Need to read!
Fond this on another tread on repticzone and found it interesting.
Not all pet store animals were born here in the US. Unfortunately, many reptiles, amphibians, and exotic rodents found in pet stores are "wild caught" and originally from the wilds of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. (Click here to read about marine fish importation.)
These animals go through a long, complicated ordeal that leaves up to eighty percent of them dead by the time they reach stores. The survivors almost always have a long list of health problems that dramatically shorten their lifespans. They can usually be identified by their scars, injuries, and emaciation.
The trade in these "wild-caught" pets raises not only animal welfare concerns, but environmental and public health threats as well.
FROM RAINFOREST TO PET STORE
A wild-caught animal’s journey to the pet store begins when they are captured in the wild by ’collectors’ (usually children or farmers hired by professional ’exporter’ companies). Most collectors have had little or no training and use primitive methods - such as snares, nets, and glue traps - that cause injuries and death. Their techniques are also oftentimes damaging to the environment: Burrows and termite mounds are dug up to locate snakes and tortoises; harmful chemicals such as gasoline are used to chase animals from their burrows; collectors have also been known to cut down whole rows of trees to find the animals they want.
When they have collected enough animals, collectors visit exporter companies where they are paid approximately $1 dollar for each animal. (Keep in mind that some of these animals will eventually sell for hundreds of dollars in pet stores.) At the export facility, animals are stockpiled until there are enough to make a full shipment. Depending on the time of the year, the animals can stay for days, weeks, or even months. During this time, the animals are kept in crowded pens and are purposely denied water and food to reduce their weight for shipment and to decrease the amount of excrement. They also come in close contact with dozens of other animals, increasing the risk of disease transmission and injuries from fighting.
When the animals are ready to be shipped, they are packed in wooden crates or burlap sacks with dozens of others - often without proper ventilation. Because of delays in shipping, temperature extremes, and stress, it is estimated that approximately 80 percent of the animals die in transport; this is especially true of the inexpensive animals that are usually afforded the least protection (and crammed into overcrowded boxes). Turtles, stacked in boxes, are often crushed to death by the weight of other turtles in the box.
Animal shipments must go through one of the following ports: Anchorage, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Louisville, Memphis, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Newark, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle.
Upon arrival, US Customs agents inspect shipments to verify that the paperwork is in order and that the animals have been shipped according to the law. Legal action against the exporter may result if the majority of the animals are dead or in very poor condition. Unfortunately, there are not enough wildlife inspectors to inspect all shipments and dealers often rely on lack of enforcement to bend and break the rules.
When the animals have cleared Customs, they are delivered to nearby ’importers’. The conditions in import facilities are usually cleaner, but are still very overcrowded. The animals stay at these facilities until they are split into smaller groups and shipped to wholesalers (usually large warehouse operations) around the country. Sometimes, with the larger businesses, the importer is also a wholesaler.
Wholesalers (AKA ’jobbers’) sell animals in bulk to pet stores. Their facilities are full of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of animals, kept in metal tubs and cages, sometimes horribly neglected. Unfortunately, because wholesalers are private businesses, it is almost impossible to get pictures and first hand accounts of their conditions. (Click here to read a news story about a reptile wholesaler.) A major wholesaler in the US is Calzoo, which supplies the nationwide chain PETCO with its small animals (both wild caught and captive bred).
By the time animals reach pet stores, they are usually in very bad condition. Despite access to food and water, many of the animals die within days; others linger for a few weeks before finally succumbing to illness or parasites. Those that survive have to then endure pet store conditions and, oftentimes, store employees that know nothing of their requirements.
The animals that do survive long enough to find homes are usually unable to adapt to captivity and rarely fulfill their life expectancy. Many die due to parasite infestations that would never affect the animal in the wild, but, because of the stress of captivity, have taken over the animal’s body.
"CAPTIVE RAISED" or "FARMED RAISED"
Do not let the terms "captive hatched" or "farm raised" fool you. What these labels mean is that a gravid female was caught in the wild and kept until she laid her eggs, after which she may have been released or herself sent into the pet trade. The babies are raised in outdoor cages and then exported to wholesalers. Captive hatched or farm raised animals are still imports and subject to the stresses of the importation process.
