How did you become interested in Reptiles?
I went away to an English boarding school when I was 8 years old. It was a nerve racking and very sad experience for me leaving my family and not seeing my parents for a few months on end. After being there for about a year I heard rumours of harmless Grass Snakes being found within the school grounds on the golf course and soccer fields. One spring I saw a couple myself and I was fascinated! I was devastated to learn that the school groundsmen didn't feel the same way, instead, they would cut of the snakes head using a shovel. A few days before the school holidays I collected a few snakes and pleaded with my mum to let me bring them home for the holidays which she agreed to. This was the start of my reptilian adventures!
What is your favorite reptile?
I think it has to be the Blue Tree monitor, Varanus Macraei. These little guys have a special place in my heart as I was the first to discover them. Consequently, they were named after me.
As a kid, what memories do you have living in Borneo that have shaped who you are today - and because of them, what do you believe in these days?
I first went to Bali, Indonesia, in 1983 when I was 17 years old. At the time, I was schooling in Edinburgh, Scotland, and while making a trip to visit relatives in Australia, I found my way through Bali and fell in love with the place immediately. I realized right away, that Indonesia held a much more interesting future for me than Scotland. I have such fond memories of those early days in Bali - it was beautiful beyond belief—much different that the commercial hub it has become now.
Tell us something fun about your pre-teen years on the island, the jungle, and/or the ocean?
I was still in the UK and loved both the jungle & the ocean but the jungle captivated me the most. Likely because as a youngester, in the UK and Scotland, I would spent a lot of my free time wondering about the countryside hunting and fishing, I loved the wild and so you can imagine how it would feel to a youngester to be emerged in the jungle!
How about your teenage years, is there something that sticks for you?
The biggest thing that happened to me in my teenage years was my trip to Trinidad & Tobago. When I was 16 one of my school friends, Trinidad, invited me over for a month during a school holiday. By that time, I was fascinated with the jungle and reptiles and amphibians seemed so unusual and fascinating to me. I remember, practically everyday, I would spend in the jungle looking for exotic reptiles like geckos, Boas, Iguanas - even poison dart frogs & tarantulas, I collected them all—I was in heaven!
One day though I got dreadfully lost in the jungle and eventually ended up finding my way out by following a small river which luckily took me back to where my friends mum would pick me up. Being lost in the jungle was very worrying and I was a little scared at the time but I eventually made it out of the forest as it turned dark and missed my ride home by several hours. I knew that I had to walk back down the hill to get home. I was a little concerned as I had heard many stories about the Rastafarian communities that lived in the neighbourhood. I was even warned by my friends’ parents to never speak to any Rastas while I was in Trinidad.
I started my walk back home and after a little while I heard a rhythmic beating of drums and chanting in the distance. It got louder and louder the further down the hill I got, until I was standing on the opposite side of the road to a Rastafarian community. There was a group of dreadlocked people sitting playing the drums with loads of other dreadlock folks gather around. It was quite a sight! They saw me and started to shout at me from the other side of the road,"Hey bwoy, where you a go this time in the night?” “Come man, come over here and sit down with us!”
I remember having a mixed feeling of emotions overwhelming me, mixed between fear (as I had heard so many bad things about the Rastas) and excitement, as something seemed very appealing to me about them, it was like they had a special presence about them). I didn't want to be disrespectful to them, so I crossed the road and went over to say 'hello'. Contrary to everything that I had been told, this group of people were so warm, nice and amazing hospitality. They asked me why I was on the road and I told them what I had been doing and how I got lost. They feed me (one guy even climbed an Avocado tree and gave me some beautiful Avocados). I ended up hanging out with the group for a little while and then one of the elders asked someone to walk me home and he walked me all the way down the hill to my friends’ houses at the bottom. This whole experienced touched my heart and from that day on I made a vow to myself to learn more about these wonderful and curious 'dreadlocked Rasta people'. My friends’ mother was furious with me for talking to them and accepting food from them—I was grounded for the rest of the week!
