Death Adder Shortage
NPWS/NSW to blame
NPWS Blamed for Death Adder venom shortages.29 January 2002.
It's amazing how times change.
Today, the Australian Reptile Park in Gosford was claiming in the Sydney Morning Herald to have a shortage of Death Adders (Acanthophis antarcticus) for their milking programs to make anti-venoms.
In the early 1980's snake breeder Raymond Hoser was breeding so many Death Adders that he didn't know what to do with them.
Back then he was producing dozens of young Adders at his Redfern facility each year.
The excess snakes, he'd cart off to National Parks in Sydney's north and release, simply because he was unable to find enough homes for his snakes. This was done with the supervision of local Wilberforce NPWS ranger, a Mr. Tame.
Then all this came to an abrupt end in mid 1984.
As part of a long running battle between Hoser and different senior officers of the National Parks and Wildlife Service in NSW, the NPWS officers raided Hoser's house and took the lot. Over 40 Death Adders, most of them adult breeders were "seized".
Some went to Taronga Zoo, where they later died, while others were sent overseas.
While other Australian herpetologists have since bred Death Adders in captivity, no one ever bred them in the same numbers as Hoser and so from a situation of chronic surplus, we now see a chronic shortage.
Now living in Melbourne, herpetologist Raymond Hoser says that the blame for the current situation must be placed on the NSW NPWS.
He says 'No one else is to blame for the current shortage of snakes needed for milking for anti-venoms and related research requirements".
Hoser a long-time adversary of the NSW NPWS also accurately predicted a Thredbo style disaster in the journal Monitor in September 1996 (8, pages 22-23) and was then attacked for political points scoring. Neither NPWS or anyone else in the NSW government heeded Hoser's warnings.
A year later the Thredbo landslide occurred and a coroner later blamed NPWS.
Hoser says that after he published two books about corruption in the NPWS, in 1993 and 1996 (Smuggled and Smuggled-2), NPWS were forced to change their wildlife licencing laws and policies (in 1997), which have in turn led to a massive increase in the number of licenced private keepers of reptiles in NSW.
Had this not occurred, the Reptile Park would have had even greater difficulty in sourcing new snakes after it's facility was burnt down in 2000.
You see, many of their new snakes were sourced from private keepers, and many of these had only been licenced since the Hoser induced law changes a few years earlier.
For years Hoser has advocated captive breeding as the best means of preserving species under potential threat, including King Brown Snakes, Death Adders and others.
When Hoser said this in his book Endangered Animals of Australia, first published in 1991, his critics labeled him as insane, but ten years since and with the Cane Toads now decimating snake numbers in northern Australia, scientific opinion has moved strongly in Hoser's favor.
In all Australian states, wildlife authorities now promote captive breeding as an important aspect of conserving threatened species.
But all the news is not bad.
You see, after nearly two decades of not keeping any live reptiles, Hoser has decided to re-establish a Death Adder breeding program in Victoria. However he says that because of other commitments it will be on a far smaller scale than that he had in the 1980's.
Hoser, who authored the book Australian Reptiles and Frogs, also discovered several new species of Death Adder in 1998 based on an inspection of museum specimens. These new species occurred in New Guinea (2 species) and northern Qld, NT and WA (one in each state).
Another newly discovered species of snake and also in need of milking for venom research identified by Hoser in 1998 as the False King Brown Snake (Pailsus pailsei), is still only known from three dead specimens in three State Museums and a single captive in Victoria.
Hoser has called in the Qld NPWS to issue permits to collect the species, but understands that to date none have been issued.
Further information, the scientific papers, etc can be found at:
(Australia) 0412 777 211