As the USA are seeing recently with attempted and successful changes in reptile keeping, especially Florida. The UK / Europe have the DWA (Dangerous Wildlife Act). Even on a different level in SA, is legislation there for conservation of control? From a personal standpoint a lot of it I believe to be there to control. To conform the masses to the ideals of the elite few, but viewpoints will be thrown out from all sides and not only reptile related. As always these are all personal views.
South Africa (Gauteng)
Permit legislation in SA. Lets take for instance someone calls me to remove a snake that has scared the hell out of the whole family, including the cat. Now I do not have a snake catching permit, so I refuse the call. They tell me if I don’t come remove it, they are going to kill it. Legally they are 100% within the law to do this. So they smash its head in brutally and the family can relax at their triumph. Another predator for pests destroyed, but all within the law, albeit not conservation. Now, I could have gone to the property and removed it and placed it in another part of the property, and this is legal. It still will not put the family at ease or make the life of the snake less dangerous. There is no logic or conservation behind this. The animal most likely dies.
If I go and remove it, without a permit and release it in to the nearest veld (open grassland) then I am breaking the law. Now the snake can go and live to fight another day, the family is relaxed. More in line with conservation in my opinion. The family stand the chance with most snake catchers, to have had a positive experience with a reptile. Its all a win win. Now its not to say that the snake wont turn around and go get squashed on the road. It may go to another house and get shot or be eaten by a bigger predator. We can only control things to a point.
You might say why not just remove reptile then and bugger the authorities. Well my view is I don’t see why I should get a fine, or be prosecuted for doing a job conservation authorities should in fact be doing. By their laws I need to pay them to get a permit to do it on their behalf. The idea of conservation just doesn’t seem to balance here. One could understand if they said anyone can remove legally. However you stand no chance of permitting the animal unless you are a registered catcher.
Florida, well these poor guys seem to be in for a rough journey. I by no way know all the ins and outs of what is happening. I am commenting on from what I have watched on YouTube and comments from keepers/ importers over there. Those involved in nature understand the aspect of invasive species. Be it mammals, birds, plants, insects or reptiles. Iguanas are causing trouble in Florida but said to have been there from the 60’s. The Burmese Python has got into the Everglades along with possibly the Anaconda and African Rock Python. As for the hybrids of these species, that is a topic for another day. These are there and have happened and we can understand the sensitivity to more occurring. The climate in Florida is a great place.
OK, so lets make them all illegal… Murder, speeding and cocaine are all illegal, but it does not stop it happening now does it. In fact the drug trade thrives off the fact it is illegal. What are their ideas and plans to do with all the reptiles should they opt to go illegal? The big names in the business are easy to target, either through their videos on YouTube, breeding and past inspections etc… How are they planning on controlling the guy who just bought a snake, lizard or gecko from a pet shop or expo. A lot of those will just get dumped worsening their issues. It is not a form of conservation.
Now assume for a moment all people decide to be legal and do what the authorities say. As an option they go with this and hand in the reptiles…. What do they plan to do with them for one and could they handle the influx. We can almost guarantee they will kill all received. The people often writing these laws are not as in touch with the happenings as the breeders and keepers are. Due to an accident during a storm that Burmese Pythons got out. The odd person who has been an idiot and released an exotic, now we must punish all. Of course yes, because it is easy to create a blanket law.
Rather prosecute the weak, or the idiots and bring in plans and REASONABLE laws to minimise risk to public and environment. I stand to correction and going on what I have heard on YouTube. Precautions like double bag and box venomous in transit and to have snake proof rooms. With severe storms animals to be double bagged and boxed etc… This allows people to keep, while minimising environmental risks but are reasonable. Having an infraction cause a snake have just pooped in a water bowl in beyond sensible and certainly is not conservation.
The DWA in essence is not a bad idea, but it has also turned into a ridiculous legislation with stupid powers. Those that are in it, think they are a little brotherhood and unless you stroke egos or make their grade you cant keep. So the DWA classifies a whole bunch of animals that are dangerous and could cause harm to people. Now protecting the public is a great idea, as having a Tiger kept next door in a 6ft fenced enclosure with a shade net roof is not ideal for anyone. Now, if the person is adequately trained and has a facility that is suitable for the animal. This is as close to escape proof as possible with current knowledge, then there should be no problem. Yes the handler may get killed or eaten, but this is a risk they take to keep the animal.
