Legal wildlife trade has its benefits

While the illegal wildlife trade exists, the majority of wildlife trade is legal.
While the illegal wildlife trade exists, the majority of wildlife trade is legal.PHOTO: ST FILE

Exotic pets have often been branded as illegal and dangerous by animal rights organisations. They use emotive language and graphic images to influence the ill-informed public, instead of utilising scientific and statistical data that would otherwise act against them.

While the illegal wildlife trade exists, the majority of wildlife trade is legal.

All pets, domesticated or not, have the potential to affect human safety and the natural environment. In Singapore, many aquarium fish and bird species are also considered exotic pets as they are non-native.

These non-domesticated animals can have their welfare needs met, as long as responsible pet ownership is promoted.

The misconception that only domesticated animals can be suitable pets is directly contributing to the compounding animal welfare issues today as behavioural issues are abundant in cats, dogs, small mammals and birds.

Animal welfare groups in Singapore continually use cases of commonly rescued exotic pets to highlight the ills of the illicit pet trade, although it is a fact that the number of such abandonment cases is insignificant when compared with that for other pets.

In the United Kingdom, with pet reptiles nearing the number of dogs, abandonment, human risk and welfare issues are factually insignificant when studied.

Singapore has the perfect climate and geographic advantage to engage more in perfectly legal wildlife trade.

The argument from certain activist groups that wildlife should be left strictly in the wild will only expedite their extinction.

Trying to block public knowledge of the importance of the legal, sustainable trade in wildlife denies livelihoods to human communities that benefit from safeguarding wild habitats.

There needs to be a probe into what seems to be a mystifying effort to quell the perfectly legal trade in wildlife.

Such trade can bring added economic benefits to Singapore and give the public access to a larger pet species selection that can have their welfare needs met more readily.

It is crucial not to lump all exotic, non-domesticated animals together as being hard to keep and being of wild origin.

Ong Junkai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2019, with the headline 'Legal wildlife trade has its benefits'. Print Edition | Subscribe