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Tarantula spider farmers
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In Nicaragua, why are farmers catching tarantula spiders?

His corn and bean fields ravaged by drought, Nicaraguan farmer Leonel Sanchez Hernandez grudgingly found a new harvest: tarantulas. He gets a little over a dollar for each of the hairy critters. What does he do with them? He sells them to breeders, who in turn the tarantulas overseas as pets. His take may not be much, but in Nicaragua, a dollar buys a kilo of rice or a liter of milk. And in just two weeks, Sanchez Hernandez, his aunt Sonia and cousin Juan caught more than 400 of the spiders.
Northern Nicaragua suffered severe drought from May to September. Many farmers could not grow any crops on their fields. Sanchez Hernandez's fields were a total loss- and then he found this opportunity to make some money by catching tarantulas and selling them.
The 27-year-old farmer was uncomfortable at first about poking around in underground nests, under rocks and in tree trunks in search of the feisty spiders. But he donned thick gloves and mustered up the courage, because the alternative was to see his family go hungry.
"It is the first time we have gone out to look for tarantulas. We were a bit afraid, but we did it because of the drought,"
Sanchez Hernandez has a wife and four kids to feed. His aunt is not well off, either -- she is a single mother of five children, and was also hit hard by the drought. After they caught the spiders, they traveled more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) to the outskirts of the capital Managua. There, they handed the tarantulas over to Exotic Fauna, a firm that started this month to breed the spiders for export.   NICARAGUA-ANIMALS-SOCIAL-BUSINESS-SPIDER-TARANTULA An employee handles a tarantula, known as Costa Rican Tiger Rump (Cyclosternum fasciatum), at the Exotic Fauna Store in Managua, Nicaragua, on November 24, 2014. Nicaragua has entered the flourishing business of pet trade to diversify its exports and is taking advantage of its biodiversity resources by selling tarantulas around the world.
AFP PHOTO / Inti OCON With approval from the country's environment ministry, the company is hard at work, setting up glass cases with sawdust beds as part of a project to breed 7,000 tarantulas.   "We plan to sell them at a price even higher than that of boas (pythons)," which go for up to $8 apiece, said Exotic Fauna owner Eduardo Lacayo.
Mr Whizstein from Whiz times   Life is different for different people in different countries. On one hand, poor farmers are looking for deadly spiders in jungles and on the other hand, rich people want to buy these spiders as prized pets and ready to pay top dollars for these creatures. Some of this money then goes to the spider catchers who can live on with their lives.
      NICARAGUA-ANIMALS-SOCIAL-BUSINESS-SPIDER-TARANTULA A tarantula known as Costa Rican Tiger Rump (Cyclosternum fasciatum), is displayed by an employee at the Exotic Fauna Store in Managua, Nicaragua

- Customers in US, China -

About Tarantulas:

Tarantulas are carnivores that eat crickets, worms and newly born mice that breeders drop in their tanks -- one tarantula per tank, so they don't fight and kill each other. "It is easier to handle a boa python than a spider," Lacayo said. Tarantulas are territorial and when they feel threatened, they bite and secrete a toxic goo that causes allergies and pain, he said. The spiders abound in tropical and arid parts of Central America. Despite the fact that they are so common, lots of people are afraid of them. Females lay about 1,000 eggs when they give birth. The larvae come out in sacs, which the mother places in a spider web. Of that load, anywhere from 300 to 700 will hatch. "We have customers who have confirmed they want this kind of species," Lacayo said, referring to clients in China and the United States.

The tarantula trade:

Trade in tarantulas, which can live many years in captivity, is one of the ways Nicaragua is trying to diversify its exports by taking advantage of its rich biodiversity. The country is the second poorest in the Americas, after Haiti. The first to get the bug was Ramon Mendieta, owner of an exotic animal farm in Carazo department, south of the capital. He sells around 10,000 tarantulas a year to clients in the US and Europe. NICARAGUA-ANIMALS-SOCIAL-BUSINESS-SPIDER-TARANTULA An employee handles a tarantula, known as Costa Rican Tiger Rump (Cyclosternum fasciatum), at the Exotic Fauna Store in Managua, Nicaragua.
AFP PHOTO / Inti OCON Mendieta, who has been at it for three years, says profit margins are thin because production costs are high. These costs include special care that the tarantulas need to protect them from parasites while in captivity. But there is competition out there. Chile sells a species of tarantula that is less ornery than the Nicaraguan ones. Colombia and the United States are also market players. "There are a lot of people that love to have them at home, some as pets and others because they like danger," said biologist Fabio Buitrago of the Nicaraguan Foundation for Sustainable Development.     by Blanca MOREL © 1994-2014 Agence France-Presse Modified to suit young audience

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