During the late 1970's, early
1980's I was involved in the selling and keeping of exotic birds, a
hobby since early childhood. By 1983 I was working weekends for John Chandler (Chandlers Birds, Worcester). John, being a bird and reptile importer (and trapper), got my interest aroused in the herp scene. As time went by my interests
seriously transgressed into reptiles and amphibians. Around 1984, John moved to Germany, and we took over his business in the UK with animals shipped from him and Helmut Michi (Tropic Haus) in Gaggenau, to our quarantine stations and holding facilities in my home town; Bath. At the age of sixteen I
began travelling further afield, in search of fine reptile species to bring back to
the UK for both commercial and propagation motives. These early
years took me to Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Singapore and Thailand.
This time was valuable as it led me to a greater understanding of
how reptiles and amphibians live in the wild and how we can
replicate these habitats in our captive environments. Time spent
with our overseas colleagues also put me in a great position for
hands on venomous species training. During this period we were shipping in direct from Country of origin exporters such as Anson Wong (Exotic Skins & Alives, Malaysia), Choosit Nivesanon (Suchino Corp, Thailand), "Dang" Komain Nukulphanitwipat (Siam Farm, Thailand), Denny Wong (China Wild Animal Trading, Hong Kong), Dr Quek (Avifauna, Singapore), Mohamid Hardi (Hasco , Indonesia), The Tolba's (Egypt), to name but a few!
By the late
eighties I had set up a business near Swindon, Wilts, called Jungle Fauna, selling a
diverse range of reptiles (including a very large collection of venomous
species), birds and aquatics, serving customers throughout the UK.
At this time there were no more than around half a dozen specialist dealers in the whole of the UK, (apart from ourselves; Dave Lester (The Serpentarium, Walsall), Paul Sullivan & Russell Lee (Paul Sullivan Reptiles, Torquay), Stuart Worth (SW Exotics, Hayes), Bill Adams (Herptofauna, London), The Vivarium (London)....etc. We would spend most of the week sourcing reptiles and shipping to the trade, and then the weekends would just go absolutely crazy with hobbiests flocking to the shop from all over the country. By the late 80's the bird import industry was in serious decline due to lot's of bad press (some justified, but most ficticious).
In 1991 I abandoned all other varieties of livestock to concentrate
solely on reptiles and amphibians. We moved to a much larger site
located in Cirencester, opened as Tropifauna, and began to stock a wide
range of herpetological accessories and books. At this time we were
selecting many of our species from the USA with up to 20 good sized shipments a
year, consisting increasingly of captive bred individuals. This time was awesome, as we were dealing with some of the true legends of the herp World; Tom Crutchfield (Herpetofauna & Tom Crutchfield Reptile Enterprises, Bushnell), Ray Van Nostrand (Pet Farm Inc, Miami), Mike Van Nostrand (Strictly Reptiles, Miami), Art Bass (Strictly Reptiles), Bill Love (Glades Herp, Fort Myers), Rob Roy McIness (Pet Farm Inc, Miami & Glades Herp). It was like Christmas every couple of weeks, and you never knew exactly what might crop up in some of the shipments. This was a busy time, and we were wholesaling throughout the UK and Europe. We were also accumulating hold backs for our own breeding.
importance of captive breeding we purchased a commercial building and set up a seperate breeding facility during 1993, in
Cheltenham maintaining colubrids, boas and pythons and various
lizards. We produced Corns, Rats, Kings, Milks, Leopard Geckos, Yemen
Chameleons, Ball Pythons, Jungle Carpet Pythons, Macklott's Pythons,
Emerald Tree Boas, Frilled Dragons, Bearded Dragons, Day Geckos, Plumed Basilisks, Red Tail Boas, Coral Cobras,
Australian Velvet Geckos, Giant Knob Tailed Geckos, Uroplatus, Uromastyx and
various Dwarf Monitor
species. Many of these species were the first of their kind to
be bred in the UK or even Europe.
By 1997 we
were spending so much time at the captive breeding facility we
decided to relocate the retail store to Cheltenham (renamed Aztec
Reptiles). By now we were
providing many of our own offspring for sale in the store and
supplementing with stock from top breeders around Europe. Our
sales of venomous species had also grown and we were working with
many exciting species including Collett's Black's, Red Bellied
Tigers, King Cobras, Waglers, B&W Spitting Cobras, Western Green Mambas, Indian Cobras, Egyptian Cobras, Death Adders and Eyelash Vipers. Our
python interests had now expanded into Black Headed Pythons, Womas,
locality specific Carpet Pythons and Stimpson's
Pythons. During the 2000 season we had hatched our first
Bredl's Pythons and Diamond Pythons.
We were producing huge numbers of our own offspring, so much so, that during the season, there wasnt a day went by, where we were not unloading new born hatchlings from the incubators. In search of new lines, species and morphs for our facility, and stock for our store, we spent many weekends travelling Europe scouring the expo's and meeting some of the Worlds most dedicated breeders in Germany, Holland, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Russia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. It was interesting to compare the style of reptile keeping in Europe with that of the US. And how thing's had, in some respects, little changed from our early dealings in Germany during the mid 80's, with much emphasis on naturalistic terrarium systems.
By 2002 our
reptile store was busting at the seams and needed to relocate again
to larger premises. On December 16th 2002 we re-opened at our
current site, a brand new custom built unit, again located in
Cheltenham and trading as Cotswold Reptile Centre. At this time, we had a growing collection of Carpet Python morphs and we were heavy into the Ball Pythons morph scene, plus Jag's, Angolans, Black Headed Pythons and the like. During 2009/2010, due to other commitments and in need of a review of my general herp businesses, I sold off my retail business and most of my breeding programs in the UK. After some very careful planning; we are now constructing new ventures. With the culmination of our successes and experiences over the years, we strive at Tropifauna Farms to bring you the finest high end reptiles available.
Our philosophy is:
Over the years
our ideas and opinions toward the captive care of reptiles has
modified, as has our facilities to propagate and market them. Technologies and
information have all come a long way allowing us to give our animals
the greatest level of care and our customers the very highest degree
of support and back up. It's our goal to provide the very best level
of care to our animals and the best level of service to our customers.