In 1971, I began my work with reptiles and amphibians. I grew up playing with snakes and spiders, as well as other interesting creatures. As I met others in the greater Des Moines area, I became even more interesting in working with reptiles. To be different, I began working with lizards of the world. At that time, most reptiles were wild-caught. Not a single book had been written about the husbandry and reproduction of any reptile or amphibian. Some breeders had been successful with a few species of snakes, primarily boas and pythons.
It didn't take long for me to realize how difficult it was just to keep the lizards alive. That was my focus, at first. So, I have literally been a part of the success story working with lizards. I am well-known to those people who began about the same time.
I have worked with hundreds of species over the years. I have been exposed in a major way to many additional reptiles and amphibians kept by zoos and my friends. We have all worked together and shared our knowledge. We were/are also blessed to have veterinarians in the Greater Des Moines area, who branched out to help us with our sick or injured reptiles.
I have maintained a great relationship with our zoo in Des Moines, since the 1970s. It is now called Blank Park Zoo. Many years ago, I was a Board Member of the Zoo. I have provided a home page link to our Zoo.
After several attempts to start a herpetological society in Iowa, we finally succeeded in 1978. We are called The Iowa Herpetological Society. I have had the honor to serve as President numerous times since our founding. Some of us also helped the Nebraska and Kansas City, Missouri, Herpetological Societies, get started. We often give programs for neighboring societies.
Over the years, I have been to most major U.S. zoos, and photographed their collections. I have developed many friendships that still endure, today.
For years, I attended the annual International Herpetological Symposium, Inc. Herpetologists and Herpetoculturists, presented their research at this three-day meeting. It was usually held in a city with a major zoo. I got to meet and build friendships with many of the top herpetological researchers, in the world.
I have worked with many species of lizards from nearly every continent, some of which are no longer available, or very difficult to obtain legally. I really enjoyed working with terrestrial geckos. I was among the first breeders to work with the African Fat-tailed Gecko (Hemitheconyx caudicinctus), pictured above. In 1979, I teamed up with a breeder in Pennsylvania, for a six-year study. In 1986, we submitted our documented research study to the International Herpetological Symposium, Inc., which was accepted that year. At the Symposium in San Antonio, Texas, I presented our research work. The documentation was printed in that year’s proceedings.
My working background has been in photography, journalism, and graphic design, as well as printing. In 1990, I was contacted by Richard A. Ross, M.D., M.P.H., and Director of the Institute for Herpetological Research, and Gerald Marzec, Secretary and Fellow, Institute for Herpetological Research, Stanford, California., about publishing a major book on pythons and boas.
It took us about two years to complete the project. The book was titled, The Reproductive Husbandry of Pythons and Boas. The hardbound book contained 272 pages with over 125 photographs, diagrams, and charts. It had a dust jacket, and the cover and spine were done with gold leaf wordage. We started with 5,000 books. The book sold out about two years later. The owners decided to reprint 3,500 hard-bound, and 1,500 soft-bound books. Later, the rights to produce the book were sold to a German publisher. I have a copy of that book, as well.
The book was dedicated to Josef Laszlo, Superintendent of Reptiles, at the San Antonio, Texas, Zoo. The Dedication read, “We are indebted to Joseph for teaching us that it is not enough to keep reptiles alive in captivity; our greatest responsibility is captive breeding.” Josef is now deceased.
In July, 1993, I helped start a new scientific journal, called Herpetological Natural History. It was published by the International Herpetological Symposium, Inc. Herpetologists from all over the world, paid to have their research published in the new journal. The journal came out twice a year. I did the first four years of production work, and eight issues.
In June, 1996, I was asked to help design and publish a special 20-year Anniversary publication, for the International Herpetological Symposium, Inc. It was called, Advances in Herpetoculture. It was a major success, as well.
In 1997, the Symposium was held in Liberia, Costa Rica. It was the first time the meeting had been held outside the United States. Unfortunately, I could not attend. The following Monday, I received a call at work. It was from Louis Porras, President. He called to personally tell me that I had been nominated and selected as the 7th person in the world to be honored with the Josef Laszlo Memorial Award, for achievements and support of the parent organization, the International Herpetological Symposium, Inc.
I was speechless to say the least. I knew who had earned the Award in the past, and had a difficult time believing I belonged with that group. At that time, I was the Publications Secretary and a Board Member of the organization.
Shortly thereafter, was when I really got sick with my neurological disorder. Two years prior, I was so burned out from keeping to many reptiles and amphibians, I decided to stop and catch my breath. I sold everything.
Ten years ago (2007), I decided I needed reptiles and amphibians back in my life again. For the most part, I had only worked with reptiles. I decided to broaden my education and work with amphibians. It didn’t take long for me to realize something was still missing.
That something turned out to be terrestrial turtles and tortoises. Like amphibians, I had kept a few box turtles and tortoises. What I bought back then was fairly inexpensive. Some of those same turtles and tortoises are very rare and expensive today. Same story as selling my 1962 Chevy!
I reconnected with some old friends primarily through a Facebook Group, Old School Herpers. One person said, “I always wondered what happened to you.” Another person said, “I heard you died years ago from some illness.”
Well, I’m back and my new challenge is to be even more successful with terrestrial turtles and tortoises as a private Sanctuary. Box turtles, in particular, have great personalities and seem to enjoy interacting with me, much like many lizards I worked with in the past. I have an Ornate Box Turtle, supposedly from Texas, that acts like he is a snapping turtle. It must be that “Texas” thing, again!
I am trying to get better, so I can once again attend more meetings and sales around the country. I miss all of my friends from the past and look forward to developing new friendships as I get back on the map, again.
If you know of anyone wanting to find a good home for their terrestrial turtles or tortoises, I hope my past reputation still exists, and you will recommend me to those people. I take better care of my animals than I do myself, usually.
As I creep into my older years (70), I have been looking for a way to continue to use my level of expertise, somehow. When possible, I still do some field research work in nearby counties. I have seen a major decline in numerous species of Iowa’s reptiles, in particular. More about my field research work can be found on my Educational Programs page.
I still love to give educational programs. Information about my programs is part of my website. I do see an urgent need to try to reach out and find older kids who have that same passion that drives me to take my place. That is why I am making my Sanctuary an educational center, as well.
I wish you all the best. I hope we can be reunited again in the near future. I welcome new friendships as well!