28-29 March 2020
Drayton Manor, Tamworth, UK

Bettering Captive Husbandry

Bringing together private keepers and zoological professionals to share our experience and our knowledge, one with another.

In partnership with the British Herpetological Society (BHS) this conference is being held at the birthplace of the International Herpetological Society (IHS), Drayton Manor Zoo.

This is a meeting for all those who believe it’s time to get rid of myths and assumptions, and base reptile husbandry on a combination of good science, new technology and long-term studies of the animals in the wild.

Historic location

In the center of the country, Drayton Manor Zoo is the birthplace of the International Herpetological Society (IHS). You will have time during the conference to go and explore the incredible animal collection held here.

Greatest speakers

We've invited world leading experts on a huge range of topics; our speakers are some of the top people in their area of expertise. Check out their profiles below.

New techniques

Our speakers will be discussing - and our sponsors will be bringing - some of the latest technological advances, and demonstrating tips, tricks and new approaches to reptile husbandry.

Come and join us!

Get your tickets now

Conference Speakers

Learn from some of the best, with world leading experts from all over the world. Our speakers are some of the top people in their area of expertise.

Keynote Speaker – Robert Mendyk

Robert is the Curator of Herpetology at Audubon Zoo and an Affiliate Research Associate of the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. He is the founding editor of Biawak – Journal of Varanid Biology and Husbandry and a herpetoculture section editor for Herpetological Review. In addition to reptile behavior and reproduction, his research and publications have focused heavily on advancing herpetological husbandry and welfare, particularly in zoological parks.

Other speakers include:

More speaker details coming soon…

Event Schedule

A schedule at a glance is listed below. Check the program for this year's conference and learn about the speakers and sessions in store for herpetology enthusiasts. Schedule is subject to change and will be updated as and when we have further confirmations

Conference registration will open at 8:00AM

Conference Introduction

Chris Mitchell
Head of Zoo Operations - Drayton Manor

Responsible Herpetoculture can engage and educate the wider population about the creatures we care so much about and even be a tool for species conservation in the current global extinction crisis. Some people philosophically challenge the concept of housing animals in a captive state and their ideas, once thought marginal, are gaining traction and starting to influence legislators and wider society. Our pastimes and livelihoods are consequently threatened, and it is incumbent on us to demonstrate that we go further than ‘not doing harm’ and we benefit the animals we look after. There is no doubt that the management of reptiles and amphibians in captivity has developed enormously with many species once considered difficult now being routinely bred by both private and professional keepers. The presentation covers a brief historical perspective then attempts to identify current trends and to ‘read the runes’ to postulate our community might be headed.

Dr Peter Sound
DGHT & President of EATA

Changing international, european and national conditions and laws will change herpetological husbandry in the future. Together with the amphibian crises, new deseases and a bashing in the society against keeping animals new perspectives are necessary to lead our hobby into the future. Citizen science, new forms of cooperation’s and a more intense exchange of knowledge could be a part of the solution. But the herpetological society needs to more open minded to political thinking instead of keeping in the ivory tower in which we are close to the eternal “starry heavens of insight”.

10:30 AM

15 Minute break with refreshments

Francis Cosquieri
Private Keeper & AHH Co-Founder

Cognition in reptiles has historically been a very neglected subject and this in turn has led to many common and inaccurate beliefs, suppositions and misunderstandings regarding their supposed lack of emotion and cognitive complexity that have become widely accepted without question in the mainstream hobby. In turn this can result in us not doing justice to our pets' husbandry. But in fact reptiles can have surprising cognitive complexity and this directly affects their need for enriching and stimulating environments that encourage natural behaviour and psychological well-being. It is of course important not to anthropomorphise these animals but this in turn can lead to the opposite and, if anything, more insidious situation: mechanomorphism, or equating the animal to an unfeeling, insentient machine. Francis Cosquieri outlines the history of cognition in reptiles and takes us through some surprising examples of reptile emotion, intelligence and sociality that may change the way you perceive your pets, and offers examples of how these concepts can be incorporated into better husbandry.

