Give more support to trade of animals bred in captivity

Parrots in a captive-breeding facility.
Parrots in a captive-breeding facility.PHOTO: TRAFFIC SOUTHEAST ASIA

There is concern over the impact on local biodiversity should more pet species be legalised in Singapore.

However, there should also be an equally pressing need to end, or at least reduce, the trade of unsuitable species, while allowing more suitable species to be kept.

Animals bred in captivity solely for the pet trade should be given more industry support, while the reliance on wild sources should be reduced.

This will have the added advantages of reducing the spread of diseases from illegal wildlife sources and promoting legal captive-breeding programmes.

Captive-breeding operations should be supported to prevent species extinction.

The pet industry has been stifled due to the white list of allowed species. It has been unable to diversify beyond that since more than a decade ago, while progress has been made in many of our surrounding countries.

Entrepreneurs who wish to bring in new pet species have to write lengthy proposals to address concerns, but have no idea how their proposals will be evaluated.

There are many companies in Singapore building naturalistic vivariums that promote an appreciation for nature, but the lack of animals to go along with them is akin to having a musical without music.

The authorities should consider letting the local pet industry grow by adopting a blacklist approach towards regulation instead, where harmful or dangerous elements are weeded out and deemed illegal, while the rest are allowed.

This would have the benefit of being business-friendly as there would be equal opportunities for all, and it would address the local mislabelling of what constitutes wildlife, such as animals that are commonly bred and traded.

Wildlife should refer to only animals of wild origin and that have been captured from the wild.

Those that are commonly bred and traded as pets in neighbouring countries should not be labelled as such.

Ong Junkai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2019, with the headline 'Give more support to trade of animals bred in captivity'. Print Edition | Subscribe