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Animal Underworld

As someone who has collected reptiles and other exotics it makes me feel incredibly depressed to realise I have probably purchased livestock from Sullivan. I am now wholly in favour of a blanket ban on the import of exotics animals.
Andrew Grimm

Congratulations on a brilliant programme! Why are any kinds of snakes, etc allowed to be kept as domestic pets in the UK? Surely if a country like New Zealand can prevent these types of creatures from being imported - why can't we? A sugar cane toad was introduced to Australia as a means of pest control. They were not a native species, but they adapted well - now they're out of control and through a poisonous patch on their bodies they are killing many links in the animal kingdom. Do we want the same thing to happen here?
Sharon Kelly

I have read the letters in the Forum with great interest. When the Captive Animals Protection Society began to look at the reptile fayres issue here in the UK three years ago, we would always, without question, find animals in containers marked WC or wild caught. Since our expose of the reptile fayre business, we have noticed that no sellers at fayres are now labelling their animals wild caught, yet in conversation we have learned that some wild caught animals are being sold as captive bred. Some are labelled long term captive - in other words wild caught. We believe that reptile fayres are illegal under the Pet Animals Act, may be a threat to public health due to salmonella but more importantly, we believe that the reptiles' welfare is compromised. Animals are frequently handled sometimes roughly as we have witnessed and have to endure conditions where it is difficult to provide heating lighting and the humidity suited to their needs. Also, we have filmed snakes being sold and supplied to customers in plastic bags. A sick tortoise was sold at one fayre, I could go on. If there is anyone reading this who is still determined to keep reptiles as pets, please contact your local reptile rescues.
Captive Animals Protection Society

I was angry with Sullivan and his attitude. Does he realise or even care about the impact he and others like him are having on these balanced ecosystems, I don't think he does. Removing animals that keep insect populations down will lead to an explosion in insect populations. The end product of this madness could end in crop and vegetation destruction by increased insect population. Governments should put a blockade on all wild animal exports.
Mike Gorski

Why was there no mention of the positive side to herpetology? For example the fact that many species of reptile are on the brink of extinction, if not for man's intervention in preserving such species in captivity. Why was the editing done in such a way that the young lad was made to sound like he would not stop collecting until there was nothing left to collect. Absolutely shameful of the BBC and they knew exactly want their were doing. This was made to look totally out of context. What the lad was actually referring to was that he wanted to add to his collection. This was made to seem like he was speaking about and defending the collecting of the entire world's stock of wild snakes. Why I wonder did they choose to use such a young and obviously inexperienced keeper for the programme. Surely it would have been more balanced if someone more knowledgeable and experienced would have been better overall. Seems to me the use of the young lad was a very clever move and somewhat underhanded. When will we see a programme that gives the positive side of herpetology? - Never and the reason is simple, all the media is interested in is hype, scandal and ratings these days. That is why when we do see Reptile related programmes, it's only sensational things.

As I suspected the programme has bought out, on this forum, the know nothing, ban everything brigade. All as usual, totally missing the point of this brilliant programme, showing what is being done to stop the bad guys. They would do well to listen to the Stuart Chapman webcast interview. He said that the WWF are in favour of some reptile and amphibian collecting. If the local people can make a living from this, in a sustainable way, they will look after their forests. If they cannot make a living from the collection of wild animals, they will just level the forest and plant crops - really good for bio-diversity? Too many of these people are listening to the lies and propaganda put out by certain groups, whose only point in existing is to stop everything to do with animals (perhaps a Panorama investigation into the activities of these groups would be interesting!). A final thought - what should we do, with all the exotic animals in this country, if the keeping of them is made illegal? This would mean putting to death of perfectly healthy, happy, long lived animals, mostly captive bred. Although this would only be a small number of deaths compared to the estimated 275,000,000 small mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians killed in the UK by the pet cats that so many of these people seem to own.
E. Essex

A hard hitting and shocking documentary made even sadder by the fact that those creatures torn from the wild can be captively propagated from animals already held around the world. There is also a good side to the hobby with many people taking excellent care of their charges and learning valuable lessons that can be applied to captive breeding of many endangered species. In some cases holding valuable, or even the only, genetic links to fast disappearing wild stocks destroyed more often for food and because of habitat loss. Soon all we may have are the captive ones, hopefully once we can sort out our destructive natures we can return some of them to where they belong and with the knowledge we have gained give them a better chance of continuing in the wild. Not all people who keep herps are mad collectors that will ravage whole jungles to slake their thirst - some only keep captively bred animals in ideal conditions and aim to breed them further so reducing the need for wild collection to an absolute minimum. This is a very emotive subject - it would be nice just once to have a balanced point of view put across and not to just pander to the sensationalist side for a "good" story - nowadays you can find a sensational side to just about anything. This attitude is more suited to the "Sun" than the BBC.

