Thursday, August 21, 2008
How to be Good Stewards of the Earth and Conservation-minded While Still Enjoying Herpetoculture
I gathered from our conversation that these were people who were probably not "mainstream" in the modern pet reptile industry. It just seemed that they would probably catch as many of whatever they could find on their property and sell them to anyone who would buy them...which is the way that most reptiles were bought and sold back in the early 1980's and previous to that. Now, I realize that there is still a market for wild-caught reptiles, but that market has changed drastically over the past 15 years. Nowadays, most people -- both buyers and sellers -- deal in captive-bred only.
I explained to these people that they would probably have more long-lasting success if they only sold young snakes that they had legally caught. There are many, many reasons for this:
- First, young snakes aren't as picky eaters and will eat feeder lab mice -- the adults often only eat K-Rats and Deer Mice and will die a long, slow, stressful, and cruel death in captivity if they never switch to lab rodents (many won't).
- Second, young snakes are much more adaptable to captive situations and stresses -- they're naive and haven't had to duke it out over territory or evade predation as long as adults have.
- Third, young wild snakes are usually scar- and blemish-free...older snakes often have the battle-wounds that go along with being a wild animal. And only adult subocs carry blood-sucking ticks on their bodies.
- Fourth, female snakes can and do store sperm from previous breedings and will often use those stores instead of the male they currently are breeding with. The surest way to know the genetics of your captive-bred suboc babies is to raise up young animals.
- Fifth, only a small percentage of young snakes survive to adulthood to reproduce. Large snakes have proven their fitness; they have won territories; they've evaded enough peccaries, owls, foxes, and other predators to stay alive for several years, AND they've proven that they can stay alive long enough to make MORE suboc babies...
- And this leads me to my sixth and final point -- and this is the biggy -- if you only take young snakes from the wild, the older established adults will still be around to provide you with MORE young snakes as long as they are alive.
I cringe somewhat when I see people selling literally bucketloads of every species of herp they can find near their home. To me this behavior smacks of prodigal wastefulness and disregard for conservation of wildlife. I believe that animals, plants, mountains, minerals, valleys, rivers, oceans, and all components that make up what we call nature were put on this earth to bring us joy and gladden our hearts -- not for our unfettered usage. I truly believe that to my very center. It would be a sad situation indeed if we continue to lose the many species that exist among us due to our own irresponsible wastefulness and greed.
Just as there are bag limits and other restrictions on the take of White-tailed Deer, there are bag limits and restrictions on the take of reptiles in most states. Please respect those laws and regulations. Just as you shouldn't shoot a deer that walks into your yard, you shouldn't take every herp that does the same. Does that mean you can't take some? Of course, not...but please respect laws, regulations, bag limits etc. and always ask yourself if you are being a good steward of the earth and its inhabitants. If you can answer that question honestly and in the affirmative, then your efforts are commendable.
Let us see how our presence on the earth can benefit other species, instead of the other way around. So many people live in a "scarcity mindset"...i.e. there isn't enough money; there aren't enough jobs, there isn't enough land, etc. for everyone to live abundantly and happily. I believe there is enough, and though there will always be poor people, there will also always be a way for us to help and teach others to be more self-reliant. A more educated people are able to do more, whether it be earning their own bread or having the ways and means to be better stewards. We see time and again in undeveloped nations (where there are many illiterate, uneducated, and impoverished people) that they often use up their natural resources and sell them in the "bushmeat" or black markets. There is much we can do to reverse that trend. It will take entrepreneurs, biologists, students, farmers, missionaries, doctors, teachers, and many others to make this a reality, so there is room enough for everyone to help.
Below is an article in PDF format demonstrating an OUTSTANDING example of how educating people in rural third-world countries is helping them financially and simultaneously saving rain forests and wild reptiles (among other animals) from extinction:
Collectively, this industry could do much good in the world and help stop ridiculous laws being passed from irrational lawmakers pushed by fearful citizens if we put stewardship and conservation at the forefront of all we do--even in our business dealings. Thanks for that reminder and thank you for your efforts; for they are many.
Thanks for sharing that, Mike. Kamuran is definitely in a neat position to make an impact on Indonesian conservation. Cool story!