Thoughts on wild caught from John Courtney-Smith MRSB
Coast to Coast Exotics is proud to be an Arcadia Authorised Dealer.
I feel incredibly honoured to have been invited to see so many stunning animals in the UK wholesale supply as they arrive from all over the world. We are so lucky to have available to us so many incredible species of all types and requirements to suit every wish and niche. Of course we are all looking forward to and working towards a time where all of these species will be commonly available as being truly ‘Captive Bred’, but we must view our expanded and unfettered access NOW as both a luxury and as an opportunity.
Yes it is quite true that a huge percentage of all live reptile sales are made up from around half a dozen commonly available species but it does not need to be this way. If we as traders and ‘fanatics’ can start to work hard now, while we still have this luxury of ‘availability’ and ‘new blood’ we will be investing into the future of the industry if and when the importation of animals becomes subject to harsher regulation. This could be seen as both an investment into the future and of course as an ethical responsibility.
Keepers both new and the more experienced want and expect a certain level of species choice. Not everyone would want to only be able to have a corn snake or a leopard gecko. We must also remember that it really is not that long ago that these more ‘domesticated’ species were being established from wild collected adults. This is great news as it does mean that we can use the experiences of old to make room for a greater level of choice in the captive bred sector.
I was quite shocked to learn after visiting four such establishments in 2015 that many shops were simply not buying in some of these newer species, leading to questions to whether they would bother to bring in any more of these species going forward. To me such variety simply says “opportunity” but I do understand that ‘new’ is not always a comfortable choice. These conversations caused me to start thinking. I have been lucky all through my life in this trade to have seen and to have been able to interact with hundreds of species and as such so has my son, the next generation of keepers and experts. What would life be like if this level of variety was simply not there? What would happen to both the trade as a whole and to the next generation of keepers if we were to suddenly lose this level of choice? Well the answer of course is very plain to see. We should take a lesson to the effects of what happened after the halt of importation of birds. Overnight the industry pretty much folded, keepers not only lost the sheer amount of species choice that was once available but they also had to pay sometimes hundreds of times more per bird than was expected even in the season before. We must not let this happen to us, let us all learn from the mistakes of the past and concentrate on captive breeding in ethical and effective systems rather than the single pet animal.
The good news is that due to the vast increases in both technology and in our understanding of the biological needs of these species, that we can now design and maintain beautiful systems that really do provide for the core evolved needs of any given species, and that these species will not only repay us with long, disease free lives but also with a ready supply of CB young. If we can bring fit and healthy specimens that have been well acclimated into our stores and then work with them instore and alongside our customers we will soon see many of these species become readily available as CB in a short period of time. Of course there is a proviso here, that proviso is that we have to start this process, we have to start to garner an interest in the groups within our local customer base.
This is exactly what has been happening with many species of Amphibian recently and I am delighted to see so many incredible species of dartfrog and Mantella become available in pretty much every store as being UK or EU bred. I have also seen species like the Golden bell tree frog and even Solomon Island frogs become available again as CB. This is fantastic news and shows the level of commitment to taking the bull by the horns and working with the few historic WC animals that were available and making the most of them. The same must be said for Reptiles an inverts.
One of the downsides of some WC species is that they are offered for sale at a lower price than those being CB. It must be noted that the financial valuation of a live animal has NOTHING at all to do with its actual ‘value’. These are highly evolved animals and each is a ‘valuable’ as the next, regardless of the financial cost now. We must view this time of good access as a gateway into setting the scene for our next season of ethcial trade. It really is a case of, “use it or lose it” I am afraid.
So what should we be looking at in terms of species that could be studied and worked with now to allow us to offer good choice going forward? Well the honest answer is everything. We have to make good choices of course. We could wheedle out some of those historic species that are not really suited to the at home keeper like the green iguana, water monitor and the African rock python and as such start to concentrate on many more species of chameleon, Mountain horned dragon, small ground dwelling geckos like the Pictus gecko or wonder geckos, smaller skinks, African Agamids, African arboreal geckos such as the yellow headed, rough green snakes and some of the tree boas, small iguanids and collard lizards, the list goes on and on.
All of these species are now quite easy to breed and show a level of colour and interaction that could make them suitable for many more keepers going into the future.
It is hard for those of us that are ‘fired up’ by live animals to not see their beauty. To not want to include them into our collections but of course there will always be certain limitations to both space and time/cost. I myself saw a small group of Mopheaded Iguanas at one such facility. Their price was shockingly low and their attraction jaw dropping, but I did not have space myself to work with them. I sincerely hope that they do end up in good collections and do become established as time goes on, especially if they were to not be bought over any longer.
In a sense we have to offer these species in-store to start an interest with our local and more experienced keepers. How can our customers be expected to help us going forward if we do not display such species now? We can then make the right choices of who is best to sell these animals on to, who would look after them properly and who would be able to really see them thrive.
The moral of this story is to make the most of the luxury that we now enjoy, work together to see our wonderful hobby grow and evolve. It certainly is neither a right nor is it guaranteed!
John Courteney-Smith MRSB – Originally (a version of) was published in Pet Gazette, Mulberry Publishing. All photos taken were of wild caught origin at either Eurorep’s or Reptech's facility - copyright John Courtney-Smith MRSB used with permission.