The ultimate exotic…
Exotic – introduced from or originating in a foreign country
The introduction of exotic species into a foreign land can have huge implications on the biodiversity in that area for the negative. There are two main ways an exotic animal lands up into the environment. One is when humans release an exotic animal because they cannot care for it any longer or if an exotic animal escapes from their enclosure. As soon as that animal is free, a whole load of problems occur.
We need to understand what some of the problems keeping exotics in captivity are. A decade ago, the average house hold basically only had dogs, cats, fish or hamsters. Now chinchillas, tenrecs, sugar gliders, reptiles, arachnids and plenty more are available freely to obtain in the pet trade. The pet trade is so big that you can buy their food in a can, which means that more than just the average house hold keeps these animals under their care. For me, there is nothing wrong with keeping exotics in captivity, my problem is the lack of education people have about them. Keeping them on the wrong substrate, incorrect diets and lack of knowledge when it comes to health problems, bad handling techniques, temperature problems, wrong enclosure designs and this is to name just a few – overall just bad husbandry.
Good husbandry comes from exposure and experience not just a quick pep talk from the person selling the animal over the counter. Here at Wonderland, we encourage parents or first time pet owners to come and spend time with us to ensure that the exotic you are interested in is the right one that will suit you and your family around you. In doing so, you are exposed to daily husbandry and what you can expect.
The escaping of exotics is probably the biggest concern and threat to our environment, just in the reptile community alone the reality is that majority of the keepers has had an exotic escape sometime or another. The threats that come with exotics in our environment are enormous, feral animals begin to form colony or packs and hybridization with the indigenous animals occur. Food becomes sought after as exotic and indigenous start competing for it and territory becomes smaller. We under estimate the adaptations of animals when it comes to the environment, I have seen exotics that escaped and found 1-2 years later in a bigger and better condition than they were before they escaped. These exotics adapted to colder weather and ate a diet that probably is unfamiliar to them. The idea of them hybridizing with an indigenous animal is not unlikely.
The keeping of wild and exotic animals has been around for many centuries, the first zoo was established by Queen Hatshepsut 1500 BC in Egypt, the first recorded private collection of animals was in 2400 BC. People have always kept exotic animals and always will whether the animals are obtained legally or illegally. Unfortunately there is no criteria needed to keep exotic animals in captivity and as a result the animal suffers. When the animal dies or escapes, it is just too easy for them to obtain another one.
It is the breeder’s responsibility to evaluate and educate the people buying an exotic from them and in the same sentence it is up to the people to do research about the animals being obtained. Breeders need to be more responsible when it comes to breeding, if there is no demand for an animal, rather separate males from females. When looking at getting an exotic there are many pointers you need to check. Is the animal solitary or live in groups, is the animal nocturnal or diurnal, carnivore, herbivore, omnivore, what type of enclosure is needed, indoor or outdoor, is the animal arboreal or ground dwelling. There are so many more considerations to take into account before obtaining an exotic animal and a quick pep talk over the counter will just not be good enough.
Unfortunately humans are always looking for the next best thing and we never seem to be satisfied with what we have. We all know that our environment is fragile at the moment and being irresponsible or naïve is no excuse. We have the World Wide Web at our finger tips and the information on it is infinite.
It is a privilege to keep animals under our care, we need to enjoy it and nurture it. The ultimate exotic is ultimately the way we look after it.