DEAR READERS: Some people think it is great to own an exotic or wild animal, until they learn it will never become a true “pet.”
These animals often die in captivity, with no local veterinary expertise available. Others escape, are deliberately released or are surrendered to animal sanctuaries when they become too difficult to properly care for. This is especially true for notably long-lived parrots and snakes, and for various monkeys and wild cats -- including lions, which are still legal to own in some states. Animals that are released can spread diseases to indigenous species, out-compete with them for food and disrupt natural ecosystems.
The market for these animals, blindly sustained by people wanting to feel closer to nature, is actually destroying nature: Natural ecosystems are plundered by wildlife poachers and “legal” collectors for the international market, rendering targeted species even more endangered -- and often, extinct. America’s wild turtles and tortoises are notably in peril from collectors and from habitat reduction and degradation.
The international wildlife trade, tied in with human- and drug-trafficking cartels, is a Pandora’s box of potential zoonotic (animal-to-human) diseases. The captive breeding of reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals for this trade, often erroneously classified as “species conservation,” should be outlawed.
National and international prohibition is unlikely, considering this is a multibillion-dollar industry enjoying government sanction and support from many countries. It is therefore up to us citizens to “vote with our dollars” and refuse to purchase an “exotic” or wild animal. In the United States, these include the serval and genet cats, squirrel monkey, fennec fox, hedgehog, kinkajou, sugar glider, capybara, anteater, piranha, axolotl, chinchilla, hyacinth macaw, wallaby, alligator and ball python, to name a few.
I wish that every state and national veterinary association would emulate the British Veterinary Association’s efforts to discourage owning wild and exotic animals, and also provide information about the basic needs and proper care -- too often lacking -- of domesticated caged pets such as gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits. To argue that there are educational benefits for children in purchasing wild and exotic animals is another rationalization for consumerism devoid of compassion and understanding. Instead, check out your local animal shelters for animals waiting to be adopted into loving homes.
WORLD FAILS TO MEET EVERY U.N. BIODIVERSITY GOAL
According to the recent Global Biodiversity Outlook report, the world has not met any of the 20 United Nations biodiversity targets agreed on by almost 200 nations in 2010 in Aichi, Japan. As summarized by Nature.com:
“There are hopeful signs to build on: In the last 10 years, the rate of deforestation has fallen globally by about a third, and good fisheries-management policies have paid dividends. And 44% of key biodiversity areas are now protected, compared with 29% 20 years ago. These must inspire us to make ‘a significant shift away from business-as-usual.’ ... One area that is ripe for reform is government subsidies for harmful agriculture, fossil fuels and fishing practices. ‘We are still seeing so much more public money invested in things that harm biodiversity than in things that support biodiversity,’ says David Cooper, the report’s lead author.”
VETERINARIANS: GET HELP FOR CLIENTS FACING HARDSHIP
A note from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation:
“The Veterinary Care Charitable Fund, operated by the AVMA, provides veterinarians with a simple and effective way to offer charitable veterinary services to animals in need -- especially those who are victims of abuse or neglect, injured or abandoned, or whose owners are experiencing medical challenges or financial hardships. The AVMF will serve as your charitable ‘umbrella,’ capable of accepting donations and dispersing payments directly to you for the charitable care you provide.”
Visit vccfund.org to learn more.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)