Welcome to the first edition of House of Herps, the new monthly blog carnival dedicated to celebrating amphibian and reptilian wildlife and conservation.

We are truly humbled and honored to have received such a great response from our fellow nature bloggers. If I have learned anything from reading the posts submitted from HoH #1′s 21 contributors, I have learned that this bunch will most likely appreciate a little irreverent humor to start us off. (if you don’t like irreverent humor, just skip the video!)

The response to the announcement of House of Herps has been tremendous, and we are delighted to bring you a fabulous collection of contributions from herp enthusiasts all around the web. In fact, we like to think of each contribution as a gift. In this season of merriment and good cheer, we decided to gift-wrap each present from our contributors. To open each present, simply click on the image, or follow the links in each summary. Enjoy, and Happy Herping!

First up for this very first edition of HoH is Mike Bergin of 10,000 Birds, writing about the Jamaican Croaking Lizardhe found in his juice glass! Mike’s visit to Jamaica and his stay at Mocking Bird Hill offered many exotic sights and sounds. You won’t want to miss out on this chance to experience a little piece of the Caribbean.

Jill Wussow, aka Johnny Nutcase, from Count Your Chicken! We’re Taking Over! gets my vote for the most original blog title. Jill was fortunate enough to capture a real-life illustration of the food chain in progress, with her picture-filled story titled, “Anole Snags a Bee.”

When you open this 3rd present, you will find a 3rd lizard – and a dazzling lizard it is! To be honest, I had no idea that we had such gorgeous lizards in North America. Ted MacRae of Beetles in the Bush was able to get some great shots, and nary a beetle in sight. Hmmm…I wonder, do lizards eat beetles?

John Beetham of A DC Birding Blog shares his photos of a Green Frog that he saw while visiting a wildlife sanctuary. Truly, this is the greenest frog I have ever seen – like an emerald.

Tai Haku of Earth, Wind & Water has given us a real treat with his post about the striking Everglades Rat Snake. “Striking,” in that this is a beautifully colored snake, in hues of golden yellow to orange.

Slithering into place as our sixth offering is Chris Clarke’s “Letters from the Desert: Crotalus scutulatus,” from his blog, “Coyote Crossing.” This is a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining post, recounting his discovery of a big ‘ol Mojave Green Rattlesnake while out wandering in the desert. With one photo accessible via a link in his post, Chris reminds us how great a blog post can be, based simply on the craft of storytelling.

This is one of those boxes with several gifts inside. Open the box, and you will find three excellent posts with eye-popping photographs. Budak of The annotated Budak gives us:

  1. “The Jungle is Neutral”
  2. “Fade to Black”
  3. “Mind the Gap”

I love how his titles pose a mystery as to the subject, so I won’t spoil it. Be sure to visit each of these posts for lovely writing and equally lovely photos.

Up next is Rambling Woods‘ “Exaggeration is to paint a snake and add legs,” and I won’t argue with that! This is an informative post that includes her encounter with a snake around her house, and goes on to treat us to some really interesting information and illustrations about the ways that snakes move.

Sally White of Foothills Fancies continues our fascinating journey through herpetological happiness with her post on Bull Snakes and their similarity to Rattlesnakes. Sally artfully weaves her story of personal encounters with some great information.

Flowergirl of Madras Ramblings takes us along on her adventure to see Indian Rock Pythons in their native habitats.Though Flowergirl was a little nervous about the excursion, she and her companions came away with a story to tell and a few pictures to share.

At the mid-way point in our presentation, I want to share with you some information submitted to us from an amphibian conservation organization named Ambibian Ark. I am pleased to post this article, contributed by Kevin Johnson, Taxon Officer with Amphibian Ark.

The Amphibian Ark

The world’s amphibians are disappearing. More than one hundred species may have already gone extinct and thousands more are threatened with extinction. Many of the threatened species cannot be safeguarded in the wild and require management away from their natural habitat if they are to persist. Aside from their obvious appeal to nearly all humans, amphibians play a critical role in the global ecosystem, provide us with important pharmaceuticals, and may act as our environmental barometers. There is simply too much at stake in losing them.

The Amphibian Ark (AArk) draws together diverse stakeholders to guide short-term ex situ management to help ensure long-term survival in nature of amphibian taxa for which adequate protection in the wild is not currently possible. Ex situ conservation entails removing part or all of the population or a species from a threatened habitat and maintaining and propagating the animals in captivity until the threats in the wild can be removed. AArk staff does not actually maintain any amphibian populations themselves, and has very limited funds available to provide for amphibian conservation, but instead assists its partners with amphibian species conservation needs assessment, husbandry training, capacity building, fostering partnerships, fundraising, coordination and education.

The AArk is a joint effort of three principal partners: the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), the IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG), and the IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG). We were formed in 2006 to address the ex situ components of the Amphibian Conservation Action Plan (ACAP).

Our vision is The world’s amphibians safe in nature, and our mission is Ensuring the global survival of amphibians, focusing on those that cannot currently be safeguarded in nature.

We help to coordinate ex situ programs implemented by partners around the world, with the first emphasis on programs within the range countries of the species, and with a constant attention to our obligation to couple ex situconservation measures with necessary efforts to protect or restore species in their natural habitats.

Strategic guidance on the AArk’s activities is provided by a Steering Committee, with Executive Co-Chairs from each of the three principal partners. Committee members include representatives from the various regional and national zoo and aquarium associations, museums, botanic gardens and the private sector, and this ensures excellent communication with all stakeholders.

