Monday, October 1, 2007

18th Annual LIHS Reptile Expo

Now here is a subject dear to my heart, the annual Long Island Herpetological Society Reptile (and amphibian) Expo. In fact this will be the 18th annual show that the society has had. It s dear to my heart because I have been a member of the society for 17 years, maybe even all 18, during which the show has gone off. I know its been at least 17 years because the first time I went to a society event, it was a show they held at the Copiague Memorial Library, and if I got it right they only had two shows there, numbers 1 &2. By the second show, I was exhibiting animals; don't you know I have been into keeping reptiles and amphibians for well over 40 years now. I have kept em, collected em, and even bred them (no not with them, but as in animal husbandry). Brendan, my son, is a chip off of the old block, he has been to most of the events, if not most of the shows, since he was about 5 or 6; and he has been to an awful lot of the shows.

Nothing awful about the shows themselves. They are a good thing for people who like to keep reptiles and amphibians, a good thing for those curious enough to see a large variety of herps (reptiles & amphibians), a good thing for the dealers, a good thing for the exhibitors, and a good thing for the herps themselves. Each show is set up with vendors' tables, and the vendors do what they do best - they sell things. The selling pretty much is limited to live reptiles and amphibians (captive bred much preferred, and are the great part of what animals are sold), and to herp keeping supplies and equipment. We also have exhibitors' tables set up, and we run a judged show. Anyone, not just society members, can enter herps into the show. Prizes (trophies and ribbons) are awarded for best herps in several categories, and one really nice trophy is awarded for the best overall herp of the show. Of course you do not have to buy anything to attend, but if you are into herps, this is a good show to attend if you want to find quality herps and products usually below, well below, pet shop prices.

Now you may think I forgot to follow up on why I think the show is good for the herps too. I have not, it just deserves its own paragraph. These types of shows are good for reptiles and amphibians because they promote proper care of herps, good conservation of natural populations, and reasonable laws concerning the keeping and breeding of herps. Our show also helps support the LIHS itself, it is our biggest money maker, and that in ripple effect helps support the above causes already mentioned. You may be wondering how does a show, in which people sell herps actually support these things. Well here goes:

The shows promote proper care of pet reptile and amphibians. Why - well because it makes sense to do so. if reptiles and amphibians were not understood enough to be fairly easily kept in captivity, dealers would not be selling them in fairly large numbers as they do. Of course dealers could still sell them, they could die, and you might come back to buy another; but if they sell them, tell you how to care for them, provide such support when you need it through a society like the LIHS, then keeping them becomes more of a pleasure, and you are more likely to want to get into the herp hobby with a ore vigorous and long lasting interest. The shows also promote good conservation. If you attend one you will probably see that most dealers are selling what are labelled as C/B or C/B/B this or that with regards to live animals. The C/B stand for Captive Born or Captive Bred (there is a difference, as not all captive born animals were the product of parent animals that mated in captivity - the mother could have been wild caught while gravid). It usually stands for Captive bred, and C/H is used for Captive hatched meaning the mother was caught and then laid eggs in captivity before the next breeding season while in captivity. C/B/B means Captive bred & Born, in other words the parents mated while in captivity, and the young were then produced as a product of this captive mating. This is a good thing. Why? because it cuts down on the number of animals that come into the pet trade from the wild. If there is a large supply of captive bred animals, there is much less of a demand on wild populations. This is very advantageous for dealers and buyers. It helps assure that young herps which are sold are healthy, and come from healthy stock. it also allows for selective breeding so that breeders/dealers can select traits that they think will sell. Therefore color morphs like albinos are often produced. A large interest in animals of various color morphs also helps reduce the desire for naturally colored animals, thereby again reducing the need or desire for wild caught animals. Of course every now and then, wild caught animals are a good thing as they reintroduce genetic variety into captive bred populations, but the need is reduced with captive breeding to a much lower level than it would have been without captive breeding programs.

These shows are a further boon to wild animal populations because they support conservation in other ways. For example, the LIHS bring in most of its annual funding through this show. You may wonder how this promotes wildlife conservation. It does so because the LIHS is usually involved in a good number of live animal presentations throughout the year during which members exhibit animals to audiences from pre-schoolers up through college level students up through moms and dads who pay for that education, up through grand-dad and grand-ma. Our audiences are sometimes specific to students in classrooms, and at other times are open to the public in places like parks or science halls. We teach about herp keeping, about herp conservation, and about the natural history of many types of reptiles and amphibians. We also attend, as a society, other reptile expos where some of our members man an LIHS table. There we give out information free to the public on the same topics mentioned above. One of our main functions has been to educate the public on these topics. In addition, the LIHS and its members are usually often involved in actual conservation programs such as: scientific population counts of wild animals, rescue of stressed wild herps (such as stranded sea turtles, or turtles that have been hit by cars), and capture/release scientific programs during which herps are caught and examined by researchers in their herpetological studies. This is all of benefit to wild populations.

We have also supported reasonable legislation regarding the keeping and breeding of herps. For example when NY State was about to enact legislation, a few years back, that would have outlawed all boas and pythons from being legally kept in captivity, we protested. Not only did we protest enactment of such a broad reaching law, but we explained to our state legislators why we did not support such a law; and furthermore we explained what type of ban we would see as reasonable to some extent. We did not say that NYS should totally ignore some problems, or potential dangers of keeping captive herps- specifically boas and pythons, monitor lizards, and venomous species; but we certainly let the officials know that they were painting these types herps with the same brush when indeed thy should not have done so. So we explained our stance about why we thought the ban should not be as far reaching as they had written it - for example that not all boas or pythons pose a threat to humans as they had thought. Why not, well because many species remain very small in comparison to Anacondas and Burmese Pythons. Some such as the Ball Python usually reach about 4 1/2 feet, others such as the rubber Boa reach about 2 feet maximum. Yet legislators were quite ready, and imminently about to ban all boas and pythons as being dangerous to humans because of the fact that some of the bigger types had constricted and killed foolish owners (foolish because of how they handled them, not necessarily because they kept them). The legislation then greatly modified the law before it was enacted, and pretty much only those species seen as a real threat to human life, or limb, were restricted. Of course we were not the only herp society to do so in NY, but our collective voice was heard.

Back to the show itself - if you are in NY state, anywhere near Long Island this coming weekend; and if you have an interest in reptiles and amphibians - whether a keeper or just out of curiosity - why not stop by the show. It will be held at SUNY (State University of New York) Farmingdale just off of route 110. It is easy to access from the three major highways than run east/west on the island. For more info on the show go to this link: By the way, if you think you saw a lot of variety in the pics above, you have not seen almost anything yet, stop by the show and have your eyes opened. I'll be there. I'll have a table or two, usualy directly across the hall from the main entrance. Hope to see one or two of my readers there.
All the best,
Glenn B