Education is Key

Good day everyone.


Firstly I would like to welcome all who will be reading the first of a continuous book of articles. This will be aimed at the world of herpetology we work in and love. We all share the same passion and I for one, would like to see this to go from strength to strength.


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How can we achieve this goal ?


First and foremost this is a major concern in South Africa and certain countries around the world. As this articles’ title states : EDUCATION IS KEY. We are facing a very big problem in the sense that, especially the pet stores, lack the proper knowledge to give information to their customers. In return this effects the animals negatively. This is especially true in the world of herpetology as we still have to discover and learn a vast amount of proper techniques in keeping certain species of our beloved reptiles.

There are plenty of species that have been studied and kept for many decades and the best advice I can give the newcomers is that it will benefit the animal and yourself to rather choose a specie that is suitable for beginners. Do not go for a specie that requires professional husbandry and care when you are only starting with reptiles. Also remember that in order to have a healthy and flourishing reptile, its best that you do your research and understand the concept and importance of each term that is being said in books or articles that you might be reading.

This brings me to another problem that has been eating at me for some time already. People nowadays are extremely lazy and expect everyone to do everything for them as they feel its their privilege or something sinister like this. This is so far from the truth that some might consider it to be the way they will succeed in life. For me this is the biggest fallacy.

If you are not willing to do it right from the beginning don’t do it at all, rather start collecting something that does not have a heart beat, nothing can happen to them if you don’t have the knowledge or give them the proper care. Nothing can suffer or die due to your ignorance for not wanting to learn the proper way to care for these animals. I have learned that keeping reptiles has become a lifestyle choice and not just another flavor of the day to brag about.

We are working with GOD’S creations on a daily basis and this is the biggest privilege of all. Its an honor to see these amazing creatures on a daily basis and to be able to interact with them. The best feeling of all is to see new life coming into the World. Seeing these beautiful reptiles crawling out of their eggs and taking that first breath of life, is indeed a rewarding experience.


What can I do from my side ?


  • Learn as much as what you possibly can regarding the needs and health of the species.
  • Get a support system going with other like minded people that you can not only just share your passion but also help with things you are unsure off.
  • Join Herpetological Societies or Facebook & WhatsApp groups.
  • Don’t make or believe that you know everything, nobody does.
  • All of us that are into Reptiles as a whole are all still part of the Pioneering age of Reptiles.
  • Everyone of us has a responsibility to ALL animals not just Reptiles.
  • Reptiles more so than others due to the sinister stigma surrounding serpents.
  • Show people the true beauty of the Reptile World.
  • Educate with an open mind and heart.



Bird keeping is well over 2000 Years old. The Canary has been kept as a cage bird in Europe from the 1470s to the present, now enjoying an international following.

Archeological evidence of fish-keeping dates back to the Sumerians (2500 BC) and the Babylonians (500 BC). Egyptians considered fish sacred, worshipping the Nile Perch among others. Romans also kept fish in tanks but perhaps not for as decorative purposes as the Chinese; keeping them fresh for the dinner table!

The Chinese kept carp and started breeding them selectively during the Sung Dynasty (960-1279). Records show these fish were kept for purely decorative purposes; people were forbidden to eat them.

Herpetolculture is barely over 300 Years old. This just shows me that there is a vast amount of grow and learning still to be done in our industry.




The illegal trade in exotic skins is rampant, with fraud, poor regulation, mislabelling and a lack of transparency found throughout the supply chain. For example, an estimated US $1 billion worth of python skins are imported into Europe illegally each year.

In addition, many of the millions of reptiles whose skins are exported from Southeast Asia each year belong to endangered species, whose numbers are drastically dwindling in the wild.

There are few laws to protect reptiles from abuse, and those that do exist are often not enforced. For example, although animals such as anacondas and crocodiles are covered by Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species regulations, it’s estimated that for every animal who is legally killed for the exotic skins trade, another will be illegally poached. This heartless industry is also extremely wasteful: it can take the skins of four crocodiles to make a single bag.

In the year 2008 the following species were harvested for their skins with the following numbers per species.

