Thursday, November 17, 2011

Another Potential Product From Snake Venom

Texas Coral Snake, Micrurus tener tener.
National Natural Toxins Research Center,
Texas A&M University.

Snake venom is a potential source of many new medicines, and new research finds the Texas Coral Snake, Micrurus tener tener, has venom molecules capable of triggering an previously unknown pain mechanism in humans. There are many different types of pain some respond to changes in heat or pressure from a burn or a punched while  others respond to chemicals, such as acids. Micrurus venom triggers a novel pain receptor on nerves that could be useful in the development of drugs to treat snakebites or other painful phenomena in a targeted fashion without having to use opiates.

Texas coral venom has  MitTx which activates some nerve cells, by opening a channel on the outside of the skin's nerve cells, sending a signal up to the brain. Oddly, even though MitTx isn't acidic, it turned on a channel related to those that usually respond to acids.The channels' acid-sensing relatives produce pain when tissues are deprived of blood and oxygen, but MitTx is specific for a channel that hasn't been implicated in pain sensation before.The pain pathway uncovered here is not one previously studied.

Because this pain caused by MiTx is mediated through this newly discovered pathway, it's possible that traditional pain relievers such as aspirin, which work through different receptors, wouldn't help the pain. Pain from coral snake bites is usually treated opiates , like morphine, but a more targeted and less addictive pain reliever would be beneficial.

Bohlen, C. J. et al. 2011. A heteromeric Texas coral snake toxin targets acid-sensing ion channels to produce pain. Nature 479, 410–414 

The Skin of the Mosasaur

Extinct animals hide their secrets well, but an exceptionally well-preserved fossil of an aquatic reptile, with traces of soft tissue present, is providing scientists a new window into the behavior of these ancient swimmers.
(A) Skull, partial axial and appendicular skeleton, and calcified sternal cartilage in oblique ventro-lateral view. (B) Slab FHSM VP-401-05 showing phosphatized integumentary structures in medial view. Black and white arrow indicates anterior. Scale bars, (A) 10 cm and (B) 10 mm. From PLoSOne



According to the study published in PLoS ONE's Nov. 16 issue, the fossil, characterized by a team led by Johan Lindgren of Lund University in Sweden, is from the mosasaur family, a group of reptiles that lived between 65 and 98 million years ago.

The fossil was found in Western Kansas, and was submerged under a shallow sea at the time of the mosasaur's existence. Previous analysis of mosasaur locomotion had been limited by a lack of soft tissue fossils, which was crucial for the scientists to truly understand the degree of aquatic adaptation that the creature had achieved. The new findings, which include scales and skin impressions, suggest that the mosasaur was able to minimize its frictional drag in the water. Additional features suggest that it held the front of its body somewhat rigid during swimming, leading it to depend on the rear of its body and tail for propulsion.

According to Dr. Lindgren, this study provides "unique insights into the biology of an extinct group of marine lizards that became adapted to aquatic environments in a fashion similar to that of the preceding ichthyosaurs ('fish-lizards') and succeeding whales." Thus, these results may have implications for understanding how this group ultimately transformed from land-dwellers to pelagic cruisers in a relatively short period of geological time.

Citation: Lindgren J, Everhart MJ, Caldwell MW (2011) Three-Dimensionally Preserved Integument Reveals Hydrodynamic Adaptations in the Extinct Marine Lizard Ectenosaurus (Reptilia, Mosasauridae). PLoS ONE 6(11): e27343. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0027343

BioPark Rattlesnakes Used In Ground-Breaking Cancer Research

Photo courtesy of ABQ BioPark
ALBUQUERQUE, NM- Four western diamondback rattlesnakes from the Albuquerque BioPark will soon be part of the first clinical trials for venom as a cancer treatment. The snakes traveled today, November 10, 2011, to the Kentucky Reptile Zoo, one of the four premier venom laboratories in the United States. The snakes' venom will be extracted and sent to Paris, France where the clinical studies are underway.

Snake venom contains hundreds of proteins which impact the human body in various ways. When combined, the proteins can be devastating. In isolation, these proteins can be used to treat health issues from strokes and heart attacks to Alzheimer's disease and cancer.

