Raymond Hoser

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Raymond Hoser
Born
Raymond Terrence Hoser

1962 (age 55–56)
ResidenceMelbourne, Australia
Other namesWayne King,[1] Snake Man[2]
Alma materUniversity of Sydney
Websitewww.raymondhoser.com

Raymond Terrence Hoser (born 1962), who describes himself as a herpetologist, is an Australian snake-catcher and author. Since 1976, he has written books and articles about official corruption in Australia. He has also written works on Australian frogs and reptiles and operates a snake handling business, Snakebusters, in Melbourne. Some of Hoser's work is controversial, including his advocacy of the surgical alteration of captive snakes to remove their venom glands and his herpetological taxonomy.

Career[edit]

Whistleblower[edit]

Hoser has published several works as a whistleblower. In a 1998 radio interview he said that he was "known as an anti-corruption crusader".[1] An analysis of his work by the Rationalist Society of Australia referred to him as a "tireless investigator"[3] and he has received praise from Brian Martin, a former president of Whistleblowers Australia.[4]

In his 1993 book Smuggled, Hoser wrote that officials of the wildlife services in New South Wales were involved in the illegal wildlife trade.[3][5]

In 1995, Hoser published The Hoser Files, detailing his encounters with Victoria Police and the Road Traffic Authority in Melbourne while working as a taxi driver. (Hoser had moved to Victoria in 1985.)

Herpetology[edit]

Hoser has also written about the taxonomy of Australian snakes, describing new species and genera, and suggesting revisions to current arrangements. The majority of these nominations have not been accepted.[6][7] Hoser's work has been a source of controversy in the field of herpetology, with a 2001 review in Litteratura Serpentium strongly criticising his publications as "less than professional", describing them as a source of confusion and wasted effort.[6] The review claimed that Hoser provided no description of the holotype or type specimen for most of his new species, and argued that Hoser's alleged errors could have been avoided had the articles been published in a peer-reviewed, rather than amateur and non-institutional, journal.[6] Charges of ethical misconduct were made in this article.[6] Further criticism of Hoser's work was published in 2006, in a review that stated that "the level of evidence provided by Hoser to justify his taxonomic acts is minimal" and charged that several of his publications appear to have been made with the intention of scooping other workers in the field, behavior that the authors described as "ethically repugnant".[8]

Some of Hoser's papers have been discussed in scientific journals in Australia and elsewhere;[9] while his papers were published in journals that critics claim are either the publications of amateur herpetological societies, or self-published, non-peer reviewed journals.[6][10] In a 2007 article on amateur naturalists in Nature, Hoser responded to criticisms of his work. "The description of me as an amateur is complete rubbish," he said. "There's no one in history who has spent so much time dealing with, looking at, catching and breeding death adders as myself."[11] He is the author of the valid names and descriptions for Pseudechis pailsei and Acanthophis wellsi, snakes in the family Elapidae.[12][13][14] Hoser's work on the taxonomy of the Pythoninae[15] has been partially confirmed by later phylogenetic studies, but has not been officially recognized.[16]

In 2009, Hoser started his own journal, the Australasian Journal of Herpetology, for which he is editor and, as of August 2014, the sole contributing author of all 24 issues containing 102 papers.[17] The taxon count for issues 1–24 (years 2009–2014) of the Australasian Journal of Herpetology is 752 taxa, i.e. two superfamilies, nine families, 11 subfamilies, 119 tribes, 55 subtribes, 198 genera, 183 subgenera, 96 species, and 79 subspecies.

In 2012, Hoser received criticism from several crocodile zoologists after he named what he claimed to be new species of pygmy freshwater crocodile, based on a single population discovered in 1979 in the upper Liverpool River in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory of Australia by noted zoologist and current IUCN Crocodile Specialist Group Chair Grahame Webb.[18][19] Webb argued that the crocodiles were a merely clinal variation of the Johnston crocodile which is stunted in size because of lack of food in the area, and not a new species.[18] Crocodile geneticist Sally Isberg stated that Hoser had not presented the required molecular genetic data to prove that a new species exists and claimed that Hoser's journal is not peer-reviewed.[18] However, molecular genetic evidence is not a requirement for the naming of new species.