This programme had good information but why did it not cover the problem in the UK? Once again there are people calling for the ban on reptiles but if it was not for some caring individuals, snakes like the round island boa would have gone by now. If people feel so strongly about the way animals are kept, why do so many of them keep dogs and cats. Were they always domesticated? - no. I'm not saying that reptiles should be but with man's destruction of their habitat who will help keep them going. No one is calling for the ban of cats and dogs but yet dogs do more damage and breeds such as the pit bull are still being imported which have hurt children and adults alike but yet people can keep them with no worry that someone will come and take their animals away. Give us a chance to prove that we are not all bad - why not do a programme on us who care for them properly and bred them at home?

I was disgusted with the attitude of Sullivan and the other importers/exporters of the reptiles of the world. They will undoubtedly lead towards the extinction of many of these species. However I was even more disgusted by the people who buy and keep these creatures at home as pets, if there was no demand there would be no importers. Even more worrying was the attitude of the young lad featured at the end of the programme - with people such as this then no wild creature is safe from extinction. There should be legislation to prevent people keeping such creatures. Finally I am disgusted that airlines still allow animals to be carried in their aircraft. A list of the airlines allowing such, should be published, so we can boycott them.
John Price-Stephens

I thought this was an excellent programme. The suffering and abuse of reptiles is a neglected issue. Here in the UK we have reptile fairs, and having spoken to dealers our investigators discovered wild caught reptiles being sold as captive bred right here in the UK. I hope that those involved in the reptile trade are dealt with severely. Jail sentences should be on an equal par to drugs trafficking. Congratulations Panorama for bringing this issue to the public's attention.
Diane Westwood

While I found last night's programme interesting, I was very surprised that the infinitely more interesting book of the same name by author Alan Green, was not referenced in any way. In fact, at least one very prominent character who featured last night was exposed in Green's award-winning book which predates the Panorama programme by nearly two years.
Anya Richards

You took my forest for your toilet roll, you took my culture for your mtv, you took my food for your McDonalds, you took my oil for your car. Please don't take my komodo.
Bagus Hendrajana

As I suspected the programme brought out the defenders of the collectors of animals, wild or otherwise. When will it sink in that just because some activity or action is "legal" it doesn't follow naturally that it is morally OK? These people lack imagination and compassion - if they could they would be able to see the wrongness of their position and further that a competitive attitude amongst collectors leads into "illegal" acquisitions. I support a much more vigorous search policy by customs - open everything!
Phil Reeves

I was disturbed by the Panorama programme and often wonder if we have passed the point of no return in terms of animal extinctions and environmental degradation. It is such a shame that our beautiful, diverse and unique planet is being destroyed by a greedy few. I wish you well in your work to combat and hopefully reverse this worrying trend.
Mr Carl Hussey

I feel sick and angry to see how some people seem to be able to view animals as mere 'commodities', just like any other, to be bought and sold on the world market. The real criminals are not the local people, who perhaps have fewer options than many of us for making money. It's the business men, whose only concern is profit, and we in the 'developed' world; brainless consumers who wish to own 'exotic' pets or big frogs. People with no sense of ethical issues, of ecology and the environment; people whose prime motive for all that they do is profit, will go on exploiting as long as the potential punishment is less than the potential reward. This is true of all crime. These people will not stop, unless we are willing to imprison them for a very, very long time, and make them pay for their crime. Money should be redirected into conservation and education, something which was mentioned in one case on the programme. All other efforts to curb this kind of trade, however well meaning, will be futile. We in the west, we 'consumers' of such 'goods' should like-wise be punished. It's pointless criminalising the import/export of such animals, if it is not illegal to own them. As the WWF said, as if it's not enough to be destroying their habitat, we accelerate the process several fold by desiring these creatures as pets, or to complete a collection. Makes you wonder how intelligent we really are, collectively, as a species!
David Bailey

I found the programme to be very interesting, however I would like to comment on a message sent by A.C. Meen from Suffolk. How can someone be so gullible to believe that green iguanas are captive bred? Green iguanas are captive farmed in South America, parts of the jungle are sectioned off into areas where mass production is used, much to the same aspect of battery farmed hens! Maybe the consumer should do their homework before making such a purchase. How they believe that the vivarium provided is of adequate size, compared to the jungle they were taken from is beyond me, wake up and smell the coffee. There are many unscrupulous dealers in our country who are in this trade for their own greed and gain but there are true herpetologists who just have the love of the reptiles at heart. People who buy reptiles would do well to read up about the animal before they buy them, thus educating themselves beforehand. Many dealers in this country would sell a wild caught reptile as a captive bred animal, to the untrained eye you could be easily fooled. Ask for paperwork as proof of birth, all captive bred animals should have them!

