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 neighbours 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 bluetongues, shinglebacks 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 Childrens 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 aquire and very cheap.
I joined the South Australian Herpetology Group when it started, 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.
After my wife left me about 10 years ago, my reptile collection dwindled to a few species, however one day I went into Petcenta with my girlfriend Rachel and we were shown some Bredls 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 20 pythons and about 30 lizards, some are just getting to breeding size.
Being a computer technician, I got onto internet before most Australians had heard of it, and started the Australian Herpetology page at www.adam.com.au/rajohn1 .
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.
Sunday, October 25, 1998