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 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

RHES Help unwanted Reptiles and Raptors

This year RHES (Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society) have been raising money for North Wales Reptile and Raptor Sanctuary (NWRR). So far they have raised a whopping £437.08 through three events. RHES were present at Lambing weekend, Open Day and gained sponsorship through their successful leap of faith. Events included cake and sweet sales, Ozzy the owl meets and greets, reptile and invertebrate talks and guess the number of gummy snakes in a tub.

One of RHES aims is to raise money for a related charity. North Wales Reptile and Raptor Sanctuary (NWRR) specialise in Rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming in reptiles (pet and wild) the registered charity that receives no funding except for generous donations made by the public. RHES visited NWRR to donate the raised funds and also to help out for the day. NWRR has around 60 animals and the husbandry is a labour intensive job. On the day RHES helped out with jobs like cleaning the turtle pond, clean the tortoises and feed the raptors.

NWRR were extremely grateful for the support from RHES and were impressed tremendously by their attitudes towards pet ownership. In a letter Jane (NWRR Founder) said “I just wanted to write and say thank you for coming to see us yesterday we had a wonderful day and were very pleased you came to see us. Thank you for all the hard work you did and the raised funds was a wonderful surprise”.

Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society

RHES attend Venom Day at Bangor University

RHES members chat to Mark O’Shea

RHES members chat to Mark O’Shea

On the 16th of November 2013 the RHES attended Venom Day hosted by Bangor Herpetological Society and the British Herpetological Society (BHS) at Bangor University. Bangor students and key members of the herpetology community held talks and demonstrations based around their current studies and research. It gave RHES members a chance to meet new contacts and explore possible career paths. RHES members had the opportunity to meet a famous member of the herpetological community Mark O’Shea. Mark talked to some of our members about career opportunities and his own career pathway.

James Headland was lucky enough to establish a mentor to help him with the venomous snake handling course through networking on the day. This is a fantastic achievement and all the members are happy for him.

Mark O'Sheas Reptile World RHESAll of our members picked up important information throughout the day. Talks from various professionals including Tom White’s: Detecting venom toxin variation in the Taiwanese bamboo viper (Trimeresurus stejnegri), David Warrell: Are we any better at preventing bites and stings? and Wolfgang Wüster’s talk on Cryptic Diversity in the African forest cobra (Naja melanoluca), were particularly inspiring. Bangor University also opened up their museum for refreshments, this gave RHES an opportunity to peruse thousands of specimens.

All in all it was a fantastic day out for the RHES society and gave all the members an experience they will never forget.

Josh Flood

RHES Chair

Career chat inspires herpetological students

Former animal management students Luke Harding and Simon Maddock described their adventures with some of the world’s rarest reptiles and amphibians during a talk to Reaseheath’s Herpetological and Entomological Society (RHES) yesterday.

Both Luke, 25, and Simon, 24, have gone on to become specialist herpetologists since completing their Level 3 Diploma in Animal Management in 2007. They have remained close friends since their schooldays and regularly share and discuss their research findings.

Luke has just returned from the Caribbean where he has been involved in a project to reinstate an endangered species of frog to the islands of Montserrat and Dominica. Called the ‘Mountain Chicken’, the frog used to be Dominica’s national dish and gets its name because it tastes like chicken.

The frog population on both islands has been drastically hit by disease, illegal hunting and habitat loss. Scientists are desperately trying to save the species through a captive breeding programme and by raising its profile among the local population. Alongside working closely with London Zoo, which has a captive breeding facility, one of Luke’s key tasks was to help run Dominica’s first highly successful Mountain Chicken Day last September.

As well as describing his Caribbean adventures, Luke also talked about his part in a research project  on Komodo dragons in Indonesia…and how he got to follow his dream.

On leaving Reaseheath, Luke began a degree in zoo biology at Nottingham Trent University but left after he was offered an internship at Chester Zoo. He completed his degree later via the Open University. Following his internship he worked as a herpetologist for Marwell Wildlife in Hampshire and then at Colchester Zoo, where he became Deputy Head of the herpetological department. He then transferred full time onto the mountain chicken project.

An equally well travelled Simon outlined his involvement in active research projects in India, Ecuador Papua New Guinea and the Seychelles. He is currently based at the Natural History Museum in London, where he is researching for a joint PhD on the evolution and conservation of amphibians and snakes in the Seychelles in collaboration with the University College London.

Simon says that his Reaseheath experience prepared him well for his academic career. He gained a degree and Masters degree in zoology at Bangor University before moving on to study for his doctorate.

