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Stefan Pullitzky runs Reptile Rescue Phangan.
We can all get a bit freaked out about these misunderstood yet beautiful creatures so we turned to this gentleman to give us the low down on how he helps...
What is your Koh Phangan story?
I came to Phangan as a DJ and producer in the early 90s. I think it was 1994. But the reason for my vacation in Thailand wasn’t music in the first place. I was more curious about the wildlife, especially the biodiversity of reptiles. The first two times I travelled around, but spent most of my time on the island. Later I just came to Phangan to relax, explore the island on a dirt bike, and roam the jungle. But the decision and the desire to move to Thailand came much later on my last vacation in 2008. I didn’t hesitate to accept the job offer as GM of a party beach club at Chaweng Beach on Samui, quit everything in Germany, and moved with my old and dearest pet iguana Yago to Thailand. The political crisis in Bangkok and the global economic crisis forced the owner to stop the business. But I decided to stay, took over the company setup of the beach club, and tried some tour business on a modified fishing trawler. After failing with my own business I got adopted as a skipper and guide on my own trawler sailing for my friend Tu for his company “Mr. Tu Fishing Game”. I have to admit I wasn’t a dedicated angler, but as autodidact I got pretty professional. (harrumph)! However, the money wasn’t enough to support me, my girlfriend and my boat. After I broke up with my annoying girlfriend... (she didn’t like the boat, because I spent too much time on it) ...I fled with my few belongings, and got a contract (I’m also carpenter by trade) for hardwood flooring, and later as project manager for a builder company. One year later I sold my boat, and the construction business and finally after 5 years survival training on Samui, the chance to get to my desired dream destination Phangan came through.
How did you start your Reptile Handling?
I’m not a snake charmer, and I don’t like to make shows with animals. I actually don’t like these shows at all, because it causes stress to snakes. And reptiles respond very sensitive to stress. It weakens the immune system very quickly. I got my first exotic animals, some turtles, when I was a young boy. I can’t remember how old. Maybe 5? At the age of 14 my parents allowed me to buy my first non venomous Snake. After the first, I didn’t need to ask anymore. And soon I had a zoo with boas, pythons, some mildly venomous mangrove snakes, agamas and snapping turtles, and later big iguanas and monitor lizards.
What does Reptile Handling mean to you?
I’m not a professional snake catcher. For me it’s a hobby. I just want to give something back to the nature, for keeping these poor creatures in capture, and even killing some by my lack of knowledge. But after 30 years own research, meeting experts and studying books, I got a lot of experience. After I saw all these posts of snake encounters on the Facebook page “Phangan Indigenous Wildlife”, I decided to offer my voluntary service, and see what would happen. People can also call me, if they just have questions about their scaled visitors.
How do you describe what you do?
My service includes removal, relocation, or nursing injured or sick reptiles back to health before I release them somewhere in the deep forest or national reserve.
What do you think is special about your Reptile Handling?
Maybe it’s special to conserve these fascinating and mostly misunderstood creatures. Also to educate locals and foreigners, so they can understand the importance of for example, cobras, by keeping the equilibrium (balance) of the food chain.
What projects are you working on these days?
I have a company for maintenance service including house, garden, pool and boat. Nothing big. Just me and 4 Thai freelancers. I volunteer sometimes as a skipper on the motor vessel Spirit of Gaia, a boat for educational dive trips, marine biological research and conservation. We work with Core Sea, a marine research and conservation centre in Chaloklum, and Thai scientists of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources Chumphon.
What are your next projects?
Oh, nothing specific yet. Just some crazy ideas. My dream would be a reptile sanctuary especially for our two giant types of monitor lizards on Phangan. Something like a wetland and rainforest reserve with breeding station and nursery for research and education. Maybe even with a small resort or guesthouse for biology and herpetology students, or for volunteers. But we all know, for projects like this you need a lot of money and the support of the local government would be appreciated. It could be a project with benefit for the whole island. Like a small “Jurassic Park”. I could imagine, it would be more attractive to see these intelligent and gentle giants in their natural habitat without plastic rubbish or in a stinky sewage, or a too small terrarium of a zoo.
What have you learnt from Koh Phangan?
On one side I’ve learned to live, work and think the same way as locals. I also understand now, how difficult it is to grow the economy on a small island like Samui, Phangan or Tao without polluting and destroying the whole environment.
What is your favourite place on Koh Phangan?
My favourite place, It’s everywhere.