October 21st is Reptile Awareness Day, a day to promote conservation and appreciation of the phenomenal world of reptiles. Through educational outreach efforts, truth and understanding of these fascinating animals can be spread. In the name of education, we will use this day to encourage more appreciation for these wonderful animals.
As a group, reptiles are poorly understood by much of the public. Myths and urban legends often ascribe aggressive, malicious, and even supernatural abilities to these animals, reinforcing them as sources of revulsion and fear. Those familiar with reptiles know well that such negative associations are as false as they are unjustified. Nonetheless, it can be difficult to convince people that these animals are both in need of and worth conserving.
Modern zoos do invaluable work in this direction, but often, the interactive educational programs offered to schools, libraries, and other informative outreach events by private animal keepers are the most effective in changing minds. These programs often spark lasting, significant interest in reptiles. Such programs inspire children to become tomorrow’s veterinarians, zookeepers, biologists, and conservationists. People will conserve what they love, and these interactive programs, providing reptile admiration, will ensure ongoing conservation efforts for reptiles.
Due to the increased reverence and understanding of these exceptional animals, reptile pets are not uncommon. They are increasingly popular, now being kept in 5% of U.S. households (roughly 1 in 20), and fitting well with a number of modern lifestyles. Many pet reptiles have needs that are much easier to meet than more commonly kept pets. While the physical and emotional health benefits associated with pet ownership are becoming more well-known, reptile pets are also helping to make those benefits more accessible to people with allergies, in urban settings, or very busy schedules – people who would not otherwise be able to benefit from having a pet.
Some would argue that reptiles are associated with a risk of disease for people, however, this risk is in fact very similar to, or even slightly less than that encountered from the more mainstream pets, and even other people. Disease transmission from pet reptiles is easily prevented with good hygiene practices. These practices include keeping the reptile’s cage clean, washing hands after handling reptiles, not eating while holding reptiles, and not putting reptiles near your mouth, your food, or any place where you prepare meals.
Any pet should be seen as a major responsibility, requiring species-appropriate care for its entire life – and many reptile species are long-lived! Exactly what appropriate care consists of can vary widely, and should be carefully researched before bringing any pet home, reptile or otherwise.
When we do right by the animals under our care, we help promote others’ appreciation of them. It is not just our pets who benefit, but the people who interact with them, and conservation efforts for wild reptiles and their associated ecosystems as well. This is part of why USARK – United States Association of Reptile Keepers works to prevent misinformed legislation and government overreach; the benefits associated with reptiles kept under human care are far-reaching and multi-layered.
If you already love reptiles, please share your adoration. If you think they are slimy (reptiles are not slimy) and you do not like them “just because,” please take some time to learn about these incredible animals to overcome your fears, and even clear up some misconceptions. Reptiles are remarkable animals and we want everyone to know it. Have a great reptile Awareness Day!
If you want more reptile appreciation, you can find plenty of educational posts and fantastic photos on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/UnitedStatesAssociationOfReptileKeepers and Instagram (@usark_official).
Relevant Links on Responsible Herpetoculture
Click here for expanded thoughts on ethical herpetoculture: http://www.usark.org/…/expanded-keepers-and-breeders…