, or ignore, the postings. [Miami Herald, March 24, 1997 fro Alan W. Rigerman]
  • Researchers are finding "dangerously thin" alligators in the Everglades and say the alligators are living on a diet of snails, snakes and salamanders - not enough for proper growth. Compared to plump alligators 70 miles north on Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades alligators are practically runts, and they take longer to reach reproductive maturity because of their small size. [Miami Herald, April 6, 1997 from Alan W. Rigerman]
  • Alligators have been found in Gates, North Carolina for the first time in 300 years. Now, posters warn visitors to watch out for snakes and lizards - including really big lizards. In Colonial days, alligators were found as far north as the Great Dismal Swamp, but they were hunted out in early days. [The Virginia Pilot, May 26, 1997 from K and W Herp Haven]
  • The largest alligator ever recorded measured 14-feet, one inch. It was found in Louisiana. The longest living alligator in Florida is a 13-feet 7.5 inches and lives at a Swamp Safari attraction. [Business Wire, May 5, 1997 from Wes von Papinešu and Kimberley Heaphy]

Snakes, men and the law

  • More than five dozen venomous and large snakes were found in an unlocked garage in southwest London in a dawn raid by police and RSPCA officers. Officials claim the owner ran a "dial-a-snake" business from his townhouse. The man pleaded guilty to 53 counts of keeping dangerous animals without a license and causing unnecessary suffering to animals. He was fined 150 Pounds for not having a license, 100 Pounds for suffering, and 150 Pounds in court costs and banned from keeping dangerous animals for ten years. Among the animals found were a Collett's tiger snake and a saw-scaled viper. The man denied buying or selling snakes illegally. [The London Times, April 18, 1997 from Wes von Papinešu and Kimberley Heaphy]
  • A 40-year-old Colorado man was hospitalized after being bitten by his pet rattlesnake while trying to feed the snake a mouse by hand. The man may face criminal charges as he had no permit for exotic animals. Meanwhile, the snake got the worst of the deal. It was euthanized. [United Press International, May 28, 1997 from Wes von Papinešu and Kimberley Heaphy]
  • Someone put a three-foot California Kingsnake through the letterslot of a home in Clayton-le-Moors, England. The resident said, "I don't know who would be daft enough to shove a three-foot snake into my house." Officials were not amused and are investigating. [Lancashire Evening Telegraph, March 28, 1997 from Wes von Papinešu and Kimberley Heaphy]
  • Police shot a 10-foot, 34-pound python 12 times after the snake "overpowered several people in a Sioux Falls [South Dakota] apartment." The snake was shot after officers had coaxed it into a duffel bag and it was restrained. The chief animal control officer in the town said that workers "went beyond the call of duty in helping out with the snake," according to the Sioux Empire. [February 27, 1997 from Terry DeBoer]
  • A man who beheaded both of his pet snakes after an intoxicated argument with his girlfriend pleased guilty to two counts of cruelty to animals in an Ann Arundel County, MD courtroom. He had claimed that he killed the first snake after being bitten, but no bite marks were found on his leg and investigators were unable to substantiate his claim that the snakes had attacked him. [Baltimore Sun, March 28, 1997 from Craig Breimm]
  • While 33 percent of people testifying at state-wide hearings on protecting the timber rattlesnake in Wisconsin support protection, one State Assemblyman said, "We've been working very hard to make them extinct." Unfortunately DuWayne Johnsrud (R-Eastman) also chairs the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources which will have to pass any ruling to protect the snake. Three hundred citizens wrote letters supporting protective legislation, while only five wrote opposing protection for the snake. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 25, 1997 and Shepherd Express, March 27, 1997 both from Andrew Alefsen]

Sea turtle news

  • "Given all the bluster from Washington about other countries' shrimping fleets threatening sea turtles, it must follow that American shrimpers are models of rectitude. Maybe, maybe not. The Humane Society alleges that 41 percent of the Texas shrimpers it surveyed had violated US regulations to protect sea turtles..." [The Bangkok Post, Thailand, April 17, 1997 from Wes von Papinešu and Kimberley Heaphy]
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded $500,000 to purchase an off-beach parking lot in an effort to protect the habitat of nesting sea turtles in Volusia County, Florida. Last year, three traffic-free zones were established, but some stretches of beach can still be accessed by automobiles. [Miami Herald, March 16, 1997 from Alan W. Rigerman]
  • A series of offshore dredging projects from Florida to North Carolina were halted because 19 sea turtles were killed in the process. Officials speculate that more turtles are being killed this year because there are "more loggerheads this year" or that perhaps inshore waters were warmer than in 1996. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shut down all projects until either the take limit could be raised, or a method could be found to stop killing turtles. [Miami Herald, April 8, 1997 from Alan W. Rigerman]

