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Author Topic: Professor Calls for Legalisation of Exotic Reptiles  (Read 1319 times)

Offline adderboy

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Professor Calls for Legalisation of Exotic Reptiles
« on: April 28, 2015, 11:17:38 AM »
Hi.  An interesting statement to make - it'll probably never happen, but as an attempt to put things into perspective when comparing the relative hysteria about herps to the ho-hum attitude regarding exotic plants, birds and so on it's pretty good.

Professor calls for legal ownership of exotic reptiles, says boa constrictor released on Gold Coast will die

By Matt Watson

Updated about 2 hours ago

Boa Constrictor, native to Central and South America
 Photo: A boa constrictor, native to Central and South America, was accidentally released at the Gold Coast. (AAP Images/DSE - file photo)

Map:  QLD

A herpetologist claims an exotic boa constrictor accidentally set free on the Gold Coast is unlikely to survive and calls for authorities to legalise the ownership of exotic reptiles.

The University of Queensland's associate professor Bryan Fry said people searching for the boa constrictor would probably find a pile of bones.

The two-metre snake was released by police in March into bushland at the Southport Spit.

He said if the snake was hand raised and hand fed it would be unable to adapt to its new environment or hunt for food.

"If you relocate a brown snake that's in someone's front yard and release it into what appears to be suitable habitat, the animal is outside of its home range and is not going to deal with it very well," he said.

"It's going to have very erratic movements and studies have shown that the majority of those animals die."

Professor Fry dismissed fears the snake could help create a viable breeding population.

"The odds of something having a sustainable population off of a single pregnant female is very low," he said.

Call to legalise possession of exotic reptiles

Professor Fry said it was time for authorities to legalise ownership of exotic reptiles.

"Australia has a blanket ban on exotic reptiles yet you can bring in all the backyard plants that you want," he said.

"Obviously your backyard plants is a much greater threat of becoming a viable, feral population.

"Yet there's not the same level of biosecurity controls or the same level of hysteria surrounding that."

In a statement, Biosecurity Queensland said it was an offence to keep many exotic species under the Land Protection (Pest and Stock Route Management) Act 2002.

Breaches of the Act can attract penalties in excess of $91,000.

Zoos and circuses can keep exotic species for exhibition purposes, but only with a permit and under strict conditions.

Professor Fry said reptiles were easy pickings when it came to quarantine.

"Look at the number of people keeping exotic fish," he said.

"And no one is going to shut down plant imports because they'd be voted out of office immediately.

"It's symptomatic of the same skewed mentality of reptiles in Australia.

"For the longest time people had to battle just for the right to keep captive bred native animals."

Burmese pythons have taken over the Everglades in Florida

Biosecurity Queensland said countries with liberal laws surrounding the ownership of exotic animals were at risk of invasive animals establishing sustainable populations.

Exotic animals seized since 2011 by Biosecurity Queensland

American corn snakes ( 8 )

Boa constrictors (4)

Burmese python (1)

Green iguana (1)

Spotted pond turtle (1)

Star tortoise (1)

Chameleon (1)

Chinese stripe neck turtle (1)

Common marmoset (1)

South East Asian box turtle (1)

Ferrets (5)

Red eared slider turtles (3)

Indian house crow (1)

Saw-scaled viper (1)

These populations cannot be eradicated and have major impacts on the environment, agriculture and the wider community.

Burmese pythons were widely kept as pets in Florida and small populations colonised the Everglades.

It is now estimated that there are at least 100,000 Burmese pythons living in the Everglades.

Biosecurity Queensland said they were having a major impact on native mammals and authorities believed it was impossible to eradicate them from the area.

Professor Fry said the pythons established a colony after Hurricane Andrew struck the region in 1992.

"It hit a couple of large python breeding facilities that released thousands of babies into an ideal habitat at the southern part of the Everglades," he said.

"There was nothing (no native pythons) occupying that same niche."

'We know prohibition doesn't work'

Professor Fry said he was often in contact with private keepers and although he had no evidence, he was aware of the underground trade of exotic reptiles.

"The minute you make anything outlawed, we know that prohibition doesn't work," he said.

"It creates a mindset that makes it attractive to the very people that you don't want to be keeping [exotic animals] to begin with.

"You know your outlaw bikie mentality of 'I'm going to keep it because I'm mad, bad and dangerous to know because I've got an illegal turtle, look how hard I am'.

