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No. 9
I am always interested if not down right jealous of some of the things that you get up to. Many of you work or travel to remote areas and those involved in wildlife surveys are to me the luckiest, enjoying great experiences and with the most fascinating stories to tell. I have been fortunate to have spent a lifetime working with animals and I think inspired by great TV naturalists this is obviously something that many of you emulate also. Keep up the good work. Send me good stories and images. Most of this newsletter is about Venom. I hope you enjoy it. FEEDBACK would be much appreciated as we try to improve content. What do you want included or excluded from further mailings?
The following is courtesy of Michael Jones who has recently returned from Exmouth after participating as a volunteer on the Ningaloo Turtle Program. Michael is also a volunteer at Native Animal Rescue in Malaga so regularly gets to see and work with many of our rather special native mammals and birds. The study team at Ningaloo were monitoring 3 marine turtle species, the Loggerhead Turtle Caretta caretta, the Hawksbill Turtle Eretmochelys imbricate and the Green Turtle Chelonia mydas.

The images are of a female Green Turtle Chelonia mydas who having finished depositing her eggs is heading back to the water.

Michael reports that the team are monitoring turtle tracks to identify the turtle species, whether she has laid a nest or not, and whether there has been signs of disturbance to the nests. They also look out for any fox, dog and cat tracks within monitoring zone so this information can be passed onto the Feral Animal Control Officer.

Michael mentions that everyone on the team from Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) staff to local and interstate volunteers have been terrific to meet and work with. He suggests that anyone interested in wildlife conservation can apply for the next program. If YOU are interested check out the Ningaloo Turtle Program Website

Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Green Turtle laying eggs

Green Turtle in water

How lucky am I and yes more similar gifts are welcome! I was recently offered and accepted this great item from Alan Hodson who was on a snake course some time ago. In the small box is viper venom in glass vials dating from around WWII (that’s mid last century) – date stamped at December 1946.

Snake venoms are complex cocktails of toxins, modified saliva that is aimed primarily at the immobilization/capture and digestion of prey animals, but may also be used as a form of defense. The Russell’s Viper Daboia russelii is a very widespread Asian species found in India, Pakistan, Cambodia, Taiwan, Indonesia, Nepal, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. It is an infamous snake in that it is probably the worlds leading contender in both snake envenomations (snake bites) and snake bite deaths.

This venom was supplied by Boots the Chemists - its intended use was to assist dentists in stopping blood loss after tooth extraction. Luckily for me Alan mentioned the Venomous Snake Course he had been on to his dentist who remembered that he had this at home and thought I might be interested in it. ABSOLUTELY YES I just love this kind of thing.

Vial of venom from Russels viper (Daboia russelii)
That venomous snakes are dangerous – is pretty obvious. So to intentionally handle them for any reason is pretty stupid - I think you will agree. If you have to catch one, use snake-catching gear so as to prevent a bite, it’s all common sense really. HOWEVER some people will always do dangerous things for a variety of reasons; some reptile enthusiasts "free handle hot herps" as venomous species are known to snake keepers. Some even do it for so called religious reasons. I have little time, well none really, for any religion. I hope I don’t alienate any of my subscribers by stating this. I generally let people get on with their lives however they want to – I just want freedom from religion in my life (if only that was possible). Preacher with rattlesnake
Recently Pastor Jamie Coots of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name based in Middlesboro Kentucky died after a rattlesnake bite. Jamie had been a recent TV celebrity featuring in "Snake Salvation" on National Geographic TV. Having survived 9 snake bites before, one of which claimed a finger, and trusting fully in his God to keep him from harm, he went home after the latest bite apparently refusing emergency care. He died as a result of this envenomation. With medical aid he would have survived.

If you ask me - people are stupid – a Bronze Age tribal belief structure, an amalgamation of ancient texts put together years later and mis-translated still causes many problems up to the present day. What saddens me is not so much Jamie's death, which was of course both tragic and avoidable, but that children are often involved in these and other religious practices and easily become victims themselves in various "religious rites"

"They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover," Mark 16:18.

This is the passage from the Bible that many Pentacostalists amongst others take literally and free handle venomous snakes as part of deemed religious rituals.