 "Copperhead venom is probably going to be our saving grace for breast cancer. It puts the cancer cells in suspended animation," said Doug Hotle, a venom expert and Curator of Reptiles at the ABQ BioPark. "The lab tests using rattlesnake venom to treat cancer have also been extremely successful. We know that there are a lot of great things on the horizon."

Scientists at the Kentucky Reptile Zoo will extract the rattlesnake venom using a non-harmful method which allows the snakes to bite and excrete the venom naturally. "Anyone in the snake venom world began as a snake enthusiast," said Hotle. "The last thing they'd want to do is to see the snakes hurt."
From there, the venom will travel to Paris, France, where Celtic Biotech, an Irish pharmaceutical company, is conducting the first clinical trials of rattlesnake venom as a cancer treatment in humans.

"We're excited to be involved in such groundbreaking research, especially on a health issue which has impacted so many people," said Mayor Richard Berry. "It is a great credit to the City of Albuquerque, our Zoo, and to Curator Doug Hotle."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Snakes of Togo

One species found in Togo is Atheris chlorechis. JCM

The Togolese Republic is a West Africa nation bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the east and Burkina Faso to the north. It extends south to the Gulf of Guinea. Togo covers an area of about 57,000 square kilometers with a population of approximately 6.7 million people highly dependent on agriculture. Togo has very little remaining rainforest and what is left is degraded and fragmented by subsistence slash-and-burn agriculture, mining and deforestation for fuel wood. The country has a poorly known herpetofauna. Segniagbeto et al. (2011)  published an annotated list of 91 snake species representing 10 families, including seven species recorded for the first time from this country (Calabaria reinhardtii, Hapsidophrys lineatus, Lycophidion nigromaculatum, Philothamnus carinatus, Leptotyphlops cf. narirostris, Letheobia crossi and Typhlops lineolatus). The species present are a mixture of forest and savanna forms from the Sudenese and Guinea savannas and as well as forest which includes the Dahomey gap, a range that peaks at 900 m with heavy amounts of precipitation and forms an island of forest habitat surrounded by savannas. It therefore seems likely to be an area of endemism - three endemic frogs are already known from the region Conraua derooi, Hyperolius baumanni and H. torrentis. The entire article can be found on-line.

Citation
Segniagbeto G. H., Trape J. F., David P., Ohler A., Dubois A. & Glitho I. A. 2011. — The snake fauna of Togo: systematics, distribution and biogeography, with remarks on selected taxonomic problems. Zoosystema 33 (3): 325-360. DOI: 10.5252/z2011n3a4

Another Book Review on Invasive Pythons

The following is a book review from Whit Gibbons on the Dorcas and Wilson volume. The review was published in the Aiken Standard.

"Invasive Pythons in the United States: Ecology of an Introduced Predator" might be the title of a great new horror film instead of the well-researched, professional yet entertaining book that it is. Written by Michael E. Dorcas and John D. Willson (2011, University of Georgia Press, Athens; $24.95) "Invasive Pythons" sets the record straight about the thousands of Burmese pythons introduced from Asia that now thrive in Florida. These snakes can be longer than two pickup trucks parked end to end and weigh more than an NFL linebacker. Not a pet snake you'd want to drape around your neck.

Nonetheless, released or escaped animals from the pet snake trade are almost certainly the origin of these enormous nuisance predators that now slither through southern Florida. What do pythons eat? In their native lands from India to China they have been documented to eat mammals as large as jackals, monkeys, antelope, and even a leopard. Accounts of humans becoming python prey are rare but unfortunately true. In their new home in the Everglades National Park and surrounding areas, pythons have found plenty of native mammals and birds to consume, some in disturbingly high numbers. Alligators as well as virtually all warm-blooded wildlife are apparently fair game. A valid concern is that pythons in Florida will eventually consume pets such as dogs and cats. Records already exist of their eating domestic chickens, geese, and turkeys.

The book's focus is on Burmese pythons, but the authors also discuss the potential risk of other species of pythons and boas becoming established in southern Florida. Included are African rock pythons and green anacondas. Both reach lengths exceeding 25 feet and have been found in the Everglades.

