I was born in England in 1954, moved to Australia in 1966 (age 11) and soon developed an interest in reptiles.
I remember that soon after moving into a house at South Brighton SA. we found some Marbled Gecko's and a Shingleback in the back garden. The Shingleback, or what we locally call a sleepy lizard turned out to be the neighbors escaped pet. I think they used to sell at Petcenta for 50 cents each.
It wasn't long before I was going out with friends from school catching bluetongue's, shingleback's and bearded dragons and many smaller species. I remember going to Brownhill Creek and seeing a Brown Snake - I told my parents that I would catch it and take it home, however my father casually remarked " are you sure it's not poisonous?" - I hesitated then decided that maybe it could be poisonous so I'd better leave it alone!
A friend at school showed me his pet carpet snake, and I just had to have one, they were $1 per foot in those days and I soon had Carpets, Common Tree Snakes, Spotted (Called Children's in those days) Pythons, and Freshwater Snakes - prices ranged from $4 to $6 at the time for those species.
Water Pythons, Scrub Pythons and Diamond Intergrades were a bit more expensive at around $9 each. One day I really lashed out and paid $20 for a Blackheaded Python.
Monitors were sometimes in stock and these were several dollars each. There were also other less standard species I remember purchasing such as a Black Whip Snake and Ornamental Snakes.
I soon made contact with collectors all around Australia and we used to exchange reptiles through the mail. There seemed to be no incentive to breed among keepers in those days as reptiles were too easy to acquire and very cheap.
I joined the South Australian Herpetology Group when it started with Harald Ehmann (author of "Encyclopedia of Australian Animals - Reptiles") and Dr. Julian White ( Now an International Snake Venom Expert) , and soon after that reptiles became protected, and even Carpet snakes were difficult to obtain for a while, prices rising to $100 per foot.
I was the President of the Herpetology Group for a short while.
I also worked at the Dreamtime Reptile Reserve Bundaberg Queensland for a short while with Peter Richardson when I was 17, and at that time made friends with Bob Irwin when he first opened his Reptile Park at Beerwah, which is now called Australia Zoo. At that time Steve Irwin was still a child, it is amazing that this small boy went on superstar fame.
I sometimes used to visit Joe Bredl's Reptile Park at Renmark, the original park was near his home, Joe would always chat to me and whoever was with me and I admired him greatly. I remember going out with 2 of his sons, in a mini moke looking for reptiles. One of his sons, Rob went on to become "The Barefoot Bushman", and another of his sons became, Sir Joe Bredl.
In my teenage years I made contact and often went herping with or traded with reptile fanatics all around Australia.
It is amazing how many of these people that I met in those days are still around and active in Herpetology. Many have written books, appeared or helped with documentaries, work with reptiles, or Fauna Authorities.
When I worked at Wang Computers I would regularly visit Sydney for training and on these visits would try and catch up with Harry Ehmann, visit the Australian Reptile Park which was at Gosford then and often stay with John Cann (The Snakeman of La Perouse), and went herping with George Cann (Jnr), Gunther Schmida, and others.
One day when I visited the Australian Reptile Park I met John Weigel, we hired a taxi to take us somewhere to search for Land Mullets. Little did I know at the time that he would eventually be running the Reptile Park and receive the Order of Australia.
When I became a Father, I decided that I would no longer keep dangerous snakes, mainly because of the safety on my children, but also because I had been bitten several times, including bites from Red Bellied Black snakes a Death Adder, a Copperhead, and other less dangerous species. This was despite feeling that I was very safety conscious and careful !
After my wife left me in the late 80's, my reptile collection dwindled to a few species, however one day I went into Petcenta with my girlfriend Rachel Barnes and we were shown some Bredl's Pythons. Rachel was then hooked and wanted to get a pet python. She really wanted a Blackheaded python but settled for a young carpet snake which thrived and she was keen to get more reptiles.
I suggested that we should only get pairs of animals, and to keep my interest we should steer away from most common species that I had kept before. I wasn't too enthusiastic to get a large collection but preferred a smaller collection of pairs of harder to get species, I liked the idea of getting hatchlings and raising them.
We now keep about 40 harmless reptiles.
Being a computer technician, I got onto internet before most Australians had heard of it, and started the Australian Herpetology page which is now located at australianherpetology.com.
John Hollister contacted me and suggested that a listing of Australian species and varieties with pictures would be a good project, but I explained that I had lots of slides, but no scanner or much time to produce such a page. He offered to scan the slides and do the bulk of the page layout so the project soon got under way.
Most of my wy working life I have been an Computer Engineer, however in 2000 I started investing in Real Estate with my partner Rachel Barnes which allowed us both to retire early. As we travel a lot we have had to reduce our collection at a manageable size.
Februaary 2010 About John Fowler | About John Hollister | Report Faulty Link | Report an Error | Contact John Fowler Author of the Australian Herpetology Website and Holiday in Kos - Owner of the Adelaide Reptile Forum
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