When I left Trinidad to go back to the UK I remember feeling very emotional at the airport when I was leaving Trinidad but more specifically the Rastafari who had touched my heart deeply. When I got home, I dove straight away into research the Rastafari, which I completely embraced and still continue to this day as a Rastafarian—Jah Rastafari!
Absolutely! I still remember it very clearly. The thing was that when I first found Kratom growing in Borneo there was almost zero references to it on the internet back then. That was in 1999, or 2000. There simply wasn’t the vast amounts of data on the net like we have today, in fact, little-to-nothing on Kratom. I remember some very interesting times when we started to experiment with the leaves. We would send kilos & kilos to Bali where I was living at the time and just experiment with them learning how they might be beneficial as a health supplement. We had no idea of a 'dose' or serving size, but knew without doubt, that this strange little tree was absolutely amazing. Early on, I remember very clearly explaining to my friends that Kratom is going to be big! A the time, I had a strong feeling that I was blessed in finding this sacred tree and immediately started to send out free samples to some of the ethnobotanical vendors in the US, Canada & Europe. I was certain that this was all going to snowball some day in the future.
Regardless of what your dreams are in life, you have to start with believing in yourself.
I raised the money that I used to start my own Reptile breeding farm, by casting and selling jewelry, after a lot of hard work I was able to invest the money into the reptile farm and then eventually into the Bali Reptile Park which is still going strong today.
Photo credit: Bali Reptile Park
Visit their website here: https://balireptilepark.id
One of my biggest risks was when I applied to become the sole importer and distributor for Husqvarna Motorcycles for all of Indonesia as the Husqvarna brand was not really a well-known brand amongst the younger people in Indonesia and only the old school motocross people knew of the brand and its history. It was difficult but we managed to launch the brand well and even got a prize one year from the factory as we managed to sell so many units in a year! It also paid off as I then got offered to become the importer and sole distributor for BMW Motarrad (BMW then owned Husqvarna) and then later on KTM and it ended up as a great chapter in my book where I made money from my hobby just like what I did with the reptiles.
Today, how do you feel about Kratom and on into the future - are we just at the tip of the iceberg.
Yes, absolutely we are definitely just at the tip of the iceberg!! We are at a point in the history of Kratom use worldwide where the industry is really only just starting to produce “Finished Products”. By that I mean that the majority of Kratom over the last 20 years has just been sold as plain powdered leaf and not as a finished product like most other consumable foods or medicines. Today we are thankfully seeing more & more different finished Kratom products coming onto the market and due to its rather bitter taste and its inability to dissolve in water these products make the whole experience much more enjoyable and also self-regulated as these products to not have the wide variation of quality that we see in leaf powder. With the finished and processed product, it is possible to completely control all the quality parameters that are almost impossible to control in plain leaf powder.
A consistent amount of the active ingredients time and time again. A guarantee for no bad E. collie or salmonella bacteria and no artificially raised levels of 7-Hydroxymitragynine which only occurs in dry leaf and not in fresh leaf.Also for the medicinal market there has been a huge amount of research done in the last few years (Which wouldn’t have happened if the DEA had gone ahead and scheduled Kratom in 2016 like they proposed). There are even a few biotech companies with whom we are working with who are planning on bringing a kratom based drug onto the market with full FDA approval in the near future. This year they are working on human trials and everything is looking very promising for the future.
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Do you feel that Kratom has been on a down-hilltrajectory after the market started to explode withopportunist looking for a quick buck?
Yes, that is very true and on both sides of the pond. I managed to keep Kratom “secret” in Borneo for many years, I think until about 2006 or 2007. I would tell everyone in Borneo that we were collecting these leaves for a component to be used in a horse veterinary medicine!! I told everyone that it was dangerous for people to consume and that they should make sure that they always washed their hands after working with Kratom!! It worked for sure for quite a few years!! Eventually the cat got out of the bag and both the Indonesian & US vendors started to multiply very quickly on both sides of the pond!! The down-hill trajectory of the market started to explode and along with that came all the problems with the FDA & Salmonella and recently even excess heavy metals in contaminated material. The price also plummeted like a stone and by 2010 I started to get out of the leaf powder business and went to China to try and produce a quality extract. We then came out with the industries first commercial Kratom extract which we wrongly names “15X Kratom Extract” because we used 15kgs of plain leaf powder to produce 1kg of the new extract. We know now that this is not the correct way of naming the extract which should be named by the amount of active ingredients in the product. A few years later we moved to India and completely designed and build our own lab and Kratom extraction factory. We are still there today and offer the industry a complete range of affordable extracts and isolates with impeccable purity and quality.
