Kevin Arbuckle tells toxic tales of venomous animals

A couple of the Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society (RHES) members attended the monthly SciBar gathering in Liverpool. Held at The Ship and Mitre pub on Tuesday the 3rd of March, this meeting hosted Kevin Arbuckle, evolutionary biologist from the University of Liverpool. Kevin gave a talk on Telling Toxic Tales: Chemical Warfare in Animal Evolution. The talk described many of different varieties of venoms and poisons that are out there in the wild. Also described were the different methods of not only obtaining these toxins, but the various methods of delivery used by a wide range of reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates as well as the select few mammal and bird species  which use venoms or poison to their advantage.

Event poster for Kevin’s talkrapidly

He went on to discuss how species that obtain venom in their evolutionary history have never been shown to lose it; in most cases they actually increase their toxicity levels. He presented a method of visualising the effect the venom has on a species population numbers with an highly detailed equation that takes into account many different factors affecting survival. He then finished on the point that the majority of species that have either developed venom are those most prone to being in population decline due to the intense energy output in order to develop these venoms.

 George Collinson

RHES Committee Member

Gary Dickinson discusses the challenges of rehoming reptiles

Earlier this year Gary Dickinson, the co-founder of North Wales Reptile and  Raptor Sanctuary (RHES’s chosen charity), visited the College to talk to our members and discuss the problems he is facing in trying to rescue and rehome unwanted reptiles and raptors. He often receives phone calls and emails from keepers that no longer want their pets for whatever reason and he is rapidly running out of space to house them in.

During his talk Gary asked RHES members their opinions on several issues, including whether or not larger snake species (reticulated pythons, Python reticulatus, for example) should be kept in captivity. This has recently become a controversial topic as many keepers, despite their best intentions, cannot successfully keep these snakes  due to space and time restrictions.

Gary delivering his talk to RHES members (1)

He also discussed the quality of pet shops around the country that are selling exotics and how many of which should not, in his opinion, be licensed to do so due to poor welfare (etc.) of the animals in these shops. His past experiences in this profession were also discussed during the meeting.

We would like to thank Gary for taking the time out of his already busy schedule to come down and visit us, despite less than favourable weather conditions, which meant many members couldn’t get to the College to attend. We also hope that our fundraising efforts  bring about a lot of well-deserved and greatly  needed funds for his efforts at the sanctuary.

 Ray Reynolds

RHES Committee member

RHES and Sea Turtle Oversight Protection

RHES (Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society) received a talk and presentation on the work carried out by Sea Turtle Oversight Protection (STOP), based in Florida. STOP work on the beaches of Florida redirecting disorientated sea turtles back to the sea. Light pollution from the bright cities surrounding the beaches disorientate the turtles causing them to misjudge their intended destination after hatching.  STOP monitor turtles laying  eggs and time the hatchings so they can be on hand to take the hatchlings back to the sea. STOP also support with community education and work with local authorities to improve coastal lighting for wildlife.

Holly, a representative from STOP provided RHES with a presentation and talk over Skype all the way from Florida covering: sea turtle natural history, the roles of STOP, footage and photographs of work carried out, the future of STOP and the work they are doing to improve coastal lighting. Holly also invited RHES out to Florida during breeding season to assist in the redirections of sea turtle hatchlings, which the group were really excited about.

RHES would like to thank Holly for taking the time to talk to the group and the information put into the presentation gave the group a fantastic insight into work being carried out by herpetologists across the globe.

If you would like to find out more information about STOP, you can follow them on Facebook:

RHES help monitor two of Britain’s rarest herps

Every year as part of RHES aims, the group went back to Talacre North Wales to assist the Field Studies Centre and their team with the monitoring of Britain’s rarest herps.

RHESRHES spent a late evening with the team surveying the Natterjack Toad Epidalea calamita on a successful reintroduction site. RHES members surveyed this species on the same site the previous year and collated data for the field studies centre on the sex, weight and size of the animals. This year they identified sex ratio, breeding pools and spawn strings. Due to the number of members that attended we were able to cover a large area of the sight. Kim and her team shared knowledge on species natural history and conservation action points and the group hope to be invited back next year to continue the surveying.

The same week RHES spent the Saturday on a neighbouring site with experts, receiving training to monitor Sand Lizard Lacerta agilis populations. The sand dune habitats and the secretive nature of the lizards meant the group had to tread quietly and have a keen eye. The experts explained the most successful way to look for the sand lizards. These skills will help the group as their herpetology careers develops.

