ROYJAN TAYLOR (10 February 1975 - 12 June 2019)
Royjan Taylor left us just 6 weeks ago. Even though he was only 44 years old, Royjan was a force of nature.
Everywhere he went he inspired people.
Many of you will have known Royjan, or heard of him. Some may not have, so please let me give you some background. Royjan was a personal friend of mine. A colleague and a probably the most honest, decent person I knew.
He was a loving husband to Clare and father to Eric and Joey. A skilled bushman and wildlife guide, keen photographer, fisherman, builder and businessman. Royjan was honest, forthright and had enormous integrity. He was a skilled and respected snake expert who learned from one of the best, the late James Ashe. Royjan's willingness to take on the responsibility of running the Bio-Ken Snake Farm in Watamu alongside Jim's widow Sanda is just one example of how he never let someone down, and never shied away from taking on new challenges.
With Sanda and others, Royjan established the James Ashe Antivenom Trust (JAAT) in order to make sure that impoverished local people who were often the victims of snakebites could have access to safe and effective antivenoms - at no cost.
Founded in 2004 was a 15 year labour of love for Royjan, Clare and Sanda. Run on donations and the generosity of a wide array of friends, family and even strangers, JAAT has saved hundreds of lives. After years of struggling to keep this vital service afloat, JAAT was soon to embark on a new, even more ambitious trajectory. Royjan planned to partner with scientists and doctors to make Bio-Ken a centre for research on snakebite in East Africa. He was hoping to expand the volume of antivenom distributed throughout Kenya, accelerate community education and health worker training activities and turn a situation that kills nearly 700 people a year in Kenya completely around.
A week into June, a minor infection made Royjan go to hospital for a blood test. Within days he was in intensive care fighting for his life against a truly horrific form of leukaemia. Even though he knew he was dying his biggest concern was the future of the antivenom trust and his projects to tackle snakebite head-on. He made people swear they would keep working to make his dream a reality.
And that is exactly what Clare, her team, and Royjan's friends and colleagues are determined to do. Within two weeks of his passing Clare was out delivering antivenom to treat snakebite victims. Friends and colleagues have joined forces to move ahead with Royjan's dreams and plans for JAAT and Bio-Ken, and already training of staff to facilitate new scientific research is being kicked off at ground level.
Royjan was one of us. He was a herpetologist, ecologist, toxinologist and at the end of day, a great big kid who loved wildlife, reptiles and snakes in particular, and saw a way to use his expertise to try and help people who otherwise would get no help at all.
Whether you are venom researcher, a medical doctor, businessperson, teacher, public health expert or just a person who likes reptiles and the great outdoors … I’d like to ask you to support this cause.
This cause is about saving people’s lives and giving them a chance at what we all hope for – a long and healthy life, even as Royjan’s has been cut short way too soon.
Follow the link above and give as little, or as much, as you can afford. Small regular donations would be really welcome because this won't be an overnight project. Raising the money will take time and effort. Royjan wanted no flowers or other tributes apart from support for the James Ashe Antivenom Trust and its continued work on behalf of Kenyan snakebite victims.
Thank you very much for taking time to consider this.
Dr David Williams
Head, Australian Venom Research Unit