Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Meet Stephen Patterson! 
   Steve came down to Tasmania from Queensland to do the Snake Managment training course run by Reptile Rescue. He proved to be a very compitent snake wrangler and has been rescuing alot of snakes on the mainland. Steve is practically our mainland correspondant in the realm of snake catching on the big island! Here are just some of his finds:
Black Headed Python

Spotted Python

 Thanks for your pictures Steve! We hope to hear more from you!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

ScienceNOW - Up to the minute news from Science

Vibrating Skulls Help Snakes Hear

on 22 December 2011, 12:15 AM | 
What's that? Despite having no external ears, ball pythons aren't as deaf as scientists once assumed.
Credit: Christian Christensen
When a rattlesnake shakes its tail, does it hear the rattling? Scientists have long struggled to understand how snakes, which lack external ears, sense sounds. Now, a new study shows that sound waves cause vibrations in a snake's skull that are then "heard" by the inner ear.
"There's been this enduring myth that snakes are deaf," says neurobiologist Bruce Young of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, who was not involved in the new research. "Behavioral studies have suggested that snakes can in fact hear, and now this work has gone one step further and explained how."
In humans, sound waves traveling through the air hit the eardrum, causing the movement of tiny bones and vibrations of tiny hair cells in the inner ear. These vibrations are then translated into nerve impulses that travel to the brain. Snakes have fully formed inner ear structures but no eardrum. Instead, their inner ear is connected directly to their jawbone, which rests on the ground as they slither. Previous studies have shown that vibrations traveling through the ground—such as the footsteps of predators or prey—cause vibrations in a snake's jawbone, relaying a signal to the brain via that inner ear.
It was still unclear, however, whether snakes could hear sounds traveling through the air. So Biologist Christian Christensen of Aarhus University in Denmark took a closer look at one particular type of snake, the ball python (Python regius). Studying them wasn't easy. "You can't train snakes to respond to sounds with certain behaviors, like you might be able to do with mice," says Christensen. Instead, he and his colleagues used electrodes attached to the reptiles' heads to monitor the activity of neurons connecting the snakes' inner ears to their brains. Each time a sound was played through a speaker suspended above the snake's cage, the researchers measured whether the nerve relayed an electrical pulse (the snakes showed no outward response to the sounds). The nerve pulses were strongest, the researchers found, with frequencies between 80 and 160 hertz—around the frequency for the lowest notes of a cello, though not necessarily sounds that snakes encounter often in the wild.
The snakes don't seem to be responding to vibrations that these sounds cause in the ground, since these vibrations were too weak to cause nerve activity when they weren't accompanied by sound in the air, Christensen and his colleagues found. However, when the researchers attached a sensor to the snake's skull, they discovered that the sound waves were causing enough vibration in the bone—directly through the air—for the snakes to sense it. The results appear online today in The Journal of Experimental Biology.
Young calls the work "extremely nice," but he notes that the team studied only one species of snake. "Given that there are almost 3000 types of snakes, the next question would be how this differs between them." Some snakes, he notes, are known to be better at sensing vibrations through the ground, so their ability to sense sound waves in the air might be reduced. Since many sounds are too weak to cause ground-borne vibrations that snakes can sense, having both abilities helps them detect a wider range of noises. Some salamanders and frogs lack eardrums, too, he notes, and they may listen in the same way snakes do.
Young also says that there are probably other ways that snakes are sensing vibrations in the air and the ground. "We know snakes have some special sense organs in their skin and their head that likely react to vibrations. And we have some evidence that they detect vibration along the length of their body," he says. "This is unlikely to be the final word on how snakes sense sound and vibrations.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