I felt that what some people do for money is just disgusting. However, I don't think the animal trade is all that it seems from what people see in the news and on television. There are many caring hobbyists out there who love reptiles. I feel that these sort of programmes carry on where the reptile trade is given a bad name. In my opinion there should be more programmes on how animals are good and a benefit, not the bad things about the trade, that should be dealt with privately. Visit my site at
Christopher Jones
Egham, Surrey

I am a reptile breeder myself, and was appalled by the attitudes of those on the programme. I would like to see all wild caught animals banned from being available to the public, possibly by creating licensing for breeders. I am doing everything possible to try and benefit reptiles in captivity, in fact am even setting up a society for chameleon keepers very soon - this will have strict guidelines on standard chameleon care and to become a member a small "exam" must be sat - this means that anyone interested in chameleons enough will search out the answers in order to become a member. We then hope that members will encourage the sale and swapping of chameleons between themselves, ensuring that animals remain in good hands. I only wish there were more people out there willing to take on these sorts of commitments, I think the hobby is shrouded with secrecy and I plan to stay as open about my hobby as possible.
Robbie Whytock

I would like to know why the programme was so one sided and misleading, it gave the impression that all reptiles being kept are smuggled which is not the case, most that were shown were captive bred or of species usually imported legally. Why was Peter Heathcote allowed to handle the Caiman in a totally crass way, this is not the method to use on such a small specimen which seemed to result in a damaged mouth. Why did the programme allow rubbish about this specimen being lethal and being worth vast sums of money to be broadcast?
David Bird
Poole, Dorset

Well done Panorama and Tom Mangold for exposing in depth the illegal trade in endangered reptiles, which I long suspected had links with organised smuggling mafias worldwide. These people do not seem to care that they are depleting the world of irreplaceable species that can never be re-introduced or bred in sufficient numbers in captivity to restock the areas so depleted. The fines for those convicted should be increased substantially, and the trade would collapse overnight if stricter licensing was introduced not only for legitimate dealers but also for the public, and much better knowledge of the trade issued to customs around the world.

I think it is impossible to completely blockade exports as people will always find a way to get the animals in and out of countries. I own and run the website, and have been approached by a man from Singapore who offered me large amounts of money to export reptiles and amphibians to him. Whilst I refused to do this, and reported the person I cannot see how it is possible to blockade exports with people like this around?
Stuart Pearson

I thought this programme was excellent, it highlighted the need for greater changes in the laws on importing and exporting wild caught and endangered reptiles. It also showed that there has to be changes in the justice system and the penalties given to smugglers/dealers of illegal reptiles. I would also like to say that the majority of reptile keepers are dedicated to the health and well being of their animals and have made sure that the reptiles they keep are captive bred. I was disgusted at the young boy who said that he would keep collecting reptiles and snakes until there was nothing left to collect. He is not a responsible reptile keeper and it is people like him that will keep the illegal trade going. He does not do any justice for the many people out there including myself that keep reptiles and are dedicated to protecting reptile species.
Deborah Webster

Another excellent programme about how the "human" race does not deserve to share this planet with anything. Yet again we see pea brained people who want nothing but their own self gratification, be it from making money from these kind of disgusting trades or from "owning" something so rare and precious, and we all know that there is neither the political will or sufficient resources to ever do lasting justice to them. We are all culpable of the end of bio-diversity for this planet, and while everyone likes to believe there is a glimmer of hope, don't hold your breath waiting for it to happen.
R Mizen

I wonder how many of the people who want to ban the keeping of exotic pets - possibly the only chance of survival for many species - are directly contributing to global over population and thus habitat destruction by themselves producing more than two children? How about a ban on over production of humans to ensure species survival in the wild?
C Palmer

Whilst I agree that most COMMERCIAL importation of wild animals is abhorrent it must be remembered that only a small amount of damage to 'common' species is caused by this. Human growth is the main killer of wildlife. There are many suitable captive bred animals available that a total ban on COMMERCIAL importation of WILD reptiles should be put in place immediately.
Mark B

It is important that the illegal trade in reptiles stops but it is important to recognize the contributions of herpetoculture to conservation and in encouraging an interest in herpetology. The vast majority of reptiles for sale are captive bred (in the UK) and a far greater danger to wild populations comes from habitat destruction and the skin trade.

