Personalities- Russ Gurley

Apr 14, 2013
The Reptile Report
by Robyn

The Reptile Report - Personalities- A Media Resource

Russ Gurley was a founding member of the American Federation of Herpetoculturists in the 1980s and served as a creative force behind The Vivarium magazine for several years. He has produced many books and articles relating to the captive care of reptiles, including geckos and other lizards, snakes, and more recently aquatic turtles and tortoises. These articles have appeared in journals such as Reptiles, Reptilia, MANOURIA, The Batagur, and on various websites.

Russ has a BFA in painting and illustration and minored in Zoology at Oklahoma State University and received his teaching credentials at East Central University. He has been a sculptor and illustrator, book layout designer, and he gets to paint in his limited free time. In addition to some of his paintings, Russ donates a handmade “action figure” sculpture each year at the auction at the fall Tinley Park NARBC show and these one-of-a-kind figures have raised more than $15,000 for USARK and PIJAC over the last ten years. (Russ donated one set of figures, depicting Chad Brown and Robyn Markland, to raise money for Pro Exotics after their devastating fire.) Russ was an educator for seven years and was awarded Teacher of the Year honors twice and runner-up Teacher of the Year once.

Russ’s first turtle-related book, The African Spurred Tortoise, Geochelone sulcata, in Captivity, was published in 2002 and has sold over 25,000 copies. He has authored a number of other popular books including A Color Guide to Tarantulas of the World I, A Color Guide to Tarantulas of the World II, Tarantulas and Scorpions in Captivity, Keeping and Breeding Freshwater Turtles, Baby Turtles, SULCATAS: Spurred Tortoises in Captivity, Turtles in Captivity, LIZARD MAN: The Life and Adventures of Bert Langerwerf (with Bert), and he currently has a few other books in the works.

Russ is the Director of the Turtle and Tortoise Preservation Group, an organization that promotes the captive breeding of rare turtles and tortoises and spreads the most recent information relating to the keeping and breeding of captive turtles and tortoises through The Batagur magazine, articles, books, conferences and workshops, and through their website ( Russ and his TTPG members host the TTPG Conference on Captive Care and Breeding in Arizona each year in November.

Russ is also the owner of LIVING ART publishing ( This company publishes herpetoculture-related books and has received numerous accolades recently for its Turtles of the World Series. This series of intensely focused books will eventually cover most species of turtles and tortoises on the planet and Russ currently has turtle and tortoise experts worldwide working on manuscripts. The first of the series are Leopard Tortoises: The Natural History, Captive Care, and Breeding of Stigmochelys pardalis by Richard Fife and Jerry Fife and Star Tortoises: The Natural History, Captive Care, and Breeding of Geochelone elegans and Geochelone platynota by Jerry Fife. Matamatas: The Natural History, Captive Care, and Breeding of Chelus fimbriatus by David Fogel, Redfoots and Yellowfoots: The Natural History, Captive Care, and Breeding of Chelonoidis carbonaria and Chelonoidis denticulata by Amanda Ebenhack, and the upcoming Mediterranean Tortoises: The Natural History, Captive Care, and Breeding of Testudo species by Jerry Fife.

Russ maintains a large collection of turtles and tortoises and has a variety of unusual snake and lizard projects. He enjoys working with Pyxis species, Testudo species, and a number of aquatic and semi-aquatic species. Russ was the first in the US to breed the Flat-tailed tortoise, Pyxis planicauda, and the Toad-headed turtle, Phrynops tuberculatus. He also likes Cordylus species, Egernia species, and Blue tegus, among others. Russ and his wife, Fionnuala, have two daughters.

Russ is available to contribute in these areas:

  • television/video- no
  • radio- no
  • photography- yes
  • video production- no
  • consulting- yes
  • interviews- no
  • referrals- no
  • quotes- yes
  • writing- yes
  • hosting- no
  • organization- no
  • breeding/husbandry info- yes
  • natural habitat info- no
  • research- no

Russ can be reached at and through

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  • Freedom Breeder CocoBlox