Both former students took part in a lively Q and A session after their talk. Luke said: “It’s great to be back here. Reaseheath has always been a fantastic institution with great staff but it’s been good to catch up with all the new, top end facilities. Hopefully we’ve shown the current students what they can achieve through hard work, determination and drive.

Advised Simon: “It’s really important that you attend events, gain contacts and keep networking. There are loads of opportunities out there but they won’t just be handed to you.”

Luke Harding and Simon Maddock with Josh Flood and Nathan Brookes-Bennett, chairs RHES

Luke Harding and Simon Maddock with Josh Flood and Nathan Brookes-Bennett, chairs RHES

RHES make the most of Manchester’s minibeasts!

On Monday 21st October, Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society (RHES) travelled to Manchester for a day focused on all things creepy crawly. First stop was Manchester Museum.

After taking a tour round the museum itself and purchasing a few commemorative knick-knacks from the gift shop, RHES members met up with Dr Dmitri Logunov for a behind-the-scenes look at Manchester Museum’s invertebrate collection.

Dr Dmitri Logunov is the curator of Arthropods at Manchester Museum, and is well known for his work with and passion for spiders.

In particular the family saltcidae otherwise known as jumping spiders, which he discussed with RHES at length, much to the delight of our resident spider lovers.

RHES trip to Manchester MuseumOnce behind the scenes in the museum’s archives, Dmitri introduced RHES members to a number of glass cases containing a wide variety of preserved specimens including; beetles, butterflies and earwigs. He went on to walk them through the methods of cataloguing and classifying specimens within a collection.

Dmitri also taught members about the different ‘values’ specimens can have to a collection whether scientific, historical, or even monetary. some specimens in the collection are apparently worth in excess of one million pounds, though are deemed priceless to the museum.

Another main focus of dmitri’s talk, was to try and explain the responsibilities and requirements of being a curator and with a number of members passionate about working in this field it certainly was a highlight of the day.

After the talk and a number of questions dmitri then took us down for a guided tour of the spirit vaults to show us a selection of specimens; including a very extensive collection of spiders which he was currently working with, as well as centipedes, crustaceans & molluscs. We finished the tour with another wave of questions as members tested both their own and Dmitri’s knowledge, much to both our and his satisfaction.

Elephant beetle RHES tripLater on in the evening RHES attended the monthly meeting of the Manchester Invertebrate and Spider Club or M.I.S.C, who are a society dedicated to the keeping, breeding and proper welfare of exotic invertebrates with a heavy focus on tarantulas.

At the meeting we met up with Mark Brocklehurst, founder of the house of spiders with whom we discussed a number of topics including tarantula husbandry, breeding and enclosure design. Two members, Kyle Fahey and Harry Julian ended their night by purchasing a number of spiderlings to add to their collections much to the their delight (and to the dismay of their parents).

To finish, I’d like to thank a number of people most importantly the members who came on the trip without which we would have had no trip, as well as a big thank you to Dmitri and Manchester Museum for taking the time to speak with us, M.I.S.C for inviting us down and to Kyle, Lauren and my fellow committee members for helping me organise this trip; a big thank you to all.

Nathan Brooks-Bennett
RHES Chair 

RHES takes a private tour of Crocodiles of the World

By Nathan Brookes-Bennett – RHES Member

On Wednesday 29th May the RHES (Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society) travelled to Crocodiles of the World in Oxfordshire, where upon arrival they were given a pre-arranged private tour of the complex by founder and head keeper of Crocodiles of the World, Shaun Foggett.

nathan crocodile tripCrocodiles of the World is the first and only crocodile zoo in the UK and exhibits 13 of the 23 species of crocodilian, including the critically endangered Siamese Crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis) and Chinese Alligator (Alligator sinensis.) It is also one of the few establishments in the world to exhibit all 8 species of Alligatorid. The main goals of Crocodiles of the World is to educate the public about crocodilians and their conservation and to one day exhibit all 23 species of crocodilian.

crocodiles trip rhes

When the RHES arrived at Crocodiles of the World they were given a brief talk on crocodilians including their husbandry, ecology and morphology and were then given the opportunity to handle a number of juvenile crocodilians including a 3ft Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus.) The students were then led round the complex and shown the different exhibits and animals at the zoo, with Shaun explaining how each animal was kept and giving background information about both the species and individual animals.

Throughout the tour the RHES were constantly asking questions to help expand their knowledge of crocodilians and also presented their own knowledge of crocodilians to Shaun which thoroughly impressed him. The tour was finished with a feeding display of the Nile Crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) where Shaun demonstrated how crocodilians could be trained to respond to stimuli to stop them getting too boisterous at feeding time.


