So how could you sell a pet lizard, and help preserve it’s natural habitat at the same time?
Currently, several initiatives worldwide are already working to produce exotic pet animals in a sustainable way. At the same time, many pet-owners or would-be pet-owners are increasingly aware of the negative effects that uncontrolled harvesting of animals may have on the populations of those animals, and the ecosystems from which they are taken. Unfortunately, a conscious buyer now cannot be guaranteed that the pet he wants to buy is sustainably produced. There is therefore a need for a trustworthy certification system that will allow the buyer to be confident of the source of the animal. Such systems are already in place for wood, bananas, coffee and many other products.
The sustainable producers exist. The conscientious pet-owner exists. Similar systems have been put into existence for other products. Sustainable Exotic Pet Trade is possible!
The trustworthiness of a certification stands or falls with the confidence the buyer has in it. It is therefore vitally important to put a control system in place that cannot be easily corrupted. We propose a system of regular controls of the producers to confirm that they are practicing only sustainable production methods. These sustainably produced animals must then be marked (e.g. through injection of microchips). The information on the microchips will be linked to an individual record for every animal that can be accessed at any time through the internet. The distributors and sales points will need to have a chip reader so they can verify the identity and production method of the animal. Animals that come from a known breeding colony will be randomly checked through DNA fingerprinting techniques to verify that the animals are the offspring of the known breeding group.
The certification system will be designed to be fully transparent for everyone. Each animal will receive a unique marking and number, which can be read at any stage in the supply chain, and this identification number can be entered in an online database to show all the information associated with the animal. This information will include date of birth, location of birth, production method, and information for keeping the animal in captivity. Simply punch in the number, and you can access all the information about the animal through your mobile app. We choose this fully transparent system rather than a “branding” system, as full transparency conveys more information, and allows us to cover different levels and types of sustainable production without the need for a bewildering number of “certificates”.
Levels of sustainability
Some methods are more sustainable than others. Through a fully transparent system, the end user (or anyone in the supply chain) can see how the animal was produced. This way, when you buy your sustainably produced pet, you will know if it has been e.g. bred in captivity, sustainably harvested or ranched.
Community based control
Because the exotic pet trade is a relatively marginal business, a single farm does not create enough revenue to merit auditing each farm regularly by official certification bodies such as Sustainable Farm Certification International. We therefore need to apply a more community-based control system. Certified farms should therefore be open to visits from the public, allowing anyone to inspect the farm, and submit their review to the SPT database.