reptile-prince asked:

Hello! I'm doing my senior project on breeding reptiles and wondered if you could answer a question to help me on it. What's your view on how breeding reptiles helps or hurts conservation? Just reptiles in general, not morph breeding though if you want to get into that it would help me have a side against it in my report. Thank you for your time!

Alright, let’s get one thing out of the way: nothing you do as a private reptile keeper has any possible benefit for wild animals except stopping more from being extracted from the wild. The exception being those individuals who set up institution-recognised, carefully managed breeding centres using private funding in their own private space without commercialising it. But 99.999% of herp keepers and breeders are not in that camp.

The trouble is, the majority of breeders are producing inbred offspring (either through negligence or on purpose for the creation of morphs) and are not tracking their blood lines through studbooks. A lot of the breeding is also done at a diffuse level - numerous individuals exchanging animals across the country or the world - and in these cases the record-keeping is even worse. Without a studbook or records of bloodlines, it is easy to wind up with genetically inviable populations and smaller than expected effective population sizes. The result is that any potential re-introduction might suffer from serious inbreeding depression, and result in a collapse of the reintroduced population.

When animals are initially imported into the pet trade, exact locations are often ignored. This can be a serious problem in cases where the taxonomy of a given species is not entirely clear, even when studbooks are relatively meticulously kept. For instance, the entire population of Uroplatus ebenaui in captivity is completely invalid from a conservation perspective, because the origins of the animals coming out of the wild have not been traced, and we now know that U. ebenaui is in fact nine species which are probably able to interbreed in captivity. Without keeping track of where the imports came from the existing population is worthless, and only record-keeping from here on in will be in any way meaningful for the conservation of these nine different evolutionary lineages.

Axolotls are another really good example. The axolotl is Critically Endangered and nearing extinction in the wild. It is easy to shrug this off as not being a big deal because there are so many axolotl in captivity that the idea that they might soon be extinct altogether is ludicrous. The trouble is, the animals in captivity (except those maintained in research institutions, breeding facilities, and zoos) are completely inviable for the re-establishment of the wild axolotl. Many have been crossed with the Tiger Salamander to create the albino axolotl morph, and of course hybrids are useless for conservation, and the rest have not had their bloodlines carefully traced. So while you might argue that the axolotl is going to survive, the loss of the wild axolotls may prove irreversible. Certainly pet owners and breeders are not going to be involved in its recovery.

I have come across a lot of people online claiming that they are somehow helping the conservation of species by keeping and breeding them in captivity, and selling the offspring. Almost 100% of the time this is bullshit. As I’ve said, yes, it is good for the wild animals to be producing captive-bred individuals to remove pet-industry pressure of collection from the wild. However, we must remember that pet-industry collection as a threat to the survival of most species is faaar down the list of threats to a species. That is, until the species is Critically Endangered. For example, the ploughshare tortoise (Astrochelys yniphora) from Madagascar is now Critically Endangered. Somewhere between 300 and 600 individuals exist in the wild. The initial population decline was not because of the pet trade, but rather due to loss of habitat, introduced livestock, and especially consumption as food. Now, however, the major threat really is the pet trade: rich individuals from Eastern Asia and the US are funding the black market collection and export of this species, and as much as 20% of the known population has been found in a suitcase bound for the back yards of rich assholes who think their own desire to own one of these precious animals is more important than the survival of the whole species.

I would be reluctant to say that breeding animals in captivity necessarily harms conservation efforts. Certainly it is not as beneficial as the average keeper might like to think it is, but as long as the animals being bred in captivity are not escaping and/or interbreeding with wild populations, it can’t be particularly damaging to conservation efforts, except that perhaps people don’t realise just how threatened axolotls are.

Seaworld's Superb "Inbreeding" Program, Lack of Genetic Diversity Among Captive Orca

 With orca numbers dwindling across marine parks, lack of genetic diversity is taking a toll.  Already we are seeing inbreeding taking place within parks across the nation. The root behind all of the inbreeding is, of course, Seaworld.

On September 18, 2006 the first inbred orca was born at Seaworld Florida. This calf, named Nalani, was sired by Taku, who is also her brother, their mother is Katina, who is also Nalani’s grandmother. Nalani was raised by her mother/grandmother and seem’s to have suffered no ill effects from the inbreeding other than forever having “tainted” bloodlines. Nalani will be seven years old this year.

However, the United States isn’t the only country getting away with inbreeding their orca. In Spain, inbred orca seem to be a new goal for one park. 

