Stewart says public interest in spiders and scorpions has exploded as people realize that they are actually low-maintenance pets that do not need to walk three times a day and can be kept in small apartments or houses without backyard. “They’re fascinating creatures and they’re beautiful,” says Stewart, who has been collecting them for the past 20 years.
That being said, he agrees that the international trade in spiders can be a problem, because unethical collectors can decimate wild populations. “We don’t just like tarantulas because they look great,” Stewart says. “We’re more fascinated by them and want to keep them in the wild, so you don’t want to buy a tarantula collected in the wild. Now it almost makes you an outcast, because you’re part of the problem.”
Stewart doesn’t raise tarantulas himself, he says he buys them from reputable merchants, but he says it’s much cheaper to raise them than to import them from nature. “Importing tarantulas is a very expensive and time-consuming process,” says Stewart. “There’s a lot of paperwork you have to go through. You have to get permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Even collectors have to prove that they’re ethical and that they were taken out of nature with the right permits just to import them into the country. ” Stewart advises people to avoid distributors who cannot identify the source of their arachnids and to investigate distributors in chat groups such as Arachnoboards.
However, without any international certification program, it can be difficult for a tarantula lover to really know the origin of the animal: the seller is a legal breeder here in the US or a collector who has he uprooted it from a nest in a rainforest and smuggled it out of the country? In 2019, a few weeks after Malaysian scientists discovered a new species of tarantula, later called (Birupes simoroxigorum), a trio of collectors from Poland made an expedition and sent several of them to the UK without proper permits, according to a report in the magazine. Science. Members of this rare species, also commonly known as neon blue-footed tarantula, are currently sold online in the United States. Although it is not illegal to buy this particular species in the United States, international and US laws protect certain Sri Lankan tarantulas, making it illegal to import them into the United States or transfer them through the lines. unless they are endowed with a zoo or a university, according to Stewart.
In general, most regulations fall on suppliers, not customers. Each country has its own necessary permits to collect wildlife. And in the U.S., federal permits are required to import tarantulas and other exotic pets, but not to buy them.
Currently, each state also has its own separate laws governing the ownership of exotic pets, although new legislation passed by the House of Representatives would prohibit the sale of non-native exotic pets through state lines. The proposed legislation takes the form of amendments to the Lacey Wildlife Trafficking Act and is currently before a Senate committee. The proposal is designed to curb invasive species entering the United States, but some veterinary groups say the legislation will make it harder for exotic pet owners to receive veterinary care.
However, Sérgio Henriques, invertebrate conservation coordinator at the Indianapolis Zoo, says even legal sales are increasing demand for colorful and rare spiders and scorpions, putting increasing strain on wild populations. Even legitimate breeders often buy wild specimens to increase the genetic diversity of their captive stock.
“I would only invite people who love these animals and take care of them to find out how these species are living in the wild,” said Henriques, who also co-chairs the IUCN Spider and Scorpion Specialist Group. “If you love these animals, let them thrive in nature. And let’s not be in a position where they are available to you now, but they will disappear for the next generation.”