The critters on display at the second annual St. Louis Reptile Breeders Expo and Sale in Kirkwood on Sunday were about as varied as several thousand reptiles and amphibians could be.
Among them were mantis-green frogs less than an inch long; five-foot boa constrictors with bodies as thick as tree trunks; green, turquoise and purple lizards with stripes; appropriately named black and yellow pancake tortoises; furry white domestic mice sold as pets or dinner for a snake, and exotic striped mice so expensive ($26 each) that they never would be bought for serving up on a snake's plate.
The more than 50 exhibitors brought their animals, sometimes numbering in the hundreds, to the Kirkwood Community Center to sell or show. The exhibitors came from a dozen states, including Florida and Arizona. But the exhibitors had one thing in common, as did the animals: all the reptiles and amphibians for sale were born in captivity, and none of the exhibitors takes animals from the wild, said Jim Brumley of south St. Louis County, who organized the expo.
"There are different philosophies about the importance of captive breeding, but the trend in our business today is moving in that direction," said Brumley, vice president of the St. Louis Herpetological Society. "Captive bred animals are generally higher quality than those taken from the wild; they're less stressed and don't have the diseases one finds in animals that are collected."
The two biggest problems many wild animals face today are destruction of their habitat and collection for the pet trade, "as some traders will collect until a species is gone," Brumley said.
He hopes the St. Louis expo will "encourage pet owners and those in the trade to only work with captive-bred animals and will promote captive breeding to alleviate pressure on wild animals."
Brumley and his wife, Gail, breed snakes, lizards, toads and tortoises and brought some 400 animals to the expo. They included two quarter-size black-and-yellow European Hermann's tortoises going for $100 each, a similar albino San Diego gopher tortoise for $125, a five-inch black blob of South American horned toad priced at $45, and numerous beautiful Mexican milk snakes that are colored deep burgundy with gold and black stripes and sell for $65 to $200, according to size. …