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Posted by Rob Carmichael on April 24, 2003 at 15:38:07:
In Reply to: Very eloquently put, as always,..here's my thoughts on this, posted by BrianSmith on April 24, 2003 at 14:46:33:
You are asbolutely right and that is why this issue is so complex and it contains many bioethical dilemmas that will not soon be addressed. If there was a way to control importation so that these mass harvestings can be avoided, and, to see these same animals being selectively harvested for the specific purpose of selective breeding programs, I think that would be great. But, it does come down to the $$$ and for the people who are actually collecting these animals, it feeds their family and I empathize with them (and they are only making pennies compared to the importers/middlemen who make the big bucks)....this can go in so many directions that it is difficult to discuss on a forum like this.
:I hear what you're saying Rob,.. but as I read your points and views several things came to mind,... Sure the fresh bloodlines benefit current captive breeding gene pools,.... but this can also be accomplished by a concerted effort taken to collect a small number of individual snakes from select areas of their geologic region/s and sold for the sole purpose of breeding to qualified breeders. The way it is now many scores of thousands are mass harvested, and mass shipped, and an enormous percentage are lost (killed) during shipping, and the vast majority of the remainder end up as "pets" in the care of neglectful keepers. In my opinion they do not usually end up contributing their genes to the pool. Another downside to this, as Randilyn pointed out, is that they can and do bring in disease, internal parasites and external parasites, and this can and does affect captive populations in a very negative way. Another thing that occured to me as I read was about the wild population's/habitats being threatened as reason for importing, was that in many cases I'm sure that the only reason for the threat TO the wild populations are the mass collection campaigns that take place to feed the demand for these snakes in the states and other "developed" countries with a healthy pet trade. And it all comes down to one thing. Money. I seriously doubt that any of those people along that importation chain care about anything other than making the money. Now, if on the other hand the land from whence the species is being devasted is being developed and will soon disappear altogether then perhaps it is not such a bad thing to export them for pet trade, but if the habitat is only negatively affected DUE to their collection then it is a very bad thing. Do you see what I'm saying? And if a stop to importation can't be halted then perhaps some legislation could be put into action where the people doing the "farming" are forced to repopulate the wild habitat with a certain percentage of what they produce. Kinda like what was accomplished with the American alligator. A certain percentage were raised each year to a size that was more likely to survive and they were released and monitored. The sparse populations made a sudden dramatic comeback.
::In some instances, importation is necessary when there is little captive breeding taking place among that species. For example, our facility is now working with crocodile monitors; there are very few captive bred animals available so we must rely on imported specimens (some are farm raised, some wild caught). This diverse gene pool will hopefully provide enough diversity to start a captive breeding program among private and public facilities. In time, perhaps there will be a much less demand on wild populations (as this is a species that could be of great concern due to the rampant harvesting of asian forests). All of today's herp success stories started with bringing in imported animals and selectively breeding them for certain traits (color, pattern, temperment, etc.). As captive breeding becomes successful, there is less pressure put on wild populations.
::Look at Ball Pythons. Despite the tens of thousands that are produced by private breeders in the U.S., there are tens of thousands that are still being imported from Africa. Ironically, scientific (and valid) evidence supports that despite this large "harvest" of wild populations, these same populations are still relatively (from a biological point of view) healthy. This is a very complext issue and there are many factors.
::I am personally not as concerned about whether the importing of wild stock drives prices down, however, I do think it is one factor that compounds the problem of too many burms and not enough responsible keepers to maintain them. At lower prices they do become perceived as "disposable" (much like iguanas). If prices would stay high, the problem would be far reduced....kind sounds like circular reasoning (the old chicken and the egg argument).
::As natural habitats continue to be destroyed, my opinions on importation become far more stronger in protecting wild populations. In some cases, under very controlled conditions/circumstances, imported wild caught herps provide valuable genetic diverstiy to captive breeding programs...but this can get carried too far as there is probably enough genetic diversity in captivity IF we knew how to control/monitor who is breeding what (much like dogs and AKC).
::This is a very tough issue and one that could be discussed over the course of a year or two.
:::Regardless of if the reptiles are "captive hatched" in farms in other countries, or ripped straight out of their natural environments, these animals suffer greatly as a result of being shipped and warehoused in cramped and filthy conditions. Furthermore, this importation of reptiles drives the prices way down and helps to land these poor animals into the hands of neglectful keepers. Let's try to put a stop to this somehow. We can start by taking a vote and see what percentage of true herpers really care what happens to these mistreated animals just to turn a quick buck. Please vote "Yay!" if you actually care to help put a stop to the suffering of these wonderful creatures. Thank you.