European Studbook Foundation –

I represent the European Studbook Foundation at board level for the United Kingdom. I also administer the studbook for bot the Armadillo Lizard: O. cataphractus and the Sungazer: S. giganteus. I keep track of the Sungazers being kept in zoological collections and private keepers throughout Europe – registration of animals is completely voluntary which means that there may very well be other animals not registered that are housed by private keepers.

The ESF encourages cooperation between keepers to establish a best practice when it comes to keeping this species and although the population is small (less than 30 animals) may ultimately involve and suggest inter collection exchanges or loans for breeding purposes. Although we as an organisation are not against keeping this species in captivity, the financial commitment v’s the realistic return makes this species a poor choice for those with pound (in your case rand) signs in mind. As it is the participants, whether private or zoological, keep this species from a conservation and / or educational standpoint.

Not being cute or cuddly puts the Sungazer at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to gaining public support and sympathy. That is not to say that they are not deserving of protection and correct management both in the wild and in captivity. Educating the wider public, both nationally in SA and Internationally, is the only way we are going to be able to secure the long-term survival of this species for future generations.

I would like something added to the SWG website to show the involvement of the ESF or more specifically myself in both the ex and in situ conservation of this species.

SMAUG GIGANTEUS – & SAVE OUR SUNGAZERS CAMPAIGN – (both links direct to the same web site)

I have been keeping reptiles for well over 25 years, not bad when you consider I am only 33, one species in particular – yes you guessed it, the Sungazer, has always fascinated me. As I become more and more interested in this species I found a lack of information available on the internet. So rather than moan about it I decided to collect every scrap of information and present it on my very own web site which at the time was – – the website was a huge success and I had visitors from all over the world visit and join in via the forum. Unfortunately this was the sites downfall – someone nice person decided to ‘give’ my site a virus. I lost all the information and pictures on the site – I was gutted.

Anyway, I picked myself back up and when the scientific name changed to Smaug giganteus, so too did my web site – minus the forum!!

My site is a not for profit venture and my only reason for creating it was to help raise the profit of this species – with over 3,000 unique hits, I think I have achieved this.

Personally, my goal is to find the stimuli to breeding this species in captivity. Conserving the natural habitat is of course vital but for me living in Scotland, there is very little I can do to help aid this. Alas my skills, I believe, are better placed to try and help captive animals be ambassadors for their wild cousins. In reality, Sungazers are at more risk of becoming extinct than Pandas are, people laugh when I say this but as the number of Pandas increase year on year through captive breeding the number of Sungazers decreases as we have been unable to find the key ingredient to breeding consistently in captivity - this simply is not sustainable!!

So what was I going to do to help achieve success in captive breeding? Well, one of the major factors as to why Sungazers fail to breed in captivity is, I believe, that they are not correctly cycled. From my own pocket, I purchased some Environmental Data Loggers that I have sent to Ian who has promised to put to use in the field so that one day we may be able to build up a picture as to what temperatures and humidity Sungazers are subjected to in a ‘normal’ 12 month period both above ground and below.

Another initiative is the Save Our Sungazers Roadshow, I have taken my fight for Sungazer survival to the general public. Again funded completely by myself I attend various locations throughout the UK displaying both the Sungazers themselves and highlighting the threats they face in the wild.

Here is my display -

So you can see, not everyone wishing to keep this species in captivity is out for themselves, there are genuine people who want to make a difference.

I appreciate that the SWG is focused primarily on conserving this species in the wild but Ian asked me to join, I believe, to be a link between people working with this species in a captive situation and those working in the field.

Not sure how much of this email you can actually put on the web site but if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

Best Regards,

Fraser Gilchrist
Save Our Sungazers Campaign
European Studbook Foundation
UK Coordinator & Studbook keeper for the Smaug giganteus & Ouroborus cataphractus