Oliver Witte

Oliver Witte reports on the husbandry and offspring of Trimeresurus insularis, focusing on special posture requirements. Co-author of this lecture is Jan Monhoff, Wuppertal, Germany.

12:15 PM

1 Hour for lunch... included in conference registration.

Dr Huw Golledge
Senior Scientific Programme Manager - UFAW

The welfare needs of rodents must be provided for under the Animal Welfare Act, even if they are destined to be fed to other animals rather than kept as pets and even if they are killed prior to feeding. Of particular concern is the method by which rodents are killed, with obvious concerns about live-feeding, but also for those animals killed prior to feeding. Exposure to Carbon Dioxide, a method often used by commercial breeders and some home breeders raises significant welfare concerns as it may cause pain and/or anxiety. Alternatively, rodents may be killed by physical methods such as cervical dislocation which, although potentially more humane, require technical competence to avoid the possibility of causing significant suffering. Using extensive evidence from the laboratory animal welfare field where these species are also commonly kept and killed, I will discuss the welfare impacts of the various methods and what this means for herpetologists who are also keen to maximise the welfare of the animals they use as food. Rodents may be bred and killed by commercial suppliers or by owners of reptiles, I will consider the implications of these two approaches in terms of animal welfare. I am keen to seek the views of the herpetological community on how we might ensure the welfare of rodents raised for food, perhaps by the development of guidelines or educational materials to promote best practice for housing and humane killing and hope this talk will serve as a starting point for discussion.

The winner of the student competition will be announced. The runners up and all other applicants thank for their efforts.

Winning Student

The winning student from out student competition will be invited to present there work.

2:45 PM

15 minute break with refreshments

Tim Baker
Senior Keeper - Drayton Manor

The talk will be about some of the lesser-known species held in the Reptile House at Drayton Manor, Smaug mossambicus and Smaug giganteus, two representatives of Girdled Lizards from Southern Africa. The talk will include topics of husbandry, the hypothesis of seasonal variation as a trigger for breeding in these species, as well as what has been learned, what is planned, and what the future may hold for these exciting projects.

3:45 PM

Following on the talk from tim Baker the senior keeper at Drayton Manor we will all be taken down to the zoo area of the park. Here you can marvel at the ever evolving collection and ask as many questions as you like.

*seperate ticket required

The evening buffet will start from 7PM. Please note this is not included in the conference registration tickets and that a seperate ticket is required.

Tell Hicks
The Story Behind the Picture

Tell has a very extensive portfolio of his art but a few paintings have special back stories. He has been mulling over producing a book about the artwork and this conference will start that idea being implemented and become, now, part of his own story. Tell will pick a few of his favourite artworks and share with us the story and personalities associated with that piece of art.

Registration for day 2 will open at 8:00am

Oliver Witte

Oliver Witte reports about the project Citizen Conservation of the association ``Frogs and Friends``, which brings together individuals and zoos to breed endangered amphibians.

Adam Radovanovic
Senior Keeper - Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park

An overview of (Uromastyx sp) that have been kept at the Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park over the past 20 years. A discussion into how factors such as a change in diet, heating and lighting have contributed to the reproductive success in our Saharan uromastyx, U.geyri

10:30 AM

15 minute break with refreshments

Roman Astheimer
Private Keeper & DGHT

Roman's topic of cohabitation is quite often the reason for heated debates. After his talk during the 2019 AHH conference about keeping tiger ratsnakes (Spilotes pullatus) and dyeing poison dart frogs (Dendrobates tinctorius) together he got a lot of feedback and questions about his experiences doing this, so he proposed to talk about possible drawbacks and benefits of keeping reptiles in pairs or even groups. He will cover my experiences of keeping several different species of snakes as pairs or groups for years, the requirements to do this in regards of enclosure size and design, possible problems and ways to solve or prevent them.

