Herpetology - the study of amphibians and reptiles

About me

I have been keeping, breeding and studying Reptiles and Amphibians since 1949 when I caught a slow-worm at the age of three. Now, well over 60 years later, I have learnt so much about the subject that I am finally appreciating how little I know.

As the years went by I graduated onto more exotic species but the Lacertids, the "true" or typical lizards were always near the top of the list. Equally importantly my interest in watching the animals in the wild grew further and this was reflected also in keeping the animals where I almost always tended towards naturalistic vivaria. Some of these were, to say the least, primitive ( a converted metal water tank for example) but, shortly after entering my teens I was able to adopt the apex of my parent's triangular garden. A visit to Kathleen Pickard-Smith in Glynde provided inspiration and I got to work.

The apex pointed almost due north, and was surrounded on two sides by brick walls. I added a glazed wall on the southern side and after much trial and error (and a number of escapes!) I finally managed to render the entire thing escape proof. With a rockery at its apex, a pond centre front, and grassy areas to each side this was my first venture into multi-species outdoor vivaria. Within this I kept Green Lizards (Lacerta viridis), Italian Wall Lizards (Podarcis muralis) and Common Lizards (Zootoca vivipara) together with Common Toads(Bufo bufo) and Common Frogs (Rana temporaria). I am ashamed to say that I had losses but I learnt from them. By my late teens all three of the lizard species were breeding successfully. Unfortunately, my parents then moved home and most of the animals themselves were dispersed amongst other keepers/breeders. I did retain a pair each of Green lizards,  Italian Wall Lizards and Sand Lizards although it was some years before I was again able to have extensive outdoor reptiliaries. But, this retention, together with, many years later acquiring fresh stock from keepers who had in turn acquired animals from me, means that at least with the first two species I can lay claim to having kept them continuously for over 40 years and, indeed, that the genes from my original stock are still lurking in at least some of my animals somewhere!

Through all this, however, I retained my interest in the animals in the wild. Many, many happy hours have been spent watching our native herps going about their daily business and I hope that although my health now makes this more difficult, I shall continue to be able to do so. Later I became more aware of and more actively involved in actual conservation work, habitat restoration and, especially, population monitoring.

Consequently, my single greatest interest and concern in this field of study is conservation. And most significantly of the Sand Lizard, one of Britain's and, indeed Europe's rarest and most beautiful Lizards. Part of my active contribution to this is the maintenance of a captive breeding population of the Dorset race of this lizard. Previously I kept and bred the rarest - the Merseyside race - and produced youngsters for re-introduction into carefully selected and now protected sites, largely in Wales, from which they became extinct up to 50 years ago. The offspring I produce now are, of course, released into appropriate areas in the south of England. As a result of my combination of both captive breeding skills and conservation involvement I also act as the Co-ordinator of the Sand Lizard Captive Breeding Programme. The lead partners in this are the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, working with, amongst others, Natural England, the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Vincent Wildlife Trust and Cefn Cyngor Gwlad Cymru (Countryside Council for Wales).

In a new venture, drawing upon both my IT skills and my interest in herpetology I have taken over the reins of RAUK (the premier on line forum for those interested in our wild herps) from Gemma Fairchild who had built and nurtured this great resource over the preceding 6 years.

In my non herptile life I have worked variously in a number of loosely related areas including programming, systems and business analysis, computer and systems audit and website design and build. And when these weren't available I have been a  bus conductor and insurance salesman as well! But these serve only as the necessary evils to earn a decent living. My other hobbies include reading DIY and railway modelling but my first and greatest love  is herpetology.

But, enough about me - I suggest you visit the interesting pages now!!