return to main index

  mobile - desktop
follow us on facebook follow us on twitter follow us on YouTube link to us on LinkedIn
Click here for Reptile Super Show
This Space Available
3 months for $50.00
Locate a business by name: click to list your business
search the classifieds. buy an account
events by zip code list an event
Search the forums             Search in:
News & Events: Herp Photo of the Day: Happy Rattlesnake Friday! . . . . . . . . . .  Herp Photo of the Day: Turtle . . . . . . . . . .  Exoticon Pet Expo Fishersville VA - June 25, 2022 . . . . . . . . . .  Exoticon Pet Expo Chesapeake - July 02-03, 2022 . . . . . . . . . .  Central Illinois Herp Society Meeting - July 02, 2022 . . . . . . . . . .  Greater Cincinnati Herp Society Meeting - July 06, 2022 . . . . . . . . . .  Madison Herp Society Meeting - July 08, 2022 . . . . . . . . . .  All Maryland Reptile Show - July 09, 2022 . . . . . . . . . .  Madison Herp Society Meeting (Milwaukee) - July 13, 2022 . . . . . . . . . .  Madison Herp Society Meeting (FoxValley) - July 13, 2022 . . . . . . . . . .  Lancaster Herp Society Meeting - July 15, 2022 . . . . . . . . . .  Western Maryland Reptile Show - July 16, 2022 . . . . . . . . . . 

full banner - advertise here .50¢/1000 views
click here for Rodent Pro
pool banner - $50 year

For Discussion: Future of Herp Orgs

[ Login ] [ User Prefs ] [ Search Forums ] [ Back to Main Page ] [ Back to Herp Law Center & Forum ] [ Reply To This Message ]
[ Register to Post ]

Posted by: Chris_McMartin at Mon Feb 4 16:43:39 2013  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by Chris_McMartin ]  

“Join, or Die”
By Chris McMartin, 01 February 2013

NOTE: This commentary is not directed at a specified individual, group, forum, or organization. The author knows people and participates in groups representing “both sides” of many ongoing differences of opinion and chooses not to take sides, because that is exactly the concern this commentary is intended to address.

Benjamin Franklin first published his depiction of a snake cut into eight pieces in 1754 to symbolize the futility of the then British Colonies attempting to survive on their own. This is purported to be America’s first political cartoon. Franklin apparently had a soft spot for serpents and found utility in their imagery when inspiring others to action. One of his quotes from 1775 compares the Colonies, at the time agitating for independence, to a rattlesnake’s rattles: “…how firmly they are united together, so as never to be separated but by breaking them to pieces. One of those rattles singly, is incapable of producing sound, but the ringing of thirteen together, is sufficient to alarm the boldest man living.”

It is only appropriate, then, to use Franklin’s flowery prose and powerful imagery to call members of the larger herping community to action—not armed overthrow of a government, but action nonetheless. The analogy is an apt one, and more than superficial. The Colonies faced external threats—primarily England. However, a bigger, or at least more immediate, threat of which Franklin wrote and caricatured was the internal threat—division amongst the Colonists on the best way forward. We can draw parallels today to describe the herping community.

Perhaps the greatest concern is that we are hardly a community at all. What exactly constitutes the “Herp Nation?” Is it the same as the “Reptile Nation” espoused by USARK? Not quite—USARK is focused on herpetoculture, because it’s better to stick to tenth-generation captive-bred animals instead of treading devil-may-care through pristine environment just to get that perfect photo to impress their friends. Is Field Herp Forum or NAFHA (yes, they are separate), then, the rightful leader of the charge? That doesn’t fit everyone either—even though adherents may say it’s better to take photos only, rather than be a “deli cupper” collecting everything in hopes of exploiting the latest morph for profit. Maybe hobbyists can reasonably be both keepers and field herpers, and leave academia to advocate for policy reform—but then, nature is best left undisturbed completely unless one has the proper degree, supervised by someone else with an advanced degree, right?

The extent to which the preceding paragraph employs hyperbole is left to the judgment of the individual reader. Rest assured there are individuals in each camp who espouse those very beliefs. But there are likely equal numbers, if not a majority, who feel there is room for everyone as long as a large, national- or international-level organization doesn’t get too specific in its interests and purpose.

“What the world…needs now…is more herping organizations.”—Jackie DeShannon

OK, she didn’t really sing those exact lyrics. Yet that’s exactly what we have today. It seems a new discussion group or Facebook page, if not an entire organization, pops up every few days. Some are broad in scope, while others are very specific, such as forums for morphs of ball pythons or crested geckos. Some organizations are species-focused; others are city, regional, state, or nationally oriented.

