There’s been some recent controversy stirred up regarding reptile keeping by certain individuals who are in the limelight. This began when an older video was posted regarding feeding of monitor lizard. It was/is claimed this monitor was in a feeding enclosure for the express purposes of feeding and nothing more. This ‘enclosure’ was in a rack system wherein to my estimation and that of numerous professional keepers was substandard for any large reptile species. I’m not going to go into the entire response outside of saying for the record the individual responded in a somewhat lengthy post (~700 words) regarding the controversy. I wasn’t going to respond, however some of the verbage used in the response stuck with me.
Reptiles and Best Practices
A number of years ago, I went to our Tribe with a focus on specific persons and or companies which are well-known in their respective niches. They’ve appeared in various newspapers, radio shows, and even supplied animals for films in some cases. I asked them a very poignant question regarding herpetoculture.
“What are the 5 best practices when it comes to herpetoculture?”
That’s a hard question for anyone to answer or at minimum it should be given some serious thought. I noticed a pattern as the emails, social media messages, and calls began to come up.
- Know the animals you’re working with
- Responsible ownership (to the reptiles first)
- Knowledgable staff
- Health of the reptiles
The above list is the things that every person I spoke with agreed upon and are in no certain order of importance. I bring this up as the person involved in the incident referred to their importance to the herpetoculture industry and how much they contributed to the knowledge of new keepers.
“Now I am FAR from perfect, but I think most people would agree that I make more of a impact on the hobby than almost anyone.”
That in itself is a bold and very egocentric statement. He then went on to state.
“I also never think I deserve a pass, but I do think that I should at least get the respect I deserve for all that I do for this hobby.”
Within this ‘statement’ he also calls the persons who responded to the video such things as ‘backstabbing, childish, negative nillies, stupid, keyboard warriors, and arguing morons.’ Various other unsavory terms were used as well but you get the gist of where this was going I hope.
I’m not here to tear anyone down period, which is why I won’t mention the name nor do I ever support the ‘public’ shaming of anyone not keeping their reptiles up to my personal standards. However, something that needs to be addressed and in an immediate fashion is this. The internet and social networking itself are there FOREVER. If you do something now, such as myself writing this article and you then publish it on the internet, you MUST understand one thing. Whether you intend to make it available to your niche market or not that niche may and often will share it (if you do your job right) to a wider audience than just those you deal with on a personal basis.
Reptiles and Social Media
As my partner James stated in his most recent piece about the reptile forums; social media might be replacing the forums of old where we had much more limited access to public scrutiny. Social media sites have expanded our reach into realms which are hard to fathom when compared with the days of telephones on the wall and actual hand written letters. Within hours a single article, video, and or opinion can go ‘viral’ reaching hundreds of thousands of persons.
I posted the picture of the video and the video itself in a ‘closed group’ on a social media site. Closed Group meaning you’re either asked to join by invite or request to join the group via the admin. So it’s not accessible to the general public per se. In the ensuing conversation it was brought to light by several persons the individual responsible for the video was contacted the day the video posted by numerous ‘named’ breeders to inform him that what he was portraying was in fact a poor representation of the herpetoculture industry. Yet, the video remained and does remain to my knowledge to be accessed by the ‘general public’.
To address the statement made I take issue with several things. The biggest one being thinking so highly of oneself as to state in ANY public format that you deserve respect for the amount of work and money you claim to put into the industry. No one can or at least shouldn’t in my observation demand respect from anyone. Respect as the old saying goes is earned, not demanded. If in fact the video portrays a feeding enclosure, then so be it. To my knowledge and understanding the person in question has some years of experience with video making and editing. My question is this.
If the video is old why not go back and edit something into it where in it’s made clear of what is taking place? Why not ‘pin’ a comment to the top of the comments field wherein I read a lot questions regarding the same aspects brought up in the group where I posted the piece? Instead, this individual went on the defensive after seven-years had passed and said person stated
“I gave that animal away 6 years ago and yet I received about 100 messages about how I need to keep that monitor differently and how terrible of a person I am.”
Welcome to the limelight sir.
When you’re a person whom is in the public eye you’re going to get scrutinized and much more so than you would as a ‘hobby breeder’. Trust and believe, we see the ‘hobby breeders’ and EVEN brand new owners get ripped into DAILY among the forums, social media, and various other outlets. The reality of the situation; science is learning more everyday the reptiles we keep are in fact cognizant and may even have emotions. So YES, when an animal is or could be in a situation that’s not standard or even substandard you will receive feedback about it. How you take that feedback or respond to it is your choice. Understand though the industry is passionate about ALL the animals they keep and they will respond with sometimes emotionally loaded responses. It’s YOUR job to take these in stride and respond in an appropriate fashion. If you’re doing such an incredible job for our industry then another adage comes to mind.
‘Walk the walk instead of talking the talk.’
Instead of telling the industry what a bunch of morons and negative nillies we are for calling upon you to answer VALID questions how about amending the video to prevent further discussion and or even remove the video. If you don’t own the reptile anymore what is the harm in doing either of the above.
Recent legislation is impending wherein legislators are looking for a reason(s) where they can and do share poor husbandry practices with the public as well as animal rights activists to further fuel the fire of anyone being able to keep exotic pets of any kind. This video was viewed 223,219 times lending itself to throw gasoline on an already hot topic. This in itself is a prime example of the reasons we have thousands of discussions regarding the aspect of self-policing our own industry. Creating an atmosphere of camaraderie and wait for it…RESPECT amongst our peers. Allowing our industry to set the high-standards of captive quality care wherein we can and should PUBLICLY share our work showing the general public that no further legislation is in any way needed or warranted.
My dad had a saying in ANY industry where he dealt with other.
“If you like what I do, tell a friend. If you don’t like what I do tell me so I can make it right.”
*Any and all statements within this article are of the author and are in no way a reflection the personal opinions of ANY staff or volunteers related to or working with the Reptile Apartment Group.