iHerp Australia Issue 6 - Page 31

Gerry: I try to keep set up to a minimum and just let the animals do their thing, but of course it depends on what you are trying to photograph. There is a lot of difference between photographing a gecko and a snake, for example. With digital cameras you don't have to worry about film and processing costs, so you just keep shooting. Dangerous elapids are difficult during the middle of a hot day. Neville: Gerry, hopefully the fact that you have no academic qualifications and yet have gained such a sterling reputation as an authority will be an inspiration to others who have not gone down the academic path. How did you first get into publishing and what was your first effort in this aspect of herpetology? ‘The endangered Ornamental Snake was the second most common snake we removed from the trench....’ Gerry: I think that things were a bit different in our day Neville. We were all field-oriented then and learned most of what we know by field observations, etc. These days you need to have a degree for starters. Mind you, I have seen a few graduates out in the field who were pretty useless when it came to finding or catching a reptile, or even finding their way around. Allen Greer at the Australian Museum is to blame for getting me into publishing. It was back in the 1980s and we were talking about the lack of regional field guides. So I got started on the NSW field guide which first came out in 1990. The big publishers at the time were not interested and I finally had it published by Three Sisters Publications in the Blue Mountains. Neville: How long were you publishing before you combined with Steve Wilson and how did this eventuate? Gerry: I had already published four books and around 2001 or 2002 my publisher (New Holland) contacted me because they were keen to do a guide covering all the Australian reptiles. I told them it was too big a job for one person within their time frame and suggested Steve Wilson could be a good co-author. I knew Above left: another rare photo of Gerry involved in pipeline work. Right: a typical pipeline trench. Steve of course, and also that he was a recognised wildlife photographer. Photos would be a major part of any such book. So it all evolved from there. Neville: How and when did you get involved in the gas line animal rescues and what are some of the species you have removed from the trenches? Gerry: The pipeline work came about through Steve. I was doing a reptile survey out near Gunnedah when I got a phone call from Steve who was working on a pipeline in Queensland from Moranbah to Townsville. The work was too much for one person, so the construction company told Steve to find someone else. It was either a Friday or Saturday when he phoned and when I said, “That sounds like an interesting job, when do I start?” he replied next Monday. Short notice but pipeline work can be a bit like that. There are so many species that I have removed, but some that come to mind were the numbers of Pseudonaja that we relocated up in the Channel Country. There were five species and many different colour patterns. Plus the occasional Inland Taipan. On another job in Queensland the endangered Ornamental Snake (Denisonia maculata) was the second most common snake we removed from the trench; very localised, but very common where it occurs. Centralian Blue-tongues by the bucketful on one job where we had a Spinifex fire that burnt along the trench line and resulted in huge numbers of animals in the trench. Although we had removed this species from the trench before it was never in big numbers. It was a surprise to find out just how common they are. Neville: Who was behind the idea to have guys like you and Steve working on the gas lines? Gerry: As far as I can remember it was accidental.