The Eric Worrell Archive

Eric Worrell, assisted by John McLoughlin, milks a coastal taipan. Photograph courtesy of John and Robyn Weigel, ARP.

Welcome to the Eric Worrell Archive

Eric Worrell (1924-1987) was widely known for establishing the Australian Reptile Park at Wyoming on the central coast of NSW, in 1959, and for the life-size replica of the Diplodocus dinosaur guarding the Park, which he had built in 1963. He was the ARP’s proprietor and director until the mid-1980s, when a combination of factors led to him relinquishing ownership. Today, the Australian Reptile Park continues to flourish, in a reimagined form, at Somersby, just off the F1 Motorway, still on the Central Coast.

Worrell built his reputation not only on being the director of the Reptile Park, but also his involvement in snake and funnel-web spider antivenom production. Venoms from a range of dangerously venomous snakes including the coastal taipan, mulga, tiger, death adder and brown snakes, as well as overseas species, and the Sydney funnel web spider, were supplied to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in Melbourne, for antivenom production. In addition, he provided venoms to scientists researching the properties of venoms around the world. Worrell aligned his personal identity closely to venom production and there are many published photographs of him milking a snake of some kind, more often than not, the tigersnake.

However, Worrell was also an energetic writer, and it is this aspect of his life’s work that the Eric Worrell Archive focuses on. In addition to the eleven books (mostly, but not always on aspects of reptiles), that he wrote between 1952 and 1976, Worrell wrote dozens of articles for popular magazines of the period including WILD LIFE, WALKABOUT, Outdoors and Fishing, Australian OUTDOORS, Sporting Life, Man, Man Junior, Modern Motor, Australian Country and People. Indeed, at the time of writing (April, 2023) I have located just over 100 articles he has written. Most of these were written under his own name but others were written under pseudonyms such as Sapengro, Eric Sapengro, Karliboodi, Belvedere or simply ‘Our Northern Correspondent.’ Some he wrote anonymously.

Worrell also wrote around 20 articles which were published in scientific journals such as the Proceedings of the Royal Zoological Society of NSW, Australian Zoologist and The Western Australian Naturalist. In addition, he co-founded and co-edited the short-lived periodical of the Gosford District Fauna and Flora Protection Society, CYCAD, with Ken Slater in 1960 and 1961, and he established the Australian Reptile Park Records in 1963. The latter was to operate as a vehicle for publishing new knowledge about reptiles based on the work of staff at the Reptile Park, but sadly, it too was short-lived, with only two issues published in 1963. 

The Eric Worrell Archive aims to act as a digital repository for all of Worrell’s writings that were published in article form, together with articles about Worrell. By doing so, it seeks to consolidate his body of work in the one place so that scholars and other people interested in his writing will be able to access his publications easily. The articles are organised in the decades in which they were published, beginning with the 1940s and ending in the 1970s/1980s. 

Where an article was already available in digital form, such as through the National Library’s online repository, Trove, or the Biodiversity Heritage Library, we have provided a direct link to those.

I have attempted to track down the copyright holders of all the remaining articles and single book chapter, but I have been largely unsuccessful, despite multiple searches, phone calls and emails. Copyright for many of Worrell’s publications has changed ownership up to three times in most instances. If you are a copyright holder for any of these works, please accept my apologies for not being able to contact you to seek permission, and please contact me so we can rectify this.

I am very grateful to the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, publisher of Wildlife in Australia, and the Zoological Society of London, Regents Park, London, publisher of the International Zoo Yearbook for permission to reproduce articles that appear in their publications. These represent Worrell’s final two publications.

And finally, THANK YOU first, to Assoc. Prof. Nancy Cushing, University of Newcastle, who helped me indulge my fascination with Eric Worrell by agreeing to join with me on the research journey that led to our book, Snake Bitten: Eric Worrell and the Australian Reptile Park, published in 2010 by UNSW Press;  John and Robyn Weigel for providing access to the archived files that contained typescripts of some of Worrell’s articles, permission to reproduce Australian Reptile Park Records and for use of some imagery; Richard Wells for sharing with me his unpublished Eric Worrell bibliography that he had compiled in the early 2000s (and which I only rediscovered in late 2022 while undertaking work to prepare this Archive); the people who provided me with copies of articles or other material such as photographs: Ros Runciman, Chris Williams, Maan Alkhateb, Jord Supple, the late Jack Green, Lyall Naylor and John Cann. Liam Terrell kindly created the histograms. The late John Dwyer shared many of his stories of his lifelong friendship with Eric Worrell over the years we were friends which helped me understand Worrell’s body of writing in the context of the man’s life. Thank you John Cann, Glenn Shea (University of Sydney) and Dane Trembath (Australian Museum) for resolving a bibliographic conundrum that had been eluding me for years. I also want to sincerely thank the friendly and helpful staff of the State Libraries of NSW and Queensland and the Gosford City Library as well as the interlibrary loan staff at Southern Cross University for providing access to journals. And last but not least, to Kate McGain, website designer and developer extraordinaire, thank you very much, for all your hard work and creative ideas that have turned my initial idea into a beautiful reality.  

I really hope that you find the Archive useful and interesting.

Kevin Markwell,
June 2023