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No. 14
Rain, rain and more rain. Winter is in full swing, the dams fill and most lizards and snakes rest up. Take a walk though past any swamp or waterway and you can hear the frogs living it up and calling for mates - it’s breeding season for some.

I still get some good stories and images of snakes on work sites up north but in Perth it’s all pretty quiet.

This large frog appeared at my son's house during some weeding last week - a large Motorbike Frog, Litoria moorei, enjoying the cool wet weather and all those slugs, snails and insects.

Motorbike frog (Litoria moorei). Photo © Animal Ark
We all know that some venomous snakebites can kill, and despite at least 84,000 deaths occurring worldwide each year, treatment of any kind is unavailable for many. In remote areas most deaths occur before medical help can be reached.

Traditional anti-venoms are expensive to buy, species specific and need to be administered intravenously by medically trained personnel. Anti venoms also have a short shelf life and are dependant on storage in cool conditions. So all of the above make them thin on the ground in many countries such as India and Sri Lanka where snakebite is a serious daily hazard.

Matthew Lewin from the California Academy of Sciences in the US and Stephen Samuel from Trinity College Dublin Ireland have created what could be an exciting new approach to treatment with a simple to use nasal spray.

The magic ingredient in this potential new treatment is neostigime combined with atropine to treat the paralysis that is a common problem with some snakebites.

Indian snake handler holding cobra. Photo Asit Kumar AFP Getty Images

Snake fangs. WildHunger AnimalUnderworld

The development if successful of inexpensive, heat stable, easy to deliver treatment would be a huge leap forward in health outcomes for many thousands of people. It is hoped that this treatment would give bite victims more time to reach medical centres where their symptoms can be treated professionally. Many deaths occur from respiratory failure, after the victim is paralysed by neurotoxins that are present in many snake venoms. The World Health Organisation recognised snakebites as a neglected tropical disease in 2009. The four species of Saw Scaled Vipers, Echis sp, are probably responsible for most snake bite deaths in the world, partly due to their extensive range.

For more information see:

To fill our next Fauna Handling Course on August 8th in Malaga Perth, I am delighted to offer a huge 33% discount.

So if you or your staff are interested BOOK NOW as places are limited. Call Animal Ark on 08 9243 3044 or email

For more information, see

A rescued kangaroo
Russian Mission Control has lost contact with a satellite full of geckos. The Foton-M4 research spacecraft is being used to test reproductive biology and biotechnology in in a micro gravity environment. Essentially the breeding capabilities of the geckos and other creatures are being tested in zero gravity - although I don’t know why!

I cannot find out what species of gecko are being used in these experiments but a surprising number of creatures including reptiles have been deployed in similar space experiments. The Foton-M4 craft was launched on July 19th and was due to spend 60 days in orbit before returning to earth. If contact and control of the craft cannot be re-established the mission will fail and the satellite and lizards will be lost.

A similar mission in 2007 carrying lizards, gerbils, slugs, butterflies and spiders successfully returned to earth. Sadly another mission ended in disaster in 2001 when a craft crashed on take off killing a soldier plus no doubt all creatures on board.

Space sex gecko. Institute of Biomedical Problems Gecko loaded - count down on.
This cute little lizard could have been planet earth’s very first reptile. Gephyrostegus bohemicus lived some 308 million years ago in what is now the Czech Republic. It was a time long, long before mammals evolved when amphibians were the dominant land vertebrates.

This was a small-toothed lizard-like animal reaching about 22cm in length. The skull is one factor studied to determine if you are a reptile or frog. Although closely related as amniotes this specimen appears to be the earliest known example of what we recognise as a reptile found to date.

Reptiles became the first fully terrestrial vertebrates and are still found globally in all but the most extreme environments - 10,000 species are known worldwide.

One awesome example of a reptile closer to home was Australia’s now extinct Megalania. This was a giant carnivorous monitor lizard perhaps 7 meters long weighing up to 1,940 kilograms. Early humans may well have encountered this creature.

