Spiders, or something very like them, have been roaming the earth for at least 380 million years. They occur naturally on every continent except Antarctica and at the present time there are around 30,000 different species of them roaming the earth.
Tarantulas, or Theraphosa to be scientific, are actually quite primitive as spiders go; they don't spin complex webs and don't have much of a social life. Having said that, they have survived on earth - essentially unchanged - since before the days of the dinosaurs. So, they must be doing something right!
They are also big and cuddly - which, for some, makes them ideal as pets. The pictures on the left are of "Hazel", a Chilean Rose Tarantula (Grammostola spatulata), who's been with me since she was the size of a money spider and is now a grand old lady of eleven years. She was the first of many spiders I have reared over the years and is still something of a favourite.
Before you consider keeping a tarantula as a pet, there are a few things you need to consider:
Recently, there's been a fair amount of media interest in allergic reactions and eye irritation caused by the tiny hairs that tarantulas flick off their bodies in self-defence. Before getting a tarantula pet, find out if you are allergic to them.
Sadly, not all spiders you might see for sale have been reared from captive-born babies like Hazel. Because of the time and money needed to rear exotic animals, some dealers have, in the past, opted for the cheaper option of importing them from the wild. The effects of this kind of trade on wild populations can be catastrophic. A famous case is that of the Red-kneed tarantula of Mexico, which is now listed under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) under the highest risk category (along with tigers and pandas). Please take care to ensure you don't support this trade: if you buy a spider, buy one from a reputable breeder. I recommend the following UK dealers: Graham Smith, Virginia Cheeseman, and Spider-Mart, all of whom keep stocks of captive-bred animals.
Keeping spiders is a lot less hassle than some pets I could mention, but they're still living creatures with exacting food and housing requirements. Before you consider keeping a tarantula, please take time to learn more about them by checking out the links on this page. I'd also recommend getting hold of a good book. The following, are currently available at Amazon.co.uk:
Hot Tarantula Sites on the Web:
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