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Interview: ACBA judge Travis Finkle on Thailand’s first cavy show

27 Jun

The ACBA‘s Travis Finkle traveled overseas earlier this month to judge Thailand’s first-ever sanctioned cavy show, held June 1 during Thailand’s national pet expo. Finkle also hosted a conference on cavy care and husbandry that captured a good deal of interest. I followed up with him to get his thoughts on the growing international cavy community.

WR: Travelling to foreign countries, especially overseas, is not exceptionally common for ACBA judges. How did you end up with a gig in Thailand?

Finkle: I have been working with the Siam club for the past two years, helping them establish the cavy portion of their club. I also helped them import nearly 200 purebred animals over the past year. There are already plans for more animals to be shipped in September and for another show later in the year.

WR: Can you give me a little background on the club that hosted you?

Finkle: The Siam rabbit club got its start back in 2010. Since then they have had twice yearly rabbit shows. Early in 2012 many of their members became interested in cavies. Cavies have gotten a quick start in Thailand. The first purebred imports from the United States were just received last year after the ARBA Convention. Since then many more shipments have been sent over, some members have also imported cavies from Europe. There are already plans to send many more purebred animals over this fall once the weather cools off a bit.

WR: How did the show compare to shows in America? Differences? Similarities?

Finkle: All of their shows follow ARBA rules, so everything is set up the same way.

WR: What, if anything, about your foreign location made judging the Thai show difficult?

Finkle: The language barrier was difficult at times but thanks to many interpreters I was able to chat with everyone and answer all of their questions.

WR: I know you were able to play tourist a bit after the show. Can you share some sight-seeing highlights?

Finkle: I was able to visit many different parts of Thailand after the show. I stayed for an extra eight days once the show was over. We were able to visit Karbi, and Pattaya. Karbi is by far the most beautiful place I have ever visited and Pattaya is party central. Bangkok is truly a city that never sleeps.

WR:  I happen to be a fan of Thai food. Did you bring any recipes home?

Finkle: The Thai food was amazing, nothing like any Thai restraint I’ve ever been to in the USA. Thai food is always served family style with many dishes. You always get to try something different and it’s a very social event. Meals tended to be the most fun part of the day. There was some exotic food that I sampled, and it was always amazing! I don’t really know how to cook so the yummy food of Thailand will just have to wait for me to return so I can enjoy more of it.

WR: What does the future of the fancy look like in Thailand?

Finkle: The cavy show had 62 total animals by eight exhibitors, although many of the entries were owned by partnerships or families. Throughout the entire show day there was a huge crowd around the judging table. Visitors to the pet expo were very intrigued by the cavy show and wanted to see what was going on. Every exhibitor wanted to get pictures of me judging their cavy. I took my time evaluating each animal setting it up multiple times and talking my way through judging. I told the exhibitors what I was looking at and what I was comparatively looking for in each class. There were lots of questions and interest in the evaluation process.  It was great to see so many people wanting to learn all that they could about showing and producing the best animal they could breed. The high level of enthusiasm and excitement for cavies over those two days was wonderful. It was a pleasure to teach so many new cavy owners everything I could while I was there. A few weeks before I left for the show James Nielsen sent me a box full of ACBA info, JACBAs, pamphlets on cavy care, ACBA membership info, etc. Every single piece of ACBA info I took was picked up by attendees. It is my hope that the Siam Rabbit Club will get lots of new cavy breeders and that ACBA will also gain new members from Asia.

It takes a lot of dedication to be a cavy breeder in Thailand; they fight many obstacles including temperature, humidity, fresh feed and cost. The breeders must set up their caviaries with expensive fans and dehumidifiers to keep the animals comfortable. Most feeds are imported because there is only one local mill to make their pellets. Despite the obstacles, the cavy breeders there have done an amazing job setting up their breeding programs and they are already producing champion quality offspring.  The cavy industry in Thailand and across south Asia is growing quickly. It is my hope that all of the shows across Asia will sanction with ACBA and breeders will sign up for an ACBA membership.

WR: What should the ACBA do to foster international interest in the cavy?

Finkle: With the cavy interest in Asia growing so quick it might be a good idea for ACBA to start looking into foreign representatives. I think having an ACBA representative from each country we gain new members from would be very beneficial. They could submit articles on news from their country to the JACBA and easily keep in touch with the cavy world.

I was much honored to judge their show for them, it really meant a lot to me. The memories I have from this experience I will carry with me forever and the new friendships that I made will last a lifetime. It is such a wonderful group of breeders in Thailand we should all be very happy to have them join our hobby.