Gold Coast snake catcher Tony Harrison eyes huge payday if rare Oenpelli pythons breed

cagey

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LINK: Gold Coast snake catcher Tony Harrison eyes huge payday if rare Oenpelli pythons breed - ABC News

Well-known Gold Coast snake catcher Tony Harrison is hoping that breeding his exotic reptiles will prove to be a lucrative side hustle — if he can coax two of the world's rarest Oenpelli pythons to breed.

Key points:​

  • Snake catcher Tony Harrison has received about 400 enquiries from potential buyers after posting a photo of an albino python guarding her newborns
  • The Oenpelli python is found in western Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory and is notable because it can change colour
  • Mr Harrison says dropping the temperature in a snake enclosure will induce a male to produce sperm and a female to ovulate
Mr Harrison is using all of his experience, and a bit of charm, to encourage the two pythons — which he collected from the Northern Territory with the permission of Indigenous landowners — to mate, saying any offspring could be worth about $10,000 each.

But in the meantime, he expects his latest clutch of albino pythons to sell for $400 each, possibly grossing around $8,000 if all 20 eggs hatch and survive.

"It's a Darwin carpet python, a basic carpet python, but it's an albino," he said.

"An albino, lacking the black pigment, makes them more sought after because they're prettier to look at."
The high-profile snake catcher recently posted a photograph on social media of a female python named Phoenix guarding her growing clutch.

He said the photo attracted about 400 messages from people enquiring about purchasing one of the newborns.

Mr Harrison said albino snakes were rare in the wild because they were easier for predators to spot, but they were reasonably common in captivity.

"It can be lucrative … I've probably got 10 clutches in my incubator now," he said.
"Some of the snakes are worth $250 and some are worth $400, but my last electricity bill was $8,800 and we spend $500 a fortnight on rats.

"It all comes out in the wash … it's pretty expensive to set up and you make a few bucks back."

A balding and bearded man with a brown  python around his head

Tony Harrison with a rare Oenpelli python.(Facebook: Gold Coast And Brisbane Snake Catcher)

Rare breeding opportunity​

Mr Harrison said he bred snakes to subsidise his income during the winter months when his snake-catching business slowed down as the reptiles hibernated.

But he's hoping a pair of Oenpelli pythons, one of the rarest pythons in the world, will add to his earning capacity.

Found in western Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, the python species is notable because it can change colour and produce unusually large eggs.

"They are very rare in the wild and extremely rare in captivity," he said.
"In order to get them and breed them there are lots and lots of hoops to jump through with the authorities."

Find more local news​

A key part of the process was gaining permission from the traditional Indigenous landowners to remove the snakes from the Northern Territory.

"They were very strict themselves," Mr Harrison said.

"The deal was to take a male and female from Arnhem Land, breed them and then bring them back. The Aboriginals call them 'The Ghost' because they are so rare."
man with snake

Mr Harrison with a large Burmese python he caught on the Gold Coast.(ABC Gold Coast: Dominic Cansdale)
The Gold Coast reptile expert said he paid $20,000 for the pair and, if the breeding plan proved successful, the offspring could be sold for about $10,000 each.

"I won't count my chickens until they hatch," he said.

"If they kick off though, there's a house deposit each year."

The mating matrix​

Inducing two snakes to breed isn't as simple as it sounds, with conditions needing to be ideal before a pair will procreate.

Mr Harrison said dropping the temperature inside a snake enclosure would induce a male to produce sperm and a female to ovulate.

"Mother Nature cycles with the weather, the snakes know it's getting cold and now, I must prepare myself," he said.

"As soon as the weather warms up with spring they get jiggy with it and the rest is history."
He said another trick to inducing a difficult breeding pair was to place a male snakeskin inside the enclosure so the reluctant breeding male believes his opportunity may be taken away by a competitor.
 

adderboy

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Didn't Gavin Bedford have these as well? Wonder how he's been going with them.
 

longirostris

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Interesting that this is already up on our forum and being discussed. I have actually contacted the ABC and in particular one of the co authors of this article from the ABC Tom Forbes, for clarification of a factual error in the published content. This request for clarification was sent 5 days ago directly to Tom Forbes and as of writing this post NO response has been received from him or the ABC. If you read the actual article at the top of the OP by Cagey, you will see that the owner of the pair of Oenpelli Pythons Tony Harrison is actually represented as having travelled to the East Arnhemland escarpment and collected the snakes in question HIMSELF, and further in, the article seems to suggest by the way it is written that Mr Harrison also negotiated directly with the local landholders to secure the permission to collect the snakes personally, although this is not actually stated in the article, there can be no doubt it is inferred. What I find confusing and interesting about this story is that Mr Harrison states he paid $20,000 for the pair of snakes, so what is actually happening here???

