The past few years have seen an incredible increase in pet ownership across Australia, largely fueled by the pandemic, and a particular rise in the number of people keeping reptiles and amphibians.

Chris Williams, President of the Australian Herpetological Society (AHS), said the AHS provides the perfect outlet for these new reptile keepers to network and meet other passionate, likeminded people and share their knowledge, particularly with the return of its monthly meetings.

“It’s nice to feel like we’re returning to something resembling normal. The AHS normally meets each month in the city where were have guest speakers give presentations on field work, research, and captive husbandry. Over the past few years, the meeting became online presentations. They were popular, but you can’t beat the in-person experience.

“In August we did hold a special event for the launch of one of Australia’s most preeminent reptile experts, Professor Rick Shine’s new book. It was a fantastic night with about 120 reptile enthusiasts flying in from around the country for the event.”

One of the major opportunities that Williams and the AHS has identified is the Society’s role in the process of rehoming pets and continuing to be involved in the discussion around a more sensible approach for reptiles to be kept as pets.

“The current system is embarrassingly antiquated and is in desperate need of an overhaul to reflect the fact that reptile keeping is now a mainstream pet category. With becoming a mainstream pet, reptiles and amphibians, begin to face common challenges, especially around animal welfare and responsible pet ownership.”

The AHS has been pushing for a more enlightened approach to keeping reptiles for more than 30 years, as Williams believes the current licensing is far too overregulated.

“Unfortunately, the current system has many limitations and past attempts at reform have not resulted in any significant outcomes. The AHS hopes that the current system can be modernised to acknowledge the vast number of people keeping reptiles as pets, while also focusing on animal welfare and the conservation and preservation of our incredible native reptile fauna. We desperately need a new approach to reptile licensing to carry the hobby forward for many years to come.”

Unfortunately, Williams says, the wheels turn excruciatingly slowly.

“Based on our history dealing with bureaucrats and other misguided, though well intentioned, stakeholders we need to be talking in terms of decades not years for sensible reforms to be implemented. Regardless of what may happen with legislative reform, the AHS will continue to welcome many new members at various stages of their reptile keeping journey as well as facilitate the sharing of knowledge well into the future.”

Ensuring knowledge among new reptile owners is an important issue for the AHS, as unlike many conventional pets, some reptiles can take years to reach their mature sizes.

“For instance, most species of turtle, or snakes such as carpet pythons, are born incredibly small. However, after five years many turtles are the size of a dinner plate, or a carpet python could be three metres in length. Ensuring that people are prepared to care for their pet for the life of the animal and understanding what is required across their life is an ongoing issue for people wishing to keep reptiles as pets.”

This article was originally published in the Nov-Jan issue of Pet Industry News.

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