Wild animals as pets

by animaltalk.co.za
October 2017

There are various reasons why wild animals cannot be kept as pets. Animaltalk spoke to Bradley Oosthuizen, public Relations Officer at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC), to find out what the possible dangers are and why wild animals should not be kept as pets.


Why is it important not to try and tame wild animals? What are the dangers?

There are several reasons why this is a bad idea.

   Firstly, it is against the law. Without proper permits and permission it is against the law to capture and raise any type of wild animal in captivity.

   You  can’t domesticate a wild animal. Domestication is a process that takes centuries within an animal species. Dogs and cats have been bred as pets for thousands of years. You can’t simply love the wild out of an animal.

   Wild animals carry diseases. Did you know that many wild animals could be carriers of rabies without showing any symptoms? Bringing a wild animal into your home exposes your whole family - you, your kids and your pets – to a slew of potentially fatal diseases.

   They don’t stay little forever and could be dangerous. Baby animals, by their very nature, are hard to resist. They are incredibly cute and appear dependent upon others for their survival. But within a few months, those babies grow up and their natural instincts kick in. They may bite, scratch, tear up the furniture, or worse. This is usually the time that most people who have tried raising a wild animal decide it’s time to release him back into the wild. But the problem is that the baby animal now doesn’t have the critical skills necessary – like hunting for food or evading predators – to survive in the wild.

   They may not need rescuing. Remember the baby bunny you came across in the park? He may have looked abandoned, but the truth is that mother bunnies generally stay away from their babies during the day to avoid drawing attention to them. They typically check on them and feed them once during the night, and even then they only stay for about five minutes. It may sound harsh, but that is exactly what a baby bunny needs to survive. Not a medicine dropper filled with organic skim milk. If you really think a baby animal is in trouble, call a local wildlife centre to ask for advice, but don’t bring him home. You won’t be doing the baby, or your family, any favours.

   Your actions fund organised crime. By keeping an exotic animal as a pet, you contribute to the illegal selling and purchasing of animals on the black market.


Why are people discouraged to go to petting zoos? What effect does it have on the animals?

Petting zoos are popular, especially among young children, but in most instances they are badly monitored and regulated and the animals suffer as a result. Organisers of these zoos pass off their exploitation of animals as entertainment or conservation, but instead the animals are being exploited and abused (whether intentional or unintentional).

   The animals are subjected to the stress of transport, unfamiliar environments, irregular feeding and watering, mishandling, and crowds of strangers screaming and shouting around them. They suffer in extreme temperatures (without adequate shelter) and are at the mercy of their ‘handlers.’ Without proper exercise and nutrition, the animals become listless and prone to illness, and as a reaction to stress and boredom, they may resort to self-mutilation.

   Then of course there is the ‘disease’ aspect. Children who visit petting zoos can often bring home more than their parents bargained for. Some petting zoos can be hotbeds for serious pathogens including E.coli and salmonella bacteria. Experts warn that infections can spread through direct or even indirect animal contact. The areas surrounding animal cages can be teeming with bacteria, and children can even bring it home on their clothing. The very young, the elderly and others with weakened immune systems are especially at rist.

   Both adults and children are encouraged to instead experience animals in their natural habitats – and from a safe distance – by taking a nature hike; visiting wildlife sanctuaries or wildlife education centres; renting a nature documentary; or going bird-watching.


The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre does a lot to educate people and tourists about wildlife. Why is this education so important, and what are the main messages that you want to convey to people in general?

Education is the key to the future of this planet. The only way both the current and future generations are going to change, is through a better understanding of how important it is to save the environment around us and all who reside in it. At HESC our main message is that we have to try and leave a smaller imprint on nature and that, because of the impact humans have had conservation is key to the survival of a number of species.


Which animals should never be tamed?

Easy to answer! If it is not a domesticated animal such as a cat, dog, or cow, for example – leave him in the wild.

   Even animals who are rescued by professional and reputable rehabilitation centres are kept as wild as possible (with minimal human interaction) to try and ensure the best success upon release.


A trend of late in certain areas of the country seems to be to keep small antelope, such as a klipspringer, as a pet. Is this dangerous? Why is this a big no-no?

With the possiblility of diseases spreading from animal to human and vice versa, it’s best to not keep a wild animal as a pet, and it doesn’t matter how cute or small he is. If you have a look at history, you’ll find a number of mass outbreaks of diseases because of the spread of diseases from animal to human.


In your experience, why do people want to keep exotic pets?

Greed, ego, status and a misplaced sense of excitement spring to mind. The novelty, excitement and thrill of owning an exotic pet can motivate some people to seek and buy such animals in order to profit from them in some way, or meet the need for novelty by having a ‘non-traditional’ pet (therefore setting them apart from other pet owners), or even as a source of unorthodox and unusual entertainment. Then there is of course the ‘bragging’ rights and display of status and wealth. It’s all about shifting perspective, something which we try to do every day here a the centre.


Conclusion

There you have it. If you still don’t understand why you can’t have a wild animal as a pet, then it is best that you visit a reputable wildlife education centre and discuss the matter with one of the professional wildlife experts. Not only can you do serious harm to you and your family, but you can also unwittingly cause much heartache and pain in the future of other people, and then of course, you can seriously harm the animal. Above everything else - it is against the law.

Article used with permission.

www.wildlife.co.za