RHES would like to say a huge thank you to Kim, Sarah, Mick, Josh and Mandy for leading them with their expertise. Also to Lisa for driving them.

RHES go to The Deep

RHES took a trip to the world’s only submarium ‘The Deep’, located in Hull. The Deep is home to one of the UK’s largest aquariums and a large collection of terrestrial invertebrates. After having a good look around the attraction the group were given a behind the scenes tour of the facilities of The Deep by Claire and Kirsten. This included: the Jellyfish quarantine, coral quarantine, Bug quarantine and above the big tank (pictured).

Following the behind the scenes tour, Claire and Kirsten talked the group through the in-house theming. At The Deep the enclosure revamps and theming is all carried out by the team. They are highly trained and enthusiastic and have a lot of skills that can benefit the RHES group. They talked the group through theming processes, materials and any problems they encountered. The new Gentoo Penguin Display included some fascinating theming including fake ice and leaking dry stone walls.

RHES have picked up some great ideas for future projects from the The Deep.  It is hoped that in the new academic year Claire and Kirsten will come up to Reaseheath and potential provide a theming workshop for students.

RHES would like to thank Claire and Kirsten from The Deep for taking time out of their day to talk to them and for sharing their experiences. Also, a huge thank you to Joe for driving RHES all the way to Hull.

RHES fundraise for Crocodiles of the World

Since the Reaseheath Herpetological & Entomological Society was founded in 2010, one of our main objectives has been to fundraise for an annually chosen charity.  Last year we raised over £500 for North Wales Raptor & Rescue, a facility in North Wales that cares for abandoned reptiles and birds of prey. This year we set our sights on supporting the charity Crocodiles of the World.

Crocodiles of the World is a facility based in Oxfordshire and is the only crocodilian specialist zoo in the country. The zoo boasts 13 species of crocodilian as well as a large number of other reptile species. RHES originally visited their first establishment in Crawley and were thoroughly impressed with the facilities and the level of passion and dedication demonstrated by the staff.RHES Crocodiles of the World 2

Pete Brassington - head shave fundraiser

Pete Brassington – head shave fundraiser

In late 2012, Crocodiles of the World announced that they were moving facilities and were in need of donations to be able to make the new facilities the best they could be. RHES members and supporters organised a number of events to raise money for Crocodiles of the World. Events included; cakes sales, our annual sponsored “Leap of Faith” – in which members ascended on a 40ft pole leapt off a tiny platform into thin air with the aim of hitting a target, a talk from the crocodilian specialist Colin Stevenson and a head shave from Pete Brassington – raising in excess of £250 from his brave feat!

RHES  "leap of faith"

RHES “Leap of Faith”

In total RHES raised £1008.8 for Crocodiles of the World, an amazing total and a testament to the hard work of all the fundraisers.


Shaun Foggett, founder of Crocodiles of the World heard of the RHES fundraising efforts and invited members visit Crocodiles of the World to present the money in person. RHES members were given a private tour of the new facility, now based in Brize Norton. As an extra special thanks from Shaun and the team, RHES were treated to a crocodilian handling session, where they got hands-on with some juvenile crocodiles, alligators and caiman.

A huge thank you to all the RHES members, anyone who supported the fundraising events throughout the year and the staff at Crocodiles of the World, who continue to be as passionate and hard-working as ever. A extra special thanks is to made to Lauren and Joe who made all of this possible.

Want to keep up-to-date with what the RHES are up to? Like Reaseheath Herpetological & Entomological Society (RHES) on Facebook.

If you would like to visit, learn more about or donate to Crocodiles of the World visit their website:

Reaseheath Herpetological & Entomological Society



RHES Crocodiles of the World

RHES visit and receive a talk on Manchester Museum’s Live Vivarium

On the 17th February, the Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society (RHES) travelled down to Manchester for a talk and live amphibian display by Adam Bland, the Assistant to Head Curator of Herpetology at Manchester Museum.

RHES Members listening intently to Adam

RHES Members listening intently to Adam

Upon arriving at the museum we were invited into the conference room by Adam where the talk would take place. RHES and Adam discussed at length the conservation work done within the museum as well as abroad, with members asking a barrage of questions throughout the event hoping to further their knowledge of international conservation and amphibians.

