Start writing a post

We need to stop keeping reptiles as pets. It puts us and them in danger

Florida is scrambling to protect threatened gopher tortoises and burrowing owls from the green iguanas invading their burrows.

We need to stop keeping reptiles as pets. It puts us and them in danger
black and brown turtle on brown tree log

By Liz Cabrera Holtz, Wildlife Campaign Manager.

Florida is scrambling to protect threatened gopher tortoises and burrowing owls from the green iguanas invading their burrows. Red-eared sliders, a turtle with a native range through the Midwest and as far east as West Virginia, are now threatening other turtle species both here and across the world.

And just a few months ago, an escaped venomous zebra snake terrified a Raleigh community and made international headlines. In every case, the wild pet trade is to blame.

Our selfish desire to keep reptiles and other wild animals as pets is jeopardizing local ecosystems and pushing multiple species to the brink of extinction. It's also endangering our health.


Reptiles are intensively bred in mills—similar to puppy mills—in the US or imported from other countries to be sold by the thousands at major pet store chains and reptile expos. The wild pet trade is now one of the biggest drivers of the spread of nonnatives and has already resulted in several hundred invasive animal species.

Often abandoned into unfamiliar ecosystems, former "pets" can introduce disease and out-compete native animals for food and dwindling habitat—leaving some native species in danger of disappearing. Invasive species cost the US an estimated $120 billion every year, and more than 40% of threatened and endangered species in the country are at risk due to invasive plants or animals.

It's also a cruelty issue. Not all abandoned wild animals will flourish. Other animals suffer painful deaths when they're killed by predators or starve.

The problem is so serious that multiple states have banned the possession or sale of certain reptiles. Florida banned the sale of tegus, green iguanas, and several other reptile species in 2021, and Massachusetts, Oregon, and Florida are among the states prohibiting red-eared sliders. But these laws are reactive. It's often too late once a species is established. We need forward-thinking policies that recognize there's no safe way to participate in the wildlife trade.

Walk into a reptile expo, where hundreds of reptiles are crammed into small plastic containers and bins at conference centers, churches, and hotels, and you'll begin to understand the scope of the crisis. The biggest reptile expos—Repticon, Cold Blooded Expos, and HERPS—take place almost every weekend somewhere in the US.

selective focus photo of green iguana Photo by John Cobb on Unsplash

With increasing public concern about zoonotic disease and pandemics, it is important to recognize that reptile expos are a US version of a live animal market. They feature animals from all over the world who were imported or bred to be sold as pets. Reptiles at expos are often overcrowded, highly stressed, and forced into close proximity with species they'd never interact with in the wild—everything you need for novel disease outbreaks.

It's not just new diseases that we need to worry about. Reptiles are also a significant source of Salmonella infection in humans. While harmless in reptiles, Salmonella can cause severe stomach cramps and fevers in humans. It can even lead to hospitalization or death, particularly among immunocompromised persons, the elderly, and young children. That's why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that families with children under five steer clear of reptiles and amphibians.

In 2006, a baby girl in Florida died from Salmonella after her family was given a pet turtle as a gift. Decades ago, the Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of turtles with shells smaller than four inches in length because so many children were contracting Salmonella infections from turtles. But illegal sales continue. Some of these sales are likely happening at expos.

A recent World Animal Protection investigation found evidence of tiny turtles for sale at all the major reptile expos. In two cases, the sellers actually stated that their shells were only 2.5 inches. Even worse, these expos advertise themselves as family-friendly events and usually offer free admission to children under the age of five.

Reptiles are captivating animals, and it makes sense that we're drawn to them. But our fascination with reptiles is putting them and us in danger. For their well-being and ours, they need to stay in the wild.

Can tech help female entrepreneurs break the bias?

Women founders continue to come up against common challenges and biases - solving this problem is bigger than supporting women, it’s about supporting the national economy.

Can tech help female entrepreneurs break the bias?

Women founders continue to come up against common challenges and biases

Written by Kelly Devine, Division President UK & Ireland, Mastercard

Starting a business may have historically been perceived as a man’s game, but this couldn’t be further from reality. Research shows women are actually more likely than men to actively choose to start their own business – often motivated by the desire to be their own boss or to have a better work-life balance and spend more time with their family.

Keep reading... Show less

How am I doing as a parent?

Evaluating yourself is hard. It's even harder when attempting to assess your parenting because there's no set guide and nothing to count, measure, or quantify.

How am I doing as a parent?

Some time ago, I met my lovely friend for a drink, straight off the train from London. She told me about a very intense performance review she had at work recently, which, although scary, was incredibly useful; it gave her a general sense of how she was doing and areas to work on.

And it struck me we don't get this feedback as parents. Am I doing a good job? I have no idea.

Keep reading... Show less
#StartTheConversation by joining us on
x

Join our new platform for free and your post can reach a huge audience on Indy100 and The Independent join