 Keeping Snakes in the United States

A very cranky Rattle snake!
I imagine that keeping snakes here in the States is not much different from the keeping in Australia. We do have less stringent laws for the most part with many states having little or no restrictions on keeping non-venomous species and some having laws as far as venomous.
I have been keeping snakes for about 8 years and started with the easy and familiar Cornsnake (Pantherophis Gutatta). My husband and I went to our first reptile show and purchased a beautiful amelanistic corn that we named C.S. (short for Christmas Snake-being near to Christmas time). He was the ideal first snake being mellow, a good eater and quite comfortable with being handled. We kept him in a small 10 gl. (38 L) glass reptile cage at first and eventually moved him up to a 20 (76L), then 30 gl (114 L) tank. He grew to be a robust male of about 550 grams and was the father of my first clutch.
Somewhere along the way I acquired 5 more cornsnakes and began breeding. All my snakes are housed individually in their own homes and I hold to the philosophy that it is less stressful and more natural for snakes to live alone. I've never found snakes co-habitating in the wild unless it was at breeding time, or in the case of rattlesnakes, denning together in the winter for hibernation. All animals are fed frozen/thawed prey from tongs either in the cage as the case for arboreals and venomous to in separate feeding boxes for the cornsnakes and rainbow boa to keep from ingesting substrate. Babies are kept in plastic shoeboxes with paper towel substrate on racks. My adults are all housed in custom melamine cages that vary in size depending upon species and age. Adult arboreals are kept in cages that measure 48" X 24" X 24" (122 cm X 61 cm X 61 cm). Cornsnakes, snail eaters and juvenile snakes are housed in 36" X 18" X 14" (91 cm X 46 cm X 36 cm). I use heat panels with thermostats to heat the cages. You can see the cages here on my website:
I keep many of my snakes in natural earth cages with live plants. Cornsnakes have shredded aspen for bedding and the arboreals that aren't in natural bio cages have sphanum moss for substrate and pothos plants are in all cages that are lit.
Here in the U.S. we can keep a variety of species from many countries without a problem, including the beautiful Green tree python (Morelia Viridis) that is found in your country. I also keep Amazon tree boas (Corallus Hortulanus), Brazilian Rainbow Boas (Epicrates Cenchria), Common Snail Eaters (Sibon Nebulatus), and several venomous species. This includes the Copperhead (Agkistrodon Contortrix), Eyelash Viper (Bothrops Schlegelii), False Water Cobras (Hydronastes Gigas) and a neotropic Rattlesnake (Crotalus Simus).
Large boas and pythons are restricted in some states, Florida being the notable one since the problem with invasive Reticulated pythons and Burmese. There was some hysteria as to whether or not these large constrictors would take over the United States but studies done have shown they have a fairly limited ability to handle cold or extreme heat, making it impossible for them to move out of the immediate area of southern Florida. Keepers of these beautiful animals are still facing restrictions in Florida and we are fighting daily to stop more legislation
Keeping venomous in the U.S. varies from state to state. Some states such as Florida, require a license and proof of 1000 hours of hand's on internship with a mentor. Other states, like the one I live in, have no restrictions at all and anyone over the age of 18 may keep and own any type of venomous. Other states have a little of both-some permits required, but not the amount necessary in Florida. There are also exceptions in counties or cities even within states that do allow venomous.
I keep all venomous in locking cages with double sliding doors. I prefer having the ability to open the door farthest away from the animal in order to work or offer food or to spray the cage. All hides are capable of turning into catch boxes so if I want to clean the cage and the animal is in the hide, I just lock them in and I don't have to worry about moving them.
I keep a variety of hooks and tongs to move the animals to a holding tub with a lid. I avoid handling them as much as possible to reduce the chance of a bite. Responsible keepers generally keep a protocol book with medical information on the person (myself) and treatment protocols for each species for medical personnel. In the event of a bite a trip to the local hospital would be in order along with your protocol book. Since I keep an indigenous venomous species (the copperhead) I would have the anti-venom available at our local hospital. The more exotic species such as the eyelash viper or the neotropic would have to be obtained from either a zoo or Dade County (Florida) venom bank who would fly the treatment to the hospital needing it. Anti-venom is very costly here and has a finite shelf life so obtaining it to keep in your home is not practical. The species I keep also can use Crofab if necessary as a stop gap measure to treat until the proper anti venin is obtained.
There is nothing quite like keeping snakes and I love observing mine each day. I love the look of my reptile room with its custom cages that make it make it easier to care for all of my snakes more efficiently. I make enough breeding and selling babies to "support my habit" and hope to be able to do so for many years.
Meg Francoeur
Francly Corns and Chondros
This is a Mojave green that my friend owned.    
Here's a lovely Canebrake I found while looking at some property we almost bought (I would have bought it just for this reason only if I could!)  

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Rattlesnake Research Program Co-ordinator Emily Lomas

Making a difference
THE phrase "Canadian desert" may sound like an oxymoron but there's a block of land in the southern Okanagan Valley in British Columbia where scorpions and rattlesnakes go about their business as if they were in Texas.

This is the Osoyoos, and although it's technically classified as a grassland or shrub-steppe ecology, it's known locally as Canada's "pocket desert".

"Not all of Canada is covered in snow," says Emily Lomas, the snake biologist and master of science student who co-ordinates the rattlesnake research program at the Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre.

"The region contains many plants and animals found nowhere else in Canada, including amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates. And most are rare or endangered."

Much of this habitat has been eroded by human activity. This is not surprising given its hot, dry summers, which guarantee one of the longest growing seasons in Canada and the region's popularity as a holiday destination.

