Nature and ethics question


New Member
Nature and ethics question of convenience?

HI folks,
I just spent a half hour surgically removing Sebaceous tape worms (probably spirometra) from a rescued green tree snake Dendrelaphis punctulata.
This is common issue with the species due to their largely frog/skink/gecko
This adult male was riddled with them, most of the length of its body.
While these parasites generally do no harm to the host, the animal had been kept in sub optimal conditions and as a result of stress its immune system is compromised and its been going down hill.
So having wormed it for internal parasites, Ive removed the worms surgically for asthetics, since the internal worming will eventually kill the worms, they will calcify after death leaving the lumps, which looks ugly.
I had a hard time remaining stoic about it, very difficult not to toss my lunch, lol.
Naturally I will attempt to alter its diet to mammalian fare, this can be tricky, but
continually feeding its normal diet will again cause infestation of worms.

Herein is the question Id like to pose to folk here:

Is feeding an unnatural diet (mammals are more fatty than herps) in captivity
acceptable for the above reasons? Is aesthetics and easy food supply (mice)
a fair trade off for issues related to an unnatural diet, such as a tendancy to gain more weight than would otherwise be 'normal' and possible issues with breeding for same reason?
Is the sometimes quite unnatural huisbandry required in captivity for 'difficult' species, for our convenience, ok, or should species like this not be kept in captivity?

PLease share your thoughts?

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New Member

"Should species, whose natural life can not be replicated in a captive habitat, be kept by enthusiasts like you and I? If so, should we strive for being 'humane' or 'rational/realistic' with our pets and can you go too far in one direction or the other?"

Even by redefining what you are asking into simpler terms, I still do not see anything "ethical/unethical" in taking care of a rescued snake (unless you rescued it from the wild..). This seems to be a question of whether or not you are doing something within your own moral grounds; a question of morality not ethics.

That being said, questioning the dilemma of humans keeping animals as pets IS a question of ethics..but I have no simple answer for you:rolleyes:


Avid Member
the best advice I can give is if you have to use an unnatural diet in order to regain it's health, then do it. at least temporaraly.

my big question is, do you think you can maybe find a breeder that deals with it's natural diet of foods? maybe get some babies now for you to start a breeding program for it's future feeders.
maybe make some friends at the local zoo to get some feeders?

It is pretty common in the US for snakekeepers to try to convert non mammal feeders to mammals for availability reasons. No one wants to try to catch toads to feed their hognose snakes in mid winter, for example. While there are some reports that snakes "do not do as well" with this type of diet change, I don't know if that's documented.

Have you tried feeding frozen thawed to kill the parasites in the feeders?


New Member
Perhaps the title was misleading, lets drop the word 'ethics' for a moment, for clarity.
What I meant was not so much that the natural ecology of the animal cant be replicated,
it can, and will, (the species of frog it feeds on are common and already breeding in my backyard, so in time I could have a captive population fed on commercial diet and free of parasites avail to feed the snake Harry, with a great deal of effort and time)) however meanwhile its diet will be unnatural, and I have wormed it (for its sake) and performed surgery for the sake of aesthetics.
I dont know weather the folk who bought it to me took it from the wild or were simply feeding its natural diet to save money on rodents, resulting in the parasite infestation,
never the less, my intentions are to get it healthy since it will now definately be captive.
Releasing this animal after rehab is not an option, due its unknown history.

So, Is altering an animals natural ecology for convenience in captivity, (generally speaking) acceptable or should these species only be kept in captivity if the keeper has the means and resources to perfectly replicate its basic needs, such as unusual diets etc? What I have done amounts to cosmetic surgery really, is this acceptable or is it human vanity akin to producing 'morphs' that please the eye?
Is this kind of thing ethical just because its common place?

Have you tried feeding frozen thawed to kill the parasites in the feeders?
Lloyd, I suppose you could in theory, though this poses the question, how to safely and humanely kill frogs, and am I prepared to do so when frozen mice are readily avail at my petstore? (I dont kill things, I just can't)
I guess thats the heart of it mate, Should we keep an animal if we are not prepared to do what is nessesary and/or, where do you draw the line?

I wonder how many folks would still keep lizards of any kind if there was no commercially avail feeders and you had to catch your own everyday?

Just food for thought folks, was not really intended to be a debate or anything, just sharing thoughts. :)


Avid Member
I have a little experience with frog eating snakes- eastern hognose for a year before letting it go again many years ago- but not a lot.

My limited understanding is that a frog only diet can lead to calcium deficiencies (and probably others), sort of like invertebrate only diet without supplements in chameleons.

For this reason hognose (and garter snake) breeders switch them over to mice.

It isn't only about convenience, it's also about adequate nutrition for growth and reproduction.

That is my limited understanding anyway...


New Member
OH thats interesting flux, this species also snacks on geckos and skinks but hasnt been recorded eating birds or mammals in the wild.
I suppose if you limited this variety purely to frogs you end up with deficiencies too,
but in this case unless you are going to catch or breed a variety of its known diet,
which is illegal in most states here) then its more convenient to train it to eat mice, though
this too can lead to problems.
Some people even feed exclusively gold fish (Apparently gts can be difficult to get feeding on anything other than its natural diet, but where people populate its huge eastern range, they do record it stealing goldfish from ponds.
I beleive folk in the UK record the same with grass snakes (Natrix )
Eitherway, since its now in my hands Ill pursue whatever means avail to keep it as healthy as possible.


New Member
I really think the only "ethical" question is whether it's ethical to keep such an animal in captivity. Where you are in the equation--fixing a problem that was caused by/or noticed because of captivity--there's no question. This is no longer an animal that can be returned to the wild.

I think we've all made the jump to keeping animals that are not domesticated in any sense. Is that ethical?

I would argue yes. I think that embracing non-domesticated animals and caring for them helps us relate to the world. It gives us a greater understanding of/and appreciation for animals that are outside our normal daily experience.

Some time ago an insect crossing my path caught my eye. It was a nasty stink bug. I've never had a warm cuddly feeling about one in my life. But this one had a leaf on its back as it worked its way across the sidewalk. I stood there for many minutes debating what to do. Should I take the leaf off? If the leaf was just stuck to the bug then that would help the bug. If the bug was trying to transport the leaf, then I would be negating all the work the bug had done....

And I thought.... wtf? I'm mulling how best to improve the life of a stink bug?

I blame it on chameleons.

I care more now.

And, I share that with people I know.

I can't find a way to view that as negative.

BTW, I opted to leave the bug alone.
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