Herp Queries: Can I Keep A Thorny Devil?

Question: I once kept a horned lizard and loved it. What I’d really like to have next is a thorny devil. I have plenty of ants in my yard, so feeding it would be no problem. I never see them for sale, though. Why is that? Do you know anyone who sells them?
Tim Allman, Maricopa, Ariz.

Thorny devil

Bill Love

Thorny devils (Moloch horridus) are native to Australia and are illegal to keep or export out of the country.

Answer: I don’t know anyone selling thorny devils (Moloch horridus, also known as the moloch) anywhere on the planet, and for two good reasons. For one, Australia, where molochs are found, doesn’t allow residents to keep them and also doesn’t allow them to be exported. The Land Down Under doesn’t allow commercial sale of any wild-caught, native wildlife.

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The second problem is the thorny devil’s diet, which is several species of Australian ants exclusively. The ants in your yard may look like tasty little morsels to you, but they would most likely be distasteful to this lizard from halfway around the world. Molochs have evolved to be very selective regarding the types of ants they eat. The ones they prefer are relatively small, requiring one to two thousand per day to feed an adult thorny devil. 
Taken out of their native haunts, thorny devils would probably soon starve to death. No one wants to see them suffer that fate, which is why only a few zoos in Australia are able to maintain them long-term.

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