with RICK C. WEST - original
West You are the most important expert of Theraphosids on the
wild. In the still troubled sea of the "new entomology"
that, compared with the past move towards arthropods from a more
naturalistic point of view, You seem to be on the opposite shore
of enthusiast groups like ours that study, keep and breed arachnids
in captivity. How can You judge our activity? Do You think we
serve a useful purpose in the world of arachnology?
RICK C. WEST: Ethically and morally it's wrong
to take a wild animal from it's environment and keep it in captivity,
yet, many people do. The bigger moral issue is how you keep and
what you do with that animal (tarantulas as well) once you have
acquired it ... whether legally or illegally.
Personally, I try to learn what I can about tarantulas in their
atural environment. But, if this is not possible, I will collect
(with permits, if required from those countries) and study them
in captivity so as I might contribute some knowledge towards their
atural history or biology. To merely acquire and keep a wild animal
or tarantula in captivity for the sake of 'having it', I think,
I don't believe much scientific knowledge about tarantulas has
been gained from tarantula enthusiasts. The only significant benefit
I've seen towards tarantulas from the hobby is the reduction of
people's misbeliefs and fear towards this large spider.
Additionally, the keeping of tarantulas may have inspired a few
hobbyists to pursue careers in arachnology. Other than that, I've
not seen too much else attributed to the science of tarantulas
from tarantula enthusiasts.
ARACNOFILIA: Scientists say that the worst
enemy of theraphosids is man that keep on destroying their own
environment. Your great passion has taken You to over fourteen
countries to study tarantulas in the wild. What can You say about
it? Is there a real thread of extinction? And do You think that
tarantulas breeding overseas, could help to save them?
RICK C. WEST: Sadly, this is true. Humankind,
by it's very nature to survive, procreate and improve it's life,
is using up the natural resources around him ... especially in
some of those countries where tarantulas live. An example of a
possible manmade tarantula extinction is the Jamaican tarantula,
Cyrtopholis jamaicola. It's their extinction is due to man's interference
and introduction of the Cane toad and mongoose to aid sugar cane
production. There are several other threatened tarantulas that
live in rapidly diminishing habitats due to human encroachment.
In my 38 years of being associated with keeping and studying tarantulas,
I've never seen a single tarantula species that can be bred to
meet the demands of the commercial pet trade. The collecting and
supplying of wild tarantulas for the pet trade may
be reduced, but fresh stock will always be needed, especially
by breeders. Additionally, there is always the allure of wanting
that'new species' that has never been offered on the pet trade
before. The more colorful or ornate the tarantulas is, the more
pressure is put on it's natural and fragile wild populations.
It's the old vicious circle of 'supply and demand'. There are
always people who will go get and sell something, either legally
or illegally, if there's a demand for it. Tarantula hobbyists,
by their very interest to acquire tarantulas, cause part of the
decline in some species or irreparable damage to some fragile
RICK C. WEST: Because of the current rate
at which habitat is being destroyed, most of the animals that
are threatened or endangered will disappear regardless of how
many are exported. Removing a part of these animals from their
natural habitat ultimately will have a so awful effect? 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 many species of animals...
RICK C. WEST: I regret to say that there
is not a single tarantula (or spider) species that can be sustained
by captive breeding to meet the demands of the commercial pet
trade. Many breeders have argued that tarantula species, like
Poecilotheria spp., are being captive bred in numbers that prevent
specimens being taken from the wild, however, upon investigation
with foreign Wildlife and Customs agencies, and with speaking
to 'truthful' tarantula dealers, I have found that many adult
tarantulas are still being illegally taken from the wild and sold
as 'captive bred' on the pet trade. Many tarantula hobbyists don't
like to hear these truths or could care less. Yes, breeding tarantulas
and selling their offspring slows their demise but does not stop
tarantulas from being taken from the wild. For those tarantula
hobbyists that want to feel better, and not think that their hobby
is affecting tarantula populations, human development and population
expansion is definitely causing far worst destruction to fauna
and flora - worldwide.
interview by Matteo Grotto