1 February 2003



Cyberlizard speaks!

I SUPPOSE this is a bit late for a New Year editorial, but first of all, very best wishes to everyone for 2003.

Things have been quiet on the political front recently as regards the keeping of herps in the UK and Europe, but even so they are rarely far from the news. Firstly the RSPCA used the unfortunate and sad discovery of a dead boa constrictor in a canal in England to make their usual hyperbolic and frankly false claims about the nature of reptile keeping and of large constrictors in general. Their inspector in London, Ian Gough, who is not a bad man as such, also went on record as saying that many of the iguanas currently being cared for in RSPCA shelters would have to be euthanised. No responsible person would want the RSPCA to write a blank cheque for the care of every animal abandoned by irresponsible owners, of course. But next time you see Rolf Harris on Animal Hospital being chummy with those nice RSPCA people, just remember Mr Gough and the fate of those unfortunate igs. Nor are iguanas the only animals that are euthanised in RSPCA shelters, contrary to the impression you may have received from feel-good TV programmes.

However, it is also incumbent upon the herpetological community to foster good standards of care and responsibility - a point that I, and others, have tried to make over the past few years. It is good to be able to report that some charities, including small bodies, are making frantic efforts also to rehome those pets who have been the victims of circumstance, including iguanas. As most shops have now (probably rightly) stopped selling igs, there is an opening here for anybody who has experience of herps and who wants to take on a largeish lizard that might otherwise face a very short future. They are not the easiest of reptiles to care for, but they are responsive and do have character. If you feel you can help (even one or two would be great) then please contact either the local RSPCA or other animal welfare body in your area (or further afield if you know of any).

Another case that hit the news was that of the Kent man keeping crocodiles in his home without a Dangerous Wild Animals licence. Normally I would not even try to defend this. However it seems that in this case he did not apply to the local council for one because they have a record of not issuing DWA licences, ever, full stop. This was proven in the subsequent court case when the vet employed by the local council admitted that he would never ever issue a licence on principle: which raises the issue of course of why the council employed him in the first place. The court, incidentally, recorded that they recognised that the keeper (an experienced herpetological enthusiast) had given all his animals excellent care. We may be doing some naming and shaming here soon, so watch this space!

Within the past two months we have made some substantial additions to the herpetological section. Recently we added overviews of the Teiidae, the well-known tegus, caiman lizards, ameivas, whiptails and racerunners, their sister group, the Gymnopthalmidae (until recently considered a subfamily of the Teiidae), and the Anguidae (slowworms, glass- and alligator lizards and the Scheltopusik). Today we are also adding a substantial update of and addition to what was a solitary page dedicated to those strange but interesting creatures, amphisbaenians. Now you will be able to see the various families and genera, although it will be a long time before we have full information on all the species. We have already begun work on a broad overview of the chelonian families, but in the short term we expect to be adding more to the skinks, lacertids and European herps.

On a non-herpetological note, a Christian brother wrote a nice entry in our Guestbook recently but said he did not agree with the music and groups we covered. To a certain degree I actually sympathise with his viewpoint, and I would add that coverage of the groups mentioned on this site should not be taken as approval of vices traditionally associated with popular musicians (from time immemorial), mainly the life of excess (booze, drugs and sex on tap) or thinking that being an artist somehow lifts you above the moral restrictions and norms applicable to the rest of humanity. Similarly, just because somebody likes the music of Wagner I would not expect to find them subscribing to some of Wagner's ideas or habits, including his anti-semitism, or to any of the foibles adopted by other artists. A lesson that often needs to be repeated is that artists are often great despite their ideological and behavioural baggage, not because of it. John Wesley said a similar thing about some of the Reformers of the two hundred or so years previous to his own time: God had used them in spite of their faults, not because of them. There's possibly an essay here on this whole subject, incidentally, which will turn up on this site sometime!

Please don't forget: if you sent us an E-mail during the last two years, please drop us a line again if you want to keep in touch. Along with our hard drive we lost virtually all of our E-mail, so it would be good to hear from you again.


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(as if you cared)


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