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How to make a career (ethically) capturing and dealing wildlife in 2023?

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by La Cucaracha, 19 Jan 2023.

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  1. La Cucaracha

    La Cucaracha Well-Known Member

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    So I know normally, new zoochatters (especially younger males, like myself) slowly but surely reveal their dream of starting a zoo; with a checklist of big game animals and exotic birds desired for display.
    I have a more controversial one: to be a sourcer of live wildlife for reputable zoos and exotic pet breeders/suppliers. Traveling to exotic locations, hunting for wildlife, returning home with them alive, and getting paid for it or breeding them myself appeals to me. I may even start closer to home: capturing herptiles and fish in nearby states with a regulated system for commercial collecting. While having no experiencing working in zoos, I have worked at an exotic pet store in the past. Also, I have some experience hunting deer and herping.

    Can a career be made currently collecting in this fashion? I have read books by authors that did (Peter Ryhiner, Marte Latham), but they were pre-CITES and Endangered Species Act. And what ethics besides the law should I consider?
     
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  2. Great Argus

    Great Argus Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    This was not a post I expected to see on the forum.

    I for one do not approve of this, and there will not be suggestions from me other than you'll find a lot of laws in the way.
     
  3. TinoPup

    TinoPup Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    No. Wow, no.
     
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  4. birdsandbats

    birdsandbats Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    Well it depends on how you go about it.

    Absolutely, collection from the wild can be done legally for many species, and potentially sustainably as well. However, the ways to do it sustainably and the laws (or lack of laws) in any situation almost never match up. Certainly, there are people making a living today legally capturing animals for the reasons you mention. But in nearly all cases those people, from an ecological standpoint, are causing quite a bit of harm.

    Is it technically possible to make a career out of legally and sustainably capturing wild animals for zoos and the private trade? Yes. Do I recommend it? No.

    With that being said, I am not super knowledgeable on this subject. If you are truly interested I recommend trying to find examples of people who have made a living off of this. But do tread very carefully. Be aware of the ecological impacts any collection may have, and just because someone says the collection was sustainable doesn't mean it is!
     
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  5. Neil chace

    Neil chace Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    About the closest you could get to ethically sourcing wildlife for zoos would be working in wildlife rehabilitation. Wildlife rehabilitation clinics often will find homes for non-releasable animals to zoos or educational facilities, and are the best ethical way for zoos to acquire wild animals- those individuals that can't survive in the wild anyways. I'd re-consider your career goals and figure out if wildlife rehabilitation fits the type of career you are looking for, and if so I'm sure there is plenty of information about schooling and other requirements for this career.

    However, while it is certainly possible to make a career out of the capture of wild animals for sale (unfortunately there are a lot of herps especially imported wild-caught for the pet trade), this is 100% not ethical, especially in large quantities, as they can decimate wildlife populations. If providing herps (or other animals) to zoos was a career goal of yours, I'd recommend becoming a private breeder, and work with a breeding group of captive-bred individuals of a species that interests you. Oftentimes this isn't profitable enough to be a full-time gig, but it is a nice way for people interested in exotic pets to get compensation for the money they spend on the hobby. Just make sure that you are taking good care of the animals in your collection and are breeding ethically (e.g. no intentional in-breeding, not over-breeding, etc.)
     
    Last edited: 19 Jan 2023
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  6. birdsandbats

    birdsandbats Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    I agree that a private breeder may be a good alternative.
     
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  7. Aardwolf

    Aardwolf Well-Known Member

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    First of, let me say off the bat, I get it. There's a lot of romanticism in those old days of going out, seeking adventure, and never knowing what you'd find. Books by Carl Hagenbeck, Frank Buck, and Gerald Durrell made quite an impression on the public, and David Attenborough cut his teeth in media by filming collecting expeditions for ZSL.

