Should people be allowed to keep exotic snakes as pets?
Debate Rounds (5)
Activists can often be heard saying that these reptiles pose a threat to society. Using their own statistics, 17 people have been killed by large constrictors in the U.S. since 1990 up to 2012. This can be compared to the average of 26 people being killed by dogs every year. And although exotic pet keepers are set aside as a minority, millions of people across the nation do keep animals like these as pets. In fact, from 2008 to 2010 alone, 313,524 constrictor snakes were imported to the U.S. That does NOT count for the even larger number of snakes that are produced by breeders and pet shops. Compared to the large number of these animals kept in captivity, the numbers when calculated and compared to other domestic animals in captivity indicate that these snakes present no immediate threat to the keeper, and, upon inspection of the incidents, nobody outside of the keeper and their immediate family are at risk of injury or attack. Keepers have argued that snake behavior is very predictable, and speaking from a personal perspective, their actions are extremely evident from their rather obvious body language.
Lastly, some have argued that the practice of reptile keeping is a threat to the environment through importation and the release of pets. Although the procedure of importation of snakes from their native regions is ongoing, the way it is executed has dramatically changed since the reptile trade blossomed in the early 1980's. There once was a time when country natives and explorers ventured into the wilderness where adult snakes were sought after and captured, originally for the skin trade, but some specimens were also exported alive for the rapidly growing herpetocultural pet market, where they arrived stressful and often carrying parasites. This is how animal rights organizations such as Born Free USA and the Humane Society of the United States still portray the practice. But this is simply no longer the case. Since then, importation procedure has evolved from the collection of these animals from the wilderness to farming them and exporting the farm bred offspring to the U.S. and European market. This change has shifted to a much lesser impact on the environment, leaving wild populations rather undisturbed at this point. Furthermore, the imported offspring, now starting life in a domestic environment, adjust well to captive life. Another important point is the introduction of captive breeding in the domestic environment. This is, in fact, the most popular way of obtaining any pet reptile, and is where private breeders in the U.S. produce offspring from animals who also originate from the captive environment, or have been adjusted to the captive environment. This has no negative impact on the species" native population whatsoever, and actually further prevents the collection of wild animals by providing domestically produced offspring as a better alternative. This is how most snakes, such as ball pythons, blood pythons, and boa constrictors among many others are produced today. Another environmentally fueled point that has been brought up is the impact of feral snake populations on local environments. A study was released by the United States Geological Survey that stated that nine medium to large constrictor snakes could become invasive in the entire southern region of the United States. This was surrounding media reports of Burmese pythons that have become established in southern Florida. However, despite this statement from the USGS and hysteria that evolved in the media due to the fact these are large snakes, many scientists, including those from the University of Texas among several others across the globe, have disputed this as unscientific, and some scientist were rather furious of how inaccurate the press release was. In fact, the validity of this must be questioned since, after all, the study stated that the snakes can spread as far north as Virginia and Oklahoma, where the humidity is lower than what is suitable to the animal"s growth, and more importantly, where temperatures drops below freezing are common during the winter months. Another study by a university in Florida discovered that the winter temperatures of northern Florida and Georgia proved fatal to the snakes. Of all the animals tested on, all but one perished, and that last python was in a critical state with a respiratory infection before the study was deemed complete. The end result was that, despite hysteria, unbiased science reveals that these snakes do not provide a threat to the ecosystem of the United States beyond southern Florida, where only two species have become established, and their impact isn"t as severe as it is portrayed to be. This is relatively mild compared to other more prominent invasive pests, such as feral hogs, cats, and dogs which can be found throughout the continent and have decimated the local environments.
In the end, should we really ban these fascinating animals as pets? Many have made it their livelihood and career to collect and breed these snakes, while others simply keep them as additional members of their families. Despite their relatively gentle nature and steady popularity, the media continues cloud the eyes of the populace with sensationalized reports of these interesting pets, and people still promote bans of these creatures without any unbiased reasoning, and it simply shouldn't be that way.
You have said that the Burmese Python poses no threat to the United States beyond southern Florida. This fact is true but let's not forget the damages that this snake has caused to the Everglades ecosystem. This invasive snake has been overpopulating like crazy for a long time. The snake has no natural predators in the area, so hunters cannot eradicate the snakes before their eggs hatch and create new snakes that will live long lives and kill a large amount of prey. The snakes are hurting the predators and the prey of the ecosystem. These 18 foot snakes consume a large amount of prey each week which competes with the natural predators. How did all this happen? It happened when exotic snakes were kept as pets, when they got too big to keep, they were released into the wild to fend for themselves. Through irresponsible pet owners these snakes became a problem. I am not saying all snake owners are irresponsible, but there are some, it is not smart to let potentially dangerous animals in the hands of potentially irresponsible owners.
There are also other kinds of invasive snakes besides the Burmese Python. Here is a list of invasive exotic snakes.
Indian or Burmese python (Python molurus)
Northern African python (Python sebae)
Southern African python (Python natalensis)
Reticulated python (Python [or Broghammerus] reticulatus)
Boa constrictor (Boa constrictor)
Green anaconda (Eunectes murinus)
Yellow anaconda (Eunectes notaeus)
Beni or Bolivian anaconda (Eunectes beniensis)
De Schauensee"s anaconda (Eunectes deschauenseei)
All of these snakes are invasive and have threatened the ecosystems they have been released into.
