Wild animals as pets have always been seen as some sort of status symbol; being able to dominate and tame animals who are supposed to be living in the wild. These animals are stripped of their naturally wild attributes and instincts in order to adapt to the human need of “companionship”.
Living in Indonesia, a country of massive biodiversity has made it easier to acquire unique animals to be owned as pets. Some people even search for exotic creatures from far-away places, not native to Indonesia itself. This can be seen in the recent boom of Indonesian celebrities showing off their unique pets on social media. However, those posts have been met with resentment in the name of animal welfare from their own fans and public figures alike.
The Legal Loophole
So, the question that obviously comes up when discussing this issue is “are we legally allowed to own exotic animals as pets?”. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry has alerted Indonesian citizens not to keep wild animals as pets, since it also contributes to the acts of illegal hunting and trading. However, here’s the loophole; in some cases, wild animals can be kept as pets as long as a certain license from the Natural Resources Conservation Agency is pocketed.
The owning of wild animals as pets is regulated in Article 37 of Indonesia’s Government Regulation No. 8/1999 on Wild Flora & Fauna Exploitation, which states that “(1) Anybody may look after wild flora and fauna species for the purpose of hobby” and “(2) Wild flora and fauna for conservancy for a hobby may only be conducted to the not protected species”. However, this still doesn’t stop the illegal wildlife trade of protected species themselves, in addition to exotic, non-native animals, since many are still willing to pay top dollar to own something so rare in their homes. It goes without saying that animals suffer in the trading process.
As long as there is a market for wild, exotic animals, the cruel, illegal act of smuggling animals into Indonesia and forcibly adapting them to domestication will continue to happen. This includes acts of declawing and defanging the animals in order to make them “safer” to interact with. There are also both physical and mental consequences towards wild animals forced to adapt to living in a domesticated environment. This now raises more ethical issues rather than legal; should an animal born with natural traits be demanded to alter their instincts of survival just for human convenience?
Priorities: Public Safety over Personal Image
Owning wild animals as pets undoubtedly brings about serious health and safety issues; not just towards the owner(s), but also their surroundings. Though the animals may have been “tamed”, they will always have an embedded feral nature that can come out at any moment. Wild animals and their strong instincts will often try to escape their domestic enclosures (homes, zoos, circuses, laboratories, etc.), resulting in unwanted incidents. Since most are considered dangerous, escaped animals usually end up killed on sight.
There’s also the issue of zoonotic diseases that can spread easily from exotic animals to humans. The probability of the spread increases with the rising number of exotic animals being traded each year. Though it must be noted that all animals are able to transmit diseases, it becomes more difficult to specify and cure diseases of more exotic pets due to their rarity. These are just some of the many factors that should be seriously considered, instead of focusing on the self-satisfaction of owning rare animals.
Let Them Be… Free!
The thought of keeping a wild, exotic animal in your own home may be intriguing, but just ask yourselves: are you willing to rob these animals of their natural-born right to roam free and survive in the wild? You may think that you’re contributing to the conservation of the species, when in fact acquiring the animals themselves contributes to the wild pet trade and ultimately threatening their population in the wild where they belong. They say if you love someone, set them free… Well, if you claim to love wild animals, it would be in everyone’s best interest to let them stay (wild and) free.