Read more:

Gephyrostegus bohemicus - early lizard. Dmitry Bogdanov

Gephyrostegus bohemicus skull dorsal and ventral. A.Cernansky - Comenius University, Bratislava

Gephyrostegus bohemicus skull lateral and jaw. A.Cernansky - Comenius University, Bratislava

The West Australian Herpetological Society (WAHS) has just announced the date for the biannual Reptile Expo in Perth. Last years event was a smash hit - we thought maybe a few hundred would turn up for the inaugural event, 5000 visitors later we realised the public really are very keen to see and learn about snakes, lizards, frogs and turtles. Animal Ark will be there for sure with some of our friendly and not so friendly creatures. WAHS members get in for free.

I think the WAHS volunteers bought out all the local shopping centres of sausages and buns for the sausage sizzle. In 2015 we will be ready not only to feed all the visitors but also to reduce the waiting time to get in - queues were literally around the block. It will be a bigger and better event for sure. So make a note in your dairy now - Sunday 26th July 2015 at the Cannington Exhibition Centre - a great day out for all, family friendly, with lots to see and do.

WAHS Reptile Expo 2013
ANIMAL IN FOCUS: Spiny-tailed Geckos - Strophurus sp
The lizards in the genus Strophurus are commonly known as Spiny-tailed Geckos. The 17 different species may be found throughout mainland Australia; some are terrestrial but most arboreal and found on vegetation ranging from spinifex to garden shrubs. They also reside within cracks in granite and limestone and other secure stony spaces in places where vegetation is sparse.

Most have the remarkable ability to exude and sometimes eject forcibly a sticky fluid from glands on the tail and sometimes body. I don’t know if this fluid has been studied much, if at all, but most sources state that it’s used as a predator deterrent.

I come across the local Perth species, the South-western Spiny-tailed Gecko, Strophurus spinigerus, occasionally when gardening, often in what I assume are family groups. If gentle you can pick them up and it’s only when alarmed that they ooze the tiny honey like beads of sticky fluid. They are small lizards at about 12cm total length but very attractive with the most beautiful eyes. The eyes are snake-like in that they have no moveable eyelid, but are covered instead with a transparent spectacle scale. The eye is kept clean with a swipe of the tongue.

Colour wise they are hard to describe but greys and browns predominate with stripes, spots and some raised scales as their name suggests. They can change colour and like most geckos have a velvety skin texture. They feed upon a variety of invertebrates and for their size have very large mouths capable of managing large bugs and moths. Some species may be kept as pets in WA as long as you have the pet herpetofauna licence. Several pairs of hard-shelled eggs are laid over a season if food is plentiful.

Spiny tailed gecko eye. / /

Spiny tailed gecko (Strophurus spinigerus). Photo © Animal Ark

Upcoming Courses and Events
Venomous Snake Handling Course
DPaW approved for Reptile Relocator's Regulation 17 Licence
Friday 1 August 2014 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 5 September 2014 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 3 October 2014 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 31 October 2014 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 5 December 2014 - North Beach, Perth

Fauna Handling Course
Friday 8 August 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Friday 12 September 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Friday 10 October 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Friday 14 November 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Friday 12 December 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth

Reptile Keeping Course
Saturday 16 August 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Saturday 18 October 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Saturday 15 November 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth

Public Events
Do come along and see us. Bring your family or friends as well.
The Animal Ark Roadshow will be attending the following events:

Thursday 21 August 2014
Bites and Stings Booth
St John Youth Challenge, Perth Convention Centre

Wednesday 17 September 2014
Kulunga Katitijin Festival
Kings Park, Perth
Contact the Botanic Gardens Park Authority for more details

Saturday 20 September
Fantastic Faraway Festival
Kings Park, Perth
Contact the Botanic Gardens Park Authority for more details

Friday 3 October
Perth Airport Night Stalk
Kwenda Marlark Wetland
Contact Perth Airport for more information

See our diary for more dates or contact us to book.

Call (08) 9243 3044 or email David or Jenny at to book.

Courses held monthly plus on-site and remote site training available.