how do octopus dealers see wunderpus and other exotics?

monty

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I've been glad to see ReefScavengers and nyaquatic and other suppliers getting more involved in IDing and recommending proper care for the octopuses they sell. Since we now have some of the suppliers participating in the forums, and particularly since we've seen a sudden rise in wunderpuses coming into the U.S. in the past week or so, I wanted to find out more of the industry perspective on these animals is.

We have a concern that while these octos are in danger of being overcollected in the wild. The so-called "zebra" octos seem particularly vulnerable to this because their lifestyle and habitat makes them relatively easy for collectors to catch, they are only known from a limited area where collectors are fairly aggressive, and they are a small-egged species so they are practically impossible to breed in captivity.

They are also not particularly interactive or interesting as octopuses go, so they seem like far more of a "trophy" animal than some other octo species who interact with their owners. Although we're concerned in general that some owners keep octos briefly, but get bored and don't take good care of them, we're particularly concerned that the zebra species are so flashy that they have an intrinsic demand among the irresponsible-but-rich crowds.

Since we're concerned about this, we'd like to act responsibly to make sure that wunderpuses and mimics aren't overcollected in the wild. Some argue that encouraging people to boycott these animals would be useful, since clearly sellers don't want to keep animals that don't sell. However, there's also a lot of evidence that the collectors don't really get much feedback from the sellers, so the collectors may well keep collecting these octos whether they're selling or not, and presumably there will always be people impressed by the "flashy" nature of them that will sell no matter what the "TONMO position" may be.

Since a lot of the fish sellers who come to TONMO seem to be interested in better understanding the species of octos they get, and how to advise customers to properly care for them and so forth, I'd like to encourage discussion of how the TONMO community, the people trying to make a living selling aquarium fish, and the general public can work together to make sure that these animals aren't overcollected or otherwise threatened because of their impressive appearance. I don't mean to say that it is (or isn't) irresponsible to sell these animals: the real concern is really at the collection end, rather than what happens to them when they get to the U.S. -- and I'd rather that they get to good homes with people who know how to care for them, unless that will feed back in such a way that it will give the collectors incentives to wipe out the wild population.

That's enough rambling from me, though, since I just want this to be a discussion-starter!
 

Colin

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What a tough lot to debate... and as you know we have been through so much of it already.

Personally they should be left in the sea.

Collectors seem to send them regardless of whether they are requested for or not and retailers are putting on outrageous markups selling animals marked in capital letters as RARE because they know that some people's wallets are bigger than their conscious.

If you see one for sale in a shop, keep your money in your pocket, explain the situation to the shopkeeper and leave it there.
 

cthulhu77

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I think most of you know my feelings on this matter.

The only time the local importers get them in is when they are asked to. Unfortunately, that is somewhat often.

I am still causing as much of a din as possible.
 
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Jean;115433 said:
how do octopus dealers see wunderpus and other exotics?

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$!

How does any profitable business see any product they sell? Did you expect something different? :wink: Controversy can be created over almost any product available in any corner of the market and finding a middle ground between the supporters and opposition is never easy. From a retailers point of view, a rarely seen octopus brings profit, but more importantly it generates consumer interest in a company for having the means to offer such an exotic animal; in other words people remember and say "Hey, i saw this neat animal that i dont see that often at so and so store (or website)", noone says that about a yellow tang, therefore the common products do not generate this type of personal promotion, making the exotics more sought after. Now the question arises; "Is it ethical to offer an exotic animal simply for those reasons listed?" Maybe not. Is it ethical to take ANY animal from the wild, bag it, ship it, cage it and sell it for profit? Not exactly but it is legal and people do it and support it everyday. Does it become less ethical if the animal being caught, bagged and sold is considered more exotic? If so, is this because it is TRULY unethical, or is it because we are not used to seeing it happen? Heres one from personal experience; everyday i walk into the post office with 30+ boxes labeled "Live Fish, Handle With Care", and everyday people ask me "Can you really ship live fish? How do they stay alive?" with a tone of voice that obviously hints "unethical". Do those same people walk into a pet store and say to the owner "So, where is your saltwater breeding pool because I KNOW all of these fish didn't come to you in boxes on the back of a truck!" Case in point, if people aren't used to seeing it (and it has anything to do with the treatment of live animals) i believe there is a good chance it can easily be considered unethical. Obviously there are many more angles to this discussion such as population numbers/captive care and i'd be happy to keep sharing my input as they come up. Id also like to point out that i am new to offering any type of octopus for sale and am open to reasons why certain ones shouldn't be.
 

