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Pets can help improve understanding of wildlife

The warnings of local animal welfare groups would leave people unfamiliar with the reptile trade fearful, and could cause owners to feel pressured and be afraid of seeking veterinary assistance (To keep wild animals is to neglect their welfare, by Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, June 18; and Keeping wildlife in urban dwellings could cause suffering, by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, June 17).

People cannot conserve what they do not understand. The pet industry is the best way for people, especially children, to understand these animals.

In 2008, the British Federation of Herpetologists calculated that there were more pet reptiles and amphibians than pet dogs in Britain. Some species may be more suitable as pets than even the species currently allowed in Singapore.

Leopard geckos and bearded dragons have never appeared on the Global Invasive Species Database. They are the best starter reptile pets for novice keepers, including children. In contrast, the red-eared slider is listed in the database, while Malayan box turtles are mostly wild-caught.

A new captive-bred freshwater turtle species would be more suitable for the pet trade.

Captive-bred animals will also eliminate the moral issue, possible impact on wild populations as well as possible zoonotic disease transfer.

The pet trade should be allowed to further develop responsibly with a rationale and science.

Constructive debate with an open mind can not only improve the pet trade but also address animal welfare issues.

Let us give people who are allergic to fur or feathers, sensitive to noise, physically challenged, or limited by religion or working hours the opportunity to have more suitable pets.

Ong Junkai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 25, 2017, with the headline 'Pets can help improve understanding of wildlife'. Print Edition | Subscribe