Wildlife as Pets

Subject: Wildlife as Pets
From: Ronald Orenstein <>
Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2001 09:32:39 -0500
At 05:26 PM 21/03/01 +1000, Laurie & Leanne Knight wrote:
OK, what about the native species that are already kept as pets?

How is the keeping of budgies, weeros [cockatiels], zebra finches etc a
complete disaster for the environment?

First of all, it has been a long time since these species were taken directly from the wild in any numbers, if at all. They have gone through a great deal of selective breeding and are, in effect, domesticated, so their situation has little bearing on what now seems to be under consideration.

Second, there are a number of reasons why keeping species - even such as these - could create environmental problems, including the accidental establishment of populations outside their range (even an Australian species may be an exotic, and cause problems, in another part of the country).

Third, my understanding is that we are not talking about a few species but wholesale access to a wide number. Certainly here in North America this has caused problems for natural populations of some reptiles (including a number of turtles) that have been overcollected or whose habitats have been degraded in the process of collecting them.

Fourth, there is the question of the individual animals themselves and the care they are likely to receive - not exactly an ecological consideration but worth addressing. Of course there are experienced animal keepers out there, but (at least as far as land vertebrates are concerned) wild animals simply do not make good pets for the general public, compared with genuinely domesticated ones, and I expect that if there is general access to these animals there will be a fair amount of (often unwitting) abuse.

I suspect other readers of this list can come up with further arguments.

How would the breeding of Australian native fish be any worse than the
exotics that are frequently dumped in our waterways?  If we are
permitted to catch fish, and to have fish/crayfish/shellfish farms, why
not have them as pets?

It may be no worse, but one of the big problems with intensive fish farming (such as might be involved here) is the risk of disease or undesirable mutations spreading back into the wild population, and this is possibly more likely if the species involved in captivity and in the wild are the same. This concern has been raised, for example, about farming of native salmon off the coast of British Columbia here in Canada.

What is wrong with people breeding insects like preying mantises?
[after all, all sorts of insects and arachnids breed in people's

Is this currently illegal in Queensland? I suspect that if they are hauling in every kid who ever kept a caterpillar in a jar, they must have quite the enforcement budget....

People already provide nesting boxes for birds and marsupials in their
properties, and feed all sorts of wildlife.

This is simply not the same as keeping them under controlled conditions, especially if it involves transporting them out of their local range. For one thing, the attracted animals are still free to add to the gene pool of their local population.

There are also many breed and release programs for fish.  Is there any
reason why there shouldn't be breed and release programs for amphibians,
mammals and reptiles in their natural ranges.  Why shouldn't people be
able to stock suitable properties with wildlife rather than domestic

This strikes me as a rather different issue; but if restocking is the issue it is always easier, for many reasons, to translocate from existing wild populations than to breed and release. This is particularly true for animals like birds and mammals which have learned components in their behaviour that can be lost in captivity, making their ability to survive in the wild less likely. There are numerous examples of this sort of problem in the literature.


Ronald I. Orenstein                           Phone: (905) 820-7886
International Wildlife Coalition              Fax/Modem: (905) 569-0116
1825 Shady Creek Court
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L5L 3W2          
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