Cape York Herpetological Society
Banner from old CYHS website
History of the CYHS
First formed in 1982, the CYHS waxed and waned throughout the years sustained by a few committed individuals (or should that read individuals who should be committed?)
The Origins of the Cape York Herpetological Society
Hundreds of thousands of like-minded people around the free world have come together to form clubs, groups and societies to explore their chosen subjects, to document what is known and to explore their subject further.
It’s a very long reach from the Royal Society of London, which began meeting in the 1640’s, to three blokes in Far North Queensland in 1982, who were prepared to share their knowledge and explore the herpetology of the region.
The first of these was Bill Hosmer, a University of Chicago trained natural historian with a leaning towards herpetology. He received accolades from the rest of us for having a skink, Egernia hosmeri named after him. He had a prodigious knowledge of the subject and a small museum of bottled specimens under his house, which, together with his wife, Janet, he tried to exploit commercially – unsuccessfully, as it turned out.
Ken Bullen, a working member in the field, was a highly experienced zoo animal keeper, having worked at various zoos in UK and around Australia. He, then, worked at Wild World (now Cairns Tropical Zoo) at Palm Cove.
The last founding member was Chris Shaw, a proprietor pharmacist, who, it must be admitted, brought very little to the table by way of knowledge of herpetology, so was elected to take notes, which he did, rather badly.
The ‘Society’ met on a monthly basis for discussions on our pooled knowledge and experience. We were soon joined by Andrew Dennis, Michael Cermak, Mike Trenerry, Alan and Kay Williamson, Lyle Naylor and Jan Grace, and Michael O’Brien, with others appearing intermittently.
There were field trips to Lappa Junction, Chillagoe, and the Mount Windsor Tablelands where we found an enormous Cane Toad Bufo marinus, a species of torrent frog and a microhylid.
The organisation became, perhaps, a tad more productive when designated members were asked to give a 20 minute talk on a subject of his/her choice at each meeting. Having started out having meetings under the houses of various members, we progressed to Wild World and then to the City Library Meeting Rooms.
One of the early highlights of the Society was a visit from Hal Cogger who wrote ‘Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia’. He seemed impressed with our little group, especially with Bill’s Egernia hosmeri.
Towards the end of my stint there, Michael Cermak designed and organised a CYHS logo, featuring a Green Tree Python, as good a symbol of Cape York as any other, and had it produced as a car sticker (these were obviously very well made as they still exist and are as good as ever and available from the committee)
The CYHS Mk1 disbanded later in the 1980's.
The Second Coming
In 1992 an informal meeting was held at the Red Beret Hotel at Redlynch, with herpetologists Michael O’Brien, Tim Hawkes, Steve Haniford, Rolf Aebersold and Michael Anthony, to start the ball rolling for the Cape York Herpetological Society Mark II.
Thanks to the efforts of Michael O'Brien, Tim & Steve, the society became a reality, and within a short period became a highly successful enterprise, at one stage reaching about 100 members
There was considerable field work, to document and photograph the herpetofauna including field surveys of particular regions, monitoring of endangered frog populations and also fun trips out to interesting places.
Possibly the highlight of the field trips was a 2 week excursion to Cape York, investigating four diverse habitats, with the pinnacle of the trip being the sighting of the extremely rare McIllwraith Leaf-tailed Gecko, hitherto unphotographed and known only from museum specimens.
Meetings were held every month, with a variety of guest speakers both local, interstate and international, including U.S. python breeder extraordinaire Dave Barker.
All of the activities of the club were documented in a monthly newsletter and a twice-yearly journal “Chondro” - copies of 2 editions are available for download below and we hope to have all of them available online in time.
In 1998, the Society was closed down again. Sadly many of the driving forces behind the Society had left and an increasing workload fell to those remaining, with little “new blood” to shoulder the responsibilities.
CYHS Forever? (not, as it turned out)
Meanwhile the Tablelands Frog Club, first formed in 1992 was still going despite it also experiencing problems with a down turn in membership and the same people shouldering the responsibilities of running the club.
The club soldiered on until 2008 by when there appeared to be very few left on the Tablelands interested in keeping going, so a number of ex Cape York Herp Society Members, along with a couple of keen Frog Club Members decided to stand for the committee and transfer many of the clubs activities to Cairns.
Much discussion was held as to whether the name and aims of the club should be changed to attract a wider membership base. The two preferred suggestions were to make the club a more general wildlife interest club called the North Queensland Nature Society or to reform the Cape York Herpetological Society. At that time there appeared to be considerable interest in the CYHS and even numbers of people interested in joining the committee, the recommendation was made to, and passed by members to change the name to the CYHS.
However we did decide to include in our aims the interest in “all other fauna and flora of north Queensland” as well as frogs and reptiles
After the experiences of the different incarnations of the CYHS, the rise and fall of the TFC, and observing similar difficulties with other similar clubs, the new committee has decided just to stick to the basics. There was no point in committee members burning themselves out trying to do too much for a club when there is little support or likelihood of new people involving themselves in the committee.
The Society continued as a separate entity until the AGM pf 25/3/2022. It is now a subgroup of the North Queensland Natural History Group.
Chondro - Journal of the Cape York Herpetological Society 1991 - 1998
Cape York Herpetological Society Newsletters
MORE TO COME !