4 November 2011

The return of the spiders

Please be warned, I have included photographs of spiders in this blog post ...

We had torrential rain here in Tunis last Sunday and there was sporadic flooding throughout the city when the volume of rainwater was too much for the storm water drains to handle and the roads resembled rivers.  As always, every autumn in the days following the first deluge of rain fiercesome looking spiders leave their burrows.  I have since learnt that these are adult males who are looking for mates. If one is observant, it is possible to see them walking in the streets.  In our previous accommodation I actually found these spiders in our basement and in our garden but luckily I have not come across them in our new accommodation.  However, I did see one such spider walking in the street today, so I took its photograph. 

If you look back on an earlier blog post I did, I actually got in touch with two arachnologists and I was told by them that identification from a photograph was not always accurate and that I ought to send them specimens dead or alive so that they could be correctly identified.  However, to date, I have not done this as I am afraid that I may be breaching the regulations of CITES, (Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). On the CITES website it says that "persons illegally importing or exporting wildlife specimens may be prosecuted". I did not wish to break any laws in my desire to have the spiders which used to live in the basement of our previous house identified so I disposed of them before we moved house. As I could not be sure that the spider specimens which I had collected from our basement were not in fact indangered species.

Apart from that, its interesting because I used to have a terrible phobia when it came to spiders.  I could not even look at a photograph in a newspaper or a magazine or watch a nature programme on television if spiders were the subject matter.  Whereas I can now say that I am practically cured of my phobia through regular encounter and exposure to spiders which I had to endure in our previous house. The spiders used to live in our basement and much to my horror I had to have daily encounters with them when I went to use the washing machine or adjust the central heating or check if the laundry was dry.  Little did I know that this regular exposure would actually be beneficial in helping me to come to terms with my phobia. 

As well, I wanted to find out about these spiders which were living in our house.  I wanted to try and have them identified and to learn if they were poisonous or not.  This led me to contact the British Tarantula Society in the first instance as they were wrongly identified here in Tunis by the Department of Entomology as tarantulas.  Then when I was informed that they were not tarantulas I carried out research on the internet and contacted many other academics with an interest in arachnids.  Soon my unfounded fear and phobia of spiders turned into a curious fascination and a respect towards spiders.  I feel spiders are much maligned and detested for all the wrong reasons.  Just because they are not cuddly like cats and dogs it does not mean that we have to kill them.  They have as much right to live on this planet as we do.

Here are two photographs of the same spider taken from different angles.

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