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Chat Week 2000 Transcript
12/11/00 - James B Murphy
Smithsonian Research Associate

Bob Applegate - What do you see as your most significant contribution to herpetology?
JBMurphy - I lived to tell about it
Bob Applegate - You have done and been involved in a lot of things, which do you consider the most significant accomplishment
JBMurphy - Working at Dallas Zoo with people who have proven that they are excellent herpers

JeffB - Who are some of the herpers of the past you feel have done the most to improve our knowledge of american herps
JBMurphy - Roger Conant, Howard Gloyd, Joe Collins, Herndon Dowling, as a few

firstchoice - what do you believe is the most interesting herp to be kept in zoo displays, and why?
JBMurphy - Komodo dragon.... It is the only species which seems to exhibit play behavior with inaminate objects and interact with keepers

CoreyS - any idea on what the first herp to be kept in a zoo was?
JBMurphy - First herp in a zoo...a guess...crocs in antiquity in menageries...

emydoidea - What are some must have Herp books that you would reccomend to all?
JBMurphy - Harry Greene's new book on snakes...supurb

EricW - With the increase of private breeding of herps and the public sector as do you see the future of zoo with this in mind? possible change in direction? or possible merger between private breeders and the zoo? On a scientific stand point, not selling of herps of course
JBMurphy - With limited resources available to zoos there will likely be greater on cooperative breeding

firstchoice - what do you believe is the greatest advance made in keeping zoo herptofauna since you first started in the industry?
JBMurphy - Understanding social behavior to lead to increased reproduction

herpsnburps - why don't zoos trade more with the private sector? the private sector has proven themselves as quality breeders.
JBMurphy - Well.... in some cases permits issued by the country of origin only allow interchange between zoos, but there is no question the private sector has developed remarkable inovations for keeping herps

Jake1 - Murphy, how do you know you are not a zoo? :)
JeffB - (when you have to keep the giraffes in the den? sorry...)
JBMurphy - Clearly you remember that story from my undergradyuate days but it is too long to tell now
JeffB - I think there is a dark mystic story behind that one
JBMurphy - Buy me beer and I will respond later

JAYCDN - Jim, kinda off topic but, Iím a 3rd year Bio major and I would really like to get in on some exotic field studies in Madagascar or Oz , can you give me any suggestions on good ways to get my name into the right people(Nussbaum,etc.),
JBMurphy - Check with Gary Texas Christian University....he would be an excellent Major prof for a masters program.He has worked extensively with Malagasy Chameleons

Jeff Lemm- Hi Jim - I run with a few of your old students these days and know they are a bit wild now. I'm wondering what Boyer, Barker, Winston, Hudson and the rest of the Texas crew were like in their meager beginnings. Who stands out as the worst to train, most wild, etc. (any good data on Trooper would be helpful as well anything I can use against Boyer in a jam)?
JBMurphy - All were unacceptable to polite society but a scant few have evolved to become moderately acceptable ...especially Walsh
Jeff Lemm- hahaha, very p.c.

John Hewlett - Dr. Murphy, in your opinion what Zoo, has the most impressive collection of herpetfauna (in the US) , and also in your humble opinion, are you pleased with herpetoculture in zoos as a method of preserving wild populations?
JBMurphy - Hmmmmmmm.... the Texas zoos still have good collections.... Boyer at San Diego has been building a nice collection
John Hewlett - yeah I have been to the one in Fort Worth and it was impressive
JBMurphy - others include Bronx... Zoo Atlanta... Philadelphia... National
Jeff Lemm - (except those pandas)
John Hewlett - National was impressive as well.
JBMurphy - Yeah...damn Pandas
Jeff Lemm- hahaha

KelliH - Kelli Hammack from Ft Worth here. I was wondering which was the funner place to work, Dallas Zoo or National Zoo?
JBMurphy - Dallas.... I was in charge
KelliH - LOL

Myron - How can private keepers change how those permits are issued to zoos? Is it primarily a political issue or with foreign zoos? Where can we put pressure that will allow zoos to sell surplus herps to private keepers? What is the best way to create change?
JBMurphy - Make personal contact with zoo workers.... it may lead to cooperative relationships
Myron - Thanks

nesbit37 - Have you ever noticed herp group that was kept in a zoo exhibit and displayed a close social structure, as in more than being territorial, and if so which one(s)?
JBMurphy - Dave Barker and I published a paper in Copeia on social behavior in Python molurus which showed that four males developed a linear hierarchy and bred females according to their status.