My advice for young vendors today who are getting into the industry is to create an eye-catching brand with a good image. Adhere to the guidelines that have already been laid out by the American Kratom Association and stay well away from making any medicinal claims as the fight with the FDA is still not over. Spend more time in designing an innovative finished product that is clean, safe & consistent for the market. The days of making a “quick buck” from Kratom are definitely over and the industry is now on its mainstream journey heading into the future so let’s do it right and the profits will be restored again!
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For the first time in 20 years, we;’re opening our marketing to individuals consumers—which might (or could) be a concern tovendors (since we’re offereing the same products that they are——but, to be clcear, it’s a advantage to our vendors on many levels - we’re offerening “Partnership Programs” where we support our vendors (Teirs 3 adn above) through marketing, our website, online vendor search tools (first in teh industry to allow consumer to search lfor vendors in their local area (wordl0wide) and if a consumer comes to us , we’ll push thoat consumer and saels on out to our vendors . So in a sencse, yes, we will dells to consmujers, --but through our partners. Not onluy will the vendor benifit by providing safe proudcts , but they’ll also have our promise on always providing the freshest kratom on the market.
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First and foremost, as a Vendor for Kratom.com you're considered a partner—there is a difference. At level Tier—3, you've become part of the Kratom.com family, which means, your success if our success. It's like owning a franchise without the initial outlay of cash to become licensed. Our brand is your brand—we share the same desire for success that you do. As a Preferred Vendor-Partner, you be the first to learn about our newest innovations, special discounts and first crack at our freshest products—straight off the land! Also, you'll have the opportunity to make world-wide industry connections, enroll in our Vendor of the month press-release, receive a spot on our Vendor Locator map and finally—all the support you'll ever need to grow your company into a superstar—We'll be there every step of the way. At the end of the day, you'll be working with the same tools that we are from marketing materials (partners will have password protected access to online assets that can be downloaded and printed at your disposal), one-on-one consultations and much more!
Africa is a very special project of mine especially given my Rastafarian faith. Politically it is also a very special project as since 2018 the Indonesian government has also seriously considered banning Kratom and placing it on the countries schedule I list of prohibited dangerous drugs alongside Crack Cocaine and heroin!! If this ever happened, then there would a big break in the supply chain for Kratom to get to the US & Europe. This was such a big concern that we even helped the AKA to bring a delegation along with one of the worlds most respected Kratom scientists to Jakarta to make a presentation for the health minister and the director of the narcotics control board so that they would reconsider their decision.
This was luckily successful, and they agreed to postpone any decisions until at least 2022 next year. Regardless of that, there is still the overwhelming and tentative threat that the Indonesian government may one day decide to prohibit & criminalize Kratom. With our project in Africa we can at least be sure that the supply chain is safe and secure for the future. We have currently got over 1.3 million Kratom trees growing very well in Africa!! Not only that but the trees have taken to the African continent even better than what we had expected and at only about 7 or 8 months old they are already producing 1.3% or more Mitragynine which is very very rarely seen in Borneo. We can expect to see some interesting things come out from Africa in the future…More here
Who’s your favorite Childhood hero and why?
For my early childhood I think Bobby Moore was my first hero, he was a professional footballer for West Ham United for more than 10 years and the captain of the England team that won the 1966 Fifa Cup!
In my teens and up until today my heroes have to be Bob Marley & Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia.
The Italian Job
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Favorite Music or Songs:
Bob Marley & the Wallers—War
Bob Marley & the Wallers—Redemption Song
Pink Floyd—Another Brick in the Wal
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