A talk with: Victor Loehr
Every Newsletter we would like to interview someone who, from personal conviction or professionally has made an important contribution in promoting the keeping of reptiles and/or amphibians. For this second Newsletter, Victor Loehr was prepared to talk to us.
For many, Victor Loehr is a well-known name, especially for member of the NBSV because he has been breeding for years with several species of tortoises and turtles. He purchased his first animal in 1983 and like so many of us it was a Red-eared terrapin (Trachemys scripta elegans).
The first species he bred successfully, was the Pancake tortoise (Malacochersus tornieri). What's more, he was one of the first hobbyists in Holland to do this.
In 1992 he travelled with Henk Zwartepoorte through South-Africa and Namibia and during the search after Homopus signatus, he became fascinated by this tortoise species and its habitat. He is most proud about his breeding with this tortoise, because it has had a direct impact on the ex-situ programme for this species.
Victor is keeping Homopus species in captivity since 1995 and he collects and publishes information on the population in captivity. In 2000, he started a survey on this species in the wild. On the basis of this survey, he got his Ph.D. In 2008. Subjects of the survey were: morphology, diet, growth, physical condition, breeding, tick diseases, population dynamics and body temperatures (see also: www.homopus.org under Publications).
At the moment, he is working on an article on home ranges. The survey in captivity and in the wild is still running. Following populations for a long of time gets the most important data.
In 1999, he established the Homopus Research Foundation. The added value is that all activities to do with Homopus-species, including studbooks, are included in one organisation. An important part of the foundation is local research (in-situ). If we add-up all his visits (20 journeys) to this area, he must have spent up to a year there. So, he rightly can be called an expert on keeping the animals in captivity as well as their behaviour in the wild.
Many thanks are due to the South-African authorities (permits) and the University of the Western Cape. Several private organisations (among which the NBSV) have donated money and research materials. Victor works a lot with volunteers, without whom we would still be ignorant on H. signatus and H. femoralis. Many participants of the Homopus studbooks have already taken part in different surveys in Africa. Since last year, Tariq Stark (a student of Hogeschool Van Hall Larenstein) is conducting a thesis on H. signatus.
If Victor would receive € 100.000,- for research, he would spend this money on virtually unknown species like H. boulengeri. Furthermore, there are known habitats of Homopus where possibly unknown species could be found, he would like to spend some money there.
Victor dedicates all his free time to his Homopus work, besides this he works for the Dutch Scientific Commission for CITES. Why? His norms and values tell him that people should strive to keep biodiversity because we are part of a worldwide ecosystem and could not live without it. He hopes to contribute a little through his work.
This concludes our inspiring talk with Victor Loehr.