Technology & Reptiles: A Brave New Community?
Beginnings in Reptiles
When I first started in reptiles over a decade ago; I never imagined I’d be 37,000 feet in the air somewhere over New Mexico on my way to the Canadian Reptile Expo. Ok, well let’s be honest. I never saw myself working with reptiles ten years ago either. Yet, here I am the owner of the Reptile Apartment Group and creator of reptile content that’s been published and broadcast in more countries than I can count; some of which I cannot even pronounce.
Someone posted on Facebook recently something along the lines of paraphrasing “Leave a comment if you’re in the decade club of reptile keeping”. This has me really thinking a lot about the advancements of our community. Not only that, but also the amount of blatant ignorance. I know, you thought this was going to wax nostalgia regarding the herpers of old or how far we have come, right?
Ready for the connection between technology and the reptile community? The Internet has been around a long time. 1964 saw the first Wide Area Network however, it was not available to the, shall we say, average Joe until the late eighties. So before we had the Internet and all its various social networks, we had books and we talked to one another.
Not in chats, or emails, but real life talking in person, or over the phone. We wrote letters to one another and we interacted in a whole different way.
My plane landed and the first thing I did was contact…or at least try to contact my loved ones to let them know I had arrived safely. I tried via Social Networks and emails but nothing worked as the Internet signal wasn’t strong enough. This has caused some issues. To a degree, this brought me to the realization ‘we are now closer due to the advent of specific technologies, but when they don’t operate as efficiently as we come to expect, we certainly feel farther apart.’
I went to the customs check in and the officer there asked, what I presume are the normal questions, (at least that’s what they do in the movies).
“What’s your reason for being here, business or pleasure?”
I don’t really know what I expected but I informed him I was here on business. At which point, he followed up with,
“What type of business?”. I explained I was doing a talk on a specific genus of lizards known as Uromastyx which came from Libya, Iran, Iraq, and various other areas of the Middle East.
His face snapped up at me with a puzzled look. I thought for sure, I was about to be rushed off to secondary inspection for mentioning every country that the US of A currently has troops in.
“Are you a teacher, professor,… why are you going to the show?”
I was the proverbial deer in the headlights; piercing blue eyes staring right through me just begging for a wrong answer any excuse to find some flaw in my reasoning. “I’m an author/journalist, I’m here to talk about the captive care or Uromastyx and write about the show.”, I spat out breathlessly as if it was a well-rehearsed story to a parent. He stamped the passport and told me to enjoy my stay in Canada.
My operations director for Reptile Apartment Canada picked me up and we drove to the expo site to see Grant Crossman the show promoter. He and I spoke about prior shows and some of the talent that he’d brought to the Great White North. This of course led to the inevitable discussion of where reptiles were and how far they had come. The reason for this was I quickly became aware of the people he mentioned were/are people whom I look up to and interact(ed) with as colleagues.
On the Shoulders of Giants in Herpetoculture
We agreed that when our forebears whom started this community/industry however many decades ago had the real passion for the animals. Today we don’t have to import Ball/Royal Pythons (Python regius) because there is literally hundreds of thousands of them in captivity. I’m not bashing any breeders, don’t get me wrong. But we have developed and created a disposable pet market that was never there before and today we are paying the consequences dearly with our privilege of being able to keep ‘exotic reptiles’ now being taken from us. Technology has had a tremendous part to play in our ability to do this, as we can communicate with people in distant countries and arrange shipments of animals with a click of a button today.
When those who came before us began keeping reptiles it was to make money of course as they were bringing in various species of reptiles and caring for them and studying about how to keep them alive in a captive environment. I am not talking about only reptile breeders either. Zoos and many other such facilities were doing the same and they interacted, as it was then, a true community. It is greatly unfortunate this community as it once was, has fallen apart and gone its separate ways, especially knowing the types of technology we have at our disposal for communication, which we didn’t have back then.
Today, I could go to any expo or show and ask five random people who is (insert name of your favorite herpetoculturist who has more than a few decades experience) and I guarantee three of them wouldn’t recognize the name. On the same token you ask those same people who has the hottest morph and they could run you a list as long as your arm.
Little do they know, those morphs would never have been developed without those who began our industry.
Technology has allowed us to reach out to one another and create the latest hot selling ticket in reptiles. That very same technology could instead be used for learning how these species thrive in their natural environment. Instead, we as humans have once again failed.
We now see reptiles as a commodity to be housed in bare rack systems because they will tolerate it and produce offspring.
Those that risked so much in the early stages of development of the herpetological nation are at the age where they can also watch it come crashing down. I say we refuse to let that happen. Let’s show them, their efforts in building this community have not been in vain. Our community can stand to teach future generations the value of the animals we have all come to love, and we need to learn to use our technological resources better to accomplish that and reach broader audiences. Together, we can all make this happen.