BHS and AHH Conference is a huge success

The British Herpetological Society and Advancing Herpetological Husbandry held their annual conference last week at Drayton Manor Park after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19.

The event, which was attended by over 150 enthusiasts from zoos, industry and private hobbyists, played host to a vast spectrum of speakers. As well as insight from keepers and private breeders into working with obscure and rarely-kept species, veterinarians shared information on common health ailments and emerging concerns for welfare. Furthermore, the event addressed other often controversial topics such as rodent welfare and co-habitation in an honest and open approach to ‘Advancing Herpetological Husbandry’. Members of the DGHT (the German Society for Herpetology and Herpetoculture) shared some exciting projects happening in mainland Europe, which also provided invaluable networking opportunities for a globalised approach to herp-conservation.

Keynote speakers included Dr Jonathon Howard (BeardieVet) who delivered an eye-opening and much-celebrated talk on the natural history and wild behaviours of bearded dragons. With the entire BHS and AHH team assisting in the organisation of the conference, Roman Muryn said: “I think it’s been a huge success and inviting our overseas speakers to join us has definitely paid off.” BeardieVet’s talk closed day one of the conference, with some serious ‘food for thought’ as hobbyists discussed their newly destroyed preconceptions of one of the most popular pet reptiles today.

Later, the evening meal brought together many great minds of UK herpetoculture over a steak and ale pie. Tell Hicks, who sadly couldn’t join this year’s conference donated several limited edition prints to the event, providing over £400 worth of donations. These were presented as a ‘thank you’ to the students who had shared their work throughout the day, with a further three prints being auctioned off to raise money for Ukraine. Roman added: “a very important part of the conference was Tell Hicks and although he was not with us, his presence was real.” With an aptly coloured yellow and blue bucket also circulating the event, attendees and organisers helped raise hundreds of pounds for zoos in Ukraine. Chris Mitchell, Head of Zoo Operations at Drayton Manor Park announced that the venue would be doubling the amount, which is still being counted but confirmed to be “in the thousands”.

After dinner, Professor Mark O’Shea MBE addressed the audience with an entertaining talk entitled ‘An Adventure into Herpeto-philately’ as he drew on his experiences collecting stamps over the years. After an already extensive amount of scientific information, the overview of the world’s herpetofauna as presented by stamp-collections prompted a good deal of laughter. With a few more reptilian anecdotes thrown in for good measure, the audience continued sharing their experiences over an evening drink.

Day two’s keynote speaker was Robert Mendyk who delivered two extremely informative presentations on Varanids and the future of herpetoculture. Initially focusing on the history of Varanids in captivity, the concise yet encompassing talk highlighted the advancements in our understanding of keeping reptiles in captivity. Scattered with entertaining anecdotes, Robert not only emphasised the great strides forward since the 1800s when Varanids first entered captivity, but also addressed the many things we are yet to learn. With so many passionate speakers throughout the weekend, Robert’s final talk summarised the entire weekend perfectly. Collages of bad husbandry practices, juxtaposed with the natural habitats of popular species reaffirmed the necessity for hobbyists, societies and organisations to continue pushing for ‘advanced’ herpetological husbandry.

To close the weekend, attendees were invited to Drayton Manor Zoo to visit the park’s reptile house. Judging from the conversations within the reptile house, visitors were blown away by the large exhibits and eclectic range of species on display. Members of the BHS and AHH also run stands at the event to raise money for the organisations. Frances Baines (with the help of Tom and Becky) sold many test lamps from previous experiments and Stuart Priest sold old books, magazines and herptile-focused literature which raised a whopping £1,5367 for the National Centre for Reptile Welfare. Mark O’Shea also manned Tell Hicks’ stall in his absence, which proved a huge hit as attendees flooded the table during the coffee-breaks.

Roman concluded: “I want to express how proud I was to be associated with all of the team over the weekend at Drayton. This conference was somehow special, we all felt it. How on earth are we going to equal it?”

Reception on both the Advancing Herpetological Husbandry Facebook Group and the social media posts of The British Herpetological Society suggest that absolutely everyone had a wonderful time. I know we certainly did!

For more information on the British Herpetological Society please visit The British Herpetological Society (thebhs.org) and please find Advancing Herpetological Husbandry on Facebook.

Exotics Keeper Magazine has also previously interviewed speakers Dr Jonathon Howard (BeardieVet) and Gerardo Garcia in the April 2021 issue and Francis Cosqueiri and Roman Astheimer in the February 2022 issue. These are available at: Shop | Exotics Keeper Magazine A video interview with Matt Cook at Chester Zoo on Komodo Dragons is also available via Facebook and Youtube.

BHS and AHH Conference is a huge success

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