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  • 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.
    TAD "Tiny Ancient Dinosaur" (Crestie), Hidey (Garg), O.G. "Office Gecko" (Bauer's Chameleon gecko), TBD "Tiny Badass Dragon" (Western Bearded Anole), 3.1.0
    Rody Jane (cattledog/stinkwad mix), Dixie Moonpie (rattledog) George P-Dog (lab/Great Pyr) 1.2.0, Ringer (barn cat) 1.0.0

  • #2
    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:

    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.
    Dedicated to the health, quality, and genetic diversity of Crested Geckos (Correlophus ciliatus)
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    • #3
      i've personally never thought about this whole topic very much, but i do think about it every now and then. being the huge animal lover that i am, i'm totally for the idea of keeping exotic pets to preserve their species, even if we're mainly keeping them just to admire them. in my opinion it's actually much better for them to live in our care because they receive medical attention when they need it, always have food available, and will have less of a chance of being gobbled down by a predator, and therefore we are playing that part in keeping their species alive even though it's just in captivity.


      • #4
        Just for discussion sake, would the same arguments apply to tigers, grizzlies, chimpanzees, elephants, etc.? There are some people who do keep these larger exotics as well. Some may be threatened/endangered, others not, but they are still exotics. Maybe this is one of those things that's always going to have a gray area. Elephants have been my favorite animal since I was a child. Truthfully, I am glad they will no longer be in circuses. I think it could work in zoos IF they are provided enough room and enrichment (but at this point, I think too few have those requirements yet); I do think it's important for people to learn about them and become "connected". Totally for legitimate sanctuaries, where people can still learn about them. But, I don't think they should be pulled from the wild for our entertainment.

        So - I am learning from different viewpoints. Thanks for the input.
        TAD "Tiny Ancient Dinosaur" (Crestie), Hidey (Garg), O.G. "Office Gecko" (Bauer's Chameleon gecko), TBD "Tiny Badass Dragon" (Western Bearded Anole), 3.1.0
        Rody Jane (cattledog/stinkwad mix), Dixie Moonpie (rattledog) George P-Dog (lab/Great Pyr) 1.2.0, Ringer (barn cat) 1.0.0


        • #5
          The way I look at it is; the animal is already, and is going to stay in captivity, whether you take it or not. At least if you have it, you will provide proper care, and enclosure, As opposed to some un-experienced person. Another thing; they live longer, and healthier lives. I.e- in the wild, the animal has to worry about predictors, food, water, warmth, cool, etc. I do agree with you though, bears, cats, etc. deserve the wild. One reason, they are too big to keep locked up. Unless you let them roam free, and I mean everywhere, they're just too big. Geckos don't go everywhere in the wild. They find their square and stay there. Whilst a tiger might explore all around. And what's different in a gecko and a dog? Dogs where, after all, descended Down from wolves. Wolves are wild. What is the gecko you're wanting?
          .1.DOG Jiggles
          1.1.CRESTED GECKO Phantom & Lovely
          .1.YBST Cloveth
          .1.MINIPIG Judy(food&belly rub is kinda apig deal)
          1..RAT CoconutRatMinneapolis RIP


          • #6
            i think that it's different for them, but i still support the idea of preserving their species. with larger animals such as those and, to add even more to the discussion, poisonous and venomous species, i think it's still amazing to be willing to preserve them, whether it's in zoos or at a single person's home. you just have to be a lot more cautious. a little gecko with tiny teeth and a very weak jaw who doesn't carry any sort of dangerous substance that it's ready to release if it feels threatened can easily be preserved in captivity as you have no worry when it comes to keeping yourself safe. they're also so much smaller than a grizzly or a tiger, so that makes them even more easy to care for. they don't have the same range of space as they would in the wild but some amazing enclosures can be built by those who are willing and able. even without said enclosures a gecko can still live comfortably in a tall exo terra tank.
            also, i do agree that a zoo that doesn't provide the adequate care for an exotic species and just takes them in mainly to show off to the public to make money is definitely not a good one. i'm glad that circuses have stopped, too. both of these are considered to be harmful. while no zoo will be perfect, there are some out there that provide really excellent care when compared to some of the others.
            essentially, this is what i think: keep an exotic pet, whether it's endangered or not, in a zoo or at your home, as long as you're meeting the species' appropriate living requirements, and if it happens to be a poisonous or venomous species, take precautions to prevent it from causing any damage.


            • #7
              Originally posted by DiscotheGecko View Post
              this is what i think: keep an exotic pet, whether it's endangered or not, in a zoo or at your home, as long as you're meeting the species' appropriate living requirements, and if it happens to be a poisonous or venomous species, take precautions to prevent it from causing any damage.
              You will always come across people who are against having any kind of pet other than a dog or cat (and some who are against that too). Sometimes, explaining the care they get, and what happens in the wild (which is usually human caused problems these days), will change the person's mind, but usually not. I think anyone with the ability, training, and space to care for an exotic, should be able to have that exotic. I think for the more dangerous types, there should be some kind of licensing and reviews done, to prove that the keeper knows what they are doing, safely, and the facility and care is proper and up-to-date on current care ideas. The USDA base line requirements for care of exotic cats and many other big/dangerous animals is woefully poor and extremely outdated. To make matters worse, you cannot easily get reports on who meets, and fails, those pitiful requirements any more.

              If you think the person might be willing to actually Listen, go for explaining. Even if you don't think they'll change their mind, if they are willing to consider your stance, it's worth it. If you're pretty sure they won't actually Listen, shrug it off and let it drop. Probably try to avoid talking about it around that person if you can. It will just make things easier. Kinda like avoiding politics and religion as topics at a big holiday family dinner.