A programme showing humans' sad ability to put a price on everything wild and unusual. With both localised and global threats to forests and it's inhabitants the irreversible damage now being done is gathering a ferocious pace. Unfortunately as we are now already seeing with the environmental changes that are impacting on the earth's weather the time delays of Governments in making decision's/policy to stop such process's can in fact be equally as damaging as the original catalyst that started them. Ultimately as custodians to our environment it is our responsibility to preserve through education in order to provide a better natural inheritance for future generations. It is sad to see individuals like Sullivan educating local tribes in the bad business practices of the West!

It beggars belief that so called educated people find it necessary to make pets of wild animals, encouraging the destruction of species and the eco system, and ultimately our planet. I would suggest that the easiest way to stop trafficking in wild animals is a complete ban on the keeping of any wild animal. These are WILD animals, there are enough domesticated pets in RSPCA compounds to satisfy the needs of so called pet lovers, not the removal of wild animals from their natural environment to a hostile environment and ultimate death. How would these so called pet lovers like to be kept in a box for the rest of their life when they had been used to being free, frankly it appals me.
P Freeme

I am in total agreement with all the intelligent, caring people who are concerned about this evil trading in wild creatures. Please start a petition to get the government to ban this despicable trade.
Maureen Wren

I was truly shocked at the collectors obvious disregard for the fragility of nature and the very creatures that they say they are interested in. If that were true and they were not as selfish and small-minded as they proved themselves to be they would not continue to pay ludicrous prices for those animals. The whole trade is sick and immoral and I, for one, found it unbelievable that supposedly educated people from a first world country such as Britain can still think in such a manner. Sullivan sounded the same as the elephant hunters of the 1950's, hypocritical, blind to facts and plain dumb. The customs officials must despair at the impossibility of their task and the governments of Europe should assist them in every way.
Greg Hutton-Squire

I was shocked when I watched the programme concerning reptile/amphibian importation. I and my friends thought the sentences given to the ring leaders were nowhere near what they deserved and will not make other animal smugglers think otherwise before carrying out this horrendous crime.
Andrew Fisher

I was disgusted by the Animal Underworld programme. Well done to the BBC for bringing the business of reptile exporting to the forefront but there must be something else you can do! Why not start a petition calling for the keeping of reptiles to be banned except by approved zoos and conservation groups. Why would any sane person want to keep a wild animal (either imported or captive bred) in a glass tank to be gawped at occasionally like a freak show exhibit. These people only think of themselves and what they want, they do not consider the miserable life these creatures endure. People should write to Tony Blair urging him to ban the keeping of ALL exotic pets.
K Trueman

Very informative programme but when will the media show the good side of our hobby? All the reptile shows in the UK only allow captive bred animals which many of us try to do. Most of the hobby would love to have our side put across as not all of us want illegal or dangerous animals and would help to destroy the bad side of our hobby that you showed. Give us a chance, we can help.

What is the sense of pointing at smugglers of all kinds as long as we ourselves are using our own precious economic system to protect our Western way of living at the expense of the rest of the world?
Ron Brandenburg
Rijswijk-zh, The Netherlands

Very good programme, glad to see that the USA is trying to do something, I knew that the UK customs weren't, and your programme revealed this, however there is not much incentive for enforcement agencies to act when they hand out such pathetic sentences to convicted offenders worldwide. Pressure must be continued to increase the sentencing particularly for CITES species and also any illegal trade in animals and birds. I used to rehabilitate birds of prey up until 2 years ago, and for a while I worked for a Falconry company in Scotland, the offers that came in of illegally kept, bred and acquired birds was incredible, but when reported nothing was done. In North Wales, every year in early spring for the past 5 years the nests of Peregrines/Goshawks/Red Kites have been tampered with, eggs stolen for breeding, eggs destroyed, adults killed by poisoning. Numerous times I warned the Police and RSPB, I even gave them names of suspects who I knew were active in this field, but nothing was ever done, why? It's wildlife. Thank you for highlighting this sad sick depraved trade, I hope that the right people saw it and things change, but somehow I fear not, I was depressed enough about the happenings in the UK but to see it on a global scale, well now I'm at a loss. It's so frustrating there's things I could do but I don't know where to turn to, the avenues I've tried are so disinterested.
David Jones
Caerwys, N.Wales

