Tucked away in the Kuranda rainforest, near Cairns, professional science photographer Alan Henderson and his zoologist wife, Deanna, preside over the largest range of captive bred and sustainably collected invertebrates in Australia… an insect and arachnid ‘empire’ that they kindly share with AITHM researchers.
Despite Australia’s reputation for its venomous animals, and AITHM’s access to a nation-wide network of invertebrate collectors and other keen contributors, sourcing new live specimens is an ongoing challenge.
The Hendersons, whose business is called Minibeast Wildlife, have been happy to volunteer their time and resources to assist AITHM animal venom researchers. Every six weeks or so, AITHM scientists visit the Kuranda property to milk resident Sydney funnel web spiders and two local species of scorpion, then take away the samples for laboratory analysis. A passionate wildlife educator, Alan Henderson hopes the AITHM research projects will help counter the widespread public attitude that spiders and other invertebrates are pests that should be eradicated.
“Without invertebrates, world ecosystems would collapse, but not everyone sees it that way,” he said, “If you can tell them that a spider’s venom may one day save their life, that’s a different story.”
Collaborating with AITHM is enabling him to expand his own knowledge of invertebrates – and even point the scientists in new research directions.
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