LAWS RESTRICTING THE TRADE
Federal laws that protect imported wildlife include CITES, the Lacey Act, Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and Wild Bird Conservation Act.
The Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) deals with the movement and sale of all endangered species in the world including animals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. CITES requirements only apply when the species are being exported, imported, or re-exported across international borders.
Animals covered by CITES are either endangered (E) or threatened (T). (The term ’PE’ is used for species that are Possibly Extinct.) Depending on the condition of the species, the species category is ranked as Appendices I, II, or III. Many factors - including population size, distribution, reproductive rate, habitat loss - are considered when placing species in their respective categories.
Appendix I species (komodo dragons, scarlet macaws, sea turtles) are threatened with extinction. Import for primarily commercial purposes is prohibited in the US and many of the Western nations.
Appendix II species are not threatened with extinction at the moment, rather the regulations are in place to prevent their extinction. Importation of an Appendix II species requires an export permit from the exporting country which may be issued for any purpose (import permits are not required). Appendix II includes many popular reptiles such as green iguanas, boas, pythons, and most chameleons. Animals that closely resemble those that are Appendix I or II are also on this list (known as the look-alike clause).
Appendix III species (Alligator snapping turtles, map turtles) are regulated by their country of origin to prevent or restrict exploitation. They also require an export permit.
The Lacey Act underscores other federal, state, and foreign laws protecting wildlife by making it a separate offense to take, possess, transport, or sell wildlife that has been taken in violation of those laws. The Act also prohibits the falsification of documents for shipments of wildlife and prohibits the failure to mark wildlife shipments.
Under the Lacey Act, the Secretary of the Interior is authorized to regulate the importation and transport of species determined to be injurious to the health and welfare of humans and livestock. Species listed as injurious may not be imported or transported between States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any territory or possession of the U.S. by any means without a permit issued by the Service. Permits are only granted for bona fide scientific, medical, educational, or zoological purposes.
The Migratory Bird Act is an international treaty that restricts interstate commerce in migratory birds - which may not be possessed without permit.
The Wild Bird Conservation Act bans the importation of wild parrots, hummingbirds, birds of prey and many other birds on CITES. Regulations allow importation of birds for captive breeding under permit, and exempt species that are available only as captive-bred birds, such as canaries, cockatiels and budgerigars. The net result of the passage of this bill has been a drastic reduction in bird imports to the US.
DRIVEN TO EXTINCTION
Exotic pet owners are contributing to the demise of several species, often without realizing it. Despite laws that are in effect, the pet trade is thought to be the second biggest cause of species loss after habitat destruction.
Once found in Egypt, Libya and Israel, the Egyptian tortoise is now only found in two colonies in Libya. Because of habitat loss and the illegal pet trade, they are facing the real threat of extinction. Sadly, these tortoises are extremely hard to care for as pets and often die soon after capture.
The illegal trade of the Roti Island snake-necked turtle, found only on one island in Indonesia, has left it all but extinct in the wild. No legal trade of this species has been allowed since 2001, but they are still showing up in pet stores across Europe (and possibly the US) under the label of "New Guinea Snake-necked Turtle".
Message To: Reptictale92 In reference to Message Id: 2148976
Need to read!
THREAT TO PUBLIC HEALTH
In June 2003, the viral disease monkeypox was reported among several people who had pet prairie dogs. The prairie dogs contracted the disease while they were housed in a pet store with imported Gambian rats from Africa. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has since then banned the sale and importation of prairie dogs and all African rodents.
As the monkeypox outbreak illustrates, imported animals can pose a serious threat to public health. Other animals that have been banned from the US due to an "unacceptable risk for carrying and transmitting zoonotic disease" include: Civets (they may carry the SARS virus), birds from certain Southeast Asian countries (to prevent the spread of Avian Influenza), and all primates for the pet trade (they carry several dangerous diseases such as Herpes B, which has an 80% mortality rate in humans).
Unfortunately, it is not known which other animals are capable of carrying zoonotic diseases. "Emerging diseases” - such as HIV-AIDS, Hepatitis B, hantavirus, and SARS - have increasingly jumped from animals to humans as contact with exotic creatures has increased and opportunistic infectious agents have found new hosts.
