WSPA Canada has decided to go after the reptile pet trade in Canada........
Here is a artical in their last bulletin .......A friend of mine as well as myself wrote letters to them ........attached is her letter and the very scary responce she got ........We all need to be aware of this and write letters to them ........It would seem that we as a community have no idea what we are doing and therefor are no better then the ones who keep dancing bears etc.......I for one am outraged about this whole thing........Take a look
And the emails.........The responces are in [ these ]
Dear Lynne Andrews:
Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding. Iíve inserted my comments into the body of your email below.
I do appreciate you taking the time to write with your views. If you have further comments or questions, I would be pleased to receive them.
Projects Manager, Canada
World Society for the Protection of Animals
90 Eglinton Ave. East, Suite 960, Toronto, ON M4P 2Y3 CANADA
Tel: (416) 369-0044
Fax: (416) 369-0147
From: Lynne Andrews
Sent: Saturday, December 13, 2003 11:05 AM
December 13, 2003.
Attention: Silia Smith
To Whom It May Concern;
I have been a member of WSPA for many years, and have directed others to the organization.
I think WSAP is a wonderful organization.
[Thank you for your support.]
I am a veterinarian, and practiced in Calgary, Alberta (small animal and exotic practice) for 10 years.
I helped to establish Reptile World, in Drumheller, Alberta, and worked there for approx. two years,
which included caring for some of the animals.
I had a fairly large collection (mostly snakes) in Drumheller, which I managed with my family.
My main goal was breeding. Due to illness, I have had to give up my reptile collection. However,
I still know many people in the field.
And I take exception to your article "Welfare of reptiles ignored far too long", in the fall/winter
magazine. I am awaiting the results of your study with interest.
[Weíre currently finalizing the report. I expect to release it sometime during March or April.]
I hope you have looked at the horrific loss of wild reptiles to the skin trade, which has, at least traditionally, accounted for the VAST MAJORITY of wild reptile collecting, and threats to
[The investigation that WSPA Canada has been conducting has been focused on the trade and keeping of reptiles as pets, so we have not examined the trade in reptile skins. You are correct in saying that traditionally, one of the major threats facing many wild reptile populations was harvesting (both legal and illegal) for skins. While that threat remains, collection for the pet trade is also a major threat. Throughout the world, many reptile populations have been significantly reduced by pet trade collectors.]
I hope you have talked to some reptile breeders. While I realize that there are still some people
selling wild-caught animals, there are more breeders selling captive - bred animals.
[Yes, there are many more breeders selling captive animals, but there are still very large numbers of animals coming from the wild. Breeders can satisfy the demand for certain species at certain times, but they are unable to keep up with the overall demand for live reptiles. There are now more than 500 species represented in the pet trade (with 25 Ė35 species being the most common) and that number grows each year. Only a small number of these species are bred in substantive numbers in captivity.]
Reptiles need to
be healthy and well adjusted to their living conditions to breed viably. The large number of captive
produced babies, which seems to excalate almost yearly, attests to more reptiles in captivity that are well cared for, from the hobbyist who has one pair of breeding cornsnakes, to commercial reptile breeding
businesses, and everything in between.
[While what you are saying may be true for some species, it is not true for all of them. Many animals will breed in clinical conditions that clearly do not satisfy all of their biological and ethological needs. For some, breeding may be triggered by the right set of environmental conditions, while for others it may be that the biological drive to reproduce overrides other factors. As you know, this is not restricted to any one Class of animals. Many animals (humans included) will reproduce in less than optimum conditions. Reproduction is not necessarily an indicator of high welfare.]
Breeding reptiles isn't an easy business, and it doesn't make a lot of money for most breeders. So most
of the people breeding reptiles do it because they love working with reptiles, and are very committed to providing an alternative to wild - caught reptiles.
[There is little evidence that captive breeding has actually hindered or slowed the trade in wild caught reptiles. In fact, while the number of private and commercial reptile breeders has grown, so has the trade in wild caught specimens. I believe breeders, who as businesses must also market their animals, may in fact be helping the market grow, placing even greater stress on wild reptiles. Captive breeding, both small scale and large scale, has also produced numerous opportunities for the laundering of wild caught reptiles.
Even large scale reptile farms that claim to be providing an alternative to wild caught animals often replenish their breeding stock with significant numbers of animals from the wild (often on an ongoing basis). Others claim to be producing captive bred individuals when they are laundering wild caught individuals or removing gravid females from the wild, hatching their eggs in incubators and then dumping the spent females into the pet trade. ]
I hope you have been to some reptile shows... The shows in Calgary (T.A.R.A.S.) stress education and care
of reptiles. Many of these exhibitors are very knowledgeable and eager and willing to answer questions.
[I have been to numerous reptile shows and sales. While many hobbyists talk about reptile conservation and welfare, I havenít encountered many who are active to any real degree. Most hobbyists seem reluctant to get involved in lobbying for an end to, or even a restriction of, the reptile trade. Since millions of reptiles in the trade, both wild caught and captive bred, suffer and die at the hands of inexperienced keepers each year, it seems that anyone who wants to protect reptiles would try to stop their trade and keeping as pets. Instead, reptile hobbyists typically fight attempts to restrict or eliminate trade, claiming education is the answer to the problems faced by reptiles. Unfortunately, the hobbyist community seems more interested in maintaining their right to keep reptiles for personal pleasure than anything else.
