Jim’s interest in animals started at a very young age, cleaning-out his father’s stud of racing pigeons and show quality Angora Rabbits at the age of four. This interest developed rapidly into an obsession and by the time he was twelve he already had in his collection species as varied and challenging as Golden Tanagers, Red-billed Streamer-tailed Hummingbirds, Fennec Foxes, Bolivian Squirrel Monkeys, Mangrove Snakes, Sheltopusiks and Chacoan Tortoises. Jim undertook three paper rounds a day plus worked in a supermarket at weekends in order to finance his expanding hobby and found that breeding of a good number of the species in his collection also gave the opportunity to reinvest through his early and mid-teenage years. By the time he went to university he had already kept over a hundred species of amphibian, reptile, bird and mammal together with a host of tropical fish species and invertebrates. By the current time Jim has kept in excess of 950 species of animal (including 152 species of herptile) and has bred a good percentage of those kept.
Jim spent six years at university first studying and then researching zoological sciences with a particular emphasis on animal behaviour but then opted to move away from the academic sphere and instead pursued a career in international business development, geopolitical analysis and line management through a sequence of employers, all the while building his animal collection and enhancing his experience of keeping and breeding a wide array of animal taxa. Since his early thirties Jim became increasingly sort after for zoological consultancy work which has taken him to countries as varied as Bahrain, Taiwan, the U.S., Republic of South Africa and Mexico as well as here in the U.K. and in Continental Europe.
Jim commenced political work fighting for the rights of hobbyists and the pet industry some 35 years ago, firstly representing the National Council for Aviculture and then widening his representation in subsequent years. He is an Honorary Life Member of the International Herpetological Society. 2023 saw the 25th anniversary of him active as the Coordinator for the Sustainable Users Network (SUN), the umbrella organisation representing animal-keeping and horticultural organisations with both trade and hobbyist interests – SUN being the primary umbrella organisation that DEFRA CITES seeks to engage with on a regular basis and, as widely acknowledged, SUN has been instrumental in securing appropriate liaison with the various government agencies. Jim has sat on a large number of expert panels and working groups both at the UK domestic level with DEFRA and at the European Commission when the UK was a member of the European Union.
As REPTA chairman Jim will oversee the activities of the Board, organizing meetings, communications and activities and setting the agenda. He will work closely and collaboratively with both the REPTA Political Lobbyist and Trade Delegate most especially in setting strategic focus for REPTA.
With a deep-seated passion for reptiles dating back to his youth, Charles has seamlessly transitioned from a dedicated hobbyist to a seasoned professional in the reptile business. Charles’s extensive private collection, coupled with successful breeding endeavors, laid the foundation for his entry into the trade side of the hobby in 1999. He began working weekends at The Zoo in Leeds, later transitioning to Snakes ‘N’ Adders, which he eventually purchased in 2003 with the support of his parents.
As a seasoned reptile business owner, Charles marked two decades of professional involvement in 2023. In 2008, driven by a desire to be closer to his growing family, Charles undertook the challenging task of relocating Snakes ‘N’ Adders to Sheffield, effectively starting anew with no established customer base. This experience provides Charles with a comprehensive understanding of the challenges faced by neophyte businesses, and he has since dedicated his time to mentoring and advising numerous startups.
A pioneer in embracing social media for business, Charles initiated a YouTube channel with informative videos and care guides, significantly boosting Snakes ‘N’ Adders’ fortunes and garnering respect within the community. Recognising the need for streamlined output at REPTA, Charles voluntarily assumed the responsibility of surveying and writing reports for government submissions, despite the considerable personal cost in terms of time. While acknowledging the eventual necessity of stepping away from his thriving business in Sheffield, Charles remains unwaveringly passionate about contributing to REPTA’s mandate, serving as a valuable point of contact for prospective members, offering guidance to businesses, and overseeing REPTA’s social media presence on Facebook. His multifaceted role underscores his commitment to safeguarding the interests of reptile shop owners and furthering the objectives of REPTA.”
Roles Charles undertakes for REPTA
- Contributions to or author of REPTA reports to be sent to government on the communities behalf.
