Vida Preciosa International, Inc., better known as VPI, is owned and operated by Dave and Tracy Barker. VPI is an incorporated commercial enterprise primarily involved in the captive propagation of snakes. If you're curious, vida preciosa is Spanish and translates to "precious life." It's a long story exactly how and why this name was chosen, but it accurately reflects the inspiration and motives that led to the creation of VPI, and it does give some of the flavor of the area where the business is located.
Situated about 30 miles northwest of San Antonio, Texas, about a three hour drive from the Mexican border, VPI is nestled in the rough topography of the Texas Hill Country. It's a scenic area of rugged hills and bluffs dissected by canyons, dry streams and rocky clear rivers. The winters are mild, the fishing is good and the wildflowers are the prettiest in the nation.
VPI is best known for its collection of pythons-throughout the 1990s, the Barkers maintained the largest and most diverse collection of pythons in the world. During those years, more taxa of pythons were reproduced annually at VPI than at any other collection.
In their long experience with pythons, the Barkers have accomplished the first captive breedings of numerous taxa and geographic races, including: Irian Jaya carpet pythons (1995), black-headed pythons (1978), Lesser Sundas pythons (1976), Borneo short-tailed pythons (1992), Sumatran short-tailed pythons (1993), barneck scrub pythons (1993), southern scrub pythons (1996), Tanimbar pythons (1997), Wetar pythons (1996), Sawu pythons (1995) New Guinea water pythons (1995), and ringed pythons (1977).
The Barkers have attempted to document much of the information and experience that has been accumulated in their herpetological and herpetocultural careers. Much of the data has been generated by VPI. To that end, they have published on a wide variety of topics in professional journals, popular magazines, and on the Internet. In 1994 they published Pythons of the World, Vol. 1, Australia, the first volume of a monograph on the pythonine snakes.
The second volume in the series was released in September 2006. Pythons of the World, Vol. II: BALL PYTHONS: The History, Natural History, Care, and Breeding is the most comprehensive and complete book ever written on one snake species. It is a landmark text in herpetoculture, setting the standard by which all future works on pythons will be measured. More volumes in the Pythons of the World series are planned.
The VPI collection of snakes has changed over the years. Today we maintain species of pythons and boas that we have come to deem as the most suitable for the greatest numbers of keepers. We have sizeable collections of blood pythons, ball pythons, Borneo short-tailed pythons, Sumatran short-tailed pythons, boa constrictors, and Kenyan sandboas. These species are easy to breed, easy to raise, thrive in captivity, are generally docile, and are small-to-medium sized snakes. Additionally, these species have established bloodlines with novel and beautiful morphs and appearances, making them the focus of a great deal of attention by many keepers around the world.
VPI has been an experiment, one that continues to change and evolve. It continues to pursue its original primary goal, to contribute to the establishment of viable self-sustaining captive populations of pythons. Navigating a course through the rapidly changing environment of the past 20 years has been both rewarding and a constant challenge. In no other period of time has herpetoculture seen so many innovations in maintenance and reproductive husbandry. We consider the period from the late 1960s to the present to be the Golden Age of Herpetoculture, and we feel fortunate to have been able to participate in all of it.
During these decades there have been dramatic additions to and changes in the collective body of knowledge and published information. The degree of public participation in herpetoculture has steadily grown and today is unequalled. The relatively recent awareness that the captive-propagation of reptiles and amphibians could be a viable commercial enterprise has been the greatest single factor influencing private and professional herpetoculture today. Factors of business and of regulation, once alien to most keepers, have become primary considerations for many in herpetoculture in the 1990s.
The future goals of VPI include a continuing emphasis on generating and publishing the most current and correct information on topics of herpetoculture and herpetology. Yes, we will continue to make great snakes, too.