Don’t get wild over exotic animals
Even though wild animals are by definition unsuitable for domestic settings, they end up being kept as pets by people who are not aware of the pitfalls of doing so. Dr Ranjit Daniels, a PhD in ecology, author and Managing Trustee of biodiversity conservation group Care Earth Trust believes that the reason people keep snakes, chameleons or other wild animals as pets is their interest in an ‘exotic-looking’ animal that is different from other pets.
Dr Daniels explains that these animals are protected by the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (buying them from pet shops is an offence) and that no matter how much we try to simulate their natural habitat or feeding, we are no match for nature. A chameleon, for example, feeds on live insects, and alternative food sources might not be hygienic and could harm the animal. He observes that the equations and social systems between wild animals in their original habitat can never be replicated by us.
He acknowledges that many well-meaning people rescue these wild ones as babies and grow attached to them over time. “The constitution says ‘be kind to animals’ and there is no harm in rescuing a wild animal. No one can punish you for that. But it’s important to contact an expert about release and rehabilitation once the animal is fit to look after itself,” he says. He cautions that an animal’s chances of survival in the wild come down drastically if they are not rehabilitated in time (this happens when their rescuer continues to keep them after recovery). “This is harming an animal rather than helping it,” he says, giving the example of rescued baby monkeys that become frustrated or aggressive as adults when their social needs aren’t met, leading to them being perceived as a ‘nuisance’ and then being sent to a zoo. “That’s like putting them in jail,” he says.
Similarly, he gives the example of birds that are sold as pets in small cages. When the birds make noise, as is their nature, the owner often dumps the cage in a garage where the feathered one is out of sight and out of mind. “For no fault of its own, the bird suffers,” he rues, drawing attention to the need for more nationwide sanctuaries that these birds can be rehabilitated into. Yet another example he gives is that of slider turtle. “They look pretty as babies,” he says of the reason people covet them. However, these turtles often get abandoned as adults. “A dangerous thing about abandoning exotic animals is that they become invasive,” he says. This is also true of non-native fish like piranhas that have been introduced into many South Indian reservoirs.
His organisation counsels people who have doubts about wildlife rescue and rehabilitation and spreads awareness and education about these fascinating creatures, so that their interests are protected in the long run. For further information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org