Introducing New People to Snake Keeping
New blood and fresh faces is a good thing for the reptile industry. I’m sure many reptiles breeders and dealers will agree with me on that. Still, the reptile community isn’t always welcoming to newbies. It’s important that veterans of the hobby help newcomers for several reasons discussed here.
The old days – the reptile industry of old
The good old days, or not so good old days. Technology and advancement in the reptile industry have never been as good as it is today. I’m thankful I’m a part of it.
That’s not the way it’s always been. Besides a general lack of information back in the 1980s, many veteran reptile keepers saw themselves as elite. In doing so, they often scoffed at those new to the hobby and weren’t very helpful at all.
I can’t say why attitudes were so poor back then, it almost seemed as if veterans wanted newbies to fail. Spared from much of this working at a pet shop in my teens, I observed first hand what others faced. Luckily, many things have changed and while elitism in the industry still exists today, it’s to a lesser extent.
Why new reptile keepers are important
Why are new reptile keepers important? I’m glad you asked. We’re all getting older, every single day. Once we’re gone, who will continue breeding the more obscure species like Dumeril’s and Argentine boas? Many reptiles and amphibians face extinction, captive breeding will preserve some.
Several countries banned exports on many kinds of reptiles which are only available thanks to a few dedicated breeders across the country. We need new torchbearers and new trendsetters. I’m afraid in the digital world we live in, that more will turn away from keeping exotic pets. So far, that hasn’t been the case.
Always treat those as you would want to be treated
Always treat people new to the hobby as you expect to be treated yourself. We all have to start somewhere, isn’t it important to make sure newcomers have as much information at their disposal? Who are you hurting by shunning someone new to the hobby?
Besides hurting the person, you also potentially hurt the reptile they’re keeping. Show humility, be forthcoming and generous with what you know. When pet reptiles die due to improper care, it negatively affects the entire industry.
A growing industry
Like any other industry, the reptile industry fluctuates. Some years are good while others are harder. Much (if not all) of it has to do with the economy.
Currently, we’re in a growing industry. In fact, many snakes are making a big come-back while new ones have grown in popularity. Many colubrids are growing in popularity and Central/South American boa constrictors are booming. Sand boas and Brazilian rainbow boas are being mass-produced and move quickly.
At this point, there’s plenty of room for everyone and newcomers are welcome! Please join us!
Fresh minds create new breeding projects. Many of the more obscure reptiles and amphibians offer new opportunities to all.
Reptile shows and events
All the reptile shows I’ve attended this year were busy. A line of people out the door waiting to get in an hour after the show starts is common. Of course, the bigger the show, the more people show up.
Kissimmee | Repticon Reptile Expo
Reptile shows are a great place for newcomers to get started. Some towns and cities offer herpetological societies that you can join. That’s a great way to meet serious like-minded people in the industry.
Being a good mentor
Being a good mentor is simple and only requires common sense. Be thorough and ask questions that the newcomer hasn’t asked you when relevant. Patience is sometimes necessary, especially dealing with topics that seem overly simple to you.
Always make sure their set-up is correct and they understand reptile stress. Make certain to tell them of the dangers of overfeeding, another common mistake newcomers make. Remember, you’re not only helping the person, but you’re also helping the reptile they’re keeping.
Being a good newbie
Don’t be afraid to ask any questions you may have. Never come across as arrogant, or like a know-it-all. Be humble because veterans of the hobby see right through such behavior. It’s okay not to know, the person you’re speaking to also had to learn about reptiles at some point in their lives. You’ll find there’s much to learn. In fact, you’ll never stop learning.
Even veterans like myself learn new tricks every day. Use the internet as a tool. In the old days, we didn’t have the internet as a resource and had to depend on books. Some books dated back to the 1950s, or earlier. Now we have so much information at your disposal, it’s really incredible. It’s important to get information from several different sources for when one is wrong.
It’s really unfortunate to have to bring this up, but it’s necessary. I don’t know why, but the reptile industry has always harbored unethical people who would like more than anything to rip you off.
There’s no way to easily fix this except to prepare for it. A few years back I attended a snake show in Tampa where a guy was selling Texas horned lizards. I asked if these lizards needed harvester ants to survive and how I could get some.
He erroneously informed me that these horned lizards were special. According to him, they were the only horned lizard species that didn’t need harvester ants to survive. He further stated that they thrive exclusively on a diet of mealworms.
There are unscrupulous dealers like this out there and they’ll take both veterans and newbies alike. Beware of potentially getting ripped off through due diligence and research.
Buying on a whim is never a good idea when it comes to reptiles and amphibians. Make sure to have your set-up ready before you buy the animal.
Introduction to venomous reptile keeping
Never start out with keeping venomous reptiles. In order to keep venomous reptiles somewhat safely, one must have many, many years of experience with snakes. You also need hands-on training in a facility run by an experienced keeper.
Venomous snake keeping is an unforgiving hobby where you only have one chance of getting it right. In most states, this isn’t a problem, but in Pennsylvania, anyone can walk into a reptile show and buy a deadly snake. Don’t do it. Even experienced keepers get bit all the time, sometimes with fatal results.
Introducing new people to the reptile industry will make sure it’s survival. always be helpful and encouraging when someone new to reptile-keeping asks you questions. If that’s not enough for you, it’s also good for business. Remember, we all had to start somewhere.
Are you new to reptile keeping? Don’t be shy, introduce yourself in the comments section below!