Photo by Anonymous
Outside Kalgoorlie Court of Petty Sessions - from left, Robert Browne-Cooper, Brad Maryan, Paul Orange and Brian Bush.
HISTORY: WASAH became defunct in 2005 after the keeping system was legislated in WA.
The Western Australian Society of Amateur Herpetologists Inc (WASAH) originated on 16 November 1990 outside the Court of Petty Sessions, Kalgoorlie, Western Australia after Paul Orange successfully defended frivolous charges orchastrated by WA wildlife authority personnel, then known as Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM), following a temporary state-wide government amnesty on keeping (declare unlicenced herptiles for confiscation without prosecution). Paul appealed the confiscation component but the animals were now gone. It eventually ended in court due to the department's frustration resulting in four separate charges of feeding the snakes while in his care four protected lizards representing two species, Tree Dtella and Bynoe's Gecko, two of the most common lizards in this state! Brian Bush, in court as a witness, likened the incident to feeding fish to the Monkey Mia dolphins because it is their natural food - CALM does not feed them lettuce. A young Kalgoorlie-born lawyer, Tom Percy represented Paul and won the case, going on to become a King's Councel in 1997.
CALM Officers suggested the only way to improve the untenable position WA amateur herpetologists experience with regards to a prohibition on keeping was to become an organised group and to lobby politicians and negotiate with CALM to install a workable state herptile keeping system that would cater to our needs. On that day in November four amateur herpetologists were present (Robert Browne-Cooper, Brad Maryan, Paul Orange and Brian Bush), by 2000 the membership had grown to over 200.
We lobbied all and sundry for support. Our primary objective was for CALM to allow the keeping of legally obtained reptiles and frogs, as currently is the case with birds and fish. The WASAH Executive and Liaison Subcommittee (Simon Ball, Mike Lynch & Jamie Stuart) met with the Minister, Cheryl Edwardes and CALM’s Wildlife Branch Manager Gordon Wyre at Parliament House on 12 November ‘98. At this meeting both the Minister and Mr Wyre gave WASAH an undertaking to change the WA Wildlife Regulations in advance of completion of the new Wildlife Conservation Bill. The Minister also made a commitment to provide the resources for this to occur as quickly as possible to allow a keeping system to be established.
On 17 November, 1 & 15 December ‘98 and 5 January ‘99 we had meetings with Gordon Wyre, David Mell and Peter Mawson at CALM’s Como Wildlife Branch to assist in the development of a draft public comment document. As they also demonstrated by their comments at this time that they had already given considerable thought to a reptile/amphibian keeping system, they were deserving of our accolades and commendation. We were elated, with much praise for CALM, the society’s subcommittee and executive for making this a reality. It was a historical first, both organisations working positively together towards a common goal.
Basically, the system we are working on is the best of those operating in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. WASAH and CALM are fine tuning the public comment document at present and hope, if we do not complete it by then, that at least most of the work towards it will be finished by Christmas. Keep in mind though that it will still have to run the gauntlet of others who may not share our enthusiasm for keeping and instead may downright oppose the whole thing during the public discussion process. Also, The Greens through Rachel Siewert have shown a strong opposition in the media to the removal of the prohibition on keeping and thus ending the descrimination in WA of those with a herpetological interest.
The system CALM proposes will be five tiered as follows: Exempt from licensing, Basic, Standard, Advanced and Expert. Initially no Exempt from Licensing Category will operate. As in Victoria and South Australia pet shops will be participating.
WASAH officebearers during its existence as an incorportion (1990-2005): President/Editor - Brian Bush; Vice-president - Brad Maryan until replaced by Robert Browne-Cooper in 2000; Secretary - Robert Brown-Cooper until 2000 when becoming vice-president; Secretary/Treasurer (combined in 2000) - Brad Maryan; Treasurer - David Robinson until end of 1995 then Russell Brown until 2000 when he joined the ordinary executive; Executive Minder - Bruce George (position created in 1998); Executive (from 2000) - Russell Brown and Bruce George (Minder position squashed early 2000).
WASAH-CALM Liaison Subcommittee (formalised in 1995) - Simon Ball, Mike Lynch & Jamie Stuart.
The volunteer group Snakebusters was the public relations arm of WASAH: Coordinators - Robert Browne-Cooper and Brian Bush.
Snakebusters served two main purposes with the public relations component being able to make a positive connection between those
wishing to keep and the public - because snakes were involved, the media loved reporting on this aspect of Snakebusters. In 1998 the Opposition
Minister for the Environment, Dr Judy Edwards raised numerous questions in parliament of the Minister Cheryl Edwardes on behalf of Snakebusters and the problems
with the legislation. The second important purpose from the volunteer's perspective was it provided a means to participate legally in
an activity with reptiles. Initially CALM issued two licences to allow this intereaction with the fauna. These were Regulation 4 (for dangerous
reptiles) and Regulation 15 (for harmless reptiles). Ironically, the Reg. 4 licence was prefixed with the letters SB.
The public discussion period commenced on 23 December 2000 and finished on 28 February 2001 - from comments by CALM personnel it appears that, by far, the majority of submissions supported the proposed system. Gordon Wyre expected the draft legislation to go to the minister in early June for tabling in parliament shortly after. - The minister advised WASAH in early August 2001 that the state elections interfered with the discussion period causing a request by some people for an extension of time to submit their comments. This delayed things.
20 SEPTEMBER '02 - THE MINISTER RELEASED TO THE MEDIA HER ACCEPTANCE OF THE DRAFT REPTILE AND FROG KEEPING LEGISLATION. IF THIS PASSES THROUGH PARLIAMENT OK, LICENCES TO KEEP LEGALLY ACQUIRED HERPETOFAUNA WILL BE AVAILABLE FROM CALM AS EARLY AS CHRISTMAS, 2002 BUT DEFINITELY IN 2003. YOU BEAUTY!!! Copy of Press Release
All previous and current members of WASAH can expect a special newsletter shortly after this legislation's successful passage through parliament.
REPTILES AS PETS IN WA - YOU BEAUTY!
Photos of excursions by Brad Maryan