Below: Nalani, world’s first captive inbred orca

“In February 2006, Loro Parque,located on the outskirts of Puerto de la Cruz in TenerifeSpain, received four young orca: two males, Keto (born in 1995) and Tekoa (born in 2000), and two females, Kohana (2002) and Skyla (2004) on loan from Seaworld. SeaWorld still maintains ownership of these animals, and is therefore responsible for them.” --

The above quote states that four orca were sent to Spain on loan to Loro Parque. These orca have been used to create even more inbred orca, since Seaworld Florida’s success with Nalani.

In 2010, eight year old Kohana rejected her first calf, forcing park officials at Loro Parque to hand raise the baby. Kohana showed no interest in the calf, later named Adan, at all. But, Kohana had every right to be wary of her calf, and this is why: Kohana’s mother is Takara, the half-sister of Keto; and Keto’s sire is Kotar, who is also Kohana’s grandfather. Therefore, following family ties, Kohana was bred to her own uncle. Perhaps this highly intelligent female orca knew something was amiss with her calf? Then by rejecting him she would “fix” what was wrong in the gene pool? Only Kohana knows the answer. 

Below: Adan being “handled” by park trainers

The breeding of the four orca on loan from Seaworld is authorized by the corporation. In short, this mean’s Seaworld agrees to knowingly breed orca of the same relation in order to “boost their numbers”. SeaWorld’s gene pool has been drastically diluted by inbreeding, but to thrive in the captive cetacean industry, they need orca.

On August 3, 2012 Adan acquired a sister. Kohana gave birth, after a one hour labor, to a calf named Victoria, “Vicky”. Unfortunately Vicky would suffer the same rejection by her mother and have to be raised by park trainers and officials. Vicky, is also the daughter of Keto, making her and Adan full sibling’s; both inbred and both authorized to be produced by Seaworld. Vicky has Kotar as a grandfather on Keto’s side, and also as a great-grandfather on Kohana’s side, (through Takara).  

 Shockingly, when all orca lines are tied together, Vicky is blood-related to 21 of 26 SeaWorld whales, the only male orca that Vicky is not related to, is Ulysses  Ulysses was considered unable to produce offspring although he did sire one calf born in 2011 after artificial insemination.

Now, at roughly 5 months old, she spends most her days in the small medical pool with her brother Adan;  both are rejected by all orca at the park and are rarely housed with any of them for their own protection. 

Below: Vicky has obvious physical signs from her inbred bloodlines, almost classified as deformalities.

The Center for Whale Research, says female orca in the wild, “give birth every three years starting at age 13.” Also, according to National Marine Mammal Laboratory, “whales usually give birth every 3 to 10 years.”

Recently it has been reported that Kohana is being kept with Keto more often, making it only a matter of time before she becomes pregnant and yet another inbred orca is born. Kohana is ten years old and has given birth twice in the span of two years, earlier and more frequently than she would in the wild; Something that would never happen between family members among wild orca. 

In the wild, orca do not breed within their small “sub-pods” made up of closely related individuals. It is only when pods of the same genetic make-up, such as fish eating or seal eating orca, meet up and create what is known as a “super-pod” does breeding take place. Therefore, members of the same family never breed with one another and new blood is always inserted into the wild orca gene pool. 

Below: Southern Resident Orca calf, J49 (born August 6, 2012), swimming with his mother, J37, and pod. Photo by: John Boyd 

However, Seaworld seem’s to have found way’s to try and save their captive orca gene’s from being further corrupted by their inbreeding. 

One way for Seaworld and Loro Parque to add new gene’s to their captive bloodlines is by breeding Loro Parque’s newest obtained orca, Morgan. Morgan is roughly five years old and was “rescued” from the wild after being “abandoned” by her family and left alone. She was recently deemed unsuitable for release back into the wild by a court due to Loro Parque’s discovery that she is deaf. No one know’s for sure if she is in fact deaf, and many believe it is a lie in order for them to keep her captive. Morgan is bullied by the other orca at Loro Parque and suffer's hideous rake marks and stress. Another interesting fact is that Loro Parque was told Morgan was not to be trained for shows or used for breeding, and yet photo’s show her being trained, used in shows and being kept in the same pool with Keto. 

Below: Morgan being bullied by other orca at Loro Parque. Trainer’s seem oblivious to the tension between the several orca.

In Argentina, there is a male orca by the name of Kshamenk who lives alone at Mundo Marino, a marine park. His living conditions are unlike any other captive orca, and his health is deteriorating. Instead of Seaworld stepping in to help Kshamenk, and save him, they made a deal with Mundo Marino. It has been learned and reported by Tim Zimmerman that captive Seaworld orca Kasatka is due to give birth sometime next month, and the father is Kshamenk. Seaworld obtained semen from Kshamenk by most likely paying Mundo Marino a pretty penny, therefore “helping” Seaworld’s gene pool expand some. 