    That being said, to recreate that - large scale collecting expeditions to bring back exotic animals - those aren't really a thing anymore. To bring in a large, wild born mammal into a US zoo is an extremely complicated process, both legally (especially when CITES permits are involved), logistically, and financially. I've done a wild-born mammal import before for a CITES I animal. It took over a year and almost fell apart several times. I can't imagine doing that every single month.

    Then, there's the ethical question - when zoos have brought in African elephants from Swaziland (elephants that were slated to be culled, mind you), staff received death threats and their were picketers at their gates (though it all blew over fairly quickly once the deed was done).

    Reptiles, amphibians, inverts, and to a lesser extent birds (and lesser still, mammals) are still supplemented by some imports from the wild. Some can be collected in sustainable numbers without putting a damp on wild populations - or at least we assume, because the ecologies of many of these species in the wild are poorly understood, and it might be doing more harm to populations than we realize. Zoos are trying to move away from that for a variety of reasons, from ethics to practicality - what those Buck books gloss over is just how many animals die in capture, or transit, or fail to thrive when brought into zoos.

    I can appreciate your enthusiasm for wanting an adventurous career, but I suspect this is a chapter of zoo history we've (largely) moved on from. And that's ok. As Billy Joel said, "The good old days weren't always good, and tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems."
     
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  8. Neil chace

    Neil chace Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    I was talking rather recently with an SSP Coordinator who has had a long career working with a CITES I species, and has been involved in a number of imports of captive-born individuals from zoos in the species' native range. Even with captive individuals, he said the quickest importation process took ten months, and oftentimes it takes a year and a half, if not longer. So there are certainly a lot of logistical problems involved that'd make it extremely difficult for these imports to occur on a large scale, which is certainly beneficial for wild populations, even if logistically difficult for zoos.
     
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  9. Aardwolf

    Aardwolf Well-Known Member

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    Exactly. CITES is easier if you're doing captive-bred, even if it's still from the wild. What we're going to probably see in the future is the targeted acquisition of individual animals (such as Pinocchio, the Andean bear imported by Salisbury Zoo), or planned imports for a specific SSP to boost genetic diversity. We're not talking about the days when you'd go abroad, grab whatever you found, then sent a catalog around to all the zoos to see who wanted to buy what.

    For those who aren't familiar with the nuts and bolts of CITES, one of the questions asks for a specific justification of how your import of an animal or plant contribute to the survival of the wild population. Financial contribution isn't an acceptable answer; that's basically buying the specimens. "We're an AZA zoo and we're going to put it on display" isn't an acceptable answer by itself, either.
     
  10. DartFrog

    DartFrog Member

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    If you are looking to obtain wild/exotic animals, please abide by your local/international laws. Smuggling and illegally collecting wildlife is not only illicit but can damage already vulnerable populations. There are a countless number of species that are collected from the wild without permission, shoved in inadequate plastic containers, and brought into foreign countries each year. I believe you have good intentions but please don’t fall down the vast rabbit hole of illegal animal importation.
     
  11. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    Rethink what it means to "capture" wildlife. Learn photography skills and a little known foreign language or two and become a professional wildlife tour facilitator/guide in Africa or somewhere. Leave the too-few wild animals still left where they are, and take the people paying to them instead. You can have all the adventure without the ethical minefields.
     
