Friday, 29 June 2012

Please help me out: Tell Animal Planet to stop promoting Rattlesnake Republic and the slaughter of rattlesnakes

My Facebook friend and fellow herpetologist Sara Viernum has used the remarkable petition-creating site ( to lead an attack on the barbaric and inhumane rattlesnake roundups that still, somehow, survive in many U.S. States. I am offering you, here and now, a chance to vote on this issue that should be near and dear to ALL of us.  


You don't have to LIKE rattlesnakes to DISLIKE such cruel and inhumane treatment of ANY animal.

You don't have to LIKE rattlesnakes to be a humane human being!

So, PLEASE: Stand up and be counted!!!


Saturday, 16 June 2012

U.S.A.: Land of the Deprived and the Home of the Trembling Fearful?

From the time I was 15 years old, I have seen the rise and growth of laws and regulations that had the good intentions of protecting our planet's wildlife. I have also seen the same degree of excessive restrictions, ill-informed criteria, and self-serving politics transform the good intentions into near mindless pandering. We who work with (or try to) reptiles, amphibians, and other wildlife have been the objects of considerable harassment as the varies regulations become selectively enforced. We are a minority group, with very little political presence, and a very conspicuous passion. That translates into the people in power easily being able to think, "Well, this group is easy to attack, like scary things, and has no ability to hurt my re-election!" I wrote about the specifics many times over the years, most recently in the second edition of my book, Giant Lizards:

"...the emphasis given to arresting and prosecuting people with live animals is not warranted by either threat to society or to the animals. When I was reviewing CITES numbers for a report, I found out that, for 1984, of 1,066,502 Nile monitors imported into the United States, only 988 were for the pet trade. That amounts to less than one live lizard per 1,000 skins imported for the leather trade. Similarly in that same year, of 545,031 water monitors imported, only 1,797 were live animals, or just 30 for every 1,000 skins. This unreasonable disparity might be explained by the far greater financial influence wielded by the designers who produce fashionable leather garments and accessories, or it may reflect the fact that one headline certainly trumps another. Consider these two samples, and decide which one makes a better newspaper headline:
“Wildlife officials nab cobra and monitor at airport”
“Wildlife officials nab 1,500 illegal wallets”

Well, the Python Ban has passed at the Federal Level, followed by similar exotic animal ownership bans at state and local levels. MY objections to the ban extend far beyond my right to own a python (which I do not; I neither have nor intend to have any large snakes in my home, so understand that PYTHON ownership is NOT the main issue I oppose) are these:

1) I am opposed to the elimination of yet another freedom in a supposedly free country;

2) I am opposed to legislation being passed based on faulty/incomplete science; the government papers on the putative dangers caused by invasive pythons is refuted by many non-governmental scientists, including some of the most knowledgeable python researchers on the planet (;

3) I oppose the use of pythons for fear-mongering and the release of inaccurate and downright false hyperbolic media reports; we in herpetology have fought long and hard to reduce the general fear of snakes in our society. The media reports foster new fears that are at best overly exaggerated and largely non-existent (;

4) I oppose the idea that rights - ANY rights - are limited or revoked for all because of the abusive or negligent actions of a very few;

5) I am opposed to legislation and regulation being implemented in violation of the established procedures required prior to enactment of such rules; (

6) I oppose the ban because it establishes precedent for easy elimination of additional rights, further restrictions on legitimate animal-keeping, and passing conspicuous "headline" legislation against minority groups (as in there are fewer python keepers than, say, gun owners);

7) I oppose any legislation that is of such minor importance because of money, personnel, and other resources it takes away from far more serious issues, especially in times of troubled economics;

8) I oppose enactment of Federal rules where, at best, state legislation is far more appropriate;

9) I oppose legislation for which enforcement, barring exceptional cases, is nearly impossible, and;

10) I oppose legislation that turns a long-standing legitimate activity into one that will turn a great many otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals.

I am tired of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave being chipped away into a Land of the Deprived and the Home of the Trembling Fearful!

THAT is why I am so actively fighting the Python Bans and related proposed laws and regulations.

--Robert George Sprackland, Ph.D.
Herpetologist, author, teacher, and, apparently, defender of liberty and rationalism.