The National Humane
Education Society (NHES)
Intelligent capuchin monkeys, giant snakes, colorful parrots, and fluffy marmosets are so appealing; it’s easy to see why people want to get close to these beautiful creatures. Some individuals are tempted to purchase wild animals like these as pets or possessions, and sellers are more than eager to assure potential buyers there is nothing wrong with that desire. Despite clever marketing, there is no justification for keeping a wild animal in captivity for purposes of profit and human pleasure.
There are a few types of facilities in which wild animals are held captive in the interest of conservation. Wildlife rehabilitation centers and captive breeding/reintroduction facilities are two examples. These centers are operated by biologists, veterinarians, or licensed professionals; and their ultimate goal is to restore wild animals to their natural habitats. The animals are not socialized to humans or kept as pets. Also, their captivity is temporary. In wildlife rehabilitation centers, animals remain captive for life only when permanent disability makes survival in their natural habitat impossible. These operations are in no way related to the exotic pet trade.
Unfortunately, even well-meaning people can be misled into believing they can make a wild animal as happy in their human home as the animal would have been in nature. Many potential buyers of exotic pets have probably seen at least a few online videos of exotic animals who appear to be healthy and happily interacting with humans.
BamBam had been purchased as a "substitute child," and had a rough go of it. Biting and scratching is natural behavior for a monkey, but is not acceptable in a human family and led to BamBam being quarantined for 30 days in 2006. When she was released, she was bounced from home to home as a result of the "owner's" personal problems, until she was finally confiscated after another biting incident. BamBam was held at Animal Control in Minnesota for five months. She was facing euthanasia! Fortunately for BamBam, she found a home at Jungle Friends.
Sellers might appeal to customers with reassuring phrases like “your new baby” in reference to a young monkey or kangaroo. The word “purchase” is not used as often as “adopt,” even when the “adoption” carries a $6,000 price tag. Wild animal breeders and sellers will also borrow terminology from the conservation and nonprofit communities to make buyers feel better about their purchases. When searching online breeders and brokers of exotic pets, you can expect to see phrases like “bond,” “USDA-licensed,” “hand-raised,” “health guaranteed,” “our mission,” “educate,” and “expert.”
For example, one online seller of marmosets, kinkajous, and other exotic pets claims the animals she sells are not “merchandise” and that her “mission” is to “educate.” To some buyers, it all sounds legitimate, even heroic, but closer scrutiny of the site reveals a truth that isn’t so noble. Underneath the accepted credit card list on the website, you will find the Health Guarantee and Warranty clause and the following statement:
…An animal with a defect must be returned or euthanized with the prior permission of the seller to qualify for a replacement animal. A returned animal must be returned to the seller in good condition, other than the specified problem, at the expense of the buyer. The owner will then qualify for a replacement animal…
Wild animals deserve to live and die in their natural environment. They deserve to breathe fresh air, to forage, to hunt, to mate, to bear offspring, and to have relationships with others of their own kind according to the nature of their species. It may be good marketing to tell buyers they are “adopting a baby from an organization,” instead of “purchasing a wild animal from a broker,” but the latter is the grim reality.
Animal issues encompass many unique situations and perspectives, but there are no sound arguments for why any wild animal should ever endure being sold as a plaything, destroyed for convenience, or returned for a refund.
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