    Last edited: 20 Jan 2023
  12. La Cucaracha

    La Cucaracha Well-Known Member

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    While I have considered sourcing animals from wildlife rehabilitators, wildlife rehab itself is not much of a career. I doubt very many of them would part with their animals to be funneled into the exotic animal trade, either.
    Also, I implore you to reconsider that selling wild caught animals is 100% unethical. Do you feel this way about butterfly farms that source cocoons to zoos and museums for live display? A regulated wildlife trade can be an incentive to protect habitat rather than destroy it.
    Bans on the bird trade in South America yield mixed results
    Butterfly business: Insect farmers help conserve East African forests
    To be fair, I hadn't said anything about large scale collections or even large mammals. Agriculture departments all over the world have closed on importing exotic ruminants willy nilly. The only place I could imagine feasibly doing something like Hatari would be Australia, where feral camels, water buffaloes, and deer are decimating the ecosystem; I would say it's not only ethical to collect those animals, but an obligation to conservation as well.
    While I agree "the good old days" are more than probably over, there are likely still niche opportunities. I know wild caught fish are still very common in public aquariums. And the rare to occasional inclusion of wild caught animals to captive bred population may benefit them as well.
    Yes. I think the exotic animal trade gets enough of a bad rap with illegal activity that law abiding hobbyists, many captive breeders, already find repulsive.
    See the linked articles above I responded to Neil chace with.
     
    Last edited: 20 Jan 2023
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  13. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    Oh, I know all the arguments, but I'm afraid they don't really wash with me. If you really want to *be* ethical and not simply *sound* ethical, you'll need to explain why you, a relatively privileged American, need to come in and take these rather limited roles that are almost certainly better filled by people who live in the given countries and have an interest in them being safe and sustainable.

    There's a little bit of aspiration to be Gerald Durrell in all of us here, but most of us understand why he made the career transition he did.
     
  14. elefante

    elefante Well-Known Member 10+ year member

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    Animal dealers often deal their animals the same way as drug dealers. Smuggling across borders. It's a pretty sordid business for the most part and you could end up finding some pretty questionable things online and potentially get into hot water. I'd reconsider your career choice.
     
  15. Great Argus

    Great Argus Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    It can be though, there is a large need for it. At least in the US though, it would be illegal to funnel most species into the exotic animal trade. I think many countries have similar laws.

    This is a decidedly uncomfortable comment. There are many areas where legal and regulated wildlife trade does exist, but the way you've put it is edgy. The butterflies do work, but they're also easier sustained with a high reproductive rate and so if necessary some could be released back into the wild as well.

    And then where would you send them? Most countries probably wouldn't allow the import. Australian zoos probably don't want them.

    There is active work being done to provide more and more captive bred fish for aquariums, both public and private. Same goes for the herp hobby.
     
  16. La Cucaracha

    La Cucaracha Well-Known Member

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    I would agree the roles of capturer are often, though not always, better filled by locals with a better knowledge of the wildlife and trapping them. It's a shame captive breeding actually takes demand away from their collecting.

    https://www.atlasobscura.com/articl...city-that-supplies-aquarium-fish-to-the-world

    Also, don't assume I need to travel outside of my country to do such collecting.
    Uncomfortable maybe, but not untrue. Mind that those are Mongabay articles, and not Reptiles Magazine or USARK.

    At least in my country, importing ruminants from Australia is allowed because the country is considered free of disease. Zoos may not want them, but exotic animal keepers and ranches might. Water buffalo dairy is a prized commodity in Italian cuisine.

    As for captive bred animals, I don't believe this will actually be the end for wild capture. If captive bred reptiles are the superior ethical and economical choice, then where are the captive bred green anoles?
     
  17. La Cucaracha

    La Cucaracha Well-Known Member

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    Also, if you have a business plan for wildlife rehabilitation, I'd be happy to hear it! Maybe you'd like to be partners in this profitable venture. ;)
     
  18. birdsandbats

    birdsandbats Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    Nearly all of the Cuban Tree Frogs in the pet trade in North America are sourced from wild-caught individuals from the invasive population in Florida. Capturing and selling animals from where they are invasive may be an ethical career patch.
     
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  19. Bengal Tiger

    Bengal Tiger Well-Known Member

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    If capturing multiple individuals of a species for the purpose of creating a breeding program is done, I think that's fine, but creating a business of catching and selling animals just doesn't sit right with me.
     
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  20. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    So now captive breeding is a shame because it's undermining demand for wild-caught specimens.

    We're getting closer and closer to the point where it's unavoidably clear you are looking for a strawman justification for an idealised career you want, not a sincere conversation about whether such a thing can be done ethically.
     
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