|Joe Laszlo was a big man in modern herpetoculture,
figuratively and literally! He emigrated from Hungary back when the Soviet tanks were invading his home
country nearly a half century ago. Joe worked at various jobs at wildlife dealers and
displays in Florida while perfecting his English. A zookeeper job
in Houston, Texas is where he was able to finally concentrate on his true calling -- breeding
A move over to San Antonio, Texas came in the mid-1970s to assume the curator of reptiles position at the zoo. Here he finally had the resources to expand his knack for persuading herps to breed. Joe's efforts involving determining the sexes of snakes, and using seasonal cooling and manipulation of photoperiod to induce herps to breed successfully in captivity, were among his best known contributions to the herp world.
Joe was a frequent speaker at International Herpetological Symposia where his thick accent, overflowing enthusiasm, flamboyant personality, and general stand-out presence made him an instant memory in the minds of all who met him. His significant contributions to the emerging art of herpetoculture fueled every aspect of its growth as thousands of zoo people and private collectors used the knowledge he conveyed to help bring success to their own projects. Joe was always ready to talk to any serious herpers, regardless of their age or pre-established stature in the field. He unselfishly shared every shred of knowledge to further advance herpetoculture at every level.
This image is circa November 1977 one night in the San Antonio Zoo reptile building as Joe was making a special check of his animals after hours. The snake on the hook is Vipera mauritanica deserti (as it was known taxonomically then), one of Joe's favorite 'veepers'. Photo by Bill Love.