- Trade delegate and point of contact for shops wanting to enquire about membership.
- A point of contact for businesses looking for advice or support in the running of their business.
- Running the social media arm of REPTA on Facebook
Born in 1959, he has been an animal keeper from an early age, acquiring his first snake at the age of five. He developed a particular interest in venomous creatures and acquired his first venomous snakes, Mojave rattlesnakes, aged ten. He has subsequently kept over 500 species of reptiles and amphibians and has bred over 80 species, some for the first time in captivity. One of the notable achievements was breeding day geckos Phelsuma spp. in 1972. He has also kept numerous other non-reptilian species – invertebrates, fish, birds and mammals. He currently specialises in “exotic” mammals.
Chris is profoundly dyslexic and left school in 1976 uneducated and unable to read or write. Due to lack of formal education employment in academia was not forthcoming so on leaving school Chris supported himself with various occupations, mostly associated with his other interest in plants (horticulture). A spell at a zoo, Cotswold Wildlife Park, convinced him that a zoological career was not for him. In the 1980’s Chris spent some ten years working (unpaid) in collaboration with Dr Bernard Whaler at the Queen Elizabeth Collage (University of London) developing more effective and human methods of extracting venom from animals. He was the first to develop a technique to extract venom from live black widow spiders, as shown on the BBC programme Tomorrow’s World & developed and refined methods of extracting toxins from snakes, spiders, scorpions, centipedes, and fish.
Chris was the publisher of the Reptilian magazine, the UK’s first specialist reptile & amphibian publication, from 1991 to 2003. He is the former chairman of the Federation of British Herpetologists and the Federation of Companion Animal Societies. He is consultant to the Reptile and Exotic Pet Trade Association & advisor to the Pet Care Trust and National Association of Private Animals Keepers on herpetological (reptile & amphibian) issues, as well as a consultant to the fresh produce (fruit) industry on arachnological and herpetological pests. He has also acted in an advisory capacity for Customs and Excise, the police and Local Authorities.
His current work includes working to improve animal welfare and defending the rights for people to keep animals in captivity. Chris is a passionate advocate that both humans and animals benefit from animal husbandry and the keeping of animals as companions. He has always spoken out against the animal rights lobby, which is increasingly influential politically, sometimes at considerable personal risk. Pet keepers are now the regular target for animal rights activists and many so-called welfare groups are actively involved in anti-pet-keeping strategies. Chris is directly involved with many governmental Working Groups and legislative reviews, such as the Dangerous Wild Animals Act, CITES, Non-native Species. He has been working extensively with the Animal welfare Act since its inception.
Today Chris lives with his partner, Jan, and four children (boys) in Southampton. He and the family maintain a large collection of reptiles, amphibians, fish, invertebrates and mammals. The benefits of animal keeping are apparent with the boys, all of whom have learning difficulties, particularly with the youngest child who suffers from ADHD and Autism. In addition to their interest in animals, the family are dedicated amateur palaeontologists, and have assembled one of the largest privately owned collections of non-cephalopod Mollusca in the UK. The family have discovered many species new to the UK and continually break new ground in the quest to further knowledge of UK Eocene fauna. Chris’s particular interests are in the taxonomic lineage of the genus Campanile, which includes the largest ever gastropod (snail), the now extinct Campanile giganteum.
Paul Fleming’s journey in reptiles commenced at the tender age of 5, evolving into an all-consuming passion that shaped his life’s trajectory. With an unwavering dedication to working with and caring for these incredible creatures, Paul considered no other career options. His focus became singular, contemplating only in what capacity he would engage with reptiles.
At 15, Paul initiated his career in the industry, immersing himself in the business that has become his life’s devotion—Emsworth Reptiles. Originally owned by Eddie Munt, Paul gleaned a wealth of knowledge from Eddie, covering aspects of reptiles and the challenges faced by their industry and hobby. The inaugural iteration of REPTA, pioneered by Eddie, aimed to protect and support the industry at a political level, affording Paul a front-row seat to the myriad threats and attacks faced over the years.
