Wild Animals are Dangerous: Should We Keep Pythons as Pets?

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Illegal trade in wild animals: it's destructive to ecosystems, harmful to the animals, and potentially dangerous to pet owners. Image by paulabflat

Illegal trade in wild animals: it’s destructive to ecosystems, harmful to the animals, and potentially dangerous to pet owners. Image by paulabflat

Wild Animals as Pets: Arguments Against The Practice

Zoocheck Canada, an animal protection charity, strongly opposes keeping wild animals as pets. “My advice to anyone considering the acquisition of a potentially dangerous snake or any other kind of wild animal as a pet is don’t do it“, said director Rob Laidlaw, speaking to Decoded Science. “Besides the obvious physical danger posed by some animals, like the size, strength, teeth and claws of big cats or the venom of kraits, mambas or cobras, there are many other compelling reasons for not acquiring exotic animals as pets.”

For me, however, the most compelling reason for not acquiring any kind of exotic pet, dangerous or not, is animal welfare”, defended Laidlaw. “Satisfying the biological and behavioral requirements of most exotic animals involves providing specific kinds of environments, often including expensive accommodation, and specialized care that is beyond the ability of most people. Unfortunately, vast numbers of pet exotic animals are kept in grossly undersized, physically and behaviorally impoverished environments in which they can do little, if anything, that they have evolved to do. ”

Exotic Pets Can Be Educational: Arguments for Domesticating Wildlife

Welfare concerns are also a top priority for many organisations like the British Herpetelogical Society. However, in contrast to the more extreme views of those strictly opposing keeping wildlife as pets, these organisations accept that maintaining some wild species as pets, including reptiles, can be both fascinating and educational. According to BHS policy, “anyone keeping reptiles and amphibians has a duty of care to seek to achieve the highest standards of health and welfare for their animals.

The most important point, said Sheridan, who also shares the same views, is to “do your research before purchase to ensure you can care and provide the facilities for that animal throughout its entire lifetime“.

It is true that “there have been a small number of deaths in captivity from large constrictors“, said Sheridan, “but in each case you can track down irresponsible behavior on the part of the keeper“. It’s important to remember “that this incident is not the norm for any snake, it was an unlikely but unfortunate chain of events ending in a freak accident”, she added.

Illegal Trade of Exotic Pets

Despite the differences, if there is one subject that seems to raise a strong and united voice it is against illegal trade of wild animals, which seems very popular with reptiles. Setting opposition aside, both camps are vehemently against such practices. “Entire habitats are being stripped bare, endangering species and disrupting ecosystems in the process“, said Laidlaw. “The exotic pet trade is a cruel, wasteful and unnecessary industry“, and may become one of the biggest threats to survival of many species in the wild.

Resources

Wong, J. UPDATE: Autopsies scheduled for two N.B boys killed by python. (2013). Guardian. Accessed August 14, 2013.

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