A feature that will captivate many readers--from youngsters enthralled with snakes to naturalists of any ilk to professional herpetologists--are the 188 outstanding high-resolution color photographs. To say that some are dramatic would be an understatement. The picture of the authors and two colleagues holding a 16-foot female Burmese python captured at night in Everglades National Park is enough to make anyone realize that studying these reptiles is an adventure. Other Everglades photos include a large python coiled around an adult great blue heron that's about to become lunch and a giant alligator eating a large python. A photo of a female python coiled around her eggs illustrates a more maternalistic trait: the mother staying with the clutch until they hatch, thus incubating them by raising her own body temperature and protecting them from predators.

Barring yet unknown population controls for these invasive predators, which can hatch more than 40 young from a clutch, Burmese pythons can now be considered part of the naturalized fauna of Florida. Are they likely to expand their geographic range into Georgia, Alabama, the Carolinas, and beyond? According to the authors, expanding their range outside of Florida will take quite awhile. How far north they can go is heavily debated by scientists and commercial python breeders. In their native range in Asia, they extend into cool areas in central China and to the foothills of the Himalayas in India and Nepal. But new population centers in the United States could arise in another way. Without originating from the solidly established Florida population, a released female python that has outgrown its owner's cage might ultimately be the source of a new population in California, Louisiana, or other temperate regions in southern portions of the country. On the other hand, large pythons have been found in recent months as far up peninsular Florida as Lake Okeechobee, almost a hundred miles north of the heavy concentrations in the Everglades.

Hollywood screenplay writers and science fiction authors hold the franchise on horror tales of Earth being invaded by scary monsters. The gigantic, stealthy, and potentially man-eating predator described in "Invasive Pythons" is scarier than any of those imaginary creatures because it's real. Whether for its scientific facts, fascinating natural history information, entertainment value, or striking photography the book by Mike Dorcas and J. D. Willson should appeal to a wide audience.

THS Meeting Announcement and Answers to Where's Waldo x 4

Howdy Herpers,                                      11/11/11

Happy Veteran's Day to all. My heartfelt thanks to all of you served, and continue to serve, the armed forces of this country.

Speaking of serving, Mr. Everything here is stepping back into the realm of assisting the Tucson Herp Society. I'm running for Vice President. When I stepped down from the Board two years ago, I had high hopes that somebody else would carry on the tradition of emailed meeting reminders. That didn't happen, and a whole lot of other things didn't happen either. I was hoping they didn't need me. I'm convinced now that they do. Every living organism and organization needs an a$$hole. The THS will soon have one again.

One of the first things I will do is get together a new list, so that the meeting reminders can start going out again. With this list, I only address about 30% of the membership But that is better than nothing.

The next meeting for the THS will be held on Tuesday, 25 November, 7:15 PM. Directions to meeting room: http://tucsonherpsociety.org/BIO5MapP1.pdf

Round one of the evening will transpire at ~5:00 PM.

We will have our pre-meeting gathering at Dirtbags, directions are below:

On the south side of Speedway, just west of Campbell, and just east of 1702 and the 7-11 is a dive called Dirtbags. Plenty of parking on west and south side of Dirtbags. Their address is 1800 East Speedway Blvd 85719, phone is 326-2600.

I will be giving their owner a heads up. I will be requesting that the waitresses
collect the tab directly from you when you receive your food and beverage.

Following the usual display of belching, gluttony and disgusting table manners associated with feasting herpers, we will all truck over to our meeting room. Herewe will experience the following:

THS Elections, and then:

Dr. Jon Davis

Arizona Game and Fish Department

Confronting contemporary conservation challenges from Memphis to mainland China

Jon Davis began to study Arizona herps as an undergraduate at Northern Arizona University where he met Erika Nowak and began volunteering on her projects. Jon completed his dissertation at Arizona State University in 2008 where he worked in Dale DeNardo’s laboratory and studied the environmental physiology of the Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum), which he previously presented at THS in spring of 2007.

Jon spent 2008-2011 in Memphis, Tennessee, as a postdoc with a dual appointment at Rhodes College and the Memphis Zoo where he developed a broad amphibian conservation research program that took him from downtown Memphis to the remote mountains of China. Jon is now back in Arizona for good and is a Wildlife Specialist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department Wildlife Management Division.