Krissy Green
Exotics Vet

Do reptiles have mental health and what importance does this have? Is It excessive anthropomorphism to consider mental health problems in reptiles or is this a welfare concern that the hobby should become engaged in? This talk explores human negative mental health states and shows where they are applicable to specific reptile cases I have seen in exotic animal veterinary practice.

12:15 PM

1 hour for lunch... included in your conference registration.

Speaker TBC

We will have a speaker from Chester Zoo. Once we have confirmation who these details will be updated.

Adam Davis
Senior Keeper - Bristol Zoo Gardens

Adam’s talk will cover his experiences in keeping and breeding members of the Varanus prasinus species group. This will include the history of tree monitors at Bristol Zoo over the last 20 years, and discuss the more recent changes to husbandry, resulting in more consistent reproductive success.

2:45 PM

15 minute break with refreshments

Robert Mendyk
Curator of Herpetology - Audubon Zoo, USA

Herpetological husbandry can be viewed as a continuum that is constantly evolving over time. As new material becomes available about the biology and captive management of a species, this information can then be used to evaluate current keeping practices and make necessary adjustments that better reflect the biological and environmental needs of that species. However, when keeping practices are not regularly evaluated in light of the most current scientific information, this can lead to the retention and proliferation of outdated husbandry practices that are not supported by, or based on evidence. In many cases, keeping practices may simply be a continuation of what’s been done in the past, or are justified for unknown reasons. Collectively known as “folklore husbandry”, such questionable keeping practices can have major consequences for the health, welfare, and long-term keeping and breeding success of reptiles in captivity, as well as the progression of herpetological husbandry as a whole. While specific examples may not be obvious, folklore husbandry is pervasive in all facets of husbandry from enclosure design to nutrition to thermal regimes and reproductive management. This presentation will focus on several prominent examples of folklore reptile husbandry that are prevalent today, and offer suggestions for challenging unjustified keeping practices.

End Of Conference

Venue / Travel

Drayton Manor Theme Park & Zoo

Drayton Manor Zoo

Located just outside Tamworth, Staffordshire, Drayton Manor Zoo is a fascinating place to explore with 15 acres of open plan zoo home to over 100 animals from all over the world including endangered species. It is also the birthplace of the International Herpetological Society.

Find out more


The conference is held within Drayton Manor Hotel in the grounds of the park. There are plenty of rooms available on a B&B rate.


There are plenty of local alternative options available on Booking.com

Hotel Booking


By Car:
For visitors that will be using satellite navigation to get here, the post code to use is B78 3SA


Nearest Airports:
(BHX) Birmingham International Airport – approx 14 miles
(EMA) East Midlands Airport – Approx 26 miles


Nearest Train Station:
Tamworth – Approx 3 Miles


Bus Services
110 – Catch the Arriva 110 bus from Birmingham, Sutton Coldfield or Tamworth for a relaxing journey on our Sapphire service, setting you up for a fun day out. Stopping a short walk away from Drayton Manor Park entrance, exit the bus at ‘The Square’ island in Fazeley.

115– You can also catch the 115 from Tamworth, Hurley, Dosthill or Kingsbury, alighting at the same stop.


Check out our event pricing below to find the right pass for you. Scroll down for more detailed information on what each pass offers.

Two Day Registration
Saturday & Sunday (SAVE £10)
per personGet Tickets
Tickets Include:
Entry to both days of the conference
Tea/Coffee refreshments
Conference goodie bag
Zoo Tour (Saturday only)
One Day Registration
Saturday OR Sunday
per personGet Tickets
Tickets Include:
Entry to one day of the conference
Tea/Coffee refreshments
Conference goodie bag
Zoo Tour (Saturday only)
ADD-ON: Saturday Evening Buffet
per personGet Tickets
Tickets Include:
Saturday Evening Buffet

Group Booking?

Buying 5 or more tickets at once? Select the tickets labelled GROUP and save 10% per ticket. Minimum 5 tickets per order on group tickets.

*Please note that ALL tickets are non-refundable

Our Sponsors

Our conferences would simply not be possible without the kind support of our sponsors. Please be sure to check them out and show your appreciation.

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