Most of us believe that wild animals such as tigers and wolves shouldn’t be kept in basements or backyards as pets, even if we haven’t seen them. King tiger! Fortunately, most municipalities have bylaws to prevent this.
These laws do not extend to all wildlife, however. People can still own “exotic” wildlife, including all shapes and sizes of reptiles and amphibians – lizards, snakes, turtles, turtles, frogs, salamanders. However, animals deprived of their natural habitat are no longer “wild”; they are artefacts.
Some Canadian provinces, such as Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan, have exotic animal laws and regulations, but in many of them regulatory responsibility rests primarily with municipalities. More than 200 municipalities in Canada have no-animal lists. Most are mammal-centric and feature relatively few birds, let alone reptiles and amphibians, and, rarely, fish or invertebrates. The vast majority of non-mammalian species are under-regulated or unregulated.
Life is no fun for animals confined or alone in small cages in someone’s house, imprisoned for human enjoyment. But what most pet owners don’t realize is that the exotic pet trade also has significant ecological impacts.
A serious environmental problem is created when exotic animals are released or dumped into natural environments by people who never realized how much they would grow, how long they would live, or how much they would be expensive to keep. Some take the time to research adoption establishments, but there are few for exotic pets. Many naively believe that releasing their pets into the wild is a human option.
Ontario conservation biologist Marc Dupuis-Desormeaux said of 1,000 turtles he trapped for the study – often working with the Toronto and Regional Conservation Authority – five to six percent were cursors non-native red-eared dogs released by animal owners (or were descendants of domestic animal suckers). Red-eared sliders are more commonly found in urban centers (where people are also more often found).
Released non-native species such as red-eared sliders can compete with native turtle species for prime habitat, such as pilgrimage sites, and have the potential to alter natural environments. Released goldfish and koi have also wreaked ecological havoc in the waterways. The pervasiveness of invasive species, including those from the pet trade, is one of the drivers of wildlife decline in Canada.
The collection of animals from the wild for commercial purposes, including for sale as food or as pets, is also a factor in depleting wildlife populations, most of which already face various threats to the environment. their number and their habitats. Legal and illegal collection from the wild for the pet trade is a pressure few species can tolerate. In Ontario, for example, six of the seven native turtle populations are already at risk. Additionally, many wild creatures die when captured or when transported to be sold as pets.
Exotic wild animals can also be vectors of disease. Wildlife in Canada is already stressed by multiple infectious diseases transmitted by invasive species, such as ranavirus and fungus chytridiomycosis, which affects amphibian populations globally. The increase in the number of exotic pets, both wild-caught and captive-bred, increases the chances that they will be released into the wild and new diseases will be transferred to native wildlife, as well as to humans. (especially if there is physical contact). The risk of further epidemics or pandemics of animal origin is also increased – a Pandora’s box that we all surely want to keep a lid on.
Exotic pets have become normalized – just like exotic petting zoos and birthday party appearances – but they don’t make sense. Turtles, snakes, lizards, amphibians and other wildlife are amazing creatures worthy of our admiration and wonder, but they should not be removed from their homes for our entertainment, to keep us company or as symbols of status.
These creatures have developed physical and behavioral attributes over thousands or millions of years that allow them to survive in specific habitats and conditions that cannot be replicated in a glass or plastic container in someone’s home. a. And they are essential components for the functioning of natural ecosystems. If they are removed, the environment is diminished.
If you have patience and, ideally, a pair of rubber boots, you can quite easily spot and enjoy many snakes, turtles and frogs, even in our towns and villages – in meadows, ponds, rivers, fields, forests, lakes and streams. , where they belong.
Written with contributions from Rachel Plotkin, Boreal Project Manager for the David Suzuki Foundation. Learn more about www.davidsuzuki.org.