In 2013, a group of international herpetologists published a paper in the Herpetological Review, a peer-reviewed publication of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. The paper, which included the names of over 60 of the world's academic herpetologists as supporters, and many of the major societies including the World Congress of Herpetology, set out to put a stop to the "taxonomic vandalism" of Hoser and another self-publishing herpetologist, Richard Wells. It dismissed as unscientific, and lacking in evidence, scientific rigor, or credibility, the huge number of names coined by Hoser since 2000, mostly in his self-published, self-edited, single-authored Australasian Journal of Herpetology, and provided authors with the original or alternative, more acceptable, names. The paper also dealt with a smaller number of names coined by Wells.[20]

In June 2013, Scientific American author Darren Naish published a concise account of the situation in his Tetrapod Zoology blog.[21]

In 2013, the British Herpetological Society and the Netherlands Association for Herpetoculture adopted resolutions censuring Hoser for naming reptiles without scientific evidence or peer review and what they deemed as "vanity publishing".[22] The editor of the Herpetological Association of Africa published an online editorial which stated that the African Journal of Herpetology would not use any names listed in Table 1 of Kaiser et al. 2013.[23]

Recently,[when?] there have been several papers published by groups of herpetologists, that over-write or ignore Hoser's names. Most notable are Reynolds et al. 2013,[24] which provides a more acceptable name, Malayopython, in place of Hoser's Broghammerus for the reticulated python, and Thomas et al. 2014,[25] which provides two new species names for the alligator snapping turtle, that over-write Hoser's poorly defined taxa. Hoser's response includes calling the journals (respectively Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution and Zootaxa) PRINO (peer-reviewed in name only), a term he coined himself for rival journals. Both these decisions are controversial at present and the ICZN may be called to adjudicate on which nomenclature should be adopted. The dispute has also been picked up by mainstream media, including the Smithsonian.[26]

A 2016 paper examined four of Hoser's publications on Agamidae and found that large sections of text were plagiarized from multiple other authors, including whole paragraphs.[27]

Hoser is an author and publisher of a number of books and a website on frogs and reptiles, and has a business as a snake handler. He runs the website smuggled.com, which contains articles about official corruption and reptiles. Hoser runs a business called Snakebusters in Melbourne, providing reptiles for children's birthday parties and catching and moving snakes in urban areas.[28] As part of his business, Hoser claims the title "Snakeman" (and others) as trademarks[29] and has asked a number of people, including New South Wales volunteer snake-catcher George Ellis,[30] Gold Coast snake catcher Tony Harrison,[31] and Clarence Valley Wildlife Information and Rescue Service (WIRES) snake rescuer and reptile co-ordinator [32] Paul Jones [33] to cease using the name "snakeman", threatening legal action for trademark infringement if they refused. At the time of Hoser's complaint in 2012, Jones had been a volunteer with Clarence Valley WIRES for 17 years and, in that time, had rescued and rehabilitated more than a thousand reptiles.[33] He has also taken the same response to herpetologists using the name "snakeman" in other countries.

After an increase in snakebites, Hoser criticized the zookeeper, conservationist and television personality Steve Irwin to The Age newspaper (of Melbourne, Australia), saying that Irwin had "given many people false ideas about how to behave around snakes".[34] Hoser said, "The way he handled snakes on TV was not the right way to do it. Some people don't seem to understand that if you play with deadly animals, you may end up dead."[34]

Hoser is an advocate of venomoid snakes, surgically altered to remove venom, and has published discussion on this topic,[35] and promoted the procedure on his website.[36] These animals are kept as pets, or used in exhibitions to the general public, and the procedure is regarded as controversial.[37] A 2008 government tribunal ruled that Hoser's venomoid snakes cannot be handled by members of the public, due to the risk of the venom glands regrowing. VCAT Deputy President Anne Coghlan found Hoser had no qualifications, no training and produced no scientific evidence to back up his claims.[38]

Legal proceedings[edit]