A number of dedicated positions coordinate all aspects of implementation within the AArk initiative, assisting AArk partners in evaluating the conservation needs for amphibian species and regions for ex situ conservation work; leading development and implementation of training programs for building capacity of individuals and institutions; and developing communications strategies, newsletters and other messages, and materials to promote understanding and action on behalf of amphibian conservation.

It is not the goal of AArk’s programs to collect animals from the wild purely for exhibit in US or European zoos. In fact, that is the last thing we want, and as an end point, it would represent complete failure of the program. Although the proximal action to save critical species from immediate extinction will be to temporarily house and breed them at the nearest existing facilities with available space and resident expertise, our highest priority is to enable the range countries currently lacking facilities and expertise to care for their own species. This will allow outside experts to free up their time and space to begin the process anew with other species in other regions of the world.

Amphibian Ark also helps in the planning stages of conservation programs to insure adequate capacity and resources are in place. Too often, captive breeding programs in general over-commit and find themselves without the capacity to properly handle large numbers of specimens. If outside institutions allow themselves to become inundated with specimens from their initial efforts, they will be unable to do anything meaningful elsewhere and we will fail to reach our primary goal. Successful amphibian conservation will be achieved when a given species is sustainably managed by its own range country experts and there is no longer a need for outside institutions to hold any specimens of that species. Ultimately, every region should only have to manage their own species although in some cases where resources are lacking, outside assistance and participation may be required.

More information about the Amphibian Ark is available on our web site, www.amphibianark.org and we also encourage you to subscribe to our free quarterly electronic newsletter.

Kevin Johnson

Amphibian Ark Communications and Development Officer



Image caption: Hylomantis lemur, a great example of partners working together, to help save a species within the range country. Photo: Ron Holt.


Ok folks, it is time to resume our presentation of the best herp-blogging on web!

For a change of pace, we have our first post about turtles. In a story that champions the need for conservation-themed education, David A. Steen of Living Alongside Wildlife offers up, “Come to the Light.” IMO, this is a must-read,  and I know you will enjoy David’s site while you’re there!

Did you know that some frogs have fangs? Kind of Curious brings us a newsflash about a brand-new species of fanged frog, found in Thailand. Super-cool.

Kenton and Rebecca, blogging at Wild About Nature, bring us a thoughtful piece about their efforts to educate children and adults about snakes. Their goal is to help others overcome a seemingly innate fear of serpents, and to replace that fear with respect and appreciation.

Herp Atlas Day,” brought to our attention by Bernard “Billy” Brown of Philly Herping, is part of a larger New Jersey state program “designed to provide active management and habitat protection through the cooperative efforts of land managers, state regulators, local planners and citizens.” I LOVE to learn about citizen science programs aimed at protecting wildlife and their habitats, and Billy’s post explains his own involvement. Wonderful.

Elizabeth Enslin of Yips and Howls had the presence of mind to safely capture and relocate a gorgeous rattlesnake she came across while tending her garden. Pop over to her site for a peep at the snake and to hear about her momentous day.

Celeste of Celestial Ramblings is involved with the conservation efforts for Illinois’ endangered Blanding’s Turtle.She chose HoH #1 as a means to share her enthusiasm about her work with the turtles, as well as to share some of the program details. One-way glass for hatchlings so they do better when released in the wild? Awesome!

For those of you familiar with the Nature Blog Network blog, you will recognize Seabrooke Leckie as the person who brings us our weekly Community Bulletin Board announcements. For those of you who have spent any time at all visiting the smorgasbord of nature blogs, you will surely recognize Seabrooke as the force behind the excellent blog, The Marvelous in Nature. On the occasion of HoH #1, Seabrooke shares some great photos of a shed snake skin, and tells us all about this interesting serpentine process.

When I visited Willow House Chronicles to prepare Barefootheart’s contribution to HoH #1, I took one look at the picture at the top of her website and thought, “I want to be there.” Her story of snapping-turtle traffic near her home is accompanied by some neat pictures. I found the story particularly interesting since I rescued a tiny baby snapping turtle from the middle of a road in my edge-of-suburbia neighborhood earlier this year.

Hugh of Rock Paper Lizard has presented us with an in-depth review of the book, “Snakebit: Confessions of a Herpetologist.” I thoroughly enjoyed Hugh’s insightful review of this book, written by a friend and one-time colleague, Leslie Anthony. The review is quite timely, given this season of giving and the arrival of HoH #1. If you have any last- minute shopping to do for your favorite naturalist, be sure to read Hugh’s review.

Finally, we have a contribution from the co-founder of House of Herps, Jason Hogle of Xenogere. Though Jason and I live in the same town, as it turns out, we have not yet met in person. Even so, I can say with complete confidence that Jason and I share very similar views about nature and wildlife. Jason’s post comes straight from his recent visit to the Texas Gulf Coast, where he encountered a snake, an armadillo, and a tricky situation. I know you’ll enjoy Jason’s story as much as I did!

We hope you have enjoyed this first issue of House of Herps. Thank you to all who contributed!

HoH #2 will be hosted by Ted MacRae of Beetles in the Bush. Please send your submissions to Ted or to submissions [at] houseofherps dot com by January 15th.

If you are interested in hosting, please let us know!

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