This is the same risk all of us take getting in a car going to the shop or work. It may in fact be more risky cause you don’t know what others are going to do. A driver should stop at a red light and not be looking at their phone, but they do look at their phone and don’t necessarily stop at a red light. They may drink and drive or do drugs and we have no idea what surrounds us.
Working with dangerous animals, you focusing on it. In a lot of instances you know it could potentially cause harm, if you don’t do things correctly. As an adult, is this not your choice? Its contradictory that you can share the roads with people in dangerous objects, distracted by phones, drugs, alcohol or combinations thereof and this is OK, but if you want to keep a Rattlesnake this is a far more major issue? If you have good enclosures, good snake room and can handle the animals why should you not have them. If you get bitten, be it your fault either through stupidity, judgement error or a freak accident, it affects you as an adult and your choices.
Government clearly doesn’t like free choice and want to make this choice for you. To do it with cars is more difficult as it will have economic impact and that’s probably the only reason they didn’t do it, even though they are often operated illegally. The vehicle itself on the road can be illegal, yet we have to share the road with these people. We don’t have a choice. In our homes we should have this choice of risk.
On the flip side we cant have any person going in to the wild and taking animals out and bringing them into the trade. This is either pet, muti or the far east food and ‘medicinal’ trade. Our environment is under too much pressure to take this additional hit, and this is where legislation is required. Stop trade on the Pangolin, Nile Crocodile or any other animal. We need to stop this in its tracks and educate (another blog to come), or do another controversial subject and captive breed. This has been done with the Nile Crocodile and has proven to be a successful conservation project. It relieved a huge amount of pressure off the species in the wild.
Permits for keepers is also not bad, but the implementation of it is where all countries need to look at things. In todays ever evolving world and increasing pace, systems need to be streamlined. Systems need to avoid as far as possible little boys clubs developing or individuals having too much power in the event a grudge forms. Its human nature and a perfect system will never be exist, someone will get peeved.
The systems should be changed not to punish all or the ones who slightly step out of line cause prosecution is easy. Legislation should be proactive to promote the use of their systems. It should raise the professionality of whatever hobby it is, and to get their buy-in for the improved system. It should however punish those who don’t conform while still being reasonable. Prosecute those who illegally trade from problem animal removal, or supply the black market from their rehabilitation facility. If keepers have escapes from a facility is not up to standard.
The anti-pet/ animal keeping people or groups out their are ever growing. Some of them believe that showing an animal on a computer or a cell phone will suffice in education and conservation. While in theory they are right in practice they are so far off the bat. They might as well use a hockey stick on a round of golf… You will finish the round of golf, but wont get the full experience, get the score or be allowed to compete. Alternatively they should rather just play golf on the PC and close all golf courses, stop the premier league and only have EA Sports football for the PC or gaming device.
I am going to take an example used by Dingo a little while back with a Green Mamba, and how he is bringing it into peoples lives. A personal observation on this species that I once kept many years back. Now it is great to see how he brings them into peoples lives, but seeing it on a screen, regardless of the zoom, is still a screen. Seeing the specimen in a cage is different again and one gets a different feeling and perspective, and to a degree more appreciation. The screen does reduce the fear, I will give it that and grant immediate access in your home.
Now keeping the specimen and handling it takes the experience of a cage to another level. You have respect for that animal and how you work with it so as not to trigger its fear and defensive nature. Doing this in front of people with no barriers and they can see the animal ‘fact-to-face’ will create a whole different memory for them. In the use of harmless species you can allow people to touch and handle the animals. This can create empathy and a link with the species creating an advocate to protect them. Conservation is more likely with this real contact. The digital way, ie Dingo is also required, but is offers a different experience. Dingo still offers the hands on education for those close enough.
Its like watching a video of a cat brushing up against your leg, or having your own cat doing it. Alternatively watching a dog do a trick, or making your own dog do a trick. That real hands-on experience is something a screen cannot replace. Trying to stop all keeping (of any animal), cause of some people doing it wrong is just silly. We don’t see them trying to stop driving cause people speed…, they prosecute the speeder, the drunk driver or person who didn’t stop when the cop happened to see them. This is most likely a little different from country to country, yet driving continues globally.
Maybe one day the legal and governmental agencies will opt to work with private society to get common ground of conservation of environment and species, keeping, breeding & commercial gain. As a rule collaborative efforts should be made more often to work together for the benefit of nature. Poachers and traders prey on the aspect that we don’t and are too often fighting against each other. They can almost go down the wing and score almost unnoticed. Ego’s and power trips aside the environment needs a proactive stance sooner rather than later given the pressure from pollution, development and illegal trade.