Welcome back Jon! I hope to see aggregations of herpers in our arena.
************************************
Ok, back to this Waldo Business,

The grand prize goes to a new winner, Mr. John Sullivan. Mr. Sullivan totally came in WAY ahead of the rest
of you. By 2:30 PM on the day this was sent out, he had them all nailed. He told me that he sacrificed
his lunch hour to conquer the puzzles. If you all heard the sighs of relief around noon last Wednesday, it
came from the turnip patch. The turnips were safe for a day.

Kudos John!

Honorable mention goes to Marty as always, Jeff as always, Bill "There-ain't-no colubrid" Montgomery, and especially Hugh McCrystal--who learned how to circle the herps on the pictures. Now, if Hugh can just learn to send all images at once, the company server will gush with gratitude.

Images 1 and 2: Rather than rely on a circle to give her away, I have just resorted to a close up of the snake in Pic 2.





Those of you who are Waldo-challenged can look at that second image, and see if the hint shows you the snake in Pic 1.

The snake is female CRAT #133, and this is the first time I've been able to get a shot of her in the open. It had rained in the early morning hours of 5 November, and she likely emerged to get a drink. At the time the photo was taken, the ambient temp was 7 C (44.6 F). Look at image 2 carefully. See how her pupil has rolled downward? That is a sure sign that the snake was sleeping. They don't have eyelids, but the trick of rolling the pupils down likely minimizes the glare of bright sunlight.

Images 3 and 4: Eastern Diamond-backed Rattlesnake. Circle in image 3 by John Sullivan, both images by Shannon Hoss. I think the second shot is one of the best images of a hiding snake that I've ever seen. If you look closely, you will note that every blade of grass and visible snake is in sharp focus. This belongs on the cover of a book or magazine, NOT on Roger Repp Suizo email. Nice shot Shannon--what were you aiming at?



Images 5 and 6: Yes Mr. Barker, we were finally  "busted." These images were photoshopped. Also, the last batch included an image of ribbon snake and frogs. That was also photoshopped. Dave worked hard on these, so I couldn't say no to him--this time. And I'm sure you'll all agree, Dave did a damn good job with these. (Dave doesn't do anything half-assed.)



Circles and labels are by the current champ, John Sullivan on these images.

In the future, I will only reluctantly accept any more of this sort of thing. So don't get in a snit if I say "no."
The real spirit of this game is for all of us to get out there, and take some real images of real herps. What
this teaches us to do is to take a step back, as well as the step forward, when taking a photo.

I'm also not going to accept anything where the animal is deliberately fuzzed-out in an attempt to hide it.

The next "Where's Waldo" will include some EXCELLENT images from Jon Davis. These, as well as
Shannon's images (and mine this go around), are EXACTLY what I'm looking for.

Best to all, thanks for playing!

roger

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The First Exotic Animal Amnesty Day In Florida

Human's, particularly males under the age of 25 are quite impulsive, and it is not uncommon to find them buying large pythons as well as venomous snakes.  The Florida Wildlife and Conservation Department (FWC)  held its first Exotic Pet Amnesty Day on November 6, 2011 - an event for exotic pet owners looking to get rid of those impusive buys, and opportunity to give up their animals, no questions asked. The FWC collected 64 animals, including a leopard gecko, two Madagascar giant chameleons, pythons, boas, turtles, fish, and about 30 Australian sugar gliders. On Exotic Pet Amnesty Day pet owners can turn in their animals without consequences. But FWC officials said most people who turned in animals were just not prepared to keep them. One woman impulsively bought a sugar glider and then a couple more for breeding. She turned in 25 of them, including a few newborns.

An event like this is a great idea and should be copied by other states and cities. Veterinarians gave advice and tips as to how to care for the animals, but the main goal is to prevent people from  releasing the animals into the wild once they can no longer care for them. If the pet industry was think towards the future they would be encouraging, supporting, and organizing exotic animal amnesty days across the county.

Where's Waldo x 4

Howdy Herpers,                             11/8/11

Image 1, by Roger Repp: Find the rattlesnake, identify the species.

Image 2, By Shannon Hoss, taken in Georgia, find the rattlesnake, identify the species.


