Interview with STANLEY A. SCHULTZ - original version

ARACNOFILIA: The Italian public misunderstands exotic animal owners, and thinks that raising spiders is an insane passion, only for crazy people...

S. A. SCHULTZ: By many peoples' point of view, yes, keeping tarantulas *IS* insane. But 50 years ago, so was flying in an airplane! Times change. So do people. Sometimes even for the better! With luck the ones who have ossified beyond redemption die of old age before they can do any real damage.

ARACNOFILIA:However, the number of visitors at oursite is growing on a day-to-day basis. Many do seem to be sincerely interested in raising tarantulas at home. How do you explain this growing interest in arachnids?

S. A. SCHULTZ: Perhaps the general public is bored with the "normal" animals they find in pet shops and is seeking new, interesting alternatives to traditional pets. Or, as the public becomes better educated the traditional constrictions on their conduct and interests are being loosened, allowing them to explore more unconventional pursuits and interests such as rock climbing, sky diving and amateur arachnology.

ARACNOFILIA:How can we further encourage it?

S. A. SCHULTZ: At every opportunity members of your society should be talking about arachnids in general and tarantulas in particular. Members should offer to do free school programs, set up booths demonstrating their pets in shopping malls and bazaars and do free programs for scout and other specialty groups. Eventually the media (newspapers, radio, television) will take notice and send camera crews or reporters to high profile members' homes for interviews and "photo-shoots." At all times, these members must be cautious to present their pets in the best possible way. This is a slow, sometimes painful process, but eventually public attitudes will change.

ARACNOFILIA: Some find fault with us because they think that all tarantulas are imported from foreign countries, abducted from their natural environment and thus impoverishing the eco-system they're stolen from. Do you think it's possible to reconcile the love of nature with this "private" entomology?

S. A. SCHULTZ: This a matter if miseducation on the parts of militant but unenlightened conservationists. Unfortunately, these have misinformed both the public and our governments, thus jeopardizing the survival of most wildlife and our interest in it. Their underlying philosophy holds that we should leave these animals and plants in their native habitats where they can exist forever in blissful harmony with their "environment." There are 3 serious objections to this philosophy: 1. Most of these same people have only an extremely vague concept of what "the environment" is and certainly can not give a lucid definition of what the term means. Therefore, they really have no conception of what they're arguing for or against. Thus, we have a case of the blind leading the blind. 2. Because of the current rate at which habitat is being destroyed (We use the euphemism "developed."), most of the animals that are threatened or endangered will disappear regardless of how many are exported. Removing these animals from their natural habitat ultimately will have no effect whatsoever on the survival of the wild populations. 3. In captivity, many of these creatures will have a passing chance at survival in captive breeding populations maintained by enthusiasts, a possibility which doesn't exist if they are allowed to be exterminated in the wild. This has already happened with Syrian golden hamsters, Peruvian chinchillas, Burmese pythons, Argentine pearlfish and many other species If done wisely and under enlightened control, the exploitation of wild populations can actually serve to increase the numbers of plants and animals in the wild. This has happened with whitetail deer and largemouth bass in North America, for instance.

ARACNOFILIA:What importance do you think should be attached to the enthusiast organizations groups like ours, and those around the world?

S. A. SCHULTZ: These groups serve as the foci for learning and education of the "common man." They bridge the span between the lofty, often distant and unapproachable professional arachnologist and the man on the street.

ARACNOFILIA:Do you think we serve a useful purpose in the world of arachnology?

S. A. SCHULTZ: Of course.

ARACNOFILIA: How can we improve this relationship?

S. A. SCHULTZ: Education and public relations for arachnids in general and spiders in particular.

ARACNOFILIA: Many parents write to us asking us to dissuade their children from raising spiders as pets because they believe spiders are too dangerous.

S. A. SCHULTZ: Obviously these people need to be introduced to tarantulas gently by someone who knows what they really are and can come across in a desirable way. When the parents contact your organization, someone should ask them to their homes to see what tarantulas are really like. The philosophy is "If you're going to object, at least know what you're objecting to."

ARACNOFILIA:Aracnofilia staff, while web-surfing, found a young girl that possessed twenty tarantulas, and that particular site is sponsored by the local police department. What do you think about this?

S. A. SCHULTZ: Great news. Maybe the public is finally waking up a little. We need a lot more of that sort of thing.

Stanley A. Schultz, President, AMERICAN TARANTULA SOCIETY

interview by Matteo Grotto

VERSIONE INGLESE Clicca per visualizzare l'intervista in lingua italiana.

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