My inquiry to the ABC and Tom Forbes in particular is, who is responsible for the error of fact. Has the article been written with a degree of journalistic license and Mr Harrison been misrepresented. For me the annoying thing and the injustice here is the story gives no credit to the rightful person who spent the best part of 10 years working with several NT government departments, local indigenous landholders in East Arnhemland and local regulatory authorities, first to get the necessary permission and then, to go and collect the initial specimens of the Oenpelli Pythons that were bought into captivity some 5 or 6 years ago. That person as we all know is Gavin Bedford NOT Tony Harrison. In this 10 year period probably 4 or 5 of those were invested in chartering helicopters into the escarpment country and spending sometimes several days up to a couple of weeks wandering around looking for the first individual specimens that were bought into captivity. As many as a half dozen or more trips were made into the inhospitable terrain where everything had to be choppered in and there was no running to the shops for supplies.

I am still waiting for clarification of who actually promulgated the error of fact, before I make too many more comments but I can tell you all this fact, the animals referred to in the article were bred by and came from Gavin Bedford, they were not collected by anyone else. There are no other licenses or collect permits for this species that have been issued by the NT government to any one else that I am aware of and I am fairly sure that the permission to collect given by the indigenous landholders to Gavin Bedford came as a result of years of developing mutual respect and dealings that facilitated the whole process in the first place. Any other story just denigrates and belittles what was achieved and how important and difficult it actually was.

More to come on this.

Mark Hawker
 

longirostris

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Just need to make a correction to my earlier post, sorry for the mistake, Gavin has informed me that he collected all his specimens on the West Arnhem Land escarpment not the East as I indicated.
 

hamishh34

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Interesting that this is already up on our forum and being discussed. I have actually contacted the ABC and in particular one of the co authors of this article from the ABC Tom Forbes, for clarification of a factual error in the published content. This request for clarification was sent 5 days ago directly to Tom Forbes and as of writing this post NO response has been received from him or the ABC. If you read the actual article at the top of the OP by Cagey, you will see that the owner of the pair of Oenpelli Pythons Tony Harrison is actually represented as having travelled to the East Arnhemland escarpment and collected the snakes in question HIMSELF, and further in, the article seems to suggest by the way it is written that Mr Harrison also negotiated directly with the local landholders to secure the permission to collect the snakes personally, although this is not actually stated in the article, there can be no doubt it is inferred. What I find confusing and interesting about this story is that Mr Harrison states he paid $20,000 for the pair of snakes, so what is actually happening here???

My inquiry to the ABC and Tom Forbes in particular is, who is responsible for the error of fact. Has the article been written with a degree of journalistic license and Mr Harrison been misrepresented. For me the annoying thing and the injustice here is the story gives no credit to the rightful person who spent the best part of 10 years working with several NT government departments, local indigenous landholders in East Arnhemland and local regulatory authorities, first to get the necessary permission and then, to go and collect the initial specimens of the Oenpelli Pythons that were bought into captivity some 5 or 6 years ago. That person as we all know is Gavin Bedford NOT Tony Harrison. In this 10 year period probably 4 or 5 of those were invested in chartering helicopters into the escarpment country and spending sometimes several days up to a couple of weeks wandering around looking for the first individual specimens that were bought into captivity. As many as a half dozen or more trips were made into the inhospitable terrain where everything had to be choppered in and there was no running to the shops for supplies.

I am still waiting for clarification of who actually promulgated the error of fact, before I make too many more comments but I can tell you all this fact, the animals referred to in the article were bred by and came from Gavin Bedford, they were not collected by anyone else. There are no other licenses or collect permits for this species that have been issued by the NT government to any one else that I am aware of and I am fairly sure that the permission to collect given by the indigenous landholders to Gavin Bedford came as a result of years of developing mutual respect and dealings that facilitated the whole process in the first place. Any other story just denigrates and belittles what was achieved and how important and difficult it actually was.

More to come on this.

