Entire populations of little-known herps - some newly-discovered species with very tiny habitats for which there is no information on how many there might be - are scooped up and sold to collectors. The mortality rate from the field to the store is horrifically high, maybe exceeding 90 percent. But, since they are literally free for the taking, they still generate profits.
And, so do captive-bred animals. The industry often says that, because there are so many "domesticated" species captive-bred, you can buy such animals with no impact on wild populations. But, there is much more to my concern than the loss of so many species. These breeding facilities also fail to provide anything approaching humane standards. Like puppy mills or factory farms, the animals are treated as mere means to a profitable end: poorly kept, suffering, being used to maximize financial return while minimizing costs, and then discarded when worn out (or dead).
And, make no mistake; although not automatons and certainly capable of feeling stress and pain, herps are emphatically not domestic. Yes, they can be bred into all manners of color mutations, but they retain all the needs and instincts of animals fresh from the wild.
Warwick showed image after image of huge numbers of dead and dying herps confiscated in the confines of various dealers and traders in the UK and the US. There were further close-up images of diseased and seriously injured animals in very large numbers, found among the animals destined for the pet trade.
For every herp seen for sale in a pet shop, dozens suffer and die, yes - but it does not stop there. Most people often can't tell a healthy reptile from one suffering disease or malnutrition, and unknowingly buy animals already dying. The sellers want to minimize the degree of effort needed to adequately serve the needs of the animals, so as not to discourage sales and profits.
And, because reptiles have low metabolisms compared to mammals and birds, they can endure long enough for their demise to be attributed to "natural causes," the symptoms of illness and malnourishment unrecognized by most people.