I think that your programme about the export of wild animals was well set out, good work! I think that there should be more programmes about this because I think that there are a lot of people out there who don't realise that this is going on and it is a situation that should have a lot more done to prevent it. I myself keep reptiles as pets but the only animals that I would even consider buying are those that have been captive bred. Another problem that I think should have more TV coverage is the fact that so many people buy animals that they keep as pets even though they don't have the space or know anything about the animal itself such as the larger reptiles, this is not helped by the fact that a lot of pet shops give you false info about the animal just so they can make a sale. I think that not only should there be more done about the animal underworld but there should be licences on all pets be they exotic or not!
Gavin Gillett

The trade in living creatures is an emotive subject. Your programme showed the potential damage in taking animals from their habitat and the few unscrupulous individuals who trade in C.I.T.E.S appendix 1 & 2 animals without the correct import/export paperwork. I agree this is totally unacceptable and deplorable, especially in cases where the conservation of a particular species is threatened by such greed-induced motives e.g. the Madagascar Tortoise featured. Unfortunately this is just another example of the human species disregard for the Earth's fauna in favour of a better life for the individual. When dealing with emotive subjects I believe it necessary to show both sides of the coin. What your programme neglected to show is how the 'end user' (a rather unjust description of the average Herpetologist) contributes to species survival. One of the featured snakes was the Madagascar tree boa, which is now captive bred in the hobby and sells for around 800. This snake would be in the same endangered state in the wild if left untouched, due to habitat destruction. The Hog island boa would be extinct today if it wasn't for the captive specimens, kept and successfully bred by private herpetologists. Again due to habitat destruction. The list is extensive.
Caswell Palmer

Although I agree with many of the issues raised by the programme and share concerns regarding the illegal trade in endangered species, I am saddened that yet again the responsible reptile keeper has been left out of the argument and the only example of a keeper shown was a teenage boy with clearly little understanding of his long term responsibilities. Many keepers such as myself feel strongly that healthy captive bred animals are the way for the future of the reptile and amphibian trade and that we as responsible caring individuals actually play a significant part in improving the understanding of the lives and maintenance of these beautiful and exotic creatures and in the conservation of many species whose habitats are being destroyed at an alarming rate. There are always people who will try to cash-in with no care for the creatures harmed. Would ALL trade in dogs be portrayed in such a negative manner because of disreputable dog farms? Should the keeping of dogs be banned as was implied in the programme for the keeping of reptiles? The BBC should maintain its reputation of fairness by showing the good as well as the bad. There are many of us keepers of exotic pets who have made a lifelong commitment to the conservation and care of these amazing creatures. A snake can live up to and beyond 25 years, longer than most people expect to take care of their own children. The public must be educated and potential keepers must be provided with sufficient information to ensure the right choices are made. In some cases this may mean that a reptile is not a suitable pet, but to imply that the keeping of any reptiles is unjustified and cruel is simply wrong.
N. Getman

An excellent Panorama programme, but it dealt too much with the human centred concept of maintaining animals so the species survives. The main thing that should matter is to stop the animal suffering. The individual animal doesn't care if the species is bred to survive, it wants food, water, freedom, and to be free of pain, stress and suffering. I wouldn't want to be kept in zoo, aquarium, cage or tank to be gawped at so my species survives. Whether I am kept in a zoo to live to be a hundred is irrelevant to me. I wouldn't mind if I died at 50, but I just don't want to suffer and I want to be as happy as possible. As for 'It was born in captivity so it's OK' argument, try locking yourself in your bathroom and see how long you can go without going a more than a little crazy. If is has a face I don't eat it or wear it. I certainly wouldn't lock it up for my own ideology.

OK, something should be done to stop the illegal import of animals. I suspect the problem is far more complex than the programme revealed. People in these countries are depending on catching wildlife to provide money to feed and clothe families. This should have been highlighted also, these are problems governments are failing to address. The programme seemed to lay the blame squarely at the feet of consumers. I am sure that many, many consumers in this country would prefer to buy captive bred animals and I know many people strive to breed their animals. The situation is that there are many captive exotic animals in this country now and herpculturalists should not be pressurised by scaremongering but educated into new ways of keeping their animals in the correct manner, encouraged to breed from the captives they have and discouraged from buying further wild caught animals. I applaud the documentary in so far as it showed the situation for the wildlife in these countries, that needed to be done. We need to move from here onwards through education and change the current view that it is OK to purchase wild caught animals.

