THIS would appear to be the first Saurian Editorial of 2004, for which I apologise. However, this is not to say that we have not been adding material to the site, nor that things have not been happening in the world around us.
The most dynamite news of the last four months is that the RSPCA's mysterious policy document has at last been brought out into the open. This is dynamite simply because it blows away the last vestiges of hope that the organisation was not being run by animal rightists. The document comes out not only against the keeping of "exotics" (in RSPCA-speak this usually means reptiles) but also against any animal kept in a cage, presumably including birds, rabbits and rodents and possibly fish. Furthermore the document states that the organisation is against the sale of live animals by pet shops, a claim that the RSPCA had tried to play down. The grounds given for these positions are very flimsy and seem to be based on what might happen, eg people might buy animals on impulse. There now appears to be little to distinguish the RSPCA from avowedly animal rights organisations such as CAPS or Animal Aid as far as policy is concerned, although I find it sad that the former organisation finds itself in such company. Quite apart from the questionable nature of these policies, I can see that the charity (well, it's technically still a charity!) will end up falling between two stools, repelling the pet owners but failing to attract the hard-core animal rights activists. I hope that the organisation can save itself before it is too late.
Partly to combat the invidious propaganda of certain animal rights groups, a pan-European group, EUFORA (European Forum for Reptiles and Amphibians) was set up in December in Germany. This largely arose as a response to the intensive lobbying of Brussels by certain AR activists. It remains a fact that while fully committed animal rights activists are a minority, many are vociferous and seek to impose their agenda on the peaceful majority by influencing public policy. Lobbying and pressure groups are always a sensitive issue within any democracy, which is why there needs to be a balance with all sides of the argument represented.
On the website itself during the past few months we have made some hefty additions. The biggest addition was an overview of the Anurans (frogs and toads), in which we have listed all the major groups: quite an undertaking as they are one of the biggest herp groups. Although you should not expect to see as much detail on the different anuran genera as, say, on the lizards, we will be adding material from time to time, if only to list all the genera. Another large addition was a similar overview of the Chelonia (turtles and tortoises): again, we are trying to at least list all the genera. We have also added a lot of material to the Caudata (newts and salamanders), including information on the poorly-known Hynobiidae, and put up a page on King- and Milksnakes (Lampropeltis). The biggest event for the lizards on the site recently was the breaking up of Mabuya skinks into separate genera following a helpful communication from Dr Andreas Schmitz who advised that this move is in fact now being accepted by the scientific community. Yet another innovation on the site, placed at the same time as the slightly amended home page, is the Herpetological Index of Species Listed. In future when we add material on a species on this site we will try to add an index entry for it. Thus you will be able to go straight to the index and from there link directly to the species you are looking for, instead of having to cast about through several links to find what you are looking for.
In non-herp areas, we've also added a trickle of films and updated the Weightier Matters section. There should also be some more material on the music section over the next few months, but don't expect it as a priority.
Occasionally we do add non-herpetological animal features to the site, and soon we are hoping to add a brief overview of the mammalian family Felidae, better known to most people as cats (from domestic moggies to the charismatic tiger). At some point we will also hopefully have a very general overview of the bird families, which are after all linked to reptiles. Part of the problem of doing such a project for the invertebrates is simply the sheer number of them: even listing the different phyla would be a couple of pages, let alone the different families. People often forget that the invertebrates outnumber creatures with internal bony skeletons by something like 19:1 - there are about 300,000 mollusc species alone, while the insects probably number over a million even if they haven't all been classified yet. On the herpetological front, look for steady additions to all the Orders over the next few months.
May 2000 (II)
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