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Response by Raymond Hoser to John Weigel's (of the Australian Reptile Park - ARP) claims re OPMV or similar virus at the ARP.
This document is dated 22 July 2003 11.45 PM.

My (short) paper that has created his response is posted at:
The following is in response to Weigel's posts on OPMV and his webpage at:

Readers should note that:

Weigel's main claim against me in relation to the OPMV is that

1/ The ARP's Taipan was not the source of the OPMV or similar virus,

and that

2/ Weigel was correct in not notifying Stuart Bigmore of the fact that the ARP had OPMV or similar in Nov 2002 after he'd found out, even though the snake had been shipped a month earlier and during the infection that had run from Feb to Nov that year and/or that the snake shipped to Bigmore was a potential carrier.

Weigel is evidently wrong in judgement on both the above.

In more detail I note:

1/ John Weigel's alleged rebuttal of my finding that the ARP's Taipan was the source of a virus infection and my other findings of facts as relevant is in the main a totally irrelevant attack on myself (Raymond Hoser) which consists of smear, innuendo and patently false statements. I will however ignore this for the moment as irrelevant to the OPMV/virus issue. He has until his posts of tonight, consistently refused to answer questions put to him in writing for several weeks, those e-mails can be reposted here if desired.

2/ Weigel did not publicly reveal that he suspected he had OPMV or similar virus until after it was leaked via the chief veterinary officer of NSW (in late 2002/early 2003), whereupon he went into "damage control" and sent out his own version of events in relation to the outbreak. If he was in fact following on from other advice, it was in hindsight a mistake on his part, albeit in good faith.

3/ I have the relevant report and Weigel's response e-mail which indicates failure by the ARP to contain the infection for at least 8 months (Weigel's own words).

4/ All virus infected snakes identified so far have their infection traced back to a single Taipan from the ARP that was shipped from them in October 2002 to keeper Stuart Bigmore. The fact a snake (including that one) does not or did not show signs of the virus, either clinically or via gross histology (as cited by Weigel) does not mean it is not a carrier. This has been adequately proven via the Rossignolli and Gleeson cross infections, both of which were made via outwardly healthy carrier snakes. Likewise in terms of my own infection, via a snake that at the time it was mixed with my collection it presented as healthy. Evidence in fact suggests that this asymptomatic state is in fact the most common state for many species and larger individuals that carry the virus.

Furthermore, Electron Micrography can establish presence of virus definitively - nothing else can. Weigel was in my view negligent at not doing this at the time of the ARP deaths in 2002.

5/ In his e-mail of early 2003 he stated that he was sending a sample to Florida for testing. This we now know to have been incorrect as no sample was sent. As Weigel notes, I, Raymond Hoser, take full credit for taking proper procedure and having this disease positively identified in Australia for the first time, in spite of costs which I could happily have avoided. Furthermore I also take full credit for doing what I believe should be standard procedure for all keepers in that A/ I identified the disease in days, not months (like the ARP) and B/ Notified all other potentially affected keepers, wildlife departments and the like (unlike the ARP), which in my case were only "upline" as I had not personally traded out any snakes. The key words in the previous sentence were "notified all other potentially affected keepers".

Weigel's claims that the ARP's Taipans did not have the virus based on clinical signs and histology are effectively meaningless in terms of "clearing" the ARP as a source and merely corroborate my own published findings as published already by the Macarthur Herp Society in their newsletter and others.

6/ The pathway of the infection is set out at:
in the diagram at the foot of the page.

7/ Statements in Weigel's alleged rebuttal of my findings are factually incorrect and easily proven so and hence in effect confirm my claim because they fail to rebut. I am in many ways pleased he made them, not so much from the view of self aggrandizement, but as further corroboration of two months of intensive work on this disease, bearing in mind Weigel's previous refusal to address several questions that he has now in effect answered.

8/ Timing factors stated by Weigel (10 months for onset of symptoms) are deliberately misleading as this relates to infection passed on via many well defined steps, not a single one-step infection.

9/ Weigel's claims about wheeling and dealing in Bigmore's collection are factually incorrect. He had been advised of this already, but knowingly continues to peddle this lie.

The facts are as follows:

In the 18 months prior to Oct 2002, there were no other incoming snakes to Bigmore's collection - hence the ARP snake being the only suspect. I made particularly sure of this fact before proceeding to diagnose the Taipan as the only possible or likely suspect. This was not so much in fairness to Weigel, against whom there is no malice, (contrary to his inferences or claims), but rather to establish the true facts in this important matter, before publishing the details. Incidentally, I also tracked and cleared the previous snake incoming to Bigmore (and that collection) an Acanthophis cummingi, as a matter of procedural thoroughness, even though the dates effectively excluded it in the first instance.