Assuming control of the business, Paul has steadfastly worked towards realizing the dream of creating a specialist reptile centre. His business ideology revolves around fashioning a shop that emulates a zoo, providing patrons with the opportunity to witness rare and incredible species while highlighting the positive aspects of keeping, caring for, and working with these remarkable animals. The thrill and satisfaction derived from successfully breeding species struggling for survival in their endemic range have always captivated Paul.
Bringing 25 years of reptile retail centre experience to the REPTA table, Paul shares the ups, downs, and trials faced by independent stores. His firsthand knowledge of REPTA sparks excitement about its developmental trajectory and its ongoing commitment to defending the passion and industry they hold dear.
Looking ahead, Paul expresses eagerness to witness the evolution of REPTA and its continued defense of their shared passion and industry.
Born on a small farm, Jo’s life has always been fairly animal centric. In the 1980’s Jo’s family invested in an aquatic shop in Cambridge, Monkfield Aquatics, which started to sell reptiles. At this time insects were hard to come by in the UK, and as a school A level biology project Jo bred some crickets which he subsequently started to sell in the shop.
The insect business started to grow and the aquatic business closed, so having completed a Geography degree at Manchester University, Monkfield Nutrition was formed and became Jo’s full time occupation.
For many years Jo focussed the business purely on insects, but over time assisted in establishing a rodent breeding farm in Lithuania, started breeding and wholesaling reptiles, and finally moved into wholesaling accessories before eventually acquiring the Arcadia and Habistat brands, now distributed globally.
In 2017, Jo moved Monkfield to a large, purpose built facility in Cambridgeshire, where he lives nearby.
From a young age, Chris cultivated a deep fascination with reptiles. In 2000, Chris started working at pet store in Surrey, focussing mostly within the reptile and aquatic sections. From there, in 2002 he worked for EuroRep, a specialist reptile food and product wholesaler in the UK, where Chris took care of live reptiles and assisted in their breeding programme.
During his time at EuroRep, Chris built up his own private collection and his focus crystallised on the care and breeding of Sand Boas (Eryx species), a passion that endures to this day, underscoring his enduring connection with these diminutive boids.
In 2005, Chris ventured Down Under to Australia, gaining experience at Crocodylus Park, a Saltwater Crocodile breeding and conservation park near Darwin. This experience not only broadened his understanding of reptiles but also added an international dimension to his growing repertoire of knowledge.
Upon returning, Chris ventured into the world of entrepreneurship, establishing an online enterprise that served as a precursor to his future endeavours. However, his journey took an intriguing turn with a significant chapter in the beauty industry, working and subsequently managing a family business for nearly a decade. This segment played a pivotal role in Chris’s career journey, offering valuable insights into sales, marketing, and general business management in a highly competitive environment —skills that would prove instrumental in his future roles.
In 2012, fuelled by an unyielding passion for reptiles, Chris founded WhitePython, a brand dedicated to delivering innovative reptile products. The success of WhitePython ultimately led to its acquisition by Peregrine Livefoods in 2016, where Chris then joined Peregrine as the Sales and Marketing Director. In 2020, he assumed the mantle of Managing Director, steering Peregrine Livefoods with a strategic vision informed by his multifaceted background.
Chris is now a Director of REPTA and has a seat on the board, providing industry insight and a voting right to key decisions.
I’ve worked with reptiles for over 35 years in various sectors – retail, wholesale, livestock breeding and livefood breeding. I’ve also written about reptiles and the reptile trade for many different magazines and websites over the last two decades, so it’s been my job to keep abreast of what the various animal rights groups are up to.
In 2022 we launched Responsible Reptile Keeping. We’re essentially a media department for the international reptile community. It’s our mission to support lobbyist organisations around the world, such as REPTA and USARK, producing media which promotes and protects responsible keepers and businesses. We create videos, podcasts, interviews, blogs, magazines and documentary films which tell our side of the story.
RRK’s collaboration with REPTA will help to inform the content we produce and enable us to keep up to date with current affairs in the reptile trade. We’ll also be advising and assisting REPTA to keep stakeholders informed about the work REPTA does.