Wild animals are by definition unsuitable for domestic settings, but some end up being kept as pets by people who are not aware of the pitfalls of doing so. Ranjit Daniels, author and managing trustee of conservation group Care Earth Trust believes that the reason people keep snakes, chameleons etc 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 (buying and selling them in 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. He observes that the social systems between wild animals in their original habitat can also never be replicated by us.

He acknowledges that many compassionate people rescue these wild ones as babies and get 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 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 adds.

Similarly, he gives the example of birds that are sold in small cages, and observes that when the birds make noise, as is their nature, the owner often dumps the cage in a garage where the winged one is imprisoned out of sight. Abandoning exotic pets in the wild also upsets the delicate ecological balance. He refers to Slider Turtles and piranhas that were purchased as pets and later abandoned into our waters, making them invasive species.

Care Earth Trust counsels people on correct methods of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, and runs a sanctuary for the rescue and treatment of birds and small animals. To get more details on the issue or to support Care Earth Trust’s initiatives, call 9282123242 or email ranjit.daniels@gmail.com.