Long hop from Nicaragua to US for frogs and spiders sold as ‘pets’

The red-eyed tree frog is one of the species bred by exotic fauna in Nicaragua.

With great care, Yesenia Talavera transfers a small frog from a plant, where he slept, to a plastic container with breathing holes, a damp sponge and some space to jump.

With more than 2,600 other creatures ranging from tarantulas to boa constrictors, the little red-eyed amphibian is being primed for a long journey from Nicaragua to the United States, where it will become someone’s pet.

Originating from the tropical forests of Central America, the frogs, snakes, spiders, lizards and turtles are grown for export at Exotic Fauna, a company that calls itself a “zoo farm” in a suburb of the capital Managua.

Exotic Fauna is government licensed and has been breeding 18 exotic species for export to the United States, Canada and Asia for 15 years.

The critters are in high demand “by people who want to adopt something other than the common dogs or cats,” Talavera, who runs the establishment with her husband Eduardo Lacayo, told AFP.

Valuable Good

Talavera and a team are hard at work preparing the latest order from a Miami company for 1,200 red-eyed tree and glass frogs, 290 basilisks and pichete lizards, 800 spiders including tarantulas, and 350 boa constrictors.

Tarantulas are a favorite with American customers

Tarantulas are a favorite with American customers.

They are deposited in containers with breathing holes – the boas in cloth bags – before being packed in wooden boxes marked “Live animals” while an inspector from the Ministry of the Environment watches.

The creatures are not sedated.

“These animals can endure 24-hour journeys and up to three days” without eating, Talavera said.

The shipment is trucked to Managua International Airport, from where, after clearing customs, they depart on a commercial flight to Miami the next day.

The Ministry of the Environment promotes the breeding of exotic species, organizes training and conferences to encourage more Nicaraguans out of a population of 6.5 million to venture into this lucrative field.

The government says nearly 40,000 Nicaraguan families are already involved in such ventures in one of Latin America’s poorest countries.

The green spiny lizard is another species bred as an exotic 'pet'

The green spiny lizard is another species bred as an exotic ‘pet’

However, exports remain the domain of a handful of private companies.

In 2019, official figures show exotic pet exports brought in some $300,000, although a recent newspaper article estimated the value at more than double.

Many never make it

Exotic Fauna states on its website that “the utmost care was taken in the breeding and handling” of the animals, and that the processes were “100 percent” in accordance with international wildlife trade protocols.

According to Eduardo Sacasa, president of Nicaragua’s National Zoo, it’s not bad as long as the animals aren’t taken from the wild and bred in centers like Exotic Fauna that mimic their natural environment.

Talavera’s husband, Lacayo, adds: “We take from nature once, but once, and we refine the product that we export.”

But the NGO People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which calls for an end to the trade in exotic species, says the practice is cruel and many potential “pets” will never survive the journey to their new homes.

“Those who survive often suffer in captivity and die prematurely from malnutrition, an unnatural and uncomfortable environment, loneliness and the overwhelming stress of incarceration,” PETA says on its website.

  • Boa constrictors are not fed just before the long journey

    Boa constrictors are not fed just before the long journey.

  • The frogs get an extra large portion of crickets before they leave for Miami

    The frogs get an extra large portion of crickets before they leave for Miami.

  • From Nicaragua to Miami in a box

    From Nicaragua to Miami in a box.

Frogs for entertainment

Lacayo said they sold a lot of frogs during the COVID-19 epidemic because people in quarantine wanted to be “amused.”

American customers, he added, were especially fond of tarantulas, which are poisonous but not dangerous to humans.

To help them on the long journey, the frogs are given an extra large portion of crickets, which are also grown on the farm.

The tarantulas are fed insects and worms, but the boas have an empty belly.

In the case of the snakes, exotic Fauna collaborator Harlintong Bonilla explains, “We feed him two or three days in advance so he has digested the food well and doesn’t vomit along the way.”


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© 2022 AFP

Quote: Long hop from Nicaragua to US for frogs and spiders sold as ‘pets’ (2022, July 8), retrieved August 7, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-07-nicaragua-frogs-spiders- sold-pets .html

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