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Captive breeding of reptiles -
Reflections in the wake of the December 26th South East Asian Tsunami disaster
by Stan Gielewski
Anyone with enough compassion would call this huge disaster a tragedy. As a person involved in reptilian propagation and conservation, this unfortunate event made me wonder about things that go beyond the every day's headlines.
I see the images of human bodies piled up on the sidewalks and in parking lots - almost becoming a landscape fixture. The enormous impact this event will have on human lives in years to come is obvious. It also makes me wonder how this will affect the populations of many wild animals living in the area - mammals and all the other creatures... like reptiles. There must have been countless numbers of them dead as the result of this natural disaster.
There are people and laws which prohibit keeping reptiles as pets, not to mention breeding them. At the same time, many near extinct species are kept alive only thanks to captive breeding programs at Zoo's and similar facilities. Many of those make a come back after being introduced back to the wild and result in establishing of new successful colonies.
Just recently we were told about the not so happy situation on the southern hemisphere, the penguins which face a possible starvation due to unpredicted movement of the huge masses of ice in the region. Now we have the tsunami. What's next?
As the result of the earthquake it will take perhaps even centuries to have the marine life back on track there, but there is apparently some good news from the ecologists who said that many of the land animals in the tsunami affected region actually survived. Guided by their natural instincts they moved away from the danger ahead of most of the now dead or missing people. Still, many have perished. Many of them already endangered.
In my opinion, captive breeding of reptiles is crucial to keeping many species alive. What is being done at established government controlled institutions, like Zoo's, is not enough. There are many so-called amateur breeders out there who in fact have years of experience in keeping and breeding even the most exotic species of reptiles. Many of them do it not for profit, but simply out of love and passion.
People who fight for prohibition of keeping of reptiles can sometimes do as much damage as good. Monopoly of the right to keep and enjoy this hobby exclusively to the few lucky ones who happen to be in the privileged by the law position does not help the reptiles. Investing in education and training, assisting average enthusiasts in successfully keeping and breeding of reptiles is crucial.
I support propagation and conservation of reptiles and I do support any government or privately sponsored programs. I oppose though the short sighted fight of those who want to remove all the reptiles from the hands of the most dedicated private people. It makes me sad that while targeting the average person there are those who can still keep them no matter what, those who can simply afford them.
The future and survival of the endangered species of reptiles depends on how we will protect their habitats and how far we will go in making sure that there will always be a breeding back up plan.
I think those who make and enforce the laws should closely work with people who are a big part of the herpetoculture, the private breeders and collectors. Instead of finding such drastic solutions as banning, which is just an easy way out in my opinion and does not accomplish much, they should concentrate on and invest in education. There is a lot to learn from experienced private breeders or even just average reptile keepers.
Captive breeding of reptiles is the ultimate way of making sure many of the endangered species will survive. Supplying the pet industry with healthy animals is the way of making sure that the wild animals will be left alone, and further it will make easier to establish wild animal sanctuaries. Many of the independent breeders and reptile keepers are incredibly experienced and they outnumber the breeding programs at government sponsored facilities and they deserve a full recognition and support.
Countless animal species disappear from our planet everyday. We boast about responsibility yet under our care those creatures and their habitats constantly die - nothing more but a direct result of our selfishness, greed and negligence. How long will it take for people to understand that we can't control every aspect of existence on our planet? How long will it take until people will learn to respectfully coexist with all the other living creatures here? No matter how many prohibiting laws we will try to enforce, the Mother Nature will never be tamed. There will never be a significant progress in ensuring the ongoing existence of many of the reptile species we enjoy now unless we have a good back up plan. Part of this plan should be assistance and encouragement to the efforts of private breeding of reptiles.
What would happen if the only breeding facility of some particular disappearing species of a reptile just got swept away by a huge wave? I bet having few animals left with private breeders would be a real life saver...
Story written by Stan Gielewski, Dec. 29th, 2004