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Rattlesnakes!
SDNHM Policy on Reptiles, Captivity, and Trade Issues

The mission of the San Diego Natural History Museum is "To interpret the natural world through research, education, and exhibits; to promote understanding of the evolution and diversity of San Diego and Baja California; and to inspire in all people respect for the environment."

Many people are interested in reptiles as pets, but do not realize just how demanding this is or what a toll this may take on wild populations. There is a huge national and international trade in reptiles, not all of it legal or ethical. The demand for live reptiles as well as for non-essential reptile consumer goods (such as meat, leather, and novelties) is high. At the same time, responsible herpetoculture and wildlife rehabilitation efforts by qualified and ethical individuals and organizations may contribute to the conservation, breeding success, diversity and re-establishment of reptile species.

The following is a summary of SDNHM’s position on this complex issue.

The SDNHM does not collect reptiles in the wild for the purpose of exhibition, either alive or preserved. Live animals on display or in use in classrooms must be captive-bred or donated as a rescue effort, fully licensed and permitted, and incapable of survival if released to the wild. Factors which affect release include length of captivity, possibility of disease introduction to wild populations, establishment of exotic species in competition with native species, imperfectly healed injuries, exotic or recessive coloration which may be maladaptive, etc. Living reptiles may occasionally be borrowed for a very short time from an environmentally responsible organization or individual for temporary exhibition and interpretation.

The SDNHM collects reptiles in the wild only for scientific research, much of which has as part of its goal the protection of regional habitats and species.

The SDNHM is a repository for reptiles which die naturally at public institutions such as the San Diego Zoo, in order to assure that these specimens will continue to be studied and that information which may aid the survival of the species in the wild may still be obtained.

The SDNHM does not support or endorse in any way the collection of reptiles in the wild for the purpose of illegal national and international trade in reptiles, pet ownership, or the production of consumer goods.

The SDNHM does support and endorse the work of environmentally responsible organizations which work to preserve critical habitat for reptiles and other biota.

The SDNHM does support and endorse the work of environmentally responsible organizations, such as accredited non-profit wildlife rehabilitation societies, zoos and nature centers, which work to rehabilitate ill or injured animals and which may also participate in environmentally responsible captive breeding programs that are integrated into species management plans.

The SDNHM will provide information on a limited basis about the proper and ethical care of reptiles in captivity to ensure humane treatment. Harmful methods of capturing or transporting wild reptiles, location of collecting sites, or other information which could be interpreted as promoting irresponsible ownership and care of reptiles will not be provided.

The SDNHM will provide programs and information on volunteer opportunities with environmentally responsible organizations, such as accredited non-profit wildlife rehabilitation societies, zoos and nature centers, for people who wish to learn more about environmentally responsible care of reptiles and their habitat.

The SDNHM will not solicit corporate support from individuals or organizations which collect and deal in reptiles illegally or unethically, or advertise for or promote such organizations in the museum or through museum programs.