Microsoft word - what is so bad about selling native animals.doc
Should we farm native geckos?
A discussion document by Rod Rowlands
If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got.
In New Zealand, although it is possible to obtain a permit to keep and breed some native
reptile species in captivity, such permits have always forbidden the sale of captive bred
animals. Most local herpetoculturists seem to have embraced this as desirable. But is it
necessarily in the best interests of the hobby, or indeed of the animals themselves?
1. The “no selling” situation seems to be the exception rather than the rule, with
most countries allowing some degree of trading. Consider our nearest neighbour
Australia, a country which has a reputation for being very protective of its
wildlife. Yet their permit systems (which are operated by state governments and
may differ in detail from state to state) nevertheless allow selling of reptiles and
birds to some degree. For example, New South Wales operates a system with two
classes of licence, one for fauna dealers and the other for fauna keepers. Dealers
may trade commercially as a business, whereas keepers essentially keep protected
species as a hobby in the same way as most NZHS members do, and the holder of
a keeper’s licence may trade in a restricted manner with other licencees, i.e may
sell captive bred stock to other licence holders. Prices reflect the comparative ease
or difficulty involved in breeding a particular species, which tends to encourage
good husbandry practices and facilitate increased numbers of the more “difficult”
2. Farming of wildlife is an almost failsafe method of preserving a species. Consider
the farming of crocodiles in Africa and Australia, and alligators in the United
States. The numbers of animals of species which were previously endangered
have increased dramatically. Admittedly these species have been bred for skins
and meat, but why should the outcome be different for species bred for hobby
3. Allowing trade in native species would put them on an even footing with exotics.
People wanting to keep reptiles in New Zealand are faced with not only obtaining
a permit, but also often having to wait a considerable time until an existing keeper
can spare some animals of the species they want. Many find it easier to buy exotic
reptiles of various kinds, some of which may pose a threat to our native fauna if
4. There has been publicity lately regarding attempts by individuals to smuggle
native lizards out of New Zealand. We see the cases where these people have
been apprehended, but how many get away with it? We know that some do,
because of the instances of New Zealand species advertised for sale on the
internet, in countries like the United States and Germany. Because these species
are hard to obtain, prices are very high, encouraging unscrupulous people to take
the risk by plundering wild populations. If captive bred animals were available at
much lower prices, wouldn’t this make smuggling attempts not worth the risk?
5. We seem to have an ingrained idea that native animals should not be
commercialized. But how strong is that belief? What are the reasons behind it? It
seems to me that we only apply the rule to species which until now have not been
considered to have a commercial value. If the animals happen to be good to eat,
it’s a different story. The eel is a case in point; late last year DoC issued three
concessions for commercial fishers to take eels from rivers located in the West
Coast Tai Poutini Conservancy. DoC would never dream of allowing commercial
hunters to kill even the most common birds or reptiles, so what is different about
eels living within the conservation estate? Is there a justifiable difference, or is
this an example of institutional hypocrisy? We all know the situation with marine
fishing, where quotas are issued for tonnes of certain species to be taken. There
also seems to be no impediment to the “captive” propagation of native plants,
even though the widespread growing of certain species outside their natural range
may have implications for the local flora regarding possible hybridization.
6. The current permit system is not working. DoC’s permit database is in disarray.
Permit conditions vary from one conservancy to another. But what is worse,
expired permits are not followed up, so that there is no record in the majority of
cases, of what happened to the animals held under those expired permits. For all
we know, such animals may form the basis of unrecorded captive breeding for
7. Last year, DoC embarked on an exercise to overhaul the permit system. Much
effort was put in by the NZHS and individual herpetoculturists, preparing
submissions, following which DoC canned the project, citing lack of resources.
The status quo of a poorly functioning, unproductive system remains.
In my view, a permit system for keeping native reptiles is a must. But we need to
approach the question of allowing some degree of buying and selling under a permit or
licence system with an open mind. We should closely examine what works in other
countries, particularly Australia, and consider adopting provisions which are working
well for them. We also need to look seriously at whether we need to introduce permits for
exotic species. If some of these may be able to establish here to the detriment of our
native fauna, it may be negligent not to.
This article is intended to stimulate discussion. I hope we have the foresight to firstly
discuss and agree on the direction we would like herpetoculture in New Zealand to take
in the future, and secondly to pursue our objectives with the NZ authorities to achieve a
system that works, and fits in with those already in place in Australia and elsewhere.
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