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Herpetoculture is the keeping of live reptiles and amphibians in captivity, whether as a hobby or as a commercial breeding operation. It is predominantly, but by no means exclusively, an amateur activity conducted by people with little or no formal background in herpetology or other natural sciences. It is slightly different from pet keeping in that its practitioners are somewhat more dispassionate towards their animals; many herpetoculturists do not bother to give them names, for example, which they might dismiss as sentimental anthropomorphism. They are nonetheless dedicated to their collections, which are frequently sizeable, and spend much of their spare time, money and energy tending to them.

The word "herpetoculture" was apparently first devised by Tom Huff[?] to distinguish what he, as a self-described "herpetoculturist", was doing -- working to keeping reptiles and amphibians alive -- from what herpetologists of that era were generally doing, namely, collecting specimens for preservation in a museum collection.

There is a growing distance between amateur herpetoculture and professional herpetology. With the field's increasing focus on conservation biology, some herpetologists believe that herpetoculturists are part of the problem: that collection from the wild by reptile and amphibian enthusiasts for the pet trade is having an adverse impact on wild populations. Herpetoculturists respond by maintaining that their animals are bred in captivity wherever possible, that their captive breeding efforts may actually help to preserve threatened species, and that, with few exceptions, wild collection is incidental and trivial compared to the losses resulting from highway mortality and habitat destruction.

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