Wildlife inspectors are not trained to detect diseases. It is possible that animals are being imported, and even inspected, that are carrying dangerous (maybe even unknown) diseases. These animals could be the ones sitting in your local pet store!
THREAT TO INDIGENOUS ANIMALS
In addition to human health, certain exotic species also pose a risk to livestock and indigenous species.
In March 2000, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) banned the import and interstate commerce of three types of African tortoises because African ticks carrying Heartwater were found on imported tortoises. Heartwater is a disease of cattle, sheep and goats, and can cause mortality rates of 60% in cattle and up to 100% in sheep.
Exotic Newcastle disease (END) was believed to have been brought to this country from South American parrots smuggled in for the pet trade. END is a contagious and fatal viral disease affecting all species of birds. A death rate of almost 100 percent can occur in unvaccinated birds. An outbreak of END in Florida resulted in the deaths of 8,000 parrots in 1980.
According to a report by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS): "Reptiles escape from reptile shipments at ports and become established in the wild ... and they are purposely released into the wild in order to establish wild populations that can be collected later. Due to its popular port of Miami, heavy trade in reptiles, and mild climate, Florida has the highest number of nonindigenous reptiles in the United States, including the spectacled caiman, tokay gecko, brown anole, and common green iguana."
Many pet owners can also attest to the fact that wild-caught animals are a danger to preexisting pets. Parasites and disease are easily spred from animal to animal if proper quarantine procedures are not used.
You are probably asking yourself why things are the way they are. Why don’t the collectors think about conservation? Why aren’t dealers more responsible? Why are the animals being mistreated and mishandled? Why are animals even imported at all, considering the risks?
The answer to all of these questions is one word: MONEY. Collectors want to feed their families, so they ignore the fact that they are slowly destroying their native ecology. Dealers want to supply demand while making a profit, so they cut corners. And because so many animals are collected from the wild (millions each year) and because the trade is so very lucrative, a high animal mortality rate is still profitable.
The pet import trade is about moving merchandise (animals) and making a profit as quickly as possible. Most companies don’t want to "waste" money training staff or providing animals with quality food and water. Even the "reputable" dealers have been known to cut important corners to save money.
The reptiles that make up the majority of imported animals are also hardy animals, able to survive weeks of substandard conditions. They only show signs of illness when they are very, very sick (usually after they have reached pet stores).
As far as the risk to public health, most consumers are completely unaware of the ethical and public health implications involved in purchasing a wild caught animal.
THE REAL QUESTION
The real question is why pet stores, at the top of the chain, continue to purchase wild caught animals. Many regularly imported animals are already being captive bred here in the US. Captive bred animals are slightly more expensive, but MUCH healthier. You would think pet stores would want the best for their customers, right?
Instead, many pet stores choose the cheap route of selling half dead imported animals - blaming it all on the importers and wholesalers. But by regularly accepting these sick and dying animals, pet stores are enabling the system to continue as it is. If pet stores would only demand healthier animals, the collectors, exporters, importers, and wholesalers would have to comply (or find another job)!
Never buy wild-caught animals. Captive bred animals are healthier, live longer, and have already adapted to being in captivity. And while they might be more expensive to purchase, you will pay much more in veterinary bills if you buy a wild-caught pet.
Be aware that not all wild-caught animals are labeled. Always ask to see an invoice indicating that an animal was purchased from a captive breeder and isn’t an import.
Commonly imported animals in the US include: many turtles and tortoises, ball pythons, chameleons, virtually all newts and salamanders (including firebellied newts and tiger salamanders), many frogs and toads (fire bellied toads, green tree frogs), anoles, green iguanas, water dragons, many geckos (leaf-toed geckos), invertebrates (tarantulas), and marine fish.
Ask pet stores to sell only captive-bred stock.
Never ’rescue’ a sick animal by purchasing it - for any price. It will just be replaced and the cycle will continue.
Pet Store Owners/Operators:
Always return sick animals to your supplier. By taking in sick and dying animals you are enabling the system to continue as it is.
If your supplier is always sending sick animals, change suppliers.
Consider selling only captive-bred specimens. Avoid animals labeled "wild-caught", "farmed", "ranched", "captive raised", or "long term captive". Your customers will thank you.
Make sure that the specimens you purchase have not been illegally taken from the wild or illegally brought into the United States.