Herpetoculture is the keeping of live reptile
Reptiles are members of a class of air-breathing, ectothermic vertebrates which are characterized by laying shelled eggs , and having skin covered in scales and/or scutes. They are tetrapods, either having four limbs or being descended from four-limbed ancestors...

s and amphibians in captivity
Captivity (animal)
Animals that live under human care are in captivity. Captivity can be used as a generalizing term to describe the keeping of either domesticated animals or wild animals. This may include for example farms, private homes and zoos...

, whether as a hobby
A hobby is a regular activity or interest that is undertaken for pleasure, typically done during one's leisure time.- Etymology :A hobby horse is a wooden or wickerwork toy made to be ridden just like a real horse...

 or as a commercial breeding
Biological reproduction
Reproduction is the biological process by which new "offspring" individual organisms are produced from their "parents". Reproduction is a fundamental feature of all known life; each individual organism exists as the result of reproduction...

 operation. "Herps" is an informal term that refers to both reptiles and amphibians. It is undertaken by people of all ages and from all walks of life, including, but not limited to career herpetologists, professional reptile or amphibian breeders, and casual hobbyists. It is considered by many to be different from pet
A pet is a household animal kept for companionship and a person's enjoyment, as opposed to wild animals or to livestock, laboratory animals, working animals or sport animals, which are kept for economic or productive reasons. The most popular pets are noted for their loyal or playful...

 keeping in that a few of its practitioners consider theirs animals as "pets"; most herpetoculturists do not give names to their animals, and most do not bond in the same way as pet keepers bond with their cats and dogs. However, some amateur herpetoculturists do treat their animals as pets and interact with them accordingly.


The origin of the word "herpetoculture" is credited to Tom Huff, who devised the word to distinguish what he, as a self-described "herpetoculturist", was doing -- working to keeping reptiles and amphibians alive and healthy -- from what herpetologists of that era were generally doing, namely, collecting specimens for preservation in museum collections.


There are long-standing differences and disputes between herpetoculturists and professional herpetologists. With professional herpetology's increasing focus on scientific research, including conservation biology
Conservation biology
Conservation biology is the scientific study of the nature and status of Earth's biodiversity with the aim of protecting species, their habitats, and ecosystems from excessive rates of extinction...

, some herpetologists believe that herpetoculturists are part of the problem: that collecting specimens from the wild for the live animal trade is having an adverse impact on wild populations. While many captive bred reptiles and amphibians are offered for sale at pet stores and reptile shows such as bearded dragons, corn snake
Corn Snake
The Corn Snake , or Red Rat Snake, is a North American species of Rat Snake that subdues its small prey by constriction. The name "Corn Snake" is a holdover from the days when southern farmers stored harvested ears of corn in a wood frame or log building called a crib...

s and leopard geckos, many animals sold are still removed from the wild. Complicating the matter further is the growing problem of exotic species escaping or being released into the wild where they occasionally establish populations outside of their natural ranges, part of the larger issue referred to as invasive species
Invasive species
"Invasive species", or invasive exotics, is a nomenclature term and categorization phrase used for flora and fauna, and for specific restoration-preservation processes in native habitats, with several definitions....


Herpetoculturists respond that with few exceptions, wild collecting is incidental and trivial compared to the losses resulting from habitat destruction and modification, highway mortality, and killing by people out of fear or ignorance. Herpetologists collecting specimens for preservation are also blamed for depleting local populations. Many herpetoculturists maintain that their animals are bred in captivity wherever possible and that their captive breeding efforts actually help to preserve threatened species. In addition, they contend that herpetoculture has saved some species from extinction.

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