Python Reticulatus –  330 000

Python Curtis          –   65 000

Varanus Salvator    –  430 000

Varanus Niloticus    –  100 000

Crocodylus              –  540 000

Caiman                    –  630 000


We know that mortality in transit of live reptiles for the pet trade is absolutely minimal and that high animal welfare standards are employed.

By contrast, the skin trade involves inhumane and even barbaric practices, such as hanging animals by their top jaw and ramming a hosepipe down its throat for an unpleasant and protracted death, yet is unopposed by the organisations which have an anti live reptile imports policy.

Just what is a ‘wild animal’ is actually a critically important issue as the term is frequently exploited by those who oppose the keeping of animals in captivity.
The fundamental argument seems to be that it is fine to keep “domestic” animals but not “wild” animals.
Fortunately we have good legal basis for defining a wild animal as an animal taken from the wild (natural) environment, so if an animal is bred in captivity it is not a wild animal, clear and simple.
If we want an example of a legal framework for this then we need look no further than fish farming, as if a supermarket offered a trout bred on a
farm as a “wild” fish they would have legal difficulties and I can see no valid reason why this does not, therefore, apply to the pet trade.
There are a number of definitions of domestication, but in essence it involves man’s influence on the form and function of an animal.
There are now many species of reptile which have been selectively bred in captivity (over many generations) to produce color, pattern and even behavioural
modifications which have resulted in animals far removed form their wild counterparts.
A prime example is the royal or ball python, selectively bred by man for form (color and pattern), with over 4,300 morphs available today and also function.
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Domesticated specimens are generally more docile than their wild ancestors and have been selectively bred to feed more regularly and accept convenient (and cheap) food, typically frozen
(defrosted) mice or rats.There has even been meat sausages made in the USA specifically for Corn Snakes.
Many species of reptiles, including corn snakes, bearded dragons, leopard geckos and too many others to list, have been domesticated and are now widely considered mainstream pets.
Even species which we would normally view as more specialist pets, have now been domesticated to the point where they are substantially different from the wild form.
CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) it is an international trade agreement (convention) to protect endangered species from over exploitation.
This is enshrined in EU law under the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations (338/97) and in the UK under the Control of Trade in Endangered Species Regulations (COTES).
Not all rare or endangered species are protected by CITES as the Convention only protects species that are traded internationally and domestic use is not controlled.
CITES sets Appendices (Annexes in the EU) which differentiate between perceived levels of threat by trade, for example, trade in Appendix I (Annex A) species from the wild is prohibited. CITES sets
quotas on numbers that can be taken and it also sets source codes which differentiate between wild taken specimens and specimens bred in captivity. CITES data shows that in terms of the global live
trade in reptiles 21.3% are taken from the wild.
The majority of reptile species kept and traded are not CITES listed which presents issues with comparing trade in wild caught and captive bred specimens. Those who oppose the keeping of
reptiles in captivity still claim that 95% of reptiles traded are taken from the wild, whilst this is palpably untrue (CITES data alone disproves this claim), although establishing accurate data is
difficult. This is an important issue I will revisit later. The data from the Eurostats trade database shows the overall numbers of reptiles imported into the EU and UK on an annual basis.
This shows imports peaked in the EU in 2007 and have been steadily declining since, whilst UK numbers peaked in 2008 and are also falling. Due to more captive breeding.
There is also some illegal trade, but identifying the extent of intentional smuggling (trafficking) is actually quite difficult. The data from HMRC CITES enforcement shows seizures of live animals, the
majority of which are for administrative issues, paperwork offences, packing issues, not animals being systematically and criminally smuggled. I estimate that less than 5% of animals seized are
what could truly be defined as illegal trade, i.e. trafficking of animals illegally taken from the wild.

There is well over 10 000 Species in Reptiles.

See table below.

Species Numbers by Higher Taxa:

Feb 2008
Jan 2011
Feb 2012
Feb 2013
Aug 2014
Aug 2015
Amphisbaenia (amphisbaenians)
Sauria (lizards)
Serpentes (snakes)
Testudines (turtles)
Crocodylia (crocodiles)
Rhynchocephalia (tuataras)
Reptile species total

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