Wild Caught vs. Captive Bred Reptiles — What’s the Big Deal?

Occasionally you might see the abbreviation “CB” or “WC” in a reptile ad. What does it mean? And why does it matter? Read on to find out.

CB = Captive Bred

Captive bred reptiles have never lived in the wild. This usually means that the animal and its parents were produced by breeders. As a result, CB offspring are usually healthier, easier to tame, and have better genetics. However, beware — some reptile breeders tout their animals as “CB” when they mean Captive Born: capturing a pregnant female and forcing her to give birth or lay her eggs in captivity. This is not the same as captive bred, and the offspring generally come with the same risks as wild caught animals.

CBB = Captive Bred and Born.

To counteract misunderstandings of Captive Bred or Captive Born, some breeders specify that their animals are CBB. These animals are usually the most expensive, but also the most accustomed to people and the healthiest.

Common CB Reptiles:

  • Bearded dragons
  • Crested geckos
  • Leopard geckos
  • Northern blue tongue skinks
  • Ball pythons
  • Boa constrictors
  • Anacondas
  • Burmese pythons
  • Reticulated pythons

Small pet stores usually try to only source their reptiles from local breeders, but it’s hard to guarantee, and the only way to know is to ask the manager. The only way to get a guaranteed CBB animal is to go through a reputable breeder.

As the hobby grows and keepers become better informed, the proportion of available captive bred reptiles are increasing by the year.

Captive bred reptiles - male crested gecko

My crested gecko, Alphonse, is captive bred and born.

WC = Wild Caught

Wild Caught reptiles lived in the wild before being captured for the pet trade. WC reptiles are often more aggressive, more difficult to tame, less healthy, parasite-ridden, and less likely to thrive in captivity. However they are often less expensive to buy, which perpetuates their popularity.

CF = Captive Farmed

This means that the parents were wild, but kept in a pen so offspring could be collected and sold. Captive Farmed reptiles come with minimal human contact, are less tame, less healthy, and generally the same as Wild Caught in all but name.

LTC = Long Term Captive

Long Term Captives are originally WC reptiles which have been kept in captivity for a while. These are likely more tame than normal WC due to prolonged human contact, and hopefully in good health from veterinary care. However, they are not as tame as a CB.

Common WC Reptiles:

  • Indonesian blue tongue skinks
  • Fire skinks
  • Chameleons
  • Day geckos
  • Tokay geckos
  • Savannah monitors

Chain pet stores like Petsmart and Petco typically sell WC or CF animals.

Wild caught reptile - Merauke Indonesian blue tongue skink

My Merauke blue tongue skink, Hermes, was most likely a wild-caught import.

Does it Matter?

It matters to your wallet. Although WC animals are typically cheaper on initial investment, subsequent vet bills make them more expensive than CB in the long run.

It matters to your kids. If you’re looking for a handleable pet, captive bred reptiles tend to be much more tolerant of humans’ idiosyncrasies than wild caught. That means fewer bites, too!

It matters to wildlife conservationists. The capture and sales of wild-caught reptiles threatens ecosystems worldwide by reducing wild breeding populations. This can lead to prey animal overpopulation and even the extinction of certain reptile species.

It matters to the law. Some wild-caught reptiles are actually illegal exports from their countries. Capturing a reptile in your backyard or while on vacation and keeping it a pet may also be illegal, depending on local laws.

What Can You Do?

Although Wild Caught reptiles have significant downsides, I’m not going to say that the practice is evil. After all, without WC imports, we wouldn’t have some of the near-domesticated CB pets that we enjoy today. Without WC imports, we wouldn’t be able to continue domestic research of some incredible reptile species. That being said, we should do our best not to support the sales of WC animals when there are CB options available.

Wild side-blotched lizard

We should also refrain from capturing and keeping wild reptiles like this side-blotched lizard — no matter how adorable they might be!

If you are an experienced reptile keeper, consider breeding common WC species to establish a captive bred reptile population. Breeding for domestic traits like temperament and health instead of just color/pattern morphs will do a lot for the future of our rapidly growing hobby.

Do you think wild caught reptiles are a problem in our hobby? Share your opinion in the comments.

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