BATUCO, Chile: As pets go, they are low maintenance. No muss, no fuss, nice and quiet, and even a bit furry. So, how about snuggling up with a giant, non-biting tarantula?
A farm in Chile exports the palm-sized critters to Asia, Europe and the United States for sale as exotic household companions.
They go for $25 each plus shipping, and need to be fed just once a week, preferably live cockroaches or worms. And they live a long time—up to 25 years in the case of females.
“Not everyone can keep a dog or cat. Tarantulas are cheaper and do not need as much attention. What’s more, the world has changed and what with technology and cable television, people are learning about this kind of exotic animal and want one for their home,” said Juan Gonzalez, a vet at the farm.
It is owned by one Juan Pablo Orellana, an agronomist who gathers and raises these Chilean rose hair tarantula (Grammostola rosea).
Orellana’s farm exports about 30,000 of them a year. They travel in boxes with holes in them and a certificate that could be seen as a pedigree.
“For me the best part is going out to find new spiders,” Orellana told Agence France-Presse. He gathers arachnids in hills outside the Chilean capital Santiago, and also raises and breeds species that are hardest to find.
In Chile, only 11 species of tarantulas have been formally classified scientifically, but he himself possesses 20 different kinds.
His farm boasts a rainbow of tarantulas: some have red abdomens, others have copper-colored skin, and they have varying degrees of hairiness.
After filling his house with pet spiders, Orellana founded his company, called Andespiders, employing several family members.
At the breeding facility, most of the farmhands are women.
“It is labor intensive and very specialized, and I prefer women because the creatures are fragile, and if they break a leg or are dropped they can die,” Orellana says.
The breeding process is rather involved and requires a delicate touch. It takes two and a half to three years to raise one up to saleable size.