In 2001, the Victorian Supreme Court used the offence of scandalising the court to fine Hoser $5,000 after he published names of two county court judges and two magistrates in a book entitled Victoria Police Corruption with allegations of bias and improper conduct.[39] Hoser's 2003 appeal against the charge was unsuccessful and he was found guilty of a second contempt charge which was originally dismissed.[40]

In 2011, Hoser was convicted and fined $12,000 in the County Court for demonstrating with venomous snakes less than three metres from the public, working in accessible pits and demonstrating in a way that put the animals at risk of theft. Hoser allowed his 10-year-old daughter to be bitten five times by venomoid specimens of two species of highly venomous snakes, an inland taipan and a common death adder, to demonstrate that his venomoid snakes were harmless.[41] The manager of the shopping center where Hoser performed claimed that Hoser's performance was not consistent with his act description and said that Hoser would not be allowed back.[42] Following this incident, the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) suspended Hoser's commercial wildlife demonstrator license and his authorisation to hold snake-handling courses and use wildlife in film and television.[43] Hoser said that he would apply to the courts for an emergency injunction against this suspension.[43]

In May 2013, Hoser appealed to the Victoria Court of Appeal in an attempt to overturn the Department of Sustainability and Environment's (DSE) decision to cancel his wildlife demonstrators licence and Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) deputy president Judge Pamela Jenkins's decision in 2012 to uphold that DSE cancellation of his license.[44][45] In 2012, Judge Jenkins had found Hoser intentionally allowed two snakes to bite his daughter 7 times, and compromised both the safety of the audience and the welfare of the snakes during his demonstration.[44] According to the Daily Examiner newspaper, Jenkins in March 9, 2012 had upheld a previous appeal by Hoser (of the DSE actions against him), fining Hoser $4,000 under the Wildlife Safety Act and ordering Hoser to pay the costs of the DSE of $8,000.[46] Jenkins had found that "through his demeanour and evidence, displayed a contempt and reckless disregard for the licence conditions. He has conducted his demonstrations in a manner which seriously compromises the welfare of the snakes he is displaying and the safety and well-being of audience members, including children and, on one occasion, his own daughter."[46] In March 2013, Justice Robert Redlich of the Victoria Court of Appeal recommended that Hoser hire a lawyer to represent him (rather than representing himself) and adjourned the hearing until 13 June 2013.[44][45]

Candidate for local and state government[edit]

In 2012, Hoser ran for council of the City of Manningham (Mullum Mullum ward), but failed to win one of three positions. He received 4.31% of the primary vote.[47]

In 1999, Hoser ran in the Victorian state election 1999 in Frankston East district. He received the fewest votes (11 out of 26,842 votes or 0.04% of first preference votes).[48]

Works[edit]

Books[edit]

  • Australian Reptiles & Frogs, (238pp) Pierson & Co., 1989 ISBN 0-947068-08-2
  • Endangered Animals of Australia, Pierson & Co., 1991 ISBN 0-947068-15-5
  • Smuggled : The Underground Trade in Australia's Wildlife. Apollo Books, 1993. ISBN 0-947068-18-X
  • The Hoser Files – The Fight Against Entrenched Official Corruption. (332 pp.) Kotabi, 1995. ISBN 0-646-23087-5
  • Smuggled-2: Wildlife Trafficking, Crime and Corruption in Australia. Kotabi, 1996. ISBN 0-9586769-0-9
  • Victoria Police Corruption. (736 pp.) Kotabi, 1999. ISBN 0-9586769-6-8
  • Victoria Police Corruption 2. (800 pp.) Kotabi, 2000. ISBN 0-9586769-7-6
  • Taxi. Kotabi, 2000. ISBN 0-9586769-8-4 (V. 1) ISBN 0-9586769-9-2 (V. 2)

References[edit]

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  43. ^ a b "Snake handler Raymond Hoser has licence revoked". Herald Sun. 18 August 2011.
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  45. ^ a b [1]
  46. ^ a b "Snake man is sprung".
  47. ^ "Results for Manningham City Council Elections 2012". Victorian Electoral Commission.
  48. ^ "State Election 1999: Frankston East District results summary - Victorian Electoral Commission".

External links[edit]