Image 3, By Dave Barker, within the framework of this image, there is a red-spotted toad, a gray tree frog, a southern leopard frog, and a broad-banded copperhead. Find 'em.


Image 4, By Dave Barker. From the San Luis Mountains, the birthplace of my second wind with herpetology.

Two species of rattlesnake, and a colubrid. Find and identify.

Try not to pop out your eyeballs.

Ready, set, go!

(I'll send the answers on Friday.)

roger

Suizo Report -- A Good Deed for GOAG

Howdy Herpers,
No need for any of you to pat me on the back--my hand is in the way.

We FINALLY got some rain last Saturday, which ushered in a cold spell.

John Slone and I did some radio tracking at the plot, which will be another story.

Upon finishing up with that, we decided to do some fun herping in a canyon in the NW Tortolita Mountains. I call the canyon we visited "Atrox Canyon." It is the first place ever that I started scoring some major atrox dens.

My first visit to the place occurred on New Years Day, 1993. I've since been able to line up nine different atrox dens, which I try to visit several times a year. Interspersed between the atrox dens are various repeat Desert Tortoise honey holes. I always check these when there as well.

Upon visiting a tortoise den that I've been watching since 1994, my heart sank when I saw a young ~2 year old tortoise upside down on the apron. I thought it was dead, and began the grim task of photographing it. By the time the second image was taken, Slone piped up with the magic words "It's still alive." Sure enough, it had withdrawn its head when the flash went off.

We of course then flipped the poor little fella over, and he wandered right into the known tortoise den. Very cool!

I don't know how long the little creature was upside down, or if he could have eventually flipped himself over. I doubt it, he had a pretty high-domed shell, and the weather was still quite cold.

I do know the hole he entered, and look forward to visiting it whenever time permits. I'm thinking it will stay there. Time will tell.

Image 1: In situ


Image 2: Wandering into sheltersite.





Best to all, roger

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Earthworm, The Salamander, & The Garter Snake

Organisms that alter the physical structure of their environments are ecosystem engineers and they create new habitat that can be exploited by other species in multiple ways, beavers, termites, leaf cutter ants, and mud lobsters are all environmental engineers, as are earthworms that improve the environment for use by other species. Ransom (2011) experimented with earthworms and red-backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) in an effort to determine if salamanders use earthworm burrows, and if they do, to examine the influence earthworm burrow use has on the salamander's competition with other salamanders and their ability to survive predators. Ransom found red-back salamander used earthworm burrows 50% of the time when burrows were present. However, the slimy salamander, Plethodon glutinosus, did not use the worm burrows. When other slimy salamanders were present or the red-backed were alone they used cover objects 70% of the time instead of the worm burrows, when other red-backed salamanders were present P. cinereus used cover objects only 40% of the time. The presence of earthworms did not change the behavior of the red-backed salamanders. Earthworms reduced the leaf litter and the number of micro invertebrates but did not impact the mass of salamanders in the study area. Additional experiments suggest that the use of earthworm burrows allowed the red backed salamanders to escape predation from garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) and increased their survival rate during the winter.

Citation
Ransom, T. S. 2011.  The influence of habitat provisioning: use of earthworm burrows by the terrestrial salamander, Plethodon cinereus. Oecologia, 165: 745-754.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Squirrel-Rattlesnake Research Needs Funding


Money to fund serpent research is getting harder and harder to find.  Research grants are few and far between, but scientists are starting to get creative when it comes to bringing in the dough. A process called crowdfunding may be the new avenue of securing research money. Crowdfunding works by funding projects through many small donations solicited over the internet. Currently, 50 scientists from around the globe are participating in the #SciFund Challenge, a project that has brought them together to raise research money through crowdfunding on the RocketHub website - http://scifund.rockethub.com. One participating scientist, a Ph.D. student named Bree Putman, is looking to get people interested in snakes and why we should study them. She is studying the predator-prey interactions between rattlesnakes and ground squirrels in California. She has used creative techniques (check out her promotional video) to pique the interest of web surfers whom she hopes will fund her research.  Check out her creative way of raising money:  …and support her research as fellow snake lovers.  

Friday, November 4, 2011

Camels as a Source of Antivenom

The following story is from The National, a UAE media outlet. The article was written by Caline Malek.

