Justin Cook, a 30-year-old aquaculturalist and Damon Corrie, a 33-year-old Barbadian-born herpetoculturalist, have pooled their knowledge and resources to develop an export market for this country’s often despised invertebrate fauna.
Cook has been a recognised breeder and exporter of aquarium fish in Trinidad since 1996. Corrie is recognised in Barbados as an expert on reptiles and amphibians and has been a member of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) recognised captive-breeder and exporter of Red-Footed tortoises in Barbados since 1990.
Corrie has been exporting centipedes, spiders, millipedes, slugs, snails even burrowing roaches from Barbados since 2000. “These are all species that have a high reproductive rate, exist in numbers too great to be threatened by this comparatively small trade and are therefore a sustainable renewable resource
“We think our countries and our countrymen, who can earn money from them instead of killing these creatures are better served by allowing them to be exported thereby earning foreign exchange.
“It is also worthwhile to note that none of our customers — who are in Asia, North America and Europe — ever harm these creatures.
Even the venomous ones are kept alive and their venom ethically harvested for medical vaccine research without harming the specimens. All the others, believe it or not, are actually purchased as exotic low-maintenance pets by hobbyists in these countries.”
In many ‘‘first world’’ countries the keeping of invertebrates as pets is the fastest growing hobby in the pet trade. This is because most are not endangered in their native habitats, are relatively cheap to purchase and inexpensive to maintain. Many landlords forbid the keeping of birds, cats and dogs but do no prohibit invertebrates which can often be housed in simple ventilated plastic pet habitats the size of a shoe box.
The two men are offering TT$10 each for live uninjured centipedes, scorpions and tarantulas.
Cook and Corrie advise that not every exotic pet is the same. While they are easy to care for, research is important. Keeping an exotic pet means providing it with the perfect environment.
Centipedes are not pets to be handled, but are visual pets enjoyed for their interesting appearance and behaviours. Most of the larger specimens can give a very painful bite or pinch. Though fascinating to watch, centipedes should be carefully manipulated with snake handling tools, paint brushes and thick gloves, rather than handled.
Scorpions should also be carefully handled. Otherwise, they are very undemanding pets, Cook said.