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A tangent of responsibility and ethics in herpetoculture

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Posted by Carl Franklin on November 29, 2001 at 16:06:34:


I've noticed a considerable amount of rather trite postings regarding self inflated semantics involving both mildly venomous as well as venomous reptiles. As a herpetologist and herpetoculturist I thought that I would take some time and possibly help "clear the air" in regards to this issue.

I have to first admit that I have been largely turned off by the numerous attitudes presented by individuals on the various venomous reptile forums. And from reading many of these postings it is obvious that there is a need for more educational material regarding venomous reptile protocol made for enthusiast wishing to work with these animals. I would be willing to bet that as many as 85% of individuals maintaining venomous reptiles in their private collections are unaware of how much risk they are at even when they are being "careful" with their specimens. Also how many private keepers of venomous reptiles have a planned protocol with the name and number of a QUALIFIED and EXPERIENCED primary care physician? Probably not a lot. How many keepers maintain their specimens with proper labels including the aforementioned infomation and the correct antivenom? Once again probably not many. How many hobbyist are even aware that most forms of polyvalent antivenoms are classified as controled substances under DEA regulations?

Venomous reptiles are of course are some of the most interesting reptiles to study and appreciate. Given this it is little doubt why they are popular among many enthusiast.

However, as a herpetologist with a diverse private collection that also includes many species of venomous reptiles I applaud any herp society that approaches the topic of venomous reptile keeping with caution.

Yes these are exciting animals and exciting times to be involved with herpetoculture as more and more species unknown to this hobby arrive in the United States every week. None the less, with the recent push to ban herpetoculture and the overall negative attention that these animals receive by most of the public we have to remember that we are responsible for our actions. A good example is the state of Alabama. Obviously the individual responsible for the escaped cobra that resulted in a statewide ban on keeping venomous reptiles was severely lacking in the necessary knowledge of proper venomous snake protocol.

Lastly I would like to remind everyone that this is no joke and the bottom line is that most herpetoculturist do not have any business at all with keeping venomous species and it is largely naive to think otherwise. On september 12, I lost a friend who died while afield in Maynamar. Joe was bitten by a krait and sadly he died before full medical attention could have been administered. He was a brilliant scientist who made numerous important contributions to biology and herpetology, and possessed an understanding of venomous snakes that far surpassed a vast majority of venomous reptile hobbyist and professionals. Perhaps his untimely demise showed us that we are never in control.

A second example I would like to cite involves the death of another pioneering herpetologist Karl P. Schmidt. He was bitten by a colubrid species that was believed to be harmless to possibly mildly venomous and died as a result. The snake involved was the African Boomslang. In 1957 this "warm snake"was not considered to be dangerous, yet it proved otherwise to someone with more than 40 years of experience in studying snakes.

Finally as a board member of this society I would also like to express that nothing more than appreciation and proper responibility for captive amphibians and reptiles is promoted by the DFW HErpetological Society and that there is no agenda or bias against/toward any particular taxon.

If anyone has any questions or comments regarding this posting then please respond or you are more than welcome to send a response to my personal email.

Do not be hesitant to call your local zoo herp department and ask for information if you are planning on maintaining any venomous reptiles in captivity. At this moment, they are the best resource of information to interested individuals and can provide a wealth of knowledge.



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