The way passion arose within the best known Romanian herpetologist

Ion Fuhn

We all have a history of our passions which for most of us became real lifestyles or real jobs. Here is one of the most impressive initiatory stories written by the herpetologist Ion Eduard Fuhn (1916-1987) himself, in his well known work “Frogs, snakes and lizards” published in 1969.

Many years ago a high school student was dipping into a foreign magazine in the waiting room of a dentist. He had just installed an aquarium with exotic fish for himself and he had many questions about their way of life. In one of the magazines there was the review of a German publication on aquariums and terrariums (techniques of keeping frogs, snakes and lizards in captivity). He noted the name of the magazine and soon he became one of the readers of the respective magazine. One day he made an unusual observation on some of the fish and he sent it to the editorial office mail of the magazine.
When returning the answer, the person who signed the postal card with a small, difficult to read handwriting asked the new customer if he was familiar with tailed frogs or tritons. If the answer was to be affirmative, he also asked if he could acquire some species. The person who was asking about tritons was a prestigious world class scientist who was interested in the life of tailed frogs. The high school student at that time-the one who is writing about this now-didn’t know anything about tritons or the fame of doctor Wolterstorff of Magdeburg. But since the time I have received that letter until the death of the great naturalist, thousands of such postal cards written in ink with small characters were about to open my way to the fascinating world of crawling creatures of all kind. Afterwards I became a member of the amateur association “Salamander” and this was the way I began to change information with many amateurs and scientists from whom some became real teachers to me, guiding me from the simple joy of an amateur to the strictness of scientific research. One of them, Louis-Amedee Lentz, was a chemist engineer and an amateur naturalist in love with lizards. Each holiday he would wander about the Mediterranean shores in order to analyse the rich southern fauna made of frogs, lizards and snakes. There were many times when, with my hands trembling, I opened the little boxes sent by plane, directly from the terrain, in which, in small canvas sacks his gifts were moving: green Mediterranean lizards with spots which were blue as the sky, sand lizards, the strange Phylodactilus with catlike eyes.
Once, a triangular headed snake which began to aggressively whistle, easily came out of a sack. I threw the sack in horror and I jumped back a few steps until I realised it was the harmless water snake from southern France which was imitating a viper.
Lentz was preparing to exclusively concentrate on studying the lizards that he had gathered for many decades immediately after his retirement. Unfortunately he died before being able to fulfil his wishes.
The other one of my teachers was a world class scientist-professor Robert Martens from Frankfurt, a strict scientist and author of many works, restless traveller who crossed equatorial forests, breathed the air of the Cordillera, travelled the African savannas and the argentine pampas and went as far as the heart of Australia. However, he never lost contact with the man within himself who loved nature, the man that felt the same joy in front of living organisms as a spectator in front of the artistic creation…
Due to such teachers I got to love the world of crawling creatures, a rich world, full of surprises, created by active forces of evolution during the millennia. Nothing from this wonderful world can be understood by the man keeping its stick ready to hit in hatred and senselessly killing such creatures.
Since the first letter of the old scientist in Magdeburg up to this day I have wandered about the country searching for amphibians and reptiles. Reading the notes written in haste in my terrain notebooks I am starting to distinguish, in front of my eyes the sequences of some unforgettable happenings…