Thursday, August 21, 2008


How to be Good Stewards of the Earth and Conservation-minded While Still Enjoying Herpetoculture

A couple of months ago, I was contacted by some friendly people in West Texas. They explained to me that they had found some adult Trans-Pecos Ratsnakes on their property and were wondering if I'd be interested in buying some. Right away, I told them that I wasn't interested and that I rarely take adult reptiles out of the wild (i.e. maybe if it were an Albino or something unique like that I would, but other than that, it's just not something I would normally do -- and for the record -- I rarely even take young ones. I mostly just like to see them in the wild.).

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:

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:

Fitting Iguanas and Forests into Central American Farms

Ecellent article, Dusty. We need to see more efforts based on stewardship and conservation in this hobby.

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.

Dusty, I couldn't agree more with you. Well said. It seems like such a simple concept yet so many people just don't get it. Those who attended the Blood Python Symposium talks on Friday night in Daytona saw another good example of this in practice. Kamuran Tepedelen (sp?)gave a talk on the skin trade in blood pythons in Sumatra. One of things he talked to "skinners" about was keeping the gravid females until they laid their eggs, incubating their eggs and then exporting them to the states for sale. Before that they were just gutting them and throwing the eggs away. And now that the skin trade is slowly dying it gives them an alterantive way to make a living.
Good points, Amy, and thank you for posting.

Thanks for sharing that, Mike. Kamuran is definitely in a neat position to make an impact on Indonesian conservation. Cool story!
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