Stop labelling animals bred in captivity as wild animals

Wildlife trade as a whole has often been branded as illegal and harmful to conservation. However, there exists a legitimate side which plays a major and critical role in international economies.

Many are unaware of this.

The United Nations and the World Bank see sustainable utilisation of wildlife as a means to preserve wild habitats, which would otherwise be cleared for other commercial activities, like the production of palm oil.

Numerous campaigns against wildlife trade solely highlight the illegal side.

Such one-sided campaigns overseas have paved the way for animal rights extremism to influence legislation, which harms the legal, sustainable and responsible side of the wildlife trade.

Current legislation against exotic pets in Singapore limits freedom of choice for pet ownership and fuels animal welfare issues.

The positive list, when applied to the pet trade in Europe, resulted in numerous compliance issues and unfair trade restrictions.

It is time to stop labelling animals bred in captivity for legitimate wildlife trade as wild animals "ripped from the wild", as it ignores captive-breeding efforts throughout the world.

Rural communities across the world rely on wildlife trade as a means of survival and sustainable management of wildlife resources is the only way for them to protect natural habitats from other effects of globalisation.

While commercial value can drive species to extinction, the same value could also protect them.

Political will and public awareness need to ensure that the legal wildlife trade is given increased market access, improved traceability systems and incentives.

It is time to use the legal side of the wildlife trade to combat the illicit side, and not have it suffer collateral damage due to one-sided lobbying by animal activists.

Only when this is done will cases of wildlife "crime" decrease in Singapore.

Ong Junkai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2018, with the headline 'Stop labelling animals bred in captivity as wild animals'. Print Edition | Subscribe