The public interest in spiders and scorpions has exploded as people realize they are low maintenance pets that can be kept in apartments or small homes without a backyard.
Stewart agrees that international spider trading can be a problem. It almost makes you a pariah because you are part of the problem.
Stewart doesn't breed his own tarantulas, but he buys them fromReputable dealers, and it's a lot cheaper to breed them than import them from the wild. You need permits from the US Department of Agriculture and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Stewart advises people to avoid dealers who can't identify the source of their arachnids, because they have to prove that these are ethicallysourced and that they were taken out of the wild with correct permits just to get them imported into the country.
Without an international certification program, it can be hard for a person to know the origin of a spider. A report in the journal Science states that a group of people from Poland went on an expedition to the United Kingdom without proper permits after scientists in Malaysia discovered a new species of tarantula. The neon blue leg tarantula is a rare species that is being sold online in the US. International and US laws protect certain tarantulas from being imported into the US or transferred across state lines unless they are gifted to a zoo or a university, according to Stewart.
Most regulations fall on suppliers. Each country has its own permits. In the US, federal permits are required to import exotic pets, but not to purchase them.
Currently, each state has its own laws governing the ownership of exotic pets, although new legislation that has passed the House of Representatives would ban the sale of non-native exotic pets across state lines. The anti-wildlife-trafficking Lacey Act is the subject of proposed legislation that is currently before a Senate committee. Some veterinary groups say the legislation will make it more difficult for owners of exotic pets to get veterinary care, even though it is designed to crack down on invaders.
Even legal sales boost demand for colorful and rare spiders and scorpions, putting an increasing strain on wild populations.
Henriques says he would invite people who love these animals and care for them to find out how they are faring in the wild. They will be gone for the next generation if you are not in a position where they are available for you.