Reptiluvr - Jim, have many zoos had success in the captive breeding of Uroplatus geckos, specifically U. phantasticus and U. sikorea? If so which ones?also...where is National located at?? not familiar w/ that zoo
JBMurphy - Ft. Worth has been most successful, and the National Zoo is the Smithsonian National Zoo in your nation's capitol

reptiman - Dr. Murphy i am only 16. I love monitor lizards and would love to study them! What is a good collage that i could go to to study them? I would love to become a herpetologist. Also what is a good zoo to see with lots of monitors and dwarfs in particular. I would like to visit the one in oz when i get older. one more thing, how old do you have to be to work at a zoo with reptiles? How do you get a permit for restricted herps?
JBMurphy - University of Texas in Austin with Dr. Eric Pianka ... Dallas Zoo has a large monitor collection. Meet zoo people...contacts are helpful

reptiman - Thanks alot the information was really helpful
SFgeckos - Jim, i noticed a trend recently with zoos trying to mix different species and co-habitat herps into one display. especially the smaller indoor enclosures, what is the reason behind this? -is it more for display effects, saving space, or actually trying hard to co-habitat different herps?
JBMurphy - There has been an interest in developing exhibits stressing community ecology to show zoo visitors that animals live in juxtaposition
SFgeckos - has that always been the trend? or just recently?
JBMurphy - juxaposition = next to each other
JBMurphy - Years ago Ray Pawley from the Brookfield Zoo published a paper in IZY on mixed exhibits and some of the European zoos have had them for years

ssilva - you said komodos exhibit play behavior with inanimate objects explain. examples please
JBMurphy - Well.... we are working on a project at National with Dave Chiszar and Gordon Burghardt to show that dragons interact with people and objects in a fashion unlike othwer herps
JBMurphy - some of the objects include....
JBMurphy - notebook. rubber ring, figurines, shoes and....
JBMurphy - Walsh is an object.... his Kd's boy toy

JeffB - If you could choose any of the field expeditions you went on as your worst field experience which would it be and why
JBMurphy - prohaps the most difficult was the one to Madagascar to study Chameleons with Gary Ferguson we ran out of money...
JBMurphy - another was to the Bahamas when I first came to Dallas...when I also ran out of money.... and had to sleep in an auto graveyard.
JBMurphy - Send money
JBMurphy - please?

matt2- Dr Murphy; John Applegarth, ph.D, Oregon Herp Society, could not make this evening but wished me to ask; if you had completed your work for SSAR on Willardi groups and if so, any results or quick synopsis?
JBMurphy - Yes Barry Armstrong and I published our findings in Natural History of Mexican Rattlesnakes... and have done no more since then with willardi
JBMurphy - Hi John

arlow - Have u worked with any tegus if so what type and any breeding tips, I have argentine bl/whs
JBMurphy - Blacks and never bred them. Bert Langerwurf has published on their reproduction in an excellent paper

first - what do you think of the herp program at UF
JBMurphy - Excellent!
JBMurphy - several wonderful people... Lillywhite...Jacobson...Bjorndal...Guilette. Good choice
first - really, ive been considering going there
first - only in state herp university for me

herpsnburps - what can you tell me about C. polystictus or where can i get a copy of Natural History of Mexican Rattlesnakes
JBMurphy - polystictus were an extremely nervous snake...
JBMurphy - we had to provide quiet surroundings as they were very defensive...
JBMurphy - we did breed them in Dallas... try publications secretary at U of Kansas...they published it
herpsnburps - thanks

JAYCDN - Do you see herp research getting more interest ($$) in the future?
JBMurphy - Not as much as I would like... for instance...
JBMurphy - amphibians are declining and research money is still hard to find

Jeff Lemm- I know Dallas had some really nice Australian stuff (especially monitors like the ones they have now) before Oz shut down; after the country shut down, was it difficult for you to get animals (in 70's or 80's) like it is now, or with not so many private herpers back then were they a little less stringent?
JBMurphy - Aussie permits took much time because the governmental officials were worried about accidental release of animals sent there....
JBMurphy - Aussie law requires exchanges be done between educational institutions and I don't know if that will change in the near future
Jeff Lemm- so its similar to now, except release means privately
JBMurphy - no...accidental release of animals into the wild...
JBMurphy - ie... cane toads... rabbits
Jeff Lemm- oh, u mean in Oz, gotcha

John Hewlett - Dr. Murphy, are there seperate staffs in zoos, like Venomous snakes, non-venomous snakes, lizards, crocodillians, turtles, etc ect....?
JBMurphy - In the USA generally keepers work with all animals
JBMurphy - Tula Russia...
JBMurphy - at their herpetarium they do have specialized staff
John Hewlett - is that where Nikoli Orlov is located?
JBMurphy - No He is with the Russian Academy of sciences...
JBMurphy - but has an association with Tula
John Hewlett - thanks

Myron- Do you have an opionion on Active UV bulbs? Has there been any independant research done on them that you know of? On their web page they say many zoos are using them now.
JBMurphy - Willian Gehrmann has been doing research for years on various bulbs...
JBMurphy - he is currently a volunteer at Dallas Zoo so you might ask him to send reprints of his papers
JBMurphy - He knows more about UV bulbs than anyone I know
Myron- Thanks

