Why Wild Caught Should be More Expensive, and Fewer and Far Between.
After growing up in the herp hobby (I got my first reptile at 5 years of age), I've developed some strong opinions over the years. Let me explain my stance on wild caught animals, and what I'm doing about it.Photo courtesy AP. Full article here.
Look at the image above. Infuriated? Frustrated? Appalled? You should be. Those animals were put in a position at no fault of their own, and hundreds of them paid the ultimate price. Regardless of where the fault lies, animals suffered and died, and I have a problem with that.
Many people feel that animals should no longer be exported from the wild, and that only captive bred animals should legally be available for sale. While I strongly support selling captive bred animals (Josh's Frogs only sells captive bred animals - our business model is based around that ideal), I believe that making the import of wild caught animals outright illegal would do a tremendous disservice to the hobby, and to the animals themselves.
What I'm for: Sustainable, legal export of a limited number of animals for the pet trade
Assuming that animals can be legally exported in small numbers without significantly impacting the population of animals in the wild, I believe it's perfectly ethical to export those animals for the pet trade. Animals should be exported in smaller quantities than many of them currently are, and those animals should be more expensive. Why, you ask? More expensive animals could make more humane import practices the norm. No more '20 to a container' shipments of frogs, forced to sit on top of each other for days, with a high mortality rate. Bring in fewer animals, make them cost a lot more (more than captive bred animals), and watch the demand for wild caught animals plummet and the demand for healthy, captive bred animals already adjusted to a life in captivity soar!
Look at the many benefits to captive bred animals: less disease/parasite risk, adapted to captivity, live longer. All this points to a greater chance at success when starting out with captive bred animals. If we wish our hobby to continue to grow, we owe it to ourselves and to those starting out to have captive bred animals available. If a new reptile or amphibian keeper starts out with a captive bred animal they are much, much more likely to be able to have a good experience with that animal. Good experience = staying in the hobby longer, possibly getting more animals, and having a more positive opinion concerning the keeping of animals in captivity. This is vital, especially with the impending legislative challenges to our rights as animal keepers.
Banning the import or sale of wild caught animals, while well meaning in most cases, is simply not feasible. The captive animal trade cannot exist for long without wild caught animals, and there will always be a demand for exotic animals. Wild caughts are needed to found captive populations, and to outcross and maintain genetic diversity in existing captive populations. I agree that wild caught animals should not be as prevalent in the hobby, and that captive bred animals should be much more common than they already are. Wild caught animals should cost much more, and should be purchased primarily by breeders looking to found or expand a captive population of the species.
Look at bumble bee toads. Over the course of a few years, over 30,000 animals were imported for the pet trade. Where are they? Why are they not regularly available? What happened? We received a few dozen, and have been able to produce thousands!
At Josh's Frogs, we only sell captive bred animals. Our goal is to produce enough captive bred animals at affordable prices to directly compete with wild caught animals sales, and thus reduce the demand for wild caught animals in the United States. Our bumble bee toad and yellow spotted climbing toad projects are currently underway, and we have plans to tackle many other species in the future. We're also one of the few breeders, hobbyists or otherwise, producing large numbers of reed frogs on a consistent basis, and the only amphibian business of our size that ONLY offers captive bred animals.
UPDATE: Pet trade fueled smuggling! Despite all of the laws currently in place to prevent such atrocities, it's still going on. Check out this article about frog smuggling in Colombia. Basically, smugglers are paying locals tiny sums of money (huge when you're trying to feed your family) to collect frogs, many of which are endangered. These animals are then smuggled out of the country and laundered as 'captive bred' in Europe. The actions of a few greedy individuals taints the entire pet amphibian industry, and threatens to summon harsher legislation concerning the keeping, breeding, and movement of the pets we love.