Editor’s Choice: 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award – Philippe de Vosjoli

Feb 22, 2016
The Reptile Report
by Judy Clothier

The Reptile Report - It’s my honor and pleasure to announce the winners in our special 2015 Editor’s Choice categories. More special categories winners will come on Wednesday, Feb 24th, and all the primary category winners for Editor’s Choice will be announced on Thursday, Feb 25th. Reader’s Choice winners are coming on Monday, Feb 29th, so hold on to your seats for more exciting news coming soon!

Our 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Philippe de Vosjoli, in recognition of the powerful impact he’s had on the herping community we know today.  It would not be an exaggeration to say that Philippe is the “Father of Herpetoculture.” Please continue reading to get an insightful look at Philippe through the eyes of those that know and love him.


In 1986, after graduating from Oklahoma State University with a BFA in graphic design and painting, I decided to move to San Diego. After settling in, I attended a San Diego Herpetological Society meeting and, by a wonderful twist of fate, met Philippe de Vosjoli and a handful of other herpers who helped set me on the path to where I am today. I already had a few snakes and lizards as pets but after spending time with Philippe, my eyes were opened to the possibilities of keeping herps in naturalistic setups that greatly enhanced their lives and my enjoyment of them.

In 1987, Philippe, Vince, Gary Sipperly, Peter Yingling, Dorothy DeLisle, Jeff Noonan, and I formed the American Federation of Herpetoculturists, a term coined by Philippe. We met every couple of weeks and discussed exciting new developments in herpetoculture, successes and failures with our animals, and within a short time, we began formulating the production of a full color magazine devoted to keeping and breeding reptiles. I am happy to say that with lots of hard work and late hours, we created and designed Philippe’s “brainchild,” the first issues of THE VIVARIUM. Around this time, Philippe began writing his Herp Library Series, a set of small information-filled books that would transform herpetoculture in the United States and that would inspire a generation of keepers.

Over the last thirty years, Philippe has continued to encourage herpers of all ages with his inspiring work with many different species; including frogs, salamanders and newts, puff-faced watersnakes, giant freshwater crayfish, rare geckos, and dozens of other unique projects. His work with Rhacodactylus, and especially his re-discovery of C. ciliatus (crested geckos), has been instrumental in saving these rare geckos for the hobby of herpetoculture. His recent books about these amazing lizards and their lives in nature, care in captivity, and captive reproduction will no doubt motivate generations of reptile keepers to come. Philippe and I have remained close friends, working on book projects, talking about succulent plants and unusual reptiles, and bouncing ideas about herpetoculture back and forth. I am so happy that THE REPTILE REPORT has presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award. As the founder of the United States herpetoculture movement, he is very deserving and I know he will not only appreciate the honor, but will also keep improving and enriching this unique hobby we share.

— Russ Gurley
Turtle & Tortoise Preservation Group

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I remember first meeting Philippe, as he was a friend of Chris Estep who owned Reptile Haven in Escondido, California which was one of the country’s first TRUE Reptile Stores. I literally was a store groupy and just hung out there whenever I wasn’t doing Marine Corps stuff. Philippe would bring in captive born frogs and chameleons he produced…back then all very uncommon occurrences.

He was the guy who wrote all the General Care and Maintenance books and the owner of the best herp magazine which was called The Vivarium. This guy was breeding reptiles when NOBODY really was. He had reptiles all set up in his greenhouse on his property and I looked at his life and I was just amazed by him. I always wanted to keep stuff that I caught in local creeks back home when I was a kid and this guy was an adult and was truly doing it and doing it to make a living…something I thought impossible. I was pretty much in awe of him.

I was just a 19 year old Marine unsure of my future until seeing what he was doing. That’s where my plan started to come together. I was going to open my own store and breed reptiles like he was. I truly look at him as one of the most influential people in my life and he probably has no idea what he did for me…much like so many in this industry have no idea what he did for THEM. Philippe was always light years ahead of everyone in his ideas. He truly was one of the first and will always be one of the best. I am so happy to hear that the industry is recognizing him for all he has done for us.

— Brian Potter
Chicago Reptile House / Chicago Fish & Coral Company


If I was going to use one word to summarize Philippe De Vosjoli, it would be “giving.” Everyone knows what Philippe has given the reptile industry as far as husbandry research and fighting to keep the industry legal and appreciated. On a personal level, he is always available even though he is such a busy man. I can think of no other friend who never says “No,” even at great sacrifice.