Mark Hawker
I read it as Tony having travelled to collect the individuals from Arnhemland and negotiated with landowners himself, also. Id feel confident thinking its an 'error' of writers and publishers trying to make the story more succinct by condensing the journey of these snake's leaving out key details, in favor of more 'exciting' details, in the process. Agree the exclusion of Gavin and his work from the article is a shame. But the story felt more about the ability to sell snakes for money rather than about the Oenpelli.
 

longirostris

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I read it as Tony having travelled to collect the individuals from Arnhemland and negotiated with landowners himself, also. Id feel confident thinking its an 'error' of writers and publishers trying to make the story more succinct by condensing the journey of these snake's leaving out key details, in favor of more 'exciting' details, in the process. Agree the exclusion of Gavin and his work from the article is a shame. But the story felt more about the ability to sell snakes for money rather than about the Oenpelli.
I have a strong feeling you are right about this. I think this is just another example of news services and media taking liberties with the truth. Its a sad indictment on the media generally and the ABC specifically who have form with respect to fabricating a story rather than reporting the facts. Its very interesting that Tom Forbes the co author of the article has not responded to my inquiry or bothered to try and clarify the apparent ambiguities with origin of the snakes in Mr Harrison's possession. As the saying goes never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
 

Bluetongue1

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Has anyone contacted Tony Harrison to ask about how the story came about, what he told the interviewer and what he thought of the article?

The following are two excerpts from the original article (as posted on the ABC News site):
Mr Harrison is using all of his experience, and a bit of charm, to encourage the two pythons — which he collected from the Northern Territory with the permission of Indigenous landowners — to mate, saying any offspring could be worth about $10,000 each.

A key part of the process was gaining permission from the traditional Indigenous landowners to remove the snakes from the Northern Territory.
"They were very strict themselves," Mr Harrison said.
"The deal was to take a male and female from Arnhem Land, breed them and then bring them back. The Aboriginals call them 'The Ghost' because they are so rare."


My comments /thoughts…
  • Mr. Harrison may have travelled to the NT to collect his pythons – but from Gavin, not the wild.
  • Under the agreement brokered by Gavin, only offspring from his breeding have permission from the indigenous landowners (and the NT wildlife authorities) to be taken out of the NT. The landowners receive another royalty from this.
  • The statement about the ‘deal’ is FALSE! The deal was to collect 8 snakes, although only 6 were actually taken. These were to be bred and the offspring used to establish a captive breeding population. As I understand it, once this population becomes self-sustaining, then the original captives are to be returned to the wild.
  • I have not head of the “Ghost Snake” , so I would question the validity of that statement.
This article is clearly designed to mislead. It does so by deliberately omitting important relevant information about the involvement of Gavin Bedford.. The author(s) might claim that everything the article states is factually correct. It almost is, except for the statement about the ‘deal’ involving only two snakes. This excludes the involvement of other snakes. So therefore all that was described as being done must have solely involved only Mr. Harrison’s pair of snakes. We know this is not true. This statement also indirectly credits Mr. Harrison with personally doing all that was described as being done to obtain his pair of snakes. Again not true.

Has anyone contacted Tony Harrison to ask about how the story came about, what he told the interviewer and
 
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Allan

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I have not head of the “Ghost Snake” , so I would question the validity of that statement.
I think he might be referring to the fact that this python has the ability to change to a paler appearance in the dark.
However, I've never heard it being referred to as "Ghost" either.
 

Ramsayi

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'Snake catcher Tony Harrison has received about 400 enquiries from potential buyers after posting a photo of an albino python guarding her newborns'


Don't remember getting anywhere near that many enquiries way back when I first started breeding them when there was only 2 or 3 of us producing them.

Don't remember ever seeing a female albino or any other type of python guarding her newborns from the many many hundreds I bred either.
 
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Bluetongue1

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Thanks @Ramsayi. I was reluctant to express the following, but given your pointing out of these questionable statements I’ll add my final two bob’s worth. This article comes across as basically an advert for Mr. Harrison and his snake businesses. Given how regularly news articles featuring him are published, it would appear he has an establish contact with the local press He is also adept at utilising social media in the same way. Done appropriately, I have no issue with someone advertising their skills and business this way.

However, I do have a major problem with this particular article. That problem is that it clearly makes out that Tony Harrison did the work to get the Oenpelli Pythons into captivity. It is reprehensible that a person should claim credit for the work done by someone else. That is truly an injustice! In this case it is particularly abhorrent because I know the immense amount of personal time, effort and money that Gavin Bedford put into it. Gavin was in a unique position to recognise the need, and then to deal with the parties required to make it happen. I don’t know of any other individual who could have achieved the same result, let alone have been willing to put in the years of effort and to risk the huge amount of dollars out of their own pocket that Gavin did.

One person who would definitely have read the article would be Tony Harrison himself. Why did he not recognise the injustice done to Gavin and try and do something about it? He could have asked for a retraction to be printed or demanded the article be corrected. Logic would lead one to conclude that the most likely reason for inaction was that he was party to the scripting of the article. This number of direct quotes from him in the article definitely support this conclusion.
 
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Fay

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Not to be a party pooper,but the hobby really doesn't need headlines about how much money a reptile breeder will or not make....not good for the hobby, should be more like getting more oenpellis into the hobby.....
 

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