Throughout the talk Adam displayed a remarkable knowledge of tree frogs in particular a subfamily of tree frogs known as Phyllomedusinae, more commonly known as leaf and monkey frogs. There are roughly 45 species within the subfamily Phyllomedusinae, the large majority of which are endangered or threatened due to disease, habitat loss and climate change.

All the frogs Adam displayed during his talk were from this subfamily and included well known species such as the Red-Eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas) and Monkey Wax Tree Frog (Phyllomedusa sauvagii) as well as more obscure species such as the Lemur Leaf Frog (Agalychnis lemur), Splendid Leaf Frog (Cruziohyla calcarifer) and the Tiger-Legged Monkey Frog (Phyllomedusa tomopterna) all of which were beautiful and full of character.

Tiger-Legged Monkey Frog

Tiger-Legged Monkey Frog

Lemur Leaf Frog

Lemur Leaf Frog

Red-Eyed Tree Frog

Red-Eyed Tree Frog

Splendid Leaf Frog

Splendid Leaf Frog

After the talk Adam lead us to the Live Vivarium itself, here Adam showed us the other species housed here including a multitude of other frogs, several species of reptiles and a variety of butterfly species. Adam also answered some more of our questions and gave members some advice on getting a foothold in the animal industry before ending the tour.

I’d like to thank all the members who attended and hope you all had a great time, as well as a huge thanks to Andrew, Adam and Manchester Museum for being such great hosts and taking the time to meet with us, Lauren for helping me organise the event and James, Dan and Annabella for photography.

Fiji Island Iguana in live planted display

Fiji Island Iguana in live planted display

Behind the scenes enclosures

Behind the scenes enclosures




Skype conferencing for RHES

Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society (RHES) were benefited from a guest speaker in virtual form. Colin Stevenson spoke to the society via Skype about his time as director at Madras Crocodile Bank. Now at Crocodiles of the World back in the UK he spoke about the problems faced in India and the comparative difficulties to running a Zoo in the UK.

Colin’s talk included aspects of health and safety, public perception and active conservation. Colin also discussed with the group the best avenues to follow in order to reach their herpetological career aspirations. The talk was very well received and although not in the room we still managed a group photo with Colin and RHES.

We would like to express our thanks to Colin, Nathan RHES Co Chair for organising the talk, all members that attended and to all teaching staff that enabled members to attend during lesson time. This is the beginning of many national and international guest speakers for RHES. Next up will be hearing from a representative of Sea Turtle Oversight Protection in Florida.

Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society


RHES Raising Funds for their Annual Charity

This year RHES are raising vital funds for their nominated charity Crocodiles of the World. The charity is dedicated to the conservation and education of the world’s crocodiles.

RHES bake sale

RHES members visited Crocodiles of the World last year to learn about the facility and the work carried out there. The group discovered Crocodiles of the World are moving to a more convenient location with better facilities, which will enable them to continue their work and do so much more. RHES are aiming to raise money to assist with this project through fundraising efforts beginning with a bake sale. Members made cakes and sold them in the canteen and carried out a delivery service to offices of staff in need of a sugar rush.

RHES raised a brilliant £63.00

for Crocodiles of the World and they are hoping to continue to fundraise throughout the academic year.


RHES undertake Habitat Restoration for Rare Dragonfly

The first Tuesday of the month is going to be a busy one for RHES (Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society). The group are to undergo a native species project for a reptile, amphibian or invertebrate. Last year they contributed to the Fen Raft Spider Rear and Release Program and also took to the North Wales Coast to survey one of Britain’s rarest toads, the Natterjack Toad.

RHES Clearing scrubland at the new site being created for the White Face Darter

RHES Clearing scrubland at the new site being created for the White Face Darter

This year they will be revisiting the Natterjacks, assisting some Sand Lizards and restoring habitat and relocating one of Britain’s rare dragonflies, The White Face Darter Leucorrhinia dubia. While the weather is not optimum, the group will be restoring habitat in Delamere Forest assisting the Cheshire Wildlife Trust. This includes clearing scrub land and making log piles following the creating of a large water body. Once the weather improves the group will be able to assist with the translocation of the White Face Darter nymphs from successful sites to newly created sites.

An RHES member commented on the project; “Delamere Forest is right on our door step, so it’s great that we can get out there and help conserve its many habitats and the species within it.”

Once weather improves RHES will also be assisting with the surveying of a very rare spider in Delamere and the necessary framework for the species conservation. We would like to thank Katie Piercy (Wildlife Trust Delamere Mossland Officer), all members that attended and Joe Chattel for driving.

Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society