He sees boundless value in talking to the younger generation with no benefit to himself. He values what nature can bring to a young mind. The world needs far more people with Philippe’s mindset, “giving and sharing.” That said, give his telephone a break. He needs to relax and enjoy peace and self-time.

Very privileged to consider myself a friend of such a kind human over the last 30 years.

— Chris Estep
Toucan Jungle

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In my view, the most important thing to offer when involved with animals is a collaborative, inclusive discussion of new ideas for husbandry, breeding methods, and any other types of ideas we can offer to increase knowledge of the animals we care for and choose to have in our lives.

Since the early 1970s, Philippe De Vosjoli has been at the forefront of education, husbandry and new ideas. Philippe has been a leader in providing husbandry by collaborating with leading scientists, zoos and their directors and keepers, and private sectors, pooling information from all sources to make the best information available so we can better take care of the animals we have today.

Reptile husbandry has come a long way since the 1960s. It has made huge strides since the 1980s, and again grown by leaps and bounds in the 21st century. Providing this information and being a vehicle for education is what Philippe De Vosjoli has done.

In recognizing the growth of knowledge made in such a short period of time, it would be absurd not to recognize one of the most forefront vehicles that has made that possible. Through the publication of Vivarium magazine, the publications of Advanced Vivarium Systems and the Herpetocultural Library, not to mention independent publications and articles as well, Philippe has certainly made a profound impact on the herpetocultural environment we have today. He did, in fact create that name, wanting to make Herpetology more than just the study of reptiles. He coined the word “herpetoculture” to be the inclusive hobby that it is today. It is not just a hobby, it is a way of life.

Thank you Philippe.

— Chris Roscher
Sunland Breeders

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It has been my good fortune to have known Philippe for 30 years. I’ve always been impressed with his vast knowledge of natural history; not just of herpetology, but all facets of the natural world. He also has a keen interest in various philosophical pursuits.

What stands out about him in our community is his willingness and ability to pass on his knowledge to the rest of us. It was his energy that brought Vivarium Magazine and the AFH (American Federation of Herpetoculturists) into being in 1987. Even though those entities are no longer with us, they were both cutting edge at the time. The Vivarium was the first quality magazine devoted to reptiles and amphibians, and the AFH was the first organization devoted to the field of herpetoculture.

Philippe is a prolific author and has written a multitude of articles and books, both fictional and nonfictional. He is also a well-known speak and has presented at conferences, symposia, and informal gatherings both nationally and internationally.

Again, perhaps, his main contribution to the herp world is his ability to pass on his knowledge and passion to others. I’ve heard it said many times that herpetoculture wouldn’t be the same without Philippe and I believe that to be true. I’ll add that knowing him has had the same positive affect on my own life.

— Bob Mailloux
Sandfire Dragon Ranch


I was fortunate enough to recently interview Philippe de Vosjoli for my show on the HerpNation Radio Network. It was a real honor to finally meet someone who has been such a big influence on my career in herpetoculture. We discussed his many contributions to the hobby, in particular, his pioneering role in helping to establish the clade of New Caledonian geckos in the hobby.

Follow this link to listen to the full interview.

Philippe’s work has always inspired me and continues to do so. His many published works, including the legendary Vivarium magazine are a true testament to the indelible mark he has left on our hobby and industry.

— Nick Mutton
Herp Nation Radio


As a young reptile hobbyist, I grew up on Philippe’s wonderful care books. They helped me, like many others at the time, succeed and advance the care and husbandry of captive reptiles. This was during a time that just keeping species alive in captivity was the main goal, and captive breeding was a fringe topic. His writing and ideas became the foundation of what our hobby is today.

It isn’t often that a person can say that one of their idols early in life, becomes their best friend later in life, and I feel very lucky to say that this has happened between Philippe and I. I liken it to a young musician who grows up with a favorite Band, and later in life, ends up being able to play in that Band. It’s a long story of how our paths became entwined, but our common interest in reptiles, plants, business, and the fact that we are nearly neighbors, has brought us together as friends and partners in many projects. He truly deserves this wonderful recognition and our hobby will forever be in debt for his past, present, and future contributions.

— Allen Repashy
Repashy Superfoods

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North American Reptile Breeders Conference