As well, Iím appalled that reptile hobbyists still keep the majority of their reptiles in grossly undersized, clinical conditions (e.g., small aquariums, sweater boxes, Tupperware containers) that do little to address their ethological needs. The way many reptiles are kept today (and the attitudes of many reptile hobbyists) are very similar to the attitudes of early 20th century zoo owners who didnít understand or recognize that their animals required more than a small space, food and water. ]
I hope you have visited Reptile World in Drumheller, Alberta (owner David Bethel). There, the animals are in great condition, and education is one of the prime objectives, especially with children and schools in Alberta. They also work with the Royal Tyrel Museum of Paleantology on some educational programs.
I hope you have looked at the history of herpetology in Canada. I am most familiar with Alberta's. Twenty years ago, there were only a handful of people collecting reptiles. Even in the last ten years, the number of breeders of reptiles has grown hugely. The number of captive bred animals compared to wild-caught animals offered for sale has risen dramatically. There are a surprising number of people that have been doggedly persisting with education about reptile husbandry, reptiles in the wild, and dispelling myths; campaigning against the capture and sale of wild reptiles; breeding captive reptiles, and influencing the industry in other ways.
[Unfortunately, I have not yet encountered any reptile hobbyists who are lobbying for an end to the import of wild caught animals, the mass-marketing of reptiles by box stores or an end to the keeping of reptiles in biologically-irrelevant, clinical conditions. If you have specific knowledge about hobbyist initiatives in these areas, please let me know. Unfortunately, the only politically active reptile hobbyists Iíve encountered are fighting attempts to curb the reptile trade. They promote entirely unworkable registration and licensing schemes that would do little, if anything, to help reptiles.]
Yes, some wild-caught animals are imported and sold. The number has decreased significantly, and I believe
will continue to do so. Yes, some reptile owners are not responsible, and I have seen some of the results of neglect and ignorance in practice. I think that's the case with all of the pet trade. But the level of education of reptile breeders and owners has risen dramatically over the years, and I believe, will continue to do so.
[During the past 15 years, the trade in wild caught reptiles (and the reptile trade generally) has grown dramatically throughout the world. The number of wild caught reptiles imported into Canada is still significant.
Your comment that some reptile owners are not responsible should be changed to most owners. While there are a few expert hobbyists who leave no stone unturned in their efforts to research the natural lifestyles and captive management of their reptiles, and who dedicate the time, energy and resources to their accommodation and care, these kinds of people are few and far between. Most reptile pet owners pay little attention to satisfying the biological and ethological needs (if they are known) of the reptiles they own. Iíve heard many claims from breeders and hobbyists about how educated reptile owners are, but I have seen little evidence to prove it. In fact, if there has been a widespread program of education (formal or informal), then it has to rank as an unmitigated failure of the highest order. ]
I hope you are aware that a few years ago, several reptile breeders (myself included), and David Bethel (Reptile World), worked with the Calgary Zoo and Alberta Fish and Wildlife to amend laws pertaining to which reptiles could legally be owned in the province of Alberta. This was a major step, involving several different aspects of the industry, to agree on which species would thrive in captive conditions, not be able to live and reproduce in Alberta if they escaped captivity, which ones would not provide health hazards to humans, etc.
[I appreciate any effort youíve made to help reptiles. Do you have any additional information you could send me regarding the Alberta initiative?]
I am curious why you initiated the study of reptile care in Canada. This industry is much larger in the
[The WSPA Canada office works in Canada. Other organizations, such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Humane Society of the United States have investigated the trade and keeping of reptiles as pets in the United States.]
Indeed, Canada's herpetological industry has been very influenced by the American one.
The importation of wild-caught animals into the United States far exceeds that of Canada's. I used to know a long-time reptile breeder in California (now unfortunately deceased), and have been amazed at the quantities of animals like Ball Pythons that have come to the U.S.
[You are correct. In fact, the United States is the largest market for wild caught and captive bred reptiles in the world, followed by the European Union and Japan. ]
But most of all, I wonder why WSPA has never looked at the Rattlesnake Roundups that occur in the United
States every year, during which wild rattlesnakes are captured, often using gasoline that affects many other
animals in the environment, kept in appalling conditions (no water, overcrowded, around lots of people), and tortured and killed. The numbers of these rattlesnakes are dwindling - no one knows if they are approaching
[As mentioned above, the WSPA Canada office is conducting this examination of the reptile pet trade. For this reason, its focus is Canada. WSPA will soon be working on several collaborative initiatives with provincial and federal agencies aimed at protecting native Canadian reptiles.]
I hope WSPA has done it's homework. I hope WSPA hasn't misdirected its priorities.
[The reptile pet trade is a rapidly growing, very destructive industry that involves large numbers of animals. That is exactly the kind of practice WSPA should be investigating. I understand the fascination that people have with reptiles, but that doesnít justify their confinement and suffering for frivolous purposes.]
Many of us are awaiting the results of your investigation.
Lynne Andrews, D.V.M.