"If you make it legal with a permit then psychologically you've changed the entire landscape."

Biosecurity Queensland said it had seized 30 exotic animals since 2011.

Most of the animals were humanely destroyed.

Anyone who has information about prohibited pets should call Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.

Source:  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-04-27/professor-calls-for-legal-ownership-of-exotic-reptiles/6423734


« Last Edit: April 28, 2015, 05:38:24 PM by adderboy »

Offline carpetcleaner

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Re: Professor Calls for Legalisation of Exotic Reptiles
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2015, 10:29:57 PM »
I dread to think of how many exotics are being held illegally in the country.
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Offline Drake91

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Re: Professor Calls for Legalisation of Exotic Reptiles
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2015, 10:43:46 AM »
On one hand I sort of understand what he's saying, but on the other, maybe the fact that they arent widely kept is the reason we don't really see many exotics? Besides look what issues we have with cats and dogs and foxes and plants, precisely the reason we shouldn't legalise exotic herps!

I'd be happy just being able to import natives from the east coast at this stage!
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Offline Bluetongue

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Re: Professor Calls for Legalisation of Exotic Reptiles
« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2015, 07:44:56 AM »
This is an article about a Boa Constrictor found in a southern Melbourne suburb last Monday... http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/twometre-boa-constrictor-found-in-seaford-20150519-gh55ib.html and a video taken by the snake catchers... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhuHu7bDmpI.   

Carpetcleaner, what I can tell you is that the illegal trade in foreign reptiles has been around for a very long time.  Over 45 years ago I dropped into to visit a mate and his collection of snakes, only to be proudly shown his latest acquisition.  From memory, it was a pale tan colour with a couple of dark edged cream stripes.  I knew immediately that it was not a native.  I cannot recall the name of the species now but it was some form on North American colubrid, as I clearly remember thinking that with so many colourful colubrids to choose from, why would someone take the risk to smuggle in such a dull looking snake. 

It is interesting to note that the owner is now a very well respected high-profile member of the eastern states herpetological scene.  He’d probably die of embarrassment to be reminded of his youthful folly.

Some of the illegal trade probably emanates from casual smuggling in of small, easily concealed hatchlings for people’s own collections and when they eventually breed them they decide to sell off the offspring.  Then there are those who purposefully attempt to smuggle in one or several animals in order to make some ‘easy’ cash.  Some people even make trips overseas for that sole purpose.  While we read about individuals being caught at airports or posting animals, there are obviously still others that go undetected.  However, I suspect that most successful smuggling is professionally organised. 

I know in the old days it was common knowledge that drugs would be smuggled into Australia and birds and/or reptiles would be smuggled out on the return journey to improve the profits.  This was often done by small boat or light plane from less bio-security conscious countries north of Australia.  With so much coastline and unmanned landing strips (especially in station country) it would have been an expensive but fairly low-risk option for organised criminals. Don’t know about what happens these days as many things have changed and I lost contact with those ‘in the know’ when I moved west.   I am pretty sure that, dependent on circumstances, organised smuggling trips for select animals alone would have yielded sufficient profit to make it worthwhile.  You only have to look at the variety of Australian animals available in America, and even Europe, and when they became available - animals such as Sugar Gliders and Rough-scaled Pythons.  Given that animals have clearly been regularly smuggled out, why not smuggle some in at the same time to improve the bottom line?

I can only but agree with your sentiments Carpetcleaner.  It is unfortunate but as long as there are people who are prepared to pay money for illegal acquisitions, there will be other people prepared to take the risk of smuggling for profit. 

Offline Bluetongue

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Re: Professor Calls for Legalisation of Exotic Reptiles
« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2015, 01:56:59 AM »
I have been thinking about Bryan Fry’s comment that “we know prohibition does not work.”  While I recognise that the media often quote people out of context and the intended meaning becomes distorted, I definitely do not agree that this a valid argument for legalisation of exotics.   

One would assume the A/Professor was referring to the fact that when activities are deemed illegal, there will invariably be a percentage of people who still participate in these activities illegally.  The thrust of the argument being that making an activity illegal does not stop it from occurring, so there is little point to prohibiting it. Naturally this does not apply to activities that are, of themselves, intrinsically unethical or disagreeable.  As Fry pointed out, exotics are kept by licensed institutions, so clearly the activity itself is not an issue. However, it is what can potentially go wrong as a result of irresponsible keeping where the issues arise.