I found the programme as a whole was very informative and firmly placed emphasis on the people who are trading illegally in reptiles. However, the young man who was interviewed in the UK did not do us responsible reptile keepers any favours. His attitude of collecting until there is nothing left to collect is thankfully a very rare one in this country. I myself keep 5 reptiles (all are known to be captive bred) and range from a Giant Green Iguana through to a Royal "Ball" Python. The Iguana which was shown in the UK habitat was in the programme shown in an enclosure which was far too small for the size of the animal. The enclosure that mine is kept in is 6 foot 7 tall, 4 foot wide and 3 foot deep. I would consider this to be a minimum size to keep the reptile in. I hope that this illustrates that there are responsible keepers of reptiles in this country. As a final note, Mr Sullivan should be imprisoned for what he is doing to the local wildlife in Cameroon. His attitude of "This is a sustainable product" shows his complete disregard for the lives of these animals. It was shown that many of the exports die before reaching their destination and it has been proved that wild caught reptiles do not fare well in captivity as opposed to the captive bred reptiles.
C. Meen

I too was incensed by the attitude of Sullivan but there again I should have expected little else from such a man. As well as government pressure and working with local people I would also like to see more responsibility placed on those that want to keep these animals to ensure that they are not from wild imports.
John Young
Longfield, Kent

The number of wild reptiles & amphibians taken for the pet trade represents less than 1% of animals removed from the wild for the food and skin trade each year. This figure does not include the animals lost by habitat destruction and pollution, which in Europe alone counts for many millions of animals. Much of what was reported in the programme concerning the trade in smuggling wild animals was grossly exaggerated, as were the prices suggested. For example, 100,000 for a broad-snouted caiman, is quite ridiculous. It is also nothing short of scandalous to suggest that an animal of that size was 'lethal'. I noted that you also did not give too much detail regarding some of the cases. In one of the cases in the USA one of the persons was jailed partly for importing (or rather smuggling) 40 live red tegu lizards, which are, according to Fish & Wildlife, a highly endangered species. No one seemed interested that the quota for skins for that 'highly endangered species' for that year was 1,000,000 from Argentina alone. This figure makes the 40 live animals pale into insignificance. I am not trying to defend the indefensible, but it is a great pity that Panorama chose to sensationalise the issues in this programme, rather than offering a fair and objective view. Yes, smuggling of live reptiles and amphibians is a problem, but in comparison to the volumes consumed by the food & skin trade, the numbers are simply not significant. Finally, why did the programme not point out that in fact world wide the trade in wild-caught reptiles and amphibians has been steadily declining over the past 3 or 4 years. Indeed, in the UK imports have declined by about 40% since 1998. I was deeply disappointed that a programme such as Panorama chose to make such a biased and unbalanced programme.
Chris Newman, Editor Reptilian Magazine

Thank you for producing this excellent documentary. Can you go one step further and get viewers to sign a petition to ban the export of these reptiles? We can take some encouragement from the progress on the fox hunting ban.
Julie Herron

Whilst I found your report to be horrifying, I do feel that you only concentrated on the very negative side of the exotic pet trade. This could have been counterbalanced by mentioning that far more reptiles are imported as legal skins, than any are as live pets. Most of the animals at the Reptile Fairs shown are captive bred, the rest on show would be legal imports. Amateurs are now able to breed far more of these animals than any of the zoos. Also, why interview a young lad, with little experience in reptile keeping, when there are very many respected adult breeders of reptiles in this country? How many amateur hobbyists could possibly afford the thousands of pounds charged for these illegal imported animals? They are surely going to wealthy collectors with little interest in the rest of the world. How about a programme covering what is being done by hobbyists in this country to breed from their captive animals, to cut the need for the imports. Further information on the correct way to keep reptiles can be found at

Although there are collectors with the same attitude as the collector you interviewed (with reference to his comment of he would stop collecting when there is nothing more to collect), I believe that the majority of collectors would disagree with that comment and would not want to affect the wild populations of the reptiles of which they collect. I also believe that many serious collectors would rather purchase healthy captive bred animals, than buy animals which have been imported. I also believe that the penalty for illegal importation should be a lot stronger, as taking so called abundant species in large numbers still has an affect on the surrounding environment.
Peter Clayson

