A 1950s/60s dealer in reptiles: W. de Rover of the Netherlands and his U.K. agent, G.A. Izzard

Apart from Robert Jackson, George Boyce and Palmers there was another dealer in reptiles and amphibians operating in Britain from the mid-1950s. This one was different, he was Dutch and using an agent in Britain to collect orders and transfer money to the Netherlands (not an easy task in the 1950s). He was W. de Rover and based at the time of the early advertisements in Wageningen.

The first British agent was Geoffrey Aldred Izzard (1917-2002). I know very little about him except he was known to attend meetings of the British Herpetological Society in the 1950s. I found a reference to him in the prewar pages of Water Life magazine; he bought some of the offspring from the albino frog found in Walthamstow—the Walthamstow Wonder. He does appear in Google searches as one of the founders of the National Fancy Rat Society in the mid-1970s. He had kept rats to feed to his snakes and was attracted by their different colours and intelligence.

Mr Izzard had advertised reptiles and amphibians for sale in the weekly Cage Birds in the early 1950s under his own name:

Cage Birds 3 December 1953

Cage Birds 3 December 1953

A similar advertisement appears in Water Life magazine (April-May 1954) with the interesting addition: ‘Various Mediterranean species expected shortly from special collecting trip of Erich Sochurek, Vienna’. Erich Sochurek (1923-1987) was a herpetologist and animal dealer. The viper Echis sochureki is named after him.

This is an advertisement from the Aquarist, September 1957 when Izzard was clearly the U.K. agent for De Rover.:

Izzard Aq September 1957

Alan Cooke of Andover, Hampshire then became de Rover’s (then for a while based in France) agent (Aquarist, September 1964):

Izzard Sept 64 Aqu

…and I think finally a Mr Ward of West Bridgford, Nottingham.

I have been able to find very little about W. de Rover; a Dutch amateur herpetologist recalls cycling to his premises, then in Ermelo (by about 1968 after being located in France). Dealing with him was quite an experience. He sent, directly from the Netherlands, a very long list each year suggesting which species he hoped to have available. Then every few weeks, possibly monthly, an actual stock list would arrive. The problem seemed to be that although an animal may have appeared on the list, his stock might consist only of one, and he attempted to substitute a similar species, or maybe just another lizard, or frog. After the order and postal order or cheque were sent to the agent, the postman would appear to deliver a package directly from de Rover. Yes, through the post, which I think was unlawful even then. The box was in the case of two deliveries I had from him either a cardboard cigar box or a small wooden cigar box. The first contained a lizard, Acanthodactylus erythrurus; it was so dehydrated and emaciated that it died within a day. I was less than pleased. A year or so later, I tried again; this time a young female Common Basilisk (Basiliscus basiliscus) arrived in the small wooden cigar box. It too was dehydrated and thin but soon perked up. The late Bob Davies told me he had similar experiences in buying from de Rover in the 1950s.

Modified 3 March 2017

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