Unit # 1
Reptile Conservation and threats to the Reptile population
This course looks ahead to the future of reptiles. Having survived largely unchanged for millions of years, the reptile now faces unprecedented threats. Where are the greatest dangers, and what are the root causes? Most importantly, this unit explores the long-term future of reptiles.
Reptile Conservation Course
There are many factors that can have a negative impact on the reptile population. These include loss of biodiversity, habitat damage, Roads and industrial/retail development, disease, pollution and climate change, etc. Most of these threats are caused by humans.
The three greatest threats to reptiles are habitat loss, hunting/gathering (i.e. wild capture for sale alive or dead) and climate change. It is the non-endangered species that suffer the most damage although by definition there are more of them as they are in less demand.
Reptile Conservation, a Global Perspective
Conservation is defined as the protection, preservation, management, or restoration of wildlife and of natural resources such as forests, soil, and water. It can also be defined as the protection, preservation, management, or restoration of natural environments and the ecological communities that inhabit them.
Various organisations worldwide are interested in Reptile conservation and there are various methods for conserving the reptile species including:
- Habitat management
- Conservation of the ecosystem, Nature reserves
- Education and awareness
- Monitoring species numbers and population density
- Action and campaign
Reptiles have become increasingly popular over the years and import and export have also increased. Reptiles are traded in many different forms, but the main trade is in live animals and skins. A wide range of live birds and reptiles continues to be seen on sale to hobbyists and the pet-keeping public through all types of sale including pet shops, commercial breeders and the internet.
Trade in this area usually takes one of two main routes; illegal or legal. Legal routes are those trade routes that the law allows and there is a huge legal market for wild plants and animals – a market which the illegal trade undercuts. These individuals, rogue traders and criminal gangs, all threaten sustainable and responsible businesses that provide vital income to some of the world’s poorest countries.
The legal trade in protected species broadly flows from range areas – where the species come from – to consumer areas. The situation is made more complex by a thriving trade in captive-bred or artificially propagated specimens, which may be farmed in a variety of countries and traded internationally. The involvement of intermediate destinations and the consequent re-export trade further complicates the picture and opens up opportunities for illegal trade.
Reptile Trade Industry
There are several sources of global and local supply for the Reptile trade industry:
- Breeding programmes for endangered species
Generally wild caught reptiles, if not protected by legislation, are not illegal to trade in. These reptiles are often hazardous to humans and the ecosystem if released into an environment that is not natural or specific to that particular species. However, since there is no law against it, it is a rapid free source of ‘product’. Reptiles taken from the wild, whether they are protected or not, are mostly used in the illegal side of the pet trade industry.
Zoos and organisations often acquire and ‘trade’ species between themselves to further a species that is considered rare or endangered. This type of supply is not illegal as long as they stick to the current legal and ethical welfare standards. Some of their reptiles are often provided by imports or exports that are illegal and have been confiscated by the authorities and border officials.
The internet has become a huge trader of all kinds of products and has become increasing popular over the commercial shops on the streets. The internet has also made it increasingly easy to buy a reptile online as well as advertising the need for reptiles. The internet has its drawbacks however in the form of unsuitable and unhealthy animals being sold to inexperienced or unknowledgeable clients. The source of the reptile can also be illegal.
The reptile industry is considered to be ruled mostly by trend. This means that demand is variable and depends on how popular a species is at the time.