Tarantulas aren’t exactly what one thinks when the subject of pets comes up. To most people, tarantulas are simply big spiders that could kill you if they bite you, but one young man hopes to change this idea.
Anton Saliba, 22, is the owner of more than 40 pet tarantulas and runs 8-Legged Companions, an Instagram page and online shop which aims to educate the public, and to clear up the many “misconceptions” about the creatures he’s come to love.
“I was introduced to them by a family friend who had one when I was about 16,” Saliba told Lovin Malta. “I would love visiting his collection. Now that I’m older and can afford to spend my own money I’ve started buying and collecting my own.”
Saliba acknowledged that it’s quite an uncommon pet to own but added that he believed this was slowly changing. “Before it was also quite rare to have a snake as a pet but many people have them today.”
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Tarantulas only attack if provoked
“While many people think of them as aggressive animals, the reality is quite different. They’ll only attack if they are provoked,” he said, adding that people normally warm up to them once they spend some time around them.
In fact, he said that he has encountered people who were arachnophobic but who still ended up buying a pet tarantula.
Asked if he’s ever been bitten by one of his pets or had any other problems, Saliba said that the only incident he ever had was one of his spiders bolted out of its enclosure and jumped onto him without him noticing.
He did say that while they are relatively harmless to humans, they must be kept away from each other since, if they aren’t, they will more often than not resort to cannibalism.
In fact, he says that each one is kept in its own enclosure, which is roughly the same size as the tarantula.
Each of the spiders he presently owns was shipped in from abroad. “They normally arrive as an egg. Well, not an egg, but they’ll be very small, not more than 5mm and wouldn’t have yet developed an exoskeleton.”
University of the internet
Saliba was quick to explain the differences between different types of tarantulas, demonstrating what seemed to be an in-depth knowledge about the creatures and their biology.
Despite his love for them, Saliba said that he had decided against enrolling in a biology course, opting instead to study accountancy.
“The truth is that the job opportunities for spider experts are limited, plus, in today’s world you can access all the information you need to learn about them online,” Saliba said.
“There is also quite a bit of conflicting information and even false information,” Saliba added.
Moreover, he said he was part of a global community of breeders and enthusiasts who studied tarantulas in their own way.
“The truth is that when you spend so much time with them, you start noticing certain patterns of behaviour. Whenever we come across something new we always point it out and discuss it amongst ourselves.”
The next step: breeding tarantulas in Malta
Saliba said he was now looking to breed tarantulas even though it is quite difficult to pull off.
“It requires a lot of work. You need to look after the young ones and there’s no guarantee you’ll succeed. If you are successful, however, a single spider can produce thousands of eggs,” he said.
One of the biggest challenges in this regard, he said, was simulating the environmental conditions present in the region the spider is originally from.
“It’s not like breeding a dog. There’s a lot of preparation involved, and even if everything is done right, even the biggest and best breeders can find that their efforts have been for nothing,” Saliba said.
One challenge, he said, was the spiders not being a good match for each other.
“You could introduce a male into the female’s enclosure and if she doesn’t like him she will eat him. Sometimes, it could even be a good match and she’ll still eat him after they’re done.”
Are you tempted to own your own tarantula?