What is the net result? On one hand, an individual interested ONLY in kindred spirits who share their passion for scaleless bearded dragons may indeed find a group to suit their needs, but in so doing they have limited their network to a very small pool of both resources and talent. Conversely, if an individual is interested in a cross-section of all the herping pursuit has to offer, they now must check multiple, sometimes dozens, of online forums, and probably pay dues toward, and attend meetings of, numerous societies. In effect, this individual must now parcel out his or her time, talent/effort, and in some cases, money to multiple organizations, some of which may be working toward common goals—terribly inefficient.

In both cases, it is clear that the herping community can potentially be its own worst enemy. How can it present a united front with the appropriate level of resources and talent against those who wish to see some or all facets of herping destroyed at the stroke of a pen? Fragmentation of these resources and talent hurts the entire community, though it may not be immediately apparent. Now is not the time to specialize, when it comes to preserving our ability to keep doing what we enjoy.

Why, then, is there such fragmentation? Part of it may be attributed to naiveté. Newcomers may have come into the hobby through an impulse purchase, or received a young animal from a friend, or accompanied a friend on a field trip; their little “slice” of the hobby to which they were initially exposed may be all they know of it. This can be forgiven, but these newcomers should be encouraged to expand their involvement. It is difficult to do so when inundated with innumerable new clubs/societies, forums, and Facebook groups almost daily—including pages closed to the public and accessible by invitation only, even though said newcomers may have valuable information or talents to contribute. A person can’t help if they don’t know a page or club exists—or are excluded from participation.

What cannot be forgiven are those who know of the many facets of the herping community and choose to isolate themselves just because they don’t particularly care to participate in certain facets themselves. This only hurts the community as a whole, for the division-of-resources reasons cited above. Restrictions pertaining to certain species, whether the ability to keep them or to handle them in the field, often grow to include additional species, or entire families of reptiles and amphibians, because those who didn’t concern themselves with species outside their interest chose, for whatever reason, not to assist their fellow enthusiasts in their hour of need.

Not knowing enough to get involved and choosing not to get involved can be remedied through education and encouragement. More egregious are those who are involved, but actively splinter the herping community through personality conflicts. Each wants, consciously or subconsciously, to be the savior of the community; moreover, salvation must arrive under only their terms. These are the people who remove themselves from discussions when the discussions diverge from their point of view; the people who falsely accuse others of actions they didn’t do. It seems to happen at every level of involvement, from the most localized herp society to the largest organizations.

Even if a newcomer, or someone wishing to get more involved in the community, wishes to do so, how would they view the aggregate herping community? Too many special interests to have to choose where to throw their weight of effort? Too much infighting to want to enter the fray? Both are problematic, but both have the same solutions, the first being: before speaking or acting, ask oneself if the comment or action is to the benefit of the individual, the specialized group, or the greater community. While there may be times when an action, or forum post, may bring short-term gain to an individual or even a particular group, if it doesn’t sufficiently align with common shared values and goals, it will inevitably be perceived (often rightly so) as throwing another individual or group within the community under the bus.

The second solution is perhaps counterintuitive, but is as important as the first: reduce the level of specialization as much as possible. There are two basic methods with which to approach this solution. One is not to start new, stand-alone organizations, especially if they duplicate effort. This extends not only to dues-paying clubs or societies, but even to Internet forums. The second method is to consolidate smaller groups into larger ones, primarily for the economies of scale. Multiple forums on one web host can be cheaper. Clubs can be subsumed as chapters or working groups within larger societies, with dues being pooled for greater effect with less administrative overhead. But besides the savings in money, reduced demand on individuals’ time and talents is afforded—fewer organizations require fewer officers, legal assistants, and so on. This may free up more people to spend more time organizing legislative-issue campaigns rather than focusing on keeping the organization afloat for its own sake.

Even the oft-cited rift between the academic and hobbyist side of the community is healing rapidly. Academia is coming to realize the value of citizen-science initiatives as a multiplier for research. This is a monumental positive evolution and it should be encouraged. With perhaps the greatest difference of opinion moving towards a mutually-beneficial relationship, that leaves the hobbyist community to resolve its problems within its own ranks.

This article is only one person’s opinion, based on over 30 years of observing the goings-on; from the sidelines for most of the first half, but as an ever-growing participant. Feel free to disagree. Is there more to the equation than merely that which has been presented here? Most likely; but this is, in the author’s opinion, a large component of the overall dilemma herpers now face.

We need resources and talent…currently we’re dividing both to the point that crises which demand large quantities of both go unanswered. A blow dealt to one segment of Franklin’s distressed serpent will certainly be felt by the entire body, if not right away. Regardless of minor differences in approach, we need each other’s support for the larger benefit.

Herpers of every inclination: Join or Die.
Chris McMartin
I'm Not a Herpetologist, but I Play One on the Internet


[ Reply To This Message ] [ Subscribe to this Thread ] [ Show Entire Thread ]

>> Next Message:  RE: For Discussion: Future of Herp Orgs - mpollard, Thu Feb 7 15:44:38 2013