It is sad to see that there is no organisation willing to take direct action and pro-active steps to stop this trade. We are left with some Govt. employees who are willing to go over and above their call of duty to actually do something. Where are the failings? Is donating money to an organisation enough?
Gaurav Malik

What a very sad world we live in. I found the programme very informative and extremely upsetting. As for Paul Sullivan, he should not be walking a free man. Something drastic has to be done. The sentencing is inadequate for the crime, it's laughable if it wasn't so tragic. These criminals are stripping our wildlife piece by piece with no conscience and the reptiles are dead on arrival. Tell us how we can really help to stamp these low life criminals out. Feed them to the alligators?
Rosemarie Jarvis
Henlow, Beds

The programme failed to mention that the problems for the animals only really begins after the creatures are sold in the pet shops. Most will die within a few months because the stress of being caught and transported. More often than not the creatures are simply not able to adapt to captivity and most importantly the "end user" kills the animals by not feeding the correct diet, lack of sunlight and keeping the animal in the wrong conditions, overcrowding etc. Would it not be easier just to ban this repulsive trade altogether? Back in the eighties the Tory Government banned in import of wild caught birds. Why can't the same be done with reptiles, amphibians, insects, spiders and even fish. If we are truly humane we would offer these creatures the same protection that we offer or try to offer our cats, dogs, horses and livestock.
Liam Tannam

One of the best shows I've seen - keep up the good work.

I was absolutely horrified that people are just so stupidly arrogant. For example the young man who was a collector of exotic animals, which should mean he cares for these animals and would like to see them doing well in their natural habitat, instead of being kept in tiny glass tanks in his shed. If some of these so called animal lovers actually realised what they were doing by purchasing an illegally imported animal, what suffering and inhumane treatment these animals get, then the demand for exotic breeds will go down. If there wasn't a demand for these animals in the first place then they wouldn't be taken out of the wild for these reasons. I think education is the way forward so that people understand that if they take these animals out of the wild they will disappear forever. I know I would hate to have helped to contribute to the extinction of a species, and I would like to think that most other people would feel the same way especially people wanting these types of animals. Do they really want that resting on their conscience? I know I wouldn't.
Robert Gritton
Althorne, Essex

A very disturbing report on the smuggling of exotic wildlife to live in unnatural conditions. These animals were not born to live like the way the film showed. The unlawful taking of these animals must be stopped now, for the good of the animals. The various inspectors shown in your film are to be congratulated in the so far successful prosecutions in this cruel trade. Panorama, once again highlights another unusual but very worrying activity by mankind.
Steve Fuller
Brighton & Hove

We need to target the end user. Why don't animal charities try harder to educate people. How about using Blue Peter, Newsround etc to explain the damage caused by keeping exotic pets. I have complained several times during features on keeping exotic pets, while programmes are running, that no warnings are given about depletion of wild animals. No comments are ever related on the programme. Producers don't want their programmes spoilt by unpleasant reality.
Judith Baker

One way of stopping the illegal trade is to stop en-bloc the importing of all reptiles between countries/and issuing special licences to zoos and breeding programmes only. I think this would be one way of monitoring what is going on. And also set up a special task force which has jurisdiction all over the world, monitored by one organisation/government.
Will Davies
Tregaron, Ceredigion, Wales

As a part time Wildlife Officer with the West Yorkshire Police ,we are suffering with lack of resources, despite the trade in wild and endangerd species being 2nd only to the trade in drugs world-wide, Government are giving lip service only with the National Wildlife unit, which will inevitably be under-funded and understaffed.
Phillip Sanderson

I was annoyed at two things. First, the way the young guy who kept reptiles in a shed in his back garden was portrayed - I would be very surprised if any of the animals he owned were actually imported specimens. Second, the vast majority of people who keep reptiles in this country and in the US have captive-bred animals - a fact your programme completely omitted. It should also be noted that virtually all reptiles/amphibians for sale at fairs like the one you showed in Orlando are again, captive-bred specimens, which of course has no impact on the wild population. I in no way condone the acts of the reptile/amphibian smugglers but feel that your programme misconstrued amateur herpetologists in a negative light.
Gary Sanderson

Don't pull our legs on reptile keeping destroying species, take a look at the CITES figures for legal skins exported of CITES 1 & 2 listed species and legal exports of live animals. If the figures were reversed there'd be enough captive bred animals to supply both camps 100 times over. 650 poison frogs in that plastic container? Take a closer look at the proportions of frog and box. Expect law enforcers to exaggerate too, they have jobs to protect and funds to justify. As a known breeder & retailer (with a conscience), I thought your programme was dangerously unbalanced and allowed sophistry to reign supreme.
Simon King.