There has been no malice on my part in tracking the infection, which incidentally has roped in many of my closest colleagues, whom I have also publicly identified without fear or favour and without concern for their 'feelings' about having their collections identified as potential virus carriers.

There is also a vast body of other compelling evidence (as to be printed in the long version paper) which indicates further that the source of the OPMV or virus was the ARP and furthermore indicative that the ARP was either the Australian source or very close to it.

10/ This tracking of the OPMV infection has not been a witch-hunt against Weigel - far from it. At the time I diagnosed OPMV (or similar) in my snakes I had no knowledge of any ARP connection. This only came to light following advice from others.

Weigel's claims against me in this regard and his other personal attacks at the beginning of his webpage at:

are a scurrilous smokescreen by Weigel to cover his own actions which it appears he views as inadequate. With the benefit of hindsight I also believe that the ARP has not handled this disease outbreak properly.

11/ I don't think anyone can bear malice against Weigel for shipping a snake in Oct 2002 that appeared healthy and was identified some time later as a carrier of disease. See my full account for the details, including how other keepers did likewise - and in good faith.

However in hindsight the decision not to warn recipients of snakes after Nov 2002, when the ARP became aware that it had been victim of an infection was a serious error. It was not made by any of the other people down the chain from Bigmore, when they became aware of the reality or potential for virus infection and hopefully it will not be made again by anyone, including Weigel, who hopefully will learn from this experience.

12/ Of more than a dozen other affected and potentially affected collections as identified and named by myself, none of the persons involved has sought to attack me in any way, but rather they have co-operated in every way and answered all questions as and when put. As it happens, they'ev all generally been appreciative of the help and guidance given in partially explaining the cause/s of deaths previously regarded as being by causes unknown.

The only exception to this has been John Weigel, who instead has chosen to attack me. The issue at hand is the OPMV virus, not personal point scoring or "I hate Ray Hoser".

13/ Finally, may I thank you John Weigel for setting out in your own words in writing why you think that the ARP was not the source of the virus infection. I have little doubt that history will find you wrong on this, but bear no malice. Far from it. In fact your posts effectively corroborate my own findings in terms of how the virus can spread undetected in collections, including my own. I am sure that the long paper will be of interest to concerned keepers throughout not just Australia, but elsewhere.

14/ Weigel's as yet unsubstantiated claims about the King Cobras are interesting. I would welcome copies of the alleged veterinary reports and details of exactly what tests were done to establish presence of virus, or if in fact only clinical examination was relied upon (ie, as in something like "the snake looks healthy"). As previously stated, it is of great interest as to where the ARP got their infection from.

14/ False and defamatory statements by John Weigel in relation to myself, "Monitor", The Victorian Herpetological Society, Cane Toads and reptile licencing laws will be ignored in this post as being not relevant to the OPMV situation as are Weigel's previous false claims in relation to my taxonomy (in particular Indonesian Scrub Pythons that he made via spam e-mails in 2001) the constant claims by reptile people in Australia about the ARP fire, potential arson and the apparent mystery as to why the Rough-scaled Pythons never got burnt and killed (the arson claims generally being denied by Weigel).

15/ Finally, if any of my published conclusions in relation to the OPMV or OPMV-like virus identified by myself are in any way factually incorrect, unsound, or whatever, I welcome written advice to this effect BACKED UP with corroborating material and reasons - as any scientist should.

This may also be posted on a public forum as part of an informed debate - but please refrain from personal or false and baseless attacks on me as they are not relevant and may otherwise be ignored or legally actioned as I see fit.

In the event that material or conclusions I have made are wrong or appear to be so, based on facts, I will alter my views accordingly. So far nothing in the Weigel post has come close to this, rather the reverse, they have in effect corroborated my original findings about:

1/ The virus in general in terms of how it works in collections, and

2/ The fact that the ARP's Taipan was a vector for the virus.

3/ That the Taipan (regardless of it's carrier status) was sent from the ARP to Bigmore in Oct 2002 and then when the ARP became aware of their own internal virus problem the following month, Weigel chose not to advise Bigmore of any risks.

A draft of a long, 20,000 word paper is online at this link:
and should be read by interested persons.

Thank You

Raymond Hoser


Stop press: As of 2009, I have been advised that John Weigel recently published an article on OPMV at the Australian Reptile Park. While it appears he has been generally casual with the truth, he has finally and belatedly admitted to supplying a potentially infected snake to Bigmore and failing to advise him of the fact when he became aware of this. Hence all central parts of the relevant Hoser papers remain true and correct and more importantly, Weigel's earlier false and defamatory statements have been proven lies by a process of simple cross-checking the various statements by him and the dates.

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