‘Nothing glamorous about keeping wildlife pets’

PETALING JAYA: There’s no “wow factor” in keeping wildlife as pets as the practice can be dangerous, say wildlife conservation groups.

“There’s really nothing glamorous or easy about owning a wild pet. Sometimes it’s downright illegal to own one,” said Elizabeth John (pic), senior communications officer of Traffic, which works towards protecting species from unsustainable or illegal trade.

She said the wow factor of owning a wildlife pet as portrayed on Insta­gram is not an ac­­curate re­­pre­sentation of the reality.

“Wildlife requires special diets, special care and can become expensive and difficult to care for,” she said.

John said that keeping wildlife at home also puts the owners and their family in danger.

“Increased contact with illegally acquired wild animals also puts people at increased risk of diseases and physical harm as the animals can be venomous, aggressive or make unsuitable pets,” she said.

Wildlife Conservation Society Malaysia director Dr Melvin Gumal said wild animals are not domesticated like house cats or dogs.

He said wildlife’s rate of survival in captivity depends on the species.

“In some of these instances, wildlife may last just several weeks. I have seen and heard of various cases of wildlife pets surviving for (only a few) weeks. The owner then goes out to buy more,” he said.

Gumal said if the animal is sick, some owners may hesitate to take it to the vet as they fear being reported to the authorities.

“Why keep these animals in cages, in apartments or houses and endanger ourselves?”

He said keeping wildlife in the forests is important to human survival as wildlife is crucial in the regeneration of trees and forests by pollinating flowers, dispersing seeds, and fertilising and aerating the soil.

“Appreciate them, conserve them and watch them in their splendour in the wild. We must do so if the human race is to survive,” added Gumal.

In May, World Animal Protection chief executive Steve McIvor wrote in a US daily that the exotic pet business is worth billions of dollars.

“Every year millions of animal lovers around the world buy wild animals to keep as pets, which many of them later regret.

“Some seek new homes or sanctuaries; others have released their pets, endangering communities, native species and the well-being of their animals,” he said.

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