Page 1 of 3 | 2005 Interview by Michael Jacobi
Michael Jacobi: Ladies and Gentleman, it's Ray Gabriel, live from Panama...
Hello, Ray. You are currently in Panama. So what is a Scottish guy doing in Panama and what is this I hear about you moving there?
Ray Gabriel: Hi Michael. Yes, I have been here one week. This is our fourth trip to Panama and the third time we are collecting. My partner and I both hate the cold and were looking for a place warmer to move to. Lesley bought a magazine on homes abroad and there was an article on Panama so we decided to come for a week to see what it was like. That week we bought our first piece of land here. If all goes to plan, I will be moving here by Christmas 2006.
So far I have collected two species of Sericopelma and a single female of a new species from a new genus (Perez Miles et al., in prep). I have found single specimens of this new genus each trip. This trip i hope to catch more of them.
MJ: Recently a Sericopelma species has been imported into the US from Panama as wild-caught adults. I don't have any myself, but had the opportunity to look at a group of them at a reptile show. I was struck by their primitive appearance and the minimal amount of "hair" on their bodies other than the abdomen. Can you give us an overview of these spiders?
RG: I donŐt want to say too much just now, but i think i have just collected the same species, but I would like to examine moults and dead specimens of the recently imported ones to see if they are the same species. I have examined they types of S. commune Cambridge and Theraphosa panamana Karsch. I still have to examine the specimen of S. rubronitens identified by Simon and, of course, the generic type S. rubronitens Ausserer in Vienna, which I hope to do in June. After then I will be sure of what these species from Panama are, but I think they are S. rubronitens.
MJ: Does moving to Panama mean you've had to give up your impressive spider collection?
RG: Yes, I am now down to around 300 spiders. Some of the spiders were sold and the rest, as they were all established breeding groups, have been passed onto people to carry on breeding.
MJ: What drew you to tarantula keeping and what is your history with keeping them?
RG: I got my first spider in 1977 or '78, to get over my fear of spiders. I kept a few on and off until the mid to late 80's when my interest in them started to get more serious. I concentrated more on breeding instead of taxonomy, and started to deal in spiders. I stopped dealing (buying and selling) because I soon found that, no matter how trustworthy the people selling me the spiders were, their identifications were wrong and I did not want to see myself in the position of ripping people off by selling them misidentified specimens. I now only sell what I have bred or specimens that I know 100% are correctly identified—such as Xenesthis immanis.
Recently though, with the collecting in Panama and me moving here, I have started to work more taxonomically taking guidance from people such as Andy Smith, Richard Gallon, Søren Rafn, Volker von Wirth, etc. so that the job is done properly.
My favorite group is the Avicularia—not Poecilotheria as many people say—and I consider myself very fortunate to have seen the specimens from the Linnaean collection—a great introduction to taxonomy.