As a reptile enthusiast I was very pleased to see this subject covered so well by Tom Mangold. And I was absolutely delighted to see the chief smuggler looking at the prospect of a stretch in chokey! Seriously, those of us who wish to be responsible reptile and amphibian keepers do try to ascertain the origin of animals, and to steer clear of illegal animals. We also try to breed those reptiles we already have with a view to taking the pressure off wild populations. The Reptilian magazine always carries news of CITES updates and those greedy individuals who get caught transgressing it.
Nick Smith

I think such crimes as catching, selling, owning, any endangered animal, should be punished, with a sentence equal to the crime. Put them in a plastic box with no food or water till dead.

I am very disappointed at the angle this programme took. The footage of the reptile shows, filmed in the USA (we don't have any that big in this country) showed captive bred babies, colour morhps ( you don't get wild albino burmese pythons!) And although I do not have experience of the trade in the states, I do know that the most of the reptiles available in this country are captive bred. I feel that this programme has done nothing but give a misleading and biased view of reptile keeping in Britain today. I would like to know if you intend to do a programme about how private breeders are helping to redress the balance and help develop captive breeding programmes, often doing better than cash strapped zoos.
Lucie Mann

How could you interview some disgusting little English man , talking about collecting all these fabulous reptiles out of their natural surroundings without wanting to do something about it. You the BBC have made millions and millions of s out of these wildlife programmes. DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT OTHERWISE THERE WILL BE BO WILDLIFE FOR YOU TO FILM have just come back from the Galapagos and also the rainforests of South Equator, the animals are being abused there, and there is no one to do anything. Please try, you have the clout BBC.
Julia Foster
Whitby North Yorkshire

Thanks for a sad but very important exposure of this horrible and sickening trade there should be harsher convictions for these illegal traders may be they should get 10 years jail minimum and also they should sealed up in an airtight box and sent around the world a couple of times to see how they would survive the trip. Our government should make young school pupils aware of this shocking selfish business, they the kids of today are the ones that are in the future going to inherit this mass extinction of rare animal species that is happening now. This program should be shown in all schools. Thanks for such a in depth report and your courage to run it.
Barry Dummett
Compton ,Devon

I think ALL post/parcels imported into the UK should be scanned/opened for detection of life/contraband/illegal substances (not just animals) While this would be terribly expensive, it would stop this method of importation dead in its tracks. If our Government were serious about all these issues they would charge us more tax and fund this. I for one would be happy to pay more to stop these activities! (if made effective) Other forms of importation could also be subjected to these types of check, although expensive, ALL the drugs/animal importation problems in this country would be stopped dead!

An excellent documentary, I do think however using the teenage boy as an example of a UK private reptile keeper was unfortunately sensationalist. The trade in illegal animals is unacceptable and I commend the BBC for outlining this, It would have been more balanced to show responsible keepers in the UK who respect and religiously care for the animals in their charge and who would not consider purchasing an illegally imported animal.
Mark Downey
Llanfair Gwynedd

I've never wanted to slap people more than I did when I saw those evil ignorant people engaged in this horrifying trade & the sheer disgust I felt for the "collectors" - well ,words can't say enough-we need to show them that what they are doing is evil & disgusting.
Phil Reeves

Because we are rich and the third world gatherers are poor, they will always say, "look, if you do not want me to engage in this trade, give me some of your money" Worse still is our hypocrisy in that we do nothing despite all our wealth to restore biodiversity which we have destroyed. I have twice written to Tony Blair on the subject of re-instating the wolf in this country so that at least when talking to the leaders of countries being plundered we could say we were making an effot to restore the nobility of the animal kingdom. Our prime minister is not interested, it is all flannel and hot air with passing acnowledgement but no committment.
Nick Hales

I just would like to say, I think the animal trade is disgusting, It should stop.
Osman Han

An interesting programme, but as a reptile keeper and fur allergy sufferer, I feel that not enough was said about the fact that most reptile keepers and dealers buy animals that are captive bred. I find it quite worrying as this type of programme will only fuel the ill informed and could cause serious problems to honest and caring keepers and breeders in the UK. I feel this hobby has enough bad press from scaremongering journalists and this programme can only damage the hobby.
Jason Hamp

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