The Brown Tree Snake invaded Guam. The following is a quote from one of my sources about the Brown Tree Snake that invaded Guam- "Within 40 years of its arrival, this invasive snake has decimated the island"s native wildlife"10 of Guam"s 12 native forest birds, one of its two bat species, and about half of its native lizards are gone.
This goes to show that if we allow exotic snakes to be released in the environment, this exact scenario could happen to the United States.
I await Pro's argument.
Another point I must argue is the damage that Burmese pythons reportedly inflict on the ecosystem. Although they do have an impact, it was never reported correctly or scientifically. One statement, which was that they have no natural predators, is simply a load of crock. Birds of prey, native ophiophagus snakes, and alligators do feed on the invasive reptiles. And one must keep in mind that although these snakes are capable of attaining large sizes, it requires time of which the snake must survive during, and a warmer environment since larger snakes need more heat to achieve suitable body heat levels. Therefor, although the largest snake captured in the Everglades was indeed 17 feet, it was a rare exception and most removed snakes average between 8 - 11 feet of length. Now that may seem big, but it isn't too big for a predator to hunt. One study found that while the python population was in larger numbers, the snakes were often found in the stomach of the alligators, and subsequently, the number of alligators in the Everglades increased. Another point was made that they were the culprit behind the 99% decline in mammal populations. That statement is as accurate as blaming the decline of the Amazons on introduced cats. There are several causes that devote to the reduction of an environment, but the common factor is the encroachment of mankind, the spread of urbanization, the (legal or illegal) destruction caused by people, and the pollution they leave behind. In the time that Burmese pythons were in southern Florida and before then, mankind has built communities and facilities over what used to be part of the Everglades, and as a result, the water level increased and toxic chemicals were introduced to the water. (Hence why an 'Everglades Restoration' project was introduced in the first place, although they've taken to blaming the pythons for their failure to succeed. That's government for you.) Furthermore, pythons are one of thousands of nonnative organisms that run amock in Florida, and although the Burmese python is the most popular one, Nile monitors, Argentine tegus, domestic pets and feral hogs are proving far more destructive and hazardous.
Before going further, one must understand the natural history of Burmese pythons. We can start with their eating habits. Reptiles in general have much lower metabolisms than other vertebrates, and snakes lead this by example. Juvenile pythons only require one meal a week, and infrequent feeding habits really seem to stretch once they attain larger sizes. By the time they achieve two years of age, a decent sized prey item is required once a month and larger meals can sustain them for a year. Any more frequent feeding and the pythons would be obese.
Lastly, most people who find themselves interested in keeping a pet reptile that isn't a turtle tend to have an interest in the natural history of the animal. In that, they research the animal and select the snake that best fits their living situation, and therefor properly provide for the animal. These same people also select snakes for unnatural colors, such as vivid red, neon yellow, and white as well as patterns that do not blend well with the environment. If these snakes were released, they would not survive. These 'morphs', common in the pet trade, do not camouflage at all and would be killed by predators, as well as they would be noticed and avoided by potential prey items. Albinos are also susceptible to cancer due to the lack of melanin, which protects their organs from dangerous UV radiation. If these released pets managed to survive, their offspring would inherit the genetic mutations that give them their spectacular appearances, and the invasive snakes would all look different. Keeping this in mind, one must note that all the feral pythons in Florida exhibit the snakes in their natural form. Another big piece of this puzzle is that the snakes didn't exhibit large populations until several years after 1992. What happened in 1992 was one of the strongest storms to hit Florida in years. This was Hurricane Andrew and it was responsible for destroying hundreds of structures throughout Florida, one of which, located north of the Everglades, was a small tent-like facility that carried hundreds of Burmese pythons that were imported from Asia to support the pet trade and zoological parks. After the facility was blown apart, not a single python was recovered from the aftermath. This evidence is supported by a genetic study that reported that all the pythons shared a similar gene pool, and simply put, they are all very closely related to one another. Any introduced pets would disrupt this gene pool.
As for Guam, that is simply comparing apples to oranges. Guam is near Asia, as well as it is much closer to the equator than any of the states are. It's ecosystem is different and so are its players. It has no native snakes, much like Hawaii, (besides the worm-like blind snakes) and no native species are adapted to handle the predatory reptiles, unlike Florida which has native snakes of its own. The Brown Tree snake is also much different, as it is an arboreal colubrid species most closely related to the other cat eyed snakes of its genus; not any of the primitive boids. Its method of introduction is also different, where it came as a stowaway on American war supplies during WWII, similar to how Cuban anoles came as stowaways in plants that were imported to Florida. Despite it's commonality as a subject in this kind of debate, it is invalid due to its irrelevance.
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1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by EndarkenedRationalist 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: PRO had one extra round of arguments which CON never countered. Conduct is tied because both sides forfeited multiple times. S&G go to CON because it's easier to read his arguments and refutations. Neither side used sources though both sides referenced them, so sources is a tie.
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