Press Release Spring 2006 |



PRESS RELEASE for Dangerous Spiders Public Awareness Project 2006


Katoomba Rotarian/spider authority Rex Gilroy with two preserved spider specimens.
Katoomba Rotarian/spider authority Rex Gilroy
with two preserved spider specimens.
Photo copyright © Rex Gilroy 2006

Katoomba Rotary’s “Dangerous Spiders Public Awareness” Project

A Rotary Life - Saving Project with a Difference!

For some years Katoomba-based Entomologist/Naturalist Rex Gilroy, had observed with concern the repeatedly high incidence of people being treated at hospitals throughout Australia for bites from Funnel Web, Red Back, Eastern Mouse, White-tail and other dangerous and not-so-dangerous spider species.

Often he observed that the victims had been bitten through not following sensible precautions while gardening and doing other work around the yard. Also, he became alarmed at the lack of knowledge, both of the general public and also many medical staff at hospitals in the identifying of the various spider species. There were cases of bite victims having been treated for Funnel Web bite by staff who mistook the spider brought to the hospital for a Funnel Web when it was actually a Trap door, or even a Garden Wolf spider!

Every summer spider bite victims, many of whom are children, are treated at hospitals when a basic knowledge of spiders and their habits could have avoided hospitalisation. When Rex, together with his wife and fellow researcher, Heather [a registered nurse by profession] became members of Katoomba Rotary club in February 2005, they decided to do something about the problem.

Rotarian Rex had for a long time envisioned a nation-wide public education program. This resulted in him organising [with the assistance of Heather and Rotarian Michelle Fisher] the Rotary club of Katoomba “Dangerous spiders Public Awareness”, which the Club is operating.

As part of the project, the Club offers a fully-illustrated booklet containing photographs of all the major spider and scorpion species met with around the home, with their individual life-histories and habits, and advice to parents of young children on how to avoid being bitten. There is advice on how to prevent spiders from entering homes as well as other information, including an illustrated step-by-step first-aid procedure for spider-bite [ie the pressure-immobilisation technique, which is the same as for snake-bite].

As first-aid varies for certain species [ie the Red Back, White-tail etc] this also is included.

The booklet, which is the work of Rex and Heather, is currently being advertised in press releases around Australia and offered to the public in return for a donation to cover postage, and any excess moneys raised from postage donation goes to the Clubs charities. As a result of the many press articles on the project being sent Australia-wide by the Gilroys, the Club is being continually inundated with requests for the booklet.

The Club also operates a 24 hour “Dangerous Spiders Hotline”, Phone 02 4782 3441, where concerned home owners can obtain advice on any problems they may have around the home from Rex and Heather.

Rotarian Rex, who happens to have the largest privately owned natural science collection in Australia, includes a big spider collection which he is placing at the service of the Club, as a travelling display for school or hospital fetes etc. as part of the Club’s public education drive. The Gilroys are also available for talks on the project.

“Our project has already been instrumental in saving the lives of at least twelve Funnel Web spider bite victims [mostly children] around the country, and it was through my efforts that the anti-venom for Funnel Web Spider bite was made available to Blue Mountains District Anzac Memorial Hospital back in 1980, shortly after its development.

Prior to that, bite victims had to be transported by road ambulance to Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital for treatment, which was a dangerous, time-consuming process. This was especially so because the venom of the local species, the “Blue Mountains Funnel Web” Hadronyche versuta, is several time more toxic than any other Australian Funnel Web species, capable of killing a child within two hours and an adult within twelve hours without immediate first-aid being administered.

I am pleased to say that, since then many local bite victims have been successfully treated at Katoomba Hospital”, he said.

Funel Web Spider Rex Back Spider Eastern Mouse Spider White Tail Spider
Funnel Web Spider
Red Back Spider Eastern Mouse Spider White Tail Spider

Apart from his nation-wide press releases, Rex has been interviewed by radio stations on the project, all of which, he believes, demonstrates yet again how Rotary Clubs International serve their communities and their nation as a whole in a variety of ways.

Club President, Kevin Lawrenson says “Katoomba Rotary is honoured to be involved in such a worthwhile project”, while District governor Harley Tarrant [District 9690] agrees with the club members that, quote “It is a project that is badly needed in the community. It is doing much to put Rotary before the public eye and raise its profile in the community.

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