Rethink pet and wildlife policies

"Wildlife" is generally used to refer to animals living in their natural habitat, which is not under the dominion or control of humans.

The misuse of the word "wildlife" in Singapore will have a profound impact on the younger generation if not corrected (Hunting down illegal wildlife owners; Aug 13).

Current pet legislation rules heavily againstkeeping less-familiar animals as pets.

But, through the Internet, many people would find that a large number of the species labelled by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singaporeas illegal wildlife are in fact widely accepted as pets in other countries and are relatively easy to keep.

The majority of confiscated animals cannot be reintroduced into the wild because they are not wildlife.

What is worse, they could contaminate the wild gene pool.

The zoo and animal shelters do not have infinite holding areas for the confiscated animals. What, then, happens to many of these animals?

A well-known animal welfare group has faced international criticism because more than 90 per cent of the animals that came into its possession were euthanised.

The majority of confiscated animals cannot be reintroduced into the wild because they are not wildlife. What is worse, they could contaminate the wild gene pool.

Indiscriminate bans on any sector of the pet industry never succeeds in stopping the demand for these animals; it just drives the trade underground, making it harder to monitor.

Norway has learnt this. The country's authorities announced recently that reptiles, including 19 types of snakes, lizards and turtles, can now be kept as pets, after being illegal for 40 years.

Responsible hobbyists will want to uphold the reputation of a legalised trade at all costs.

It is ultimately up to the authorities to find a balance.

Singapore is in need of less bad press with regard to wildlife crime, especially when some animals are currently erroneously classified as wildlife and are not considered suitable pets.

Ong Junkai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2017, with the headline 'Rethink pet and wildlife policies'. Print Edition | Subscribe