Reptiluvr - What was your most humorous herp experience?
JBMurphy - Working with walsh
JBMurphy - ...
Reptiluvr - umm...i should added explain to the end of that
JBMurphy - times I spend with joe Laszlo...
JBMurphy - who HAD to be the most unusual herper I've ever known and kept me in stitches
JBMurphy - Laszlo.... was unique

reptiman - have you ever worked with dwarf monitors or the smaller aboral species? if so what kinds. Do you have any breeding tips. I am going to be working with ackies and kimberly rock monitors, and hopefully some smaller aboral species of monitors like black trees, spotted trees, green trees and yellow trees soon. sorry about all these monitor questions i just love em though and would like to no more every chance i get.
JBMurphy - I published a paper in IZY in ~1969... about Ackies...brevicauda...brachyurus...gilleni...
JBMurphy - where we described combat behavior between males...
JBMurphy - we just published a paper on feeding behavior of black tree monitors in Amphibia / Reptilia
JBMurphy - Incidentally...
JBMurphy - Harry Greene published a paper on green tree monitors which is excellent and has some of our observations...
JBMurphy - Dave Barker also published on Green Tree Monitors in IHS
reptiman - where can i find these papers???
JBMurphy - Try Breck Bartholemew

wftxherper - In your opinion what is the best multi purpose heating sorce for snakes?
JBMurphy - The sun

WormRaviv - in what Zoo's that you remember right now anyway, do they keep Timor monitors(V.timorensis)?
JBMurphy - Dallas years ago. Bred them at alburquerque

matt2 - Dr. Murphy; do you have any plans to possibly return to the Del Nidos for field research
JBMurphy - no

Damon - I have a sick 2 yr old veiled chameleon, he can not open his mouth very far, and his tongue has not come out in weeks, he is being syringe fed, the vet said that it did not look like a vitamin or calcium deficiency or mouth rot, he is on antibiotics, the vet had little experience with herps thought it may be an infection, there are swellings on each side of his jaws, ever run across this problem? [20:25] JHewlett is now known as JHewlett-pass
JBMurphy - boy... hard to tell...
JBMurphy - when in doubt I always try to put ailing herps outside
JBMurphy - Find a good reptile vet in your area
JeffB - try the chameleon forum at

Diggy - have you heard of Desert iguanas, if so, how should i care for them or breed them, i really enjoy desert igs and would like to get a breeding pair, but i have to know how to care for their eggs.
JBMurphy - We kept them in Dallas and they did well but I don't really have a source

herpsnburps - what do you know about the rumors that OZ is going to open up in the future?
JBMurphy - Not heard a word....

JAYCDN - Do you think there is anything that the private herp community can do to help the rapid destruction of habitat in so many of the developing countries that some of our favorite reptiles happen to live in (Madagascar, Papua NG, etc.)
JBMurphy - support conservation organizations....
JBMurphy - send money to Murphy
JAYCDN - any in particular
JBMurphy - Conservation International
JBMurphy - Declining Amphibian populations Task force

oldbill - since this is a Historical topic, did Zoos ever aquire reptiles from importers such as Charles Chase, in Miami?
JBMurphy - Yes we all did

Reptiluvr - could you share w/ us an interesting story or two about your experiences w/ herps
JBMurphy - recent experiences.... probably the stuff we are seeing with Komodo dragons.
JBMurphy - They have an uncanny intelligence

reptiman - if i were to take a step into getting hots what should i start out with..... a smaller less agressive species.
JBMurphy - personal opinion....most private folks are not prepared for the responsibility of keeping hots because of the possibility of a bite...antivenin for foreign species is virtually impossible for private folks to get ...
JBMurphy - ...and local zoos may not have stocks in case of an accident

WormRaviv - what is the most interesting behaviour you have seen a monitor lizard do? (considering all behaviours are interesting, of course, but what have you found most?)
JBMurphy - The interaction between a seven foot Komodo dragon female and Trooper
JBMurphy - Because... the dragon inteacts with Trooper ...
JBMurphy - directed tongue flicks... climbs up torso... rests her head on his shoulder....
JBMurphy - loves his contact
WormRaviv - who is Trooper (or what species is Trooper?)
JBMurphy - Trooper is the biologist at the National Zoo and we don't know his species

JeffB - well on that note.... I want to thank everyone for being here tonight and especially James Murphy and Trooper Walsh
JBMurphy - Thank you all - we had fun.
JeffB - please come back for tomorrows chat with Winston Card of the Dallas Zoo
JBMurphy - Tell Winston that I taught him everything he knows ;)
JeffB - good night everyone see you tomorrow
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