After the tour RHES and Shaun discussed lengthily about how RHES can help out with future fundraising events for Crocodiles of the World and Shaun answered more of the group’s questions with one member acquiring work experience there over the summer. Special thanks must be said to Crocodiles of the World who were very professional and accommodating and provided RHES with valuable insight into crocodilian care as well as a fantastic day out. Many thanks as well to Valerie for driving us down and Lauren for helping organise the event.

RHES crocodile trip

Project Atta for RHES

Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society (RHES) were set a project to redesign and build the Leaf Cutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) display at Reaseheath College/Zoo by Keeper Instructor Lauren Lane. This project would help them form one of their main aims of the society to develop skills for industry. Little did RHES know that designing an exhibit for leaf cutter ants was one of the hardest exhibits to create with their will to escape and sensitivity to chemicals.project atta

The leaf cutter ant display prior to RHES redesign was an exhibit that cost around £9.00 to construct with recycled tanks, bricks and rope. The society were only given a few concepts they had to include these were to make room for other species to be displayed, the ants set up was to look more natural and less clinical, the ants should at some point come close to the window for the visitors to enjoy and exhibits should be on different levels for when the zoo is open to the public so small children can enjoy the invertebrate display window. From this the group got together and came up with some ideas. These were drawn on a white board and a very basic list of items needed was drawn up. Keeper/Instructor Joe Chattel was drafted in to teach RHES the basics of rock work so they can make their tree buttresses. After one slot with Joe by the following week they had structures ready to be concreted.

project atta 2We discovered through this project that student Elliot White, member of RHES is incredibly talented when it came to art and design. The buttress that he shaped at home in his own time is the one that currently houses the fungus gardens for the ants. RHES also visited London Zoo to speak to invertebrate keeper Jeff Lambert about key issues when working with Leaf Cutter Ants, this assisted them with their design.

RHES started to piece together the exhibit in between lessons and during their weekly meetings. New rope was suspended from the ceiling extending out into the room, a stand was created with tanks that can be interchangeable so more species can be on show, and security measures put in place to prevent escape in the form of copper coils painted with fluon and interpretation added to bring the display together.

The new leaf cutter ant exhibit is now up and running with other species such as Indian social spiders and ferocious water bugs now housed in the refurbished invertebrate display window ready for open day. I would like to personally thank RHES for putting in so much hard work and enthusiasm, Joe Chattell for passing on his skills to RHES and Jeff Lambert at ZSL for his advice and support to the society. We look forward to hearing your feedback on the new exhibit.

Old display window

Old display window

New window display

New display window


RHES Take the Leap of Faith

RHES (Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society) took the leap of faith organised by Reaseheath’s own Adventure Sports students in aid of North Wales Reptile and Raptor Sanctuary (NWRR). One of RHES’s aims is to support a related charity through their work. This year they are supporting NWRR and have already raised some money during the lambing weekends at the zoo.

Jamie Vince takes the leap of faith

Jamie Vince takes the leap of faith

The leap of faith took some serious courage! RHES members were challenged to climb the 45ft pole, clamber on to a platform and then leap into the air to hit a target without losing their nerve. The participating students who took the leap collected sponsorship and raised an incredible total of £273.83.

Many supporters turned out to cheer the group on along with the support and encouragement from the Adventure Sports students who were holding the ropes in which their harnesses were attached to. The brave fundraisers will be visiting NWRR later this month to present the charity with the money they have raised. The funds raised will help the charity do the amazing work they have been doing rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming/releasing injured and neglected reptiles and birds of prey.

RHES members prepare themselves

RHES members prepare themselves




Well done to RHES and many thanks to the Adventure Sports students for their support.






RHES help monitor Britain’s rarest toad – the Natterjack Toad

On the evening of May 7th after dusk RHES (Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society) assisted the field studies centre in North Wales with a very important data collection survey to help us understand Britain’s rarest toad, the Natterjack Toad.

After a two hour classroom session learning about the history, ecology and behavior of the Natterjacks RHES headed out with trained volunteers to collect some important data which will help authorities understand this species better. The huge team of people managed to cover three sites where the toads are known to be present. All Natterjacks were collected weighed, measured and sexed before being released back into their breeding pools under a license as this species is protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

On the night a successful 110 Natterjack toads were collected and processed a small number of Common Toads were relocated to another site to reduce competition for the Natterjack Toad.

During the evening RHES learnt some valuable fieldwork techniques and had a great time whilst collecting valuable data for one of our most threatened species.