Smuggling on increase worldwide

  • The Philippine News Agency reports that reptiles are "hot items" on the local black markets and that reptile smuggling cases now top bird smuggling on the local docket, and adds that "some pet collectors even have a peculiar interest to own much bigger types of reptiles such as the boa constrictor and pythons." [April 1, 1997 from Wes von Papinešu and Kimberley Heaphy]
  • More than 4,800 turtles were found dead in West Bengal in a lorry. Officials believe they were being smuggled to Bangladesh. [The Straits Times, Singapore, April 21, 1997 from Wes von Papinešu and Kimberley Heaphy]
  • Another 1,200 tortoises were found dead in a bathtub packed with ice cubes in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. Indian wildlife officials said they were being chilled prior to an abortive smuggling effort. [The Star, Johannesburg, South Africa, April 14, 1997 from Wes von Papinešu and Kimberley Heaphy]
  • Five hundred star tortoises were seized at a Singapore mini-mart by wildlife officers acting on a complaint. The owner of the mini-mart was fined heavily for not having a permit to trade in endangered species. [The Straits Times, Singapore, June 5, 1997 from Wes von Papinešu and Kimberley Heaphy]
  • Add these reports to those received via the Internet on thefts from zoos worldwide and what you see is an alarming trend; reptiles as targets of profit-hungry morally bankrupt individuals. I have begun to not use stories about "first births" of endangered species because I don't want to contribute to the thieves' data base. It's a sad state of affairs when reptile-lovers can't celebrate conservation successes out of concern for making the babies targets.

You know you're a herp addict when...

  • Your house has no bug screens because you see bugs and think "free food"
  • you have pictures of your animals tucked in front of your kids' photos on your desk
  • you always show new friends your whole collection, whether they care or not
  • someone says "shed" and you assume ecdysis
  • you think bird eggs are weird because they're not leathery
  • neighbors complain "something smells" and you know what it is
  • you can't look at a greenhouse without thinking "I could really put a lot of herps in there!"
  • you decide there is no such thing as "too many animals"
  • you think about moving to Florida so your red-ears feel more at home. [adapted from an article by Bruce Hudson in MOKO, the Newsletter of the New Zealand Herp Society, Winter (our summer), 1997] To which I'd add, when
  • you have so many clippings on herps that they fill a four-drawer file cabinet and three boxes in an inner city apartment
  • you own more fish tanks than the average pet shop
  • newspaper recycling bins in your neighborhood are always empty
  • you name your mice "Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner"
  • you cringe when your husband says "I brought you something from my trip, honey!" and ask "does it eat?"
  • your phone number is on the local animal control rolodex under "snake woman"
  • you'd rather take a field trip than a vacation. More contributions on this subject will be printed as received.

Such a deal...

Regular readers of this column realize just how many clippings, articles, photos and cards arrive in order to be able to produce six columns a year. But, did you ever wonder what happens to the clippings themselves? I guess I must have been a packrat in a former life, but I've been keeping them for the past eleven years. They're filed by subject (alligators, snakes, lizards, conservation issues, iguanas, turtles, sea turtles, etcetera). Some subjects are huge and some are small. I have an idea of how to reduce the weight on my house foundation and pass around a lifetime supply of herp society newsletter material... Send me a letter (no e-mail to be fair to the unconnected) of the topic you'd like to receive. I'll weigh the file and write you to tell you how much it will cost to mail or UPS (your choice). If you're still interested - send me the postage and I'll mail you the file. Requests will be honored in order based on postmark.

Thanks to everyone who contributed articles, photos, cards and letters and to Robert Innes, J. Corning, Steven L. Lysenko, Andrew Alefsen, Alan W. Rigerman, Christopher J. Knuth, Susan Donoghue, Frank Castro, Donielle Rininger, Russ Mercado, Joe Ventura, Nick Nolastname, Robert J. Paluch, Steve Ford, Mike Laseninks, Bryan Lorber, and Lara K. Andrews for things I enjoyed reading but couldn't use. A special big "welcome back" to contributor Marty Marcus who suffered through a broken arm and a power outage simultaneously and lost not a reptile by "single-handedly" taking his whole collection in his mobile home to a park that still had power! You can contribute, too. Cut out whole pages of newspaper or magazines. Make sure that the publication name and date slug is firmly attached to each page or tape it there if it is not. Write your name clearly (or use address labels) on each piece. Send to me . Wait about six months to see your contribution acknowledged. It's easy and it's fun to see your name in print.

My new book!
Frogs: Inside Their Remarkable World
by Ellin Beltz
Read another column...
Vol. 2 . Vol. 3 . Vol. 4 . Vol. 5 . Vol. 6 . Vol. 7 . Vol. 8 . Vol. 9 . Vol. 10 . Vol. 11

Or learn the Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America:
translations of the scientific names, list of common names, biographies of those honored, citations of original descriptions and other information.
Visit my Homepage
Ellin Beltz - ebeltz@ebeltz.net

January 10, 2008

Valid HTML 4.01!