Funnel webs $50 a pop: ‘There’s nothing stopping people’
DEADLY funnel-web spiders capable of killing humans and tarantulas with enough venom to kill a family dog are being sold online and buyers are not required to have a permit to own them in Queensland.
Funnel-webs being sold on the Gold Coast are "at the top of the toxic chart for Australia and probably even the world" and capable of killing a human within minutes, according to Queensland Museum expert Dr Robert Raven.
And a Gold Coast breeder says tarantulas are being sold for about $1 a millimetre in size while Sydney funnel-web spiders are going for a steal at about $60 a pop.
Leading arachnologist Dr Raven is concerned at lax rules surrounding ownership of the spiders, while the Department of Environment and Science estimates about 10,000 tarantulas are being poached from the Queensland wild annually.
Breeder and environmental science student Alex Booth, 21, said spider ownership is becoming increasingly popular for people who already have reptiles or want to keep deadly animals in their "man caves".
Watching the spiders attack prey inside their enclosures was part of the appeal.
"I think people just get the fix for something deadly," said Mr Booth, who sells the creatures on Gumtree when he has stock.
He said most buyers started with less dangerous huntsman spiders or scorpions and "work their way up" to funnel-webs or tarantulas.
Mr Booth, who requires a licence to sell spiders commercially, said he did not sell the spiders to anyone aged under 18 and would like to see more regulations for owners.
"You don't need a licence to own them which is a bit of a worry, you should be 18-plus," Mr Booth said.
"There's nothing stopping people at the moment.
"It's still a grey area in Australia for 'inverts' (invertebrates), same as centipedes and scorpions."
Mr Booth said he bred the spiders and did not support people taking them from the wild and selling them directly to buyers.
He said he recently had a spider produce a "sack" of about 150 juveniles.
Dr Raven said he was concerned about Sydney funnel-web spiders being taken interstate and warned about the dangers of owning them as pets.
"Deadly spiders are being imported into Queensland. They are at the top of the toxic chart for Australia and probably even the world," Dr Raven said.
"People need to be warned that these are not harmless pets. One woman took 15 minutes to die when she was bitten on the chest while sleeping.
"It's not a good situation."
He said tarantulas could escape enclosures.
"The things with (funnel-webs) is you can keep them in by basically putting them in an aquarium, (but) with a tarantula it's not so easy," he said.
"And they'll kill your dog and your cat pretty quickly in 30 to 40 minutes. They can escape these things and some pets are not compatible."
He said poaching spiders from the wild was "happening quite a lot", which was harming native populations.
Dr Raven said stronger regulations were needed for both breeders and buyers.