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Breeding stupid - designer frogs!

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Arthur White presents some disturbing insights from the American pet industry, which is increasingly turning to designer animals as an industry tool.     
There has been a massive increase over the last 30 years in Americans keeping cold blooded creatures as pets.
Unlike Australia with its customs and quarantine laws, Americans are free to import almost any species they wish.
As a result species can be captive bred as importers wish, sold on the pet market and even released into the environment whenever and wherever they wish, usually when a species falls out of market favour.

Often the first reptiles or amphibians are from the wild or are at least one or two generations removed, thus having natural attributes such as colour forms. Once bred and sold as pets, these frogs and snakes lose retail value as they become more and more commonplace. Given that some people only have these kinds of pets for their retail value (based on exclusiveness), commercial breeders have come up with novel (and bizarre) ways to woo the exclusive pet dollar. They have quickly discovered that if they can generate a form of animal that is different in attributes such as colour and body size, then they can sell those frogs and snakes at a premium price.

The race to produce designer reptiles and frogs is well and truly running.
Fancy a blood red ball python?
No problem.
Want a frog that matches your décor?
Step this way.

This is not a new phenomenon for the pet industry. Dogs and cats have been bred for ages, in many cases merely to address human whims for particular (or new) breeds.

It is, however, the first time that wild animals have been bred for these purposes and, if the creatures disappear from their wild habitats, only the designer species will survive. Indeed, American breeders argue that if wild frogs are going to be wiped out, then having frogs as domestic pets is the ultimate conservation strategy.
Dr White is concerned about this kind of thinking, where restoring and preserving habitats is seen as too risky. He is starting to see the same thought processes and monetary value related to Australian wildlife and while there are regulations on imports and animal care, there are none on breeding.

How breeding stupid is that?

Text by Victor Barry. Revisited November 2016
Dr  Arthur White was interviewed for A Question of Balance by Ruby Vincent.
Image from Arthur White

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