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Column: Hidden Promises
Alia is an AUS student double majoring in International Studies and English literature. She is also the author of Alatash fictional novel. Her main goal is to make a change and empower the youth. Her column is meant to help the younger generations deal with tough situations. It was given that title as hidden promises is what us teenagers often believe; false promises.
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What are the consequences of taking wild animals out of the wild, and turning them into pets or part of a zoo?
Artwork by Marwah Fuad (Twitter: @marwah_f1, Instagram: @ElMeem_Artistry)
“There are more tigers kept as pets than there are in the wild”, reported National Geographic[i]. This statement alone is quite problematic due to the mere fact that tigers happen to be wild animals. As their name suggests, wild animals are those that live in the wild and are generally not domesticated. Domesticating wild animals not only robs them of their right to be free, it also contributes in their extinction. There are several means in which humans captivate wild animals. Those means happen to be very problematic. Still, they are often neglected.
I am well aware that many people don’t think twice about animals, as the human benefit is their main interest. However, humans are not safe from this issue. Taking wild animals outside of their natural habitat can cause issues to us as well, such as diseases, mutilation, or as extreme as death.
The concept of zoos is ridiculous. Wild animals are deprived of running freely in their natural habitats in order to be locked up in an animal prison called zoos. There, they are kept in exhibitions for people to see. Some could argue that zoos have some degree of educational value, in which they teach children more about animals. However, it is senseless to educate the ripe minds of children no matter what the cost may be; in this case, the cost of animals’ freedom. Children could learn about wild animals through several means such as watching documentaries on the National Geographic. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) stated there is little investment in animal care at zoos. Just last month, The Telegraph reported that around 64 animals died between December and May in a zoo at Argentina due to unbearable living conditions.
Furthermore, another contributor to the decline of the wildlife species is that people try to domesticate wild animals. Nowadays, many people are purchasing wild animals in order to have them as pets. According to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), most wild animals are acquired illegally as many countries have serious legislations against the trade and possession of wildlife. FWS reported that the illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be a multibillion-dollar business involving the trade of animals, plants, or their parts such as skin or ivory, harming wild populations and endangering species to extinction.
Likewise, the World Wide Fund for Nature stated that populations of species on earth declined by an average 40% between 1970 and 2000, and wildlife trade is one of the biggest threats to species survival. Therefore, building on my previous point on PETA, they strongly believe that the ownership of exotic animals is problematic as it is not a task to be taken lightly.
For starters, when wild animals are being cared for in the hand of untrained caretakers, exotic animals end up either dead or abandoned. With regards to the animals’ diets, they usually do not get the necessary calcium level, leading to the deformation of their limbs. In addition, being taken out of their natural habitat, wild animals do not live in the necessary environment for them to be themselves, which is being a predator. Therefore, they lash out from time to time. A veterinarian who is invested in animal research stated that people who take in exotic animals are playing Russian Roulette, as they can never tell when the animal’s predator instincts tick in.[ii]
Moreover, wild animals are extremely dangerous to humans in other ways. According to NBC News, The Journal of Internal Medicine estimated that since the year 2000, 50 million people worldwide have been infected with diseases transmitted from animals to humans, and as many as 78,000 died from them.
There are many international and local attempts to impose regulations on owning wild animals such as CITES, which is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. It is an international agreement adopted in 1963 between governments to ensure that the trade and ownership of wild animals do not threaten their survival. The UAE itself is trying to limit the possession of wildlife where The National reported that the Federal National Council at the UAE is aiming to ban ownership of exotic animals. The penalty of ownership could go up to a fine costing around 136,145.00 USD (AED 500,000) and jail time.
Still, those measures begin and end with us, the citizens of the world. Therefore, I strongly urge you to doublethink your actions every time you go to the zoo, think of buying a wild animal, or even telling your friend how cool you think she or he is for owning an exotic animal. In all those cases, animals are denied their right to be in their natural habitat. Always remember that animals are living breathing organisms, and as such, they deserve the same rights as humans to live freely.