There appears to be an underlying assumption in this argument that legalisation of a given activity will result in the virtual elimination of illegal goings-on in that area.  Experience dictates otherwise.  Legalised activities still require varying measures of regulation to ensure that they are carried out responsibility.  Where any regulation exists, there will always be individuals who do not adhere to what is required.  The fact that we have law enforcement agencies in society is testament to that.  The size and pervasiveness of those agencies is indicative of the degree and regularity to which societal regulations are flaunted.

The often serious and extensive on-going problems created by invasive exotics, are widely known and well documented and need no further elaboration here.  Strict and stringent regulations for keeping of exotic reptiles would be required in order to adequately safeguard against this.  Unfortunately regulation at the level required to provide these adequate safeguards is simply not enforceable were this activity to be opened up to the general public.  What works with institutions would not work with individuals.

While illegal trade does exist, the clandestine nature of it and the associated risks of being caught do have a limiting effect on it.  Opening up such an activity to all and sundry would greatly increase the numbers involved in it.  With this dramatic increase in the extent of the activity would come a corresponding increase in the likelihood of irresponsible keeping and its potential consequences. 

It is often argued that making the keeping and trading of exotics illegal results in the dumping of exotic animals in the wild, as owners are invariably reluctant to destroy unwanted animals and they have no other risk-free avenues for off-loading them.  I would suggest that the legalisation of exotics will not improve the rate of dumping.  If anything, based on experience with legally held pets, it is more likely to result in an increase in dumping. The current dumping of unwanted legally allowed pets, such as cats and fish, is a huge problem.  While education and stricter regulations have helped to limit it, they have as yet failed to provide a resolution to this on-going issue.  At least by keeping a lid on the numbers of keepers by maintaining the private keeping of exotics as illegal, the dumping rate is correspondingly held down.

America provides probably the best example of what could happen in Australia if widespread legal keeping of exotics were to be allowed.  The U.S. has a long list of exotic reptiles that have established breeding populations there, both as a result of deliberate releases and accidental escapes.  A percentage of these populations have proven to be invasive and are causing significant and increasing environmental problems.  It is also worth noting that the illegal trading and keeping of exotics over there appears to still be rife, if the regular news bulletins relating to such activities are anything to go by.

If one could ensure that there was absolutely zero chance of exotics establishing populations in the wild, under any circumstances, then there would be no objections to the keeping of exotic reptiles in Australia. Unfortunately that is a very large “IF”...

« Last Edit: June 03, 2015, 02:06:36 AM by Bluetongue »

Offline adderboy

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Re: Professor Calls for Legalisation of Exotic Reptiles
« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2015, 09:55:37 AM »
Hi, Mike.

First up, let me say that while I would love to keep certain exotic species, I am not clamouring for them to become legalised.  I am pretty happy with what I have.  That said, the issue about whether legalising things would make them better or worse is just one part of the discussion.  The other part is the merits of prohibition.  They prohibited alcohol in the US early last century.  Was that a good thing?  Some might argue it was, but many others argue it wasn't.  Heroin is illegal today, but some suggest legalising it to remove the criminal element and treat it as a health issue.  Some merit there, too, and a couple of European countries have done just that.

My question is, is prohibition worth it?  And it is equitable?  I can own an exotic parrot, but I can't own a ball python.  I can own a Rottweiler, but I can't own an eastern diamondback. 

I think what Assoc Prof Fry is doing is putting the argument out there for debate, and that is a good thing. 

The old approach of treating reptiles differently to other animals is also at play here - while I'm not suggesting you, Mike, have such an attitude, many still do.  Yes, allow exotic birds, mammals, fish, etc, but for goodness' sake, don't ever allow an exotic reptile.  Again, I think Fry is challenging the thinking, and that can only be a good thing.

And finally, the approach just to ban them all is too easy.  There would very likely be some reptiles that would pose little environmental risk, but while the attitude of blanket banning them all is in place, individual assessments are not undertaken.  And again, even if there was an element of risk with some, why is it easy to ban reptiles but not other exotics?

Of course, I think he's got Buckley's chance of getting exotics legalised, but I think his airing of the subject is laudable.


Offline stu

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Re: Professor Calls for Legalisation of Exotic Reptiles
« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2015, 08:43:08 PM »
Exotics are part of the submission tabled in Qld at the moment. There are plenty already kept illegally and so any perceived risk is already being tested, though that data obviously isn't accurately quantifiable nor would be admissible.


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