Siebren is ESF board adviser and co-studbook keeper of Corucia zebrata and Shinisaurus crocodilurus.
Siebren, could you please introduce yourself in a few words?
I am 35 years old and raised in Ede in the centre of the Netherlands. After my study in Leeuwarden I moved to Meppel where I am living at the moment with my girlfriend and two sons. In my daily life I work for Terra MBO Meppel. This is an agricultural school where I teach at the courses for animal keeper and veterinary assistant. Besides teaching I am occupied with the planning and policy of our animal courses and of other agricultural school in the north of the Netherlands. Reptiles are my main hobby which I practice in my free time.
How did you start keeping reptiles and amphibians?
Since my childhood I always have been fascinated by animals. Actually I am interested in nature as a whole; all plants and animals and the relation between them. Unfortunately allergies in my family made it impossible to keep dogs or cats so at an early age I started keeping ornamental fish. When I was nine or ten years old I wanted to keep freshwater turtles. I did quit some research at the local library as internet was not available yet. In 1989 I started keeping Red ear sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans). I have been keeping reptiles ever since.
What animals do you keep?
My problem is that I am interested in all animals. At a certain point I did decide to focus on lizards, which is still a large concept. But since a few years I am keeping again some snakes (Drymarchon) and some tortoises (Malacochersus). The main part of my collection consists still of lizards. At the moment I keep species of the genera: <em>Corucia, Cyclodomorphus, Diploglossus, Egernia, Gastropholis, Ouroborus, Pseudopus, Sauromalus, Trachylepis, Shinisaurus, Smaug en Varanus.</em> My broad interest makes it hard for me to restrict myself. Decisive for me is the climate zone the species is from. As I cool down my reptile room in winter I can’t keep fully tropical species.
Why did you became a studbook keeper?
My interest in animals is larger than just keeping them at home. I am fully aware of the problems in the world concerning reptiles and amphibians and I realize that terrarium keepers rather cause problems instead of diminishing them. So if I decide to keep an endangered lizard species like <em>Shinisaurus</em> for example, I prefer to serve a greater goal than just keep and observe these animals at home.
What kind of problems do you run in to as a studbook keeper?
To be fully honest; my main frustration is the studbook software. I am not a computer expert nor a complete kluns with computers, though I do not manage to make everything work properly. Considering my full time job and two young kids I decided to step back and participate only as a co-studbook keeper for the moment. Perhaps in the future this will change again.
Do you have a nice anecdote about studbook keeping you can share with us?
I am very pleased to notice that ESF is considered a serious partner within the EAZA zoo community. A few years ago some Shinisaurus bred by Michael Zollweg (studbook keeper) and some bred by me went to Helsinki Zoo in Finland. Earlier this week I got a notice that they obtained offspring from our animals.
What are in your opinion the opportunities for- and strengths of ESF?
I think that ESF has the chance (and has reached the point) to expand it’s possibilities. As mentioned before the cooperation with EAZA and the role that ESF plays in rehoming confiscated animals makes that ESF has become much more than just a club of serious hobbyists. ESF could enlarge its position and become an even more important link between private keepers and professional organizations.
The ESF board set the aim to become more evolved with nature conservation projects. Do you think you could have a role in this aspect?
Within the studbook Shinisaurus crocodilurus there are some initiatives undertaken, but personally I am only slightly involved. I do think that these steps are very important and if someone foresees an more significant role for me I will surely accept this considering my possibilities.
Do you have any tips for the ESF?
For outsiders the ESF can seem a somewhat closed organization. On the other hand ESF needs to be critical sometimes because not every keeper is always that supportive and has their main focus on the ex situ-conservation of the species. Even considering this I think it is very important to find ways to improve contacts with the terrarium hobby as a whole. Also breeders of colour morphs of more common species, in general do mean well and care about these animals. They could provide knowledge , energy en time in order to help ESF.
Thank you Siebren for this interview.