monty

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Thanks for the reply, ReefScavengers. I think the population numbers you refer to at the end are really where people get worried, since we don't want to contribute to endangering the wild populations. Unfortunately, there aren't any studies of the wild population numbers, or any sense of how good the collectors are at capturing them, but some researchers who have studied them in small numbers in the wild are convinced that there is reason for concern.

I also worry that there are different kinds of exotic animals: "rare and easy to catch," "rare and hard to catch," and "not that rare in the wild but very atypical or impressive in look or behavior, and rare in people's tanks." The main concern seems to be that wunderpuses and mimics are in the first category, where they're rare in the wild, but really easy for collectors to collect, and so they could be collected aggressively enough that they could be endangered.

Of course, that may not be any more of a concern than for other octo species, but they're so distinctive and flashy they seem to be at higher risk.
 

monty

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p.s. I also should mention that you seem like you're interested in doing right by your animals, and I've been particularly impressed that you want to properly ID the octos you're selling, since so many retailers either just make up a name ("small brown octopus" or "bali octopus") or read about some species name and advertise it as that (and get it wrong). So I didn't mean to call you, or dealers in general, out, just to encourage you to participate in the discussion.
 

Thales

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If the animals is caught in a sustainable, low impact way, and treated well through out the chain of custody, sure its ethical. :biggrin2: Generally, wunderpus do not fall into this category.

I don't think exotic is the right word. Endangered is prolly closer. In the case of wunderpus there currently is no study that we can look to to prove the population is in decline, but the anecdotal evidence from scientists and divers visiting areas where it used to be relatively easy to see wunderpus and mimics is pretty strong.

Sadly, we are used to seeing wunderpus show up for sale. They all too often come in stressed, but worse, they are almost always adults and only have months, if not less, to live. Combine that with shrinking populations in the wild, and a basic inability to breed the animal in captivity, and it starts to become very hard to justify these animals in the trade.

We have also seen other animals in the pet trade collected to near or almost near extinction in the wild just so people can keep them in their homes for a little while. That seems impossible to justify.

My worry isn't that they are being collected. Well, let me say that a different way. I think with the supermarket approach to the industry, they are gong to continue to be collected regardless of consumers or vendors who know better. Greg is right, sometimes they are collected because of consumer interest, or initial customer interest gets the unstoppable ball of collection going. However, more often they are collected because they are seen, not because someone asked for it to be collected. At almost every level of the chain of custody, vendors want to have as much available as possible, like a super market, so if they see something they think they can sell, they buy it or collect it because then they will have it if someone wants it - and there is always someone who wants it be it exporter, importer, wholesaler, retailer or customer.

Don't get me wrong, I would like to see these animals not collected, but since I don't think that is going to happen in the near future, my worry is more about what happens to these animals once they are collected. They often go to LFS that have no idea what they are doing and just want the notoriety of having an exotic animal for the reasons Reefscavengers said above. Then they go to consumers who know even less. The ceph cert idea is just born, but perhaps it could become a sort of clearing house for cephs in the future.

Many of us are very used to seeing wunderpus in the MO industry, which is why we have come to the conclusions we have.

It would be great if these animals were a collect for order species, but the way the industry is, that just isn't going to happen. I was feeling good because we hadn't seen many of them in the trade for a while, but recently they are popping up again.
 

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