Below: Kshamenk in his tiny pool at Mundo Marino

The breeding of cetacean’s must be outlawed within the United States, it has to stop. The only way to better the lives of these animal’s is to stop breeding them for profit and allow them to comfortably live out the rest of their shortened lives in as much peace as possible. End the breeding, end the captivity. End the slavery.

*Please note: I own no right’s to any photo’s used in this article and gain no profit of any kind by using the photo’s, therefore I hereby claim the rights given to me by the “Fair Use Act”. All credit for photo’s used goes to original photographer’s. 


ON THE ROAD — Zoos today walk a narrow path at the edge of an ethical precipice. Our 21st century moral sensibilities no longer find it acceptable for animals to be kept in captivity solely for the entertainment of our species. Healesville Sanctuary on the outer edges of Melbourne was set up in 1920 with a research agenda but now has a formidable reputation for developing skills in captive breeding for vulnerable and endangered species. In the precarious state of the environment today, sanctuaries are often places of protective custody rather than captivity, where fences are more about protecting critical populations of endangered species from predators, than about keeping animals for our interest or entertainment. Healesville has been one of only two institutions to successfully breed platypus. The sanctuary is also playing an important role in a recovery program to save a Victorian sub-species of the Helmeted Honey-eater aka the Yellow-tufted Honeyeater (Lichenostomus melanops cassiddix) from extinction. The bird is listed as critically endangered with only three small semi-wild populations in remnant streamside forest to the east of Melbourne. Through a program of captive breeding the sanctuary aims to establish a stable wild population with at least ten distinct but inter-connected colonies as well as keeping a protected population as insurance against loss of populations in the wild. As for many native species in Australia, habitat loss through forest clearing has been the main threatening process. The incursion of the aggressive native Bell Miner (Manorina melanophrys) through range expansion is another critical factor. With limited habitat the Bell Miners’ aggressive territoriality makes it difficult for the Helmeted Honeyeaters to get the resources they need to survive. At Healesville the Helmeted Honeyeater is an institutional icon, branded a “Headstrong Hero” and I was lucky to photograph them perched on their signage in the large open flight aviary where they help to spread the word about the threat of extinction faced by many species today.

Smart, Social and Erratic in Captivity

Should some of the most social, intelligent and charismatic animals on the planet be kept in captivity by human beings?

That is a question asked more frequently than ever by both scientists and animal welfare advocates, sometimes about close human cousins like chimpanzees and other great apes, but also about another animal that is remarkable for its intelligence and complex social organization — the killer whale, or orca.

Killer whales, found in all the world’s oceans, were once as despised as wolves. But in the last half century these elegant black-and-white predators — a threat to seals and other prey as they cruise the oceans, but often friendly to humans in the wild — have joined the pantheon of adored wildlife, along with the familiar polar bears, elephants and lions.

With life spans that approach those of humans, orcas have strong family bonds, elaborate vocal communication and cooperative hunting strategies. And their beauty and power, combined with a willingness to work with humans, have made them legendary performers at marine parks since they were first captured and exhibited in the 1960s. They are no longer taken from the wild as young to be raised and trained, but are bred in captivity in the United States for public display at marine parks.

Some scientists and activists have argued for years against keeping them in artificial enclosures and training them for exhibition. They argue for more natural settings, like enclosed sea pens, as well as an end to captive breeding and to the orcas’ use in what opponents call entertainment and marine parks call education.

Now the issue has been raised with new intensity in the documentary film “Blackfish” and the book “Death at SeaWorld,” by David Kirby, just released in paperback.

The film and book both focus on the 2010 death of Dawn Brancheau, a trainer, at SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla. She was dragged underwater by a whale called Tilikum, who had been involved in two earlier deaths.

The event led to two citations for safety violations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for an unsafe workplace, and an ongoing struggle over OSHA requirements that trainers be separated from killer whales. The most recent fine was in June, and SeaWorld is appealing both decisions.

Both the book and film argue that Tilikum’s actions were deliberate and that his behavior was a result of the psychological damage of captivity, not just at SeaWorld but also at another facility where he was first kept. SeaWorld has said the death was an accident, not a deliberate killing.

Beyond the death of Ms. Brancheau and the arguments over how SeaWorld manages its many facilities lies a fundamental disagreement about whether killer whales, and other cetaceans — the group of marine mammals that includes whales, dolphins and porpoises — should be held captive at all.

