A Slice of Life

Anything is possible with self-belief, love and passion.

Some of you may know that l have a few passions in life – of course, some of you may not, but l do. I don’t have as many desires now in my later fifties as l did when l was in my teenage years, but that is the way of life itself l have found. We grow both into and out of enthusiasms as we age.

As a youngster, l was curious and into all sorts of things from critters and creepy crawlies to yo-yos and comics, soldiers and history, writing and reading, drawing and painting, and the list of activities and hobbies went on and on. I was always fascinated with one thing or another.

Of all of my hobbies and interests from when l was young, a few have survived throughout the decades and become not just interests but careers and money-making ventures. NOT all, of course, but many, especially those that have been involved with animals and the such.

I ran a business working with animals for many years. From 1994 – 2010 l ran a company called first Piediper’s Ark which then changed later on to be called TSKA. Before it launched as a business in late 1994, it started out as a hobby in late 1993. It all began with a pair of gerbils l saw when l was dating my girlfriend at the time but who would soon become my wife. I was captivated by the species – Mongolian Gerbils.

So much so that l got my own pair – a male and a female – and began the breeding process. In 2005, l stopped the Gerbil breeding programme, and at that point, l had only 300 breeding pairs left, and l had been running them down as an operation. But at my height, l was known as one of the leading experts on commercial gerbil colour breeding in the UK. I held that title between the years of 1997 – 2002. At the time, l was running 5000 breeding pairs, and l had taken the colourings and markings from practically non-existent to commercially diverse.

In layman terms, when l first started breeding with gerbils, the colours available were black, pink-eyed white, natural agouti and argente. At that time, you would be fortunate indeed if you had a marked gerbil as in – a spot or a pied. Because they simply weren’t readily available to non-collectors and enthusiasts. Through dedication and passion, l took those four primary colours and created a further 25 new colourations, including Siamese strains and dark pointed Himalayans.

Additionally, l produced some genuinely remarkable marked varieties – like pieds, double spot, splash pieds and two toned markings. More importantly though, l made these colours available to the pet market, something which had never really been concentrated upon previously by livestock breeders or hobbyists.

I proved that anything was possible when you believed you could do something.

Forgive the image quality, but these are very old photos taken twenty odd years ago on a cheap camera to give you an idea of the colours and marking l managed to create.

When l ran my commercial livestock operation, l bred many different animals for the pet companionship market and supplied a total of 45 superstore pet stores throughout the UK between 1995 – 2001. l also during 2001 stopped providing direct to the stores but delivered directly to livestock brokers as it was more ecconomical to do so.

l had several main breeding operations with Mongolian Gerbils, Syrian Hamsters, Mice, Rats, Dwarf Hamsters – Chinese and Roborovski, Rabbits, Guinea Pigs and Chinchillas and Siberian Chipmunks. These species were known as the top ten domestic household pets.

I changed direction in 2002, sold off the bulk of my livestock operation – although l kept back 300 breeding pairs of gerbils which l sold privately to hobbyists and collectors only.

Then l moved into the more exotic animal species. Although l started with exotic rodents species like degus, jirds, jerboas, different rat, mouse, hamster, and gerbil species, l made a good income. Then my client base wanted more exotic species and more significant than the average rodent. From 2003 onwards, l started to supply much larger species.

I changed the business name from Piediper’s Ark to TSKA – The Specialist Keeper’s Association. I no longer supplied the household and domestic pet market, but my new client base was found in the private animal keeper’s market.

Whilst l still supplied clients with smaller exotic rodent species, l had progressed upwards to coatimundis, meerkats, prairie dogs, kinkajous, raccoons, skunks, ferrets, squirrels species and many more.

My business continued to grow until l was known as a livestock broker in 2005 when l stopped working in a building and holding any livestock of my own and transferred my business to work from home only. The only animals l had then were my dogs and cats.

From 2005 l ran a very successful international brokerage business, however I closed the business in 2010 due to personal reasons and the recession, l was considered a livestock expert and had experience working with not only all the previous species mentioned but also primates, lions and tigers, cheetahs, leopards, camels and rhinos and even giraffes.

It never fails to impress me when l look back even today on all the species l have worked with. It all started principally with one pair of gerbils and their litter of newborn pups that my to be wife owned in 1993. By 2010 l had worked with well over 300 various species of animals. Although if being truthful, my passion with animals and critters began long before then ….

When l was younger, l was fascinated with Sharks. Although l was born in Britain, l spent my younger years in Australia and Malaysia and l didn’t actually return to the UK until l was 14 in 1977. My first encounter with sharks was when l was about 7. I remember being with my dad on a pier on some Australian beach somewhere near Melbourne, looking at a pair of sharks swimming below in the pier, and l remember thinking how much l loved their sleekness.

That passion has never left me and even with my brush of death or near to or not really. But when swimming off the beach in Seaford, where l lived when l was 11, a grey nurse shark nudged me when l was swimming and grazed my thigh. I was perhaps 200 feet off the beach. I have a small scar on my upper right thigh, but at the time, the grazing was quite extensive and drew blood. I had to come in because l was swimming off the pier, and the anglers yelled at me to return to the shore because they were shark fishing for “Whitey’s”.

But l love sharks, and the other day, l watched the final episode of “Shark With Steve Backshall”, which was a three-part documentary and decided that l wanted to write about some of my personal passions again. Next month a new series entitled ‘Shark Tails’ will launch.

This’ll not be a fiction series. More of a series about shark species themselves. There is also a good chance that Wildlife Stories will restart next year also.

My other passion is newish of sorts and then again not, and that is working with the worm farms and the occupants of the farms and the compost piles, but that has its own blog. 

The irony is not lost on me either, considering that my first ever love, and passion for creatures and critters is still with me today. Some of you may recall this post Farming Gone Wrong! 1973 

Who would know that l would renew my love and respect for critters beneath the beds nearly fifty years later?

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20 thoughts on “A Slice of Life

  1. Oh wow Rory! Your track record is so impressive. I know that you dealt with animals, but being an expert of great standing in whole of Uk is just so awesome. I’d love to read your stories.

  2. Gosh! What a career, Rory. My only experience of gerbils was looking after the ‘school’ gerbils during the Easter holidays when I was about eight. 🐭

    1. Hey Chris, yes Gerbils were a step up from the mice we had at school. My sister had a gerbil at home once as a pet named Jemima – evil thing it was – thank goodness her pet didn’t influence me 🙂

  3. Hey, Rory! I find it so interesting and inspiring, how you can delve into a topic or situation so deeply as to become an expert in the field. Remarkable, indeed! Thank you so much for sharing your fascinating experiences with us all. Wishing you a lovely weekend, Dear. 😊

  4. I don’t invite the local wildlife into the Casa, but I discovered a Praying Mantis hanging out yesterday. After taking her picture and eventually (it took a while cuz Zeus, my Velcro Dawg, was wanting to “assist”) getting her safely back outside onto a branch of the Pecan Tree, I looked back through photos for the image of another recent visit by a Mantis.
    Sure enough, it was the same Mantis. Same broken antenna and same markings on her back. Daughter and I decided if she come back in a third time she can stay😉😂

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