DUBAI // An innovative plan to use camels as four-legged factories for snakebite treatment has been put on hold despite promising early results. 
The problem: a lack of funding.
"It's a shame," says the virologist Renate Wernery, "because the principle is magnificent." 
The antivenins were developed last year using camel antibodies in the hope they could be used in Africa as early as next year to treat snakebites. They were being developed by researchers in the United Kingdom, and at Dubai's Central Veterinary Research Laboratory, among them Mrs Wernery. 
She said testing of the antivenins - each is specific to a species of snake - had cleared its first two phases. 
The first phase had found that camel antibodies were as effective as existing sheep and horse antivenins but were smaller, cheaper and could be stored unrefrigerated - making them an appealing substitute. 
"You can carry this vaccine in your pocket, it's that easy," Mrs Wernery said. Not having to be stored cold would make any treatment far more useful in developing countries where refrigeration might be unavailable or unreliable. 
Current treatments have a short shelf life, so hard-up hospitals in the developing world are often reluctant to order them. With few customers, big pharmaceutical companies largely stopped production a decade ago. 
Another advantage of camel-derived antivenins over those extracted from sheep and horses is that camel antibodies are smaller - about a tenth the size. One of the problems with horse and sheep antibodies is that their large size hinders their movement through the human tissue wall, making them less able to stop the death of living tissue as toxins from venom spread.

The more compact camel antibodies are better able to get to where they are needed. They are also less dangerous than existing antibodies, which cause severe side effects in 15 to 30 per cent of patients, according to Dr Rob Harrison, the head of the Alistair Reid Venom Research Unit at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. His lab milked snakes of their venom, which was then sent to Dubai to be injected into the camels, thereby provoking their system into producing antibodies. 
Camel antibodies are "more tolerated by the human system, whereas the horse's isn't so good because it causes reactions in humans called anaphylactic shocks, which can then cause the same problems as the venom", Mrs Wernery said. 
Anaphylactic shocks are allergic reactions that can cause loss of consciousness, laboured breathing, blueness of skin, low blood pressure, heart failure and death. 
"Those are the effects that we were interested in reducing," Dr Harrison said 
The researchers successfully completed the second phase of the research, creating antivenins specific to individual snake species - such as the puff adder, the saw-scaled viper and the black spitting cobra - and testing them, safely and effectively, in mice. 
Forty camels in Dubai were injected with tiny amounts of the toxins from snakes commonly found in Africa, using venom from Dr Harrison's lab. Over six months, the Dubai scientists extracted around 70 litres of antivenin serum, which was refined to seven litres of antivenin - enough to treat 1,000 snakebites. 
The team was ready to go to the next stage of producing antivenins in quantity, having fitted out two laboratories with equipment worth Dh3 million to produce the antibodies needed for the treatment. 
At that point, costs ground the project to a halt. "It became too expensive," Mrs Wernery said. "There was more than Dh1 million that still needed to be invested in it." 
Since then the project has remained on hold, despite hopes of using the same technique to make vaccines for diseases such as polio, tuberculosis, malaria and HIV. "We haven't touched phase three yet and that involves clinical trials on humans in Africa." 
Dr Harrison is among those left in limbo. "We haven't been able to secure the funds to do a clinical trial with the antivenins and we need that to move forward," he said. "The great shame about this research project is that we came up with what is potentially a very promising therapeutic lead but were not able to pursue it."

Commentaries on Humans, Animals & the Environment

Commentary on the relationships between humans and other animals -including snakes - are becoming more common in the media given recent events: the 16-foot Burmese python killed in the Florida everglades, the Zanesville Animal tragedy; escaped mambas terrorizing Bangkok, or at least the thought of escaped mambas.

Ken White. President of the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA has a commentary in the San Francisco Examiner where he expresses the following opinions: (1) far too many people keep exotic animals, (2)  too much money is made by the industries which supply and then support the keeping of these animals, and none of those industries’ practices are in any way good for the animals (3) it's clear we need laws to protect both wild animals from people and to protect people from what happens when wild animals are kept where they do not belong by a species which is, frighteningly often, incapable of taking care of itself.

The Gainesville Sun has an editorial that is asking, why is it still legal to import and sell these dangerous snakes? And, demanding legislation and a halt to the exotic animal industry.

