Spiders have rights too........

21st June 2017
I wish to politely draw your attention to a minor but still very annoying bit of wildlife abuse going on in the world….. ok, its not up there with the Chinese sponsored rhino ‘poaching’, or the Chinese sponsored Elephant slaughter, nor even the Chinese sponsored Shark decimation, but surely, spiders have rights too?

Many people have an implicit arachnophobia, but that also strangely leads to huge numbers of the larger species, i.e. Tarantula being kept as 'exotic' pets. Most of these are the relatively placid Red Kneed Tarantula coming from the soon-to-be-walled Mexico, but there are many other species.

During our recent enforced stay in Malaysia (see previous blogs), we had a splendid week in Fraser Hill (known in Malay as Bukit Fraser). This week largely changed the month into a holiday, rather than merely an experience of the, albeit excellent, Putrajaya Hospital and surroundings. We had the very good fortune to stay at Stephens Place, a noted natural history oriented B&B.

Stephen Hogg is one of the most interesting hosts you could have. A devotion to all things Natural History (i.e. not just birds) and many years experience as a Cameraman has resulted in someone who can make hours seem like minutes when talking to him. He knows stuff…..…and very pleasingly says what he thinks. He has had the local Tarantula named after him (Coremiocnemis hoggi). It is this creature and the un-related Trap Door Spider which needs bringing to your attention……

Stephen and his son, Adam, took us out one evening and showed us several of these beasts - who’s females while away some 20 years in a burrow bothering no-one (except their dinners). The males do wander, looking for females but aren’t a problem to the sensible…….

The trouble is: These passive creatures are much desired by the pet trade. They have more kudos than the Red-Kneed as they can be a little more feisty and, well, are not the Red-Kneed. After being fascinated by seeing a number of spiders being gently coaxed from their burrows with a vibrating blade of grass, Stephen then pointed out a number of big red spade-sized gashes in the bank. These are the result of humans coming along and digging out the whole burrow, spider-and-all, before taking the creatures back for monetary gain and its probable death.

In a place as wonderful as Fraser Hill, this was just another example of how humans will do anything for money and bugger-the-planet. There may not be sufficient protection for Arachnids, but they were being dug out in a National Park which certainly is illegal. Stephen said the local authority lacks the desire to enforce this. He also said a lot goes on around Chinese New Year (Now there’s a surprise, the Chinese involved in wildlife abuse?), but to give some balance he has also done his best to see off a number of Americans and Germans doing the same.

This brings me to the even rarer Trap-Door Spider (Liphistius branch of the family). Embarrassingly, I do not have a snap of one of these - I watched the first one out of interest and was too slow for the lightening fast move of the second…… yes, only two found! These are a family which go back squllions of years and are described as ‘primitive’. These are all attributes which make them even more attractive to the pet trade. The difference here, Stephen, told us is that this spider will not breed in captivity, so every one dug out will certainly die. This is known, but in the face of monetary gain and temporary spider-status - who cares?

You can just see the 'ankles' this Trap-Door Spider. More interesting are the perfect 5 silk strands coming from the burrow to help it detect vibration - in this case, annoyingly for the spider, a piece of grass.

I’m not expecting you to start any petitions, or take any direct action, but you need to be aware that wildlife abuse works at every level. It would be nice to leave the next generation with some sort of ecology around them. Spiders are not ‘beyond the environment’……. At least anyone that reads this, and is interested in keeping spiders should check the provenance of what they are buying. Spiders sold on Ebay and in pub carparks are unlikely to be regulated.

So, on the day that the Faroese/Danish slaughtered 160 Pilot Whales and the Japanese whaling fleet set sail for the North Pacific, please give just a thought to the Arachnids of Malaysia.

And I didn’t even mention Palm Oil and the way it has ruined the country due to our stupid demands. The West buys the stuff so who are we to preach to the Malaysians about what it is doing to their country. Every tub of Flora, and its ilk, effects Orang Utan. Bugger, I mentioned it……..

To end with: here are a few of the birds of Bukit Fraser, largely Stephens Place’s garden. All simple BOS’s but my 400mm chose this moment to stop working so I fully admit to them not being my finest……….

Common Tailorbird - investigating everything - a favourite

Long Tailed Sybia

Male Mugimaki Flycatcher

Streaked Spiderhunter - Still not interested in spiders, but being noisy....

Fire Tufted Barbet

Silver-eared Mesia

Chestnut Capped Laughing Thrush

Malayan Laughing Thrush

Thai Peninsula Pit Viper - which Stephen happened to have about his person


I cannot say enough good things about this place - the rooms, the food, the location. Have a look at their snazzy new website.....