It is reminiscent in many ways of the movement to put all captive chimpanzees into sanctuaries, which recently scored two major successes when the National Institutes of Health decided to retire most of its chimpanzees and the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing all chimps as endangered, raising new barriers to experimentation.

But the situation for killer whales is different. There are many fewer in captivity — a total of 45 worldwide, according to the organization Whale and Dolphin Conservation — and thousands of people have come to love them partly because of the very exhibitions in marine parks like SeaWorld that disturb those who oppose keeping the whales in captivity. A great deal of scientific study of marine mammals has also been done in these marine parks.

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World's most venemous lizard born in Sweden

by The Local 

Authorities at Stockholm’s Skansen animal park announced the birth of two venomous baby Gila monsters on Wednesday, following a four-month incubation period. Jonas Wahlström, the managing director at Skansen’s aquarium, said animal keepers were proud to orchestrate the first birth of the species within Europe.  "We’re extremely happy to have finally succeeded in multiplying the numbers of Gila monsters after breeding them for years,“ he told The Local. 

The Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum) is a native to the southern parts United States and northern parts of Mexico. It’s a slow-moving, heavy lizard which grows up to 60 centimetres long. They’re found in deserts and prey on small rodents and eggs.  (see more: The Local)
(photo: Bo Jonsson/Skansen Aquarium)
The Dolphin Trainer Who Loved Dolphins Too Much

Last year, I connected with a dolphin trainer called Ashley Guidry, from Gulf World in Florida. Over the more than 10 years she worked with Gulf World’s dolphins she had come to find her love of the animals irreconcilable with the business of using them for profit-making entertainment.

I have always been interested in how trainers’ attitudes change over time, as they learn all the subtleties of…

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Ethical Wild Animal Tourism

Nowadays you will be hard pressed to find someone on social media that doesn’t have at least one “Selfie” or photo with a tiger, lion cub, elephant, monkey or some other wild animal. Unfortunately people do not realise the cruelty that they are often supporting by paying people or facilities to have a photo or experience with these animals.

"These cubs were abandoned by their mother.”
“We breed lions to help conserve lions in the wild.”
“Walking with lions helps prepare them for release into the wild.”

Beware the myths animal parks try to feed you.  Always do your research before visiting any wildlife facility and steer clear of cub petting and lion walking scams. 

Aquarium breeds one of the world’s smallest fish!

Danionella translucida, one of the smallest fish species in the world, has been bred at Blue Planet Aquarium, Cheshire Oaks.

The freshwater fish, a type of near-transparent danio, measures just 10mm when fully grown — that’s approximately the same size as a grain of rice. The above picture is of an adult.

It’s only six weeks since the adult fish, which originally come from Myanmar (formerly Burma) arrived at the award-winning aquarium and staff say the 2mm-long babies are doing well.

Due to its size and limited distribution the species, Danionella translucida, was only discovered in 1986. No one is certain about their numbers in the wild and there is concern for the species’ long term survival.

(Read more) Practical Fishkeeping


Why do we need the modern zoo? 

The zoo has come a long way, transforming from a place of public entertainment, to the modern zoo, which many see as a centre for conservation. So why do we even need modern zoos? In this episode, David explores this very question.

A nautilus has hatched at the Birth Aquarium at Scripps Institute of Oceanography at University of California in San Diego in La Jolla, California, a first for the aquarium. To note: a nautilus is a cephalopod, just like the squid. ZooBorns has lots more photos of the little creature who reports the “egg was laid in early November of 2012 and the hatching process has taken weeks… all leading up to last Wednesday, when it finally emerged!”

via Laughing Squid

"Iberian lynx returns to the wild in Spain"

via BBC Nature

(April 12, 2012) Excitement ripples through the crowd that has gathered to catch a rare glimpse of the world’s most endangered cat.

With its lustrous, spotted coat, kohl-rimmed eyes and tufted ears, the Iberian lynx would not look out of place in Africa or Asia. But this is Europe’s big cat.

And the lynx that dozens of people have come out to see today could be the key to saving this species.

The cat was once widespread across Spain and Portugal. But in 2005, its numbers plummeted to just 150, earning it the unenviable title of being the most threatened of the world’s 36 wild cat species…

The situation was so desperate that conservationists in Spain were forced to take radical action: removing some of the cats from the wild and putting them into captivity to breed, in an attempt to boost numbers.

Miguel Simon, director of the Lynx Life project, said: “The situation was really dramatic: there were only two populations left in the wild.

"In order to preserve this species, we had to create a captive population in case the wild population became extinct.”

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