Unfortunately all of the editors and the outraged public demanding legislation are looking for answers in the wrong place, just as the "war on drugs" was doomed to failure, laws banning exotic animals are doomed to failure. Legislation is the quick solution for the politician to appear to solve a social problem - just pass a law and the public will fall in-line. This is quite in-effective when it comes to basic human needs - it may work for traffic regulation (at least some of the time). You can't control drug addiction with laws or explosives because the root cause is in the biochemistry in the human central nervous system.

People keep exotic animals because of the basic human need to understand and relate to nature (biophilia), a need that is poorly understood and has been ignored as society becomes more technological. The long term answer to solving drug addiction and problems of human-animal relationships lies in education.

There is but one way to influence human behavior long term and in a way that is effective - education. Natural history education has the potential to change the world as we know it, and produce a society that respects the environment, the environment that is both internal (the human body) and external (ecosystems). If you are unfamiliar with the Natural History Network it is worth the time to investigate their movement.

At the moment huge amounts of money are pumped into legislation, law enforcement and the justice system all attempt to solve problems after the fact. The money would be much better spent educating the public on the stories of nature and how humans play a role in the ecosystem so that we treat the environment, each other, and ourselves much better than we do now. Currently, most school curriculums decouple human and nature - a disastrous road into the future.

Escaped Mambas in Thailand?

The following has been complied from two press releases from the Bangkok Post. For the last few days reports from Thailand have suggested that 15 snakes escaped from a flooded hous near Bangkok. The National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department and the Zoological Park Organisation are investigating. The probe follows a report on Wednesday from Facebook that was creating panic and fear among flood victims in flood-hit provinces Nonthaburi, Bangkok and Pathum Thani. Pimuk Simaroj, director of the Zoological Park Organisation, said it was unclear whether the report was true and there was no official record of this type of snake being imported into Thailand. Zoological Park Organisation official Anupong Nualpang said he had received information that about eight people were being bitten by poisonous snakes each day during the floods.

As a precautionary measure, Health Minister Wittaya Buranasiri said his agency ordered the antivenom after 15 poisonous green mambas, with body lengths of 1-2 metres, had reportedly escaped via floodwater from a house in Nonthaburi province. No bites have been reported as yet. The public health ministry currently reserves 3,500 bottles of seven kinds of serum especially for use during flooding situations according to the types of snakes commonly found in each part of the country – the cobra, king cobra, banded krait, Malayan krait, Siamese Russell's viper, Malayan Pit viper and green pit viper.

Suizo Report -- Atrox Action

Howdy Herpers,                                                               3 November 2011

With the active season drawing to a close, the time we will actually see and photograph our animals in action is growing short. Rather than going into long stories about what you are seeing, we will let the pictures do the talking.

Subject numbers and dates are on each .jpg

Image 1-3: 22 October 2011, CRAT #121 as viewed prowling outside Atrox Den # 4 (AD4). We spooked her, and she made a beeline for the usual crevice entrance. AD4 has been heavily involved in our study since 2001.



Image 4-5: 29 October 2011: CRAT # 121 again. Just because she went into a known den didn't mean that she was going to stay. On this day, she was roughly 70 meters south of  AD4.


Image 6 and 7: 22 Oct 2011: We FINALLY got a decent visual of new CRAT #131. She was almost all the way up the Southwestern flanks of Suizo Mountains proper. She has since come all the way back down. It will be interesting to see where she winds up for the winter.


Image 8: 15 October 2011: This unmarked big male was dogging our female CRAT # 87 for several days. She was always in hiding when he was around.

Image 9 and 10: 22 October 2011: The unmarked male stayed with CRAT #87--right into AD7. The two atrox in  these photos were just outside the den itself. The big boy and #87 were inside the crevice. My last visit to AD7 was on 29 October 2011. The big male, CRAT #87, and one other unknown CRAT were jammed into a cluster of coils. A  lone female was  viewed  above them. I expect that these snakes are all there to stay, with more due any minute.

Image 10 courtesy of Hans-Werner Herrmann


We hope to get a few more above ground shots soon. And we have some good stuff to share on our other subjects as well.

Best to all, roger