It’s a weird and confusing world sometimes. This is especially true in the world of snake venom. Well over 20 toxic components in different concentrations can make up the venom of any given snake bite. Here are a few better known types:
  • Haemotoxic venom – is blood destroying. Blood clots or flows.
  • Neurotoxic Venom – is nerve destroying. Causes paralysis.
  • Myotoxic Venom – muscle destroying. Digests muscles and affects kidneys.
  • Cardiotoxic – affects the heart functions. Stops heart working.
  • Cytotoxic venom – is cell destroying. Digests cell membranes.

All of the above are not good for you. Until recently it was taken as a given that different families of venomous snakes had broadly different types of venom. Thus Vipers had mainly Haemotoxic venoms and Elapids like our brown snakes had mainly Neurotoxic venom. This has all changed now, and as more research is conducted it has just become an even more confused and complex problem for scientists to grasp and health care professionals to understand in order to assist patents better with anti-venom treatment.

In California lives the Pacific Rattlesnake Crotalus oreganus helleri. In a flat, Joshua treed desert area near Phelan these Pacific rattlers have haemotoxic venom – so if bitten you bleed badly. Head up to the mountains just 2 hours away by car and the same species has neurotoxic venom, so you get paralysed instead. In an ideal world your doctor would need to have in stock the right anti venom for both types of toxin and know which was injected. Previously they assumed all rattlers had the same type. This is a new problem. Previously one kind of anti venom would have been available for one assumed outcome of the rattlers bite. Now a new approach must be considered.

Herpetologists are now recognising that the composition of venom can vary greatly between individuals and even sexes of the same species. It is assumed that the different rattlers although the same species have specialised venom attuned to quickly overpower different food preferences in their habitats.


Milking a Coral Snake (Micrurus sp.) for venom


Gaboon viper skull

The Bobtail Lizard is a well known WA icon - a reptile with many common names such as Shingleback, Sleepy or Pine cone lizard. The unique short stocky tail is used as both fat store and a defensive structure, believed to confuse predators. As a large number of Bobtails that appear at rescue centres are bitten by dogs on the tail, it seems in many cases to be effective.

These large skinks are a feature of the summer. With their raised prominent scales they are unlikely to be mistaken for any other lizard. Reaching 41cm in length, four subspecies are known, all but one found only in WA.

Threatened Bobtails will turn towards the danger, throw their heads back and open wide their mouths. A potential predator or unawares walker sees a bright pink mouth and a broad blue rippling tongue - a startling display that is often but by no means always effective in making you back off. They are preyed upon by animals like snakes, kookaburras, crows, cats and dogs. With a slow breeding rate they gradually die out in habitats where predation is ongoing. Living around 15 years in the wild (35 recorded in captivity), Bobtails are a social and monogamous species pairing up for a while and mating with the same partner each season. Between 1 and 4 young are born alive although usually just a single pair, of young is produced. The young are largely independent from birth, bobtails live in loose colonies with juveniles staying near to where they are born.

Omnivorous and feeding on native vegetation and flowers as well as snails, insects, eggs, carrion and almost any edible thing they encounter. They have an almost legendary love for tomatoes and strawberries and many happy Bobtails are fed and looked after in suburban gardens, where their snail munching is much appreciated.

Bobtail lizard in open-mouthed posture

Bobtail lizard (Tiliqua rugosa) Images © Monica Iseppi

Upcoming Courses and Events
Snake Handling Course
DPaW approved for Reptile Relocator's Regulation 17 Licence
Friday 7 March 2014 - North Beach, Perth - FULL
Friday 14 March 2014 - North Beach, Perth - 2 places available
Friday 4 April 2014 - North Beach, Perth - 3 places available
Friday 2 May 2014 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 6 June 2014 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 4 July 2014 - North Beach, Perth

Fauna Handling Course
Friday 11 April 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Friday 9 May 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Friday 3 June 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Friday 11 July 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:

Saturday 5 April 2014
Animal Ark Roadshow
Altone Comes Alive!
Altone Park Leisure Centre, Beechboro
11am - 4pm

Thursday 24 April 2014
Animal Ark Roadshow
Seville Grove Library
1.30pm and 3pm
Contact the library to book

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

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.