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Thread: Debate help requested

  1. #1
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    Default Debate help requested

    So I've told a few people at work that I'm getting a new gecko. Most them were excited for me, but one of them responded that she thought things that were meant to be wild should stay in the wild, and not be gawked at and used for our entertainment. She said she felt sorry for my gecko, stuck in a small tank and not able to have full use of the rainforest it was meant to be in. (She is NOT a PETA member, btw, and has a pet dog, so is not opposed to keeping pets in general.)

    Well, I said he has a wonderful large tank and would be well-cared for, for many years, as opposed to being somebody's lunch, but a little part of that nagged at me. I really don't think that *some* animals should be taken from the wild and kept as pets (elephants, tigers, bears, etc.) or used in circuses, nor do I really think they should be bred for that purpose, and am not even crazy about some of them being in zoos, if their care and space is not adequate and they don't have enrichment.

    I know that my gecko was bred to be a pet. But it is not domesticated like a dog or a cat. So how do I respond to her in a civil manner, and presenting a good argument for keeping geckos (or other reptile exotics) as pets? I am not good at debate, and I respect the right of others to their opinions. But I'd like to have a good response to this debate, as I'm sure this won't be the last time I'm presented with it.
    Eileen
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    Hygge - Brown reticulated gargoyle 0.0.1

  2. #2
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    There is always going to be some sort of tradeoff when looking at the pros/cons from the animal's side of living in the wild vs. kept in captivity.

    Speaking of just the gecko itself, you are correct that the life expectancy would be longer (especially now that we have better understanding of dietary requirements, etc) and not be at risk for predation. A lot of their natural behavior (if you are speaking of crested geckos/similar NC species) is unknown, but they do not seem to be particularly social animals that require or thrive with interaction (some exceptions like pairing of leachies for breeding) or have strict requirements. For example, Savannah monitors often do not live very long in captivity without the right substrate to be able to properly dig burrows. While there are things that we may be missing enrichment-wise, as it stands husbandry has allowed for what seems like quite healthy specimens to live for 18+ years in captivity.

    Knowledge of crested gecko habitats is that they would not utilize the full range of the rainforest anyhow, being found from ground level to max of 9 feet in shrubs and small tress. Going higher might mean becoming leachie food , so they stay in a safer, more restricted area. We can replicate this to a decent degree in captivity, and not being a far-ranging animal that again puts a bonus into captivity not being particularly harmful or restrictive to the animal. However, is there a possibility there are things we are not aware of that we should be providing for them? Sure, likely the captive situation could be improved but we have come a pretty good way since 1994 to what the current guidelines are. In order to provide even better care, more keepers trying new techniques and reporting them to others is how we learn, as a community, ways to improve the welfare of these guys.

    An important point that many people don't think about when wondering "why not leave wild animals alone", is that we as humans have a huge impact on their native habitat. Without conservation efforts for wild animals (including zoos), many more species would be extinct now than already have been due to humans. IMO having people learn about and personally get invested in wild animals is really, really good for conservation. And it may seem counterintuitive, but the drive for a lot of conservation has been through what seems like non-altruistic reasons. The national parks system that Roosevelt started in the US was driven by people who wanted to hunt animals, yet make sure there would still be animals to hunt and land to hunt them on in the future. So, the desire to kill animals has been a huge benefit to keeping species and ecosystems from disappearing. One of the best conservation turnarounds, the White Rhino, brought this animal from the brink of extinction by a novel approach where they worked with land owners *and* big game hunters to give incentive for private land owners to encourage breeding of the animals and protect from poachers in return for a cut of a select few unfit animals allowed to be culled at a big-ticket price by allowed hunters.

    Now, no one wants to trophy hunt cute little geckos. But people do like to keep them as pets. What about if no one kept them as pets, how would they be doing in the wild? Unlike cats and dogs, this species is not ubiquitous throughout the world and will not survive to breed in alleys or backyards. Crested geckos were once though to be extinct, and even as of now due to deforestation of their habitat, they are still listed as threatened:

    http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/176173/0

    Without the drive for these guys as pets, even less than the approximate 200 individuals would have been exported to the US before exporting was later banned, and breeding since then resulted in many many times that number in captivity. Due to the popularity of them as pets, even if they became extinct in the wild the species would survive. So, I guess we would be at a moral question of if it would be better for them to "stay in the wild, and not be gawked at and used for our entertainment" or allow for the species to continue only in captivity. That actually probably has already happened for some locales of leachianus, such as the Caanawa, due to the little fire ant. However, pure Caanawa (though not common at all) survive in the captive population and are reproducing.
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