In 2003, the research program was set up as a joint venture between the Osoyoos Indian Band (one of seven aboriginal Okanagan Nations) and Environment Canada with the aim of determining the depth of the problem and identifying solutions. Rattlesnakes, which are frequently killed during encounters with humans, face increasing difficulties due to habitat loss and altered land use. By focusing her work on the largely untouched Osoyoos Indian Reserve, Lomas is able to compare snakes in their natural habitat with those affected by human encroachment.

"An ongoing goal of the project is to identify movement corridors of both the [threatened] western rattlesnake and the great basin gopher snake, from den sites to lower-elevation summer foraging areas, to identify important sites and habitat features and to get an idea of how many snakes live in the area," she says.

"Once we have all the data analysed, we can start to make some conclusions about the population, and from there we can make recommendations that will [have an] impact. Other aspects of the project so far have paved the way for how and where to implement snake fencing, and have investigated whether or not certain snake management practices are beneficial."

The program also plays an important role in raising the profile of these reptiles among residents and tourists, and providing effective solutions.

"These rattlesnakes are a natural part of the ecosystem here. They may play an important pest-management role by feeding on the rodents in the area. [Besides], by conserving rattlesnakes and their habitat, you are also conserving [the] habitat for many [other] rare and endangered species."

Although the nature of this work means there aren't many volunteer researchers, the Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre relies on helpers to convey the importance of its cultural and ecological programs. And visitors are encouraged to get involved with conservation through an adopt-a-rattler program. Funds raised are used to purchase microchips and radio transmitters, and adopters get special access to biologists.

It's just another way in which Lomas can share her enthusiasm.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Turtles In Trouble!

Checkout the program to rehabilitate turtles in Cairns...Turtle Rehab The affect of pollution in our oceans impact on these unfortunate sea creatures. TASMANIA HAS A LOT TO LEARN! An article, Murray River turtles threatened by drought, contradicts and is ideologically at odds with DPIPWE's Animal Management Branch's "final solution." The offer stands, Reptile Rescue is willing to fund and repatriate back to the mainland, any turtles found in the state.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Scientists find lost toad in jungle

Scientists have rediscovered a spindly-legged toad species almost 90 years after it was last sighted in Malaysia's Borneo jungle.

The sambas stream toad, or borneo rainbow toad, was found by a team of scientists after months of scouring remote forest in Sarawak state on Borneo island, Conservation International (CI) said in a release.

The endangered toad was last seen in 1924 and only three of the toads had ever been seen.

"It is good to know that nature can surprise us when we are close to giving up hope, especially amidst our planet's escalating extinction crisis," amphibian specialist Robin Moore of the Virginia-based group said.

"Amphibians are at the forefront of this tragedy, so I hope that these unique species serve as flagships for conservation, inspiring pride and hope by Malaysians and people everywhere."

Malaysian researcher Indraneil Das set out with his team to rediscover the sambas stream toad last August, searching after dark along the rugged ridges of a mountain range in western Sarawak state.

The toad was listed as one of the world's "top 10 most wanted lost frogs" as part of a campaign by CI and another group to encourage scientists around the world to seek out amphibians that had not been seen in a decade or longer.

After months of combing through the jungle, the Sarawak team eventually discovered a small toad up a tree, which turned out to be the missing sambas stream toad. In total, they found three individuals up three different trees.

"Thrilling discoveries like this beautiful toad, and the critical importance of amphibians to healthy ecosystems, are what fuel us to keep searching for lost species," Dr Das said in the release.

"They remind us that nature still holds precious secrets that we are still uncovering, which is why targeted protection and conservation is so important."

Dr Das made headlines last year after he discovered Asia's tiniest frog, which is the size of a pea, in a national park in Sarawak state.

Sarawak and neighbouring Sabah states make up Malaysia's half of Borneo island, which is shared with Indonesia.


Courtesy ABC News.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


ABC NEWS: 30.06.2011
A Hong Kong couple has been arrested in Perth for attempting to smuggle wildlife out of Australia concealed in teddy bears.

In a joint operation between Customs and the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC), officers raided a home in the southern Perth suburb of St James on Wednesday night.

They seized 31 lizards in the raid - 24 bobtails, six crevice skinks and one sand swimmer skink - along with several soft toys, packaging and postage material.

Rick Dawson, a senior wildlife investigator with the DEC says bobtail lizards can fetch up to $7,500 on the Asian black market.

"While common in Western Australia, these lizards are highly sought after in Asia because they are easy to care for, attractive, and exotic," he said ... Click here to read this story in full