A recent article in National Geographic discussed the findings of a survey and the resulting study. They found that when people purchase an exotic animal their decision is swayed more by possible harm to themselves than harm to the animal during capture and transport.
“The effects on the animals themselves weren’t persuasive in terms of changing attitudes,” said Neil D’Cruze, a co-author of the study and researcher with World Animal Protection and WildCRU. "For campaigns by wildlife advocates that aim to reduce demand for exotic pets, emphasizing the risks to animals—as opposed to their human owners—may not be the best strategy."
This means that the article I was going to write on the plight of the slow loris won't impact as many people as it could. There isn't much danger in owning one.
As pointed out by Adam Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, "For years Born Free had worked to stop the commercialization of primates but it was only when a woman in Connecticut, Charla Nash, was attacked by a friend's chimpanzee that the issue gained any traction in Congress."
But what people perceive as a 'dangerous' animal doesn't have to be deadly. The study also found that buyers saw illegal animals as a danger to themselves.
The results of the study, "revealed that potential buyers presented with information about the risk of disease or legal consequences of exotic pet ownership were 39 percent less likely to want to buy the animal than those who received only facts about diet or habitat."
An amnesty event was recently held in Long Island, New York by the Suffolk County SPCA where owners of illegal pets could turn the animals over without fear of criminal repercussions. Trained snake handlers took in copperhead snakes, a rattlesnake, a boa constrictor and a legal but too-big-for-its-owner iguana. Obviously owning a dangerous pet has its drawbacks.
Like when a man in Zanesville, Ohio let his 56 dangerous animals loose before committing suicide, putting an entire community at risk and essentially killing the animals-as law enforcement had to hunt them down after tranquilizer darts were unsuccessful.
Then I heard someone say that there are more tigers in captivity in Texas than there are in the wild. So I looked it up.
According to the World Wildlife Federation website, "One of the world’s largest populations of tigers exists not in the wild—but in captivity in the United States. With an estimated 5,000 tigers, the U.S. captive tiger population exceeds the approximately 3,200 tigers in the wild."
So how many tigers are there in Texas?
When I checked I came across this from The Texas Tribune:
"There are few statewide regulations regarding 'dangerous wild animals'. That category, according to the Texas Health and Safety Code, includes lions, tigers and bears, as well as cheetahs, hyenas and gorillas. For the most part, it’s up to individual counties and municipalities to decide whether to ban such animals. State law simply requires that owners alert their local animal control offices so that they can be prepared if the animals escape."
So it's entirely possible that the statement is true. The numbers line up and apparently you can own lions, tigers, bears, cheetahs, hyenas and gorillas in Texas. But what's more disturbing is that there's no way to know.
“We have no database. We do not know where these animals are kept,” Katie Jarl, the Texas state director of the Humane Society of the United States. "The truth is, we have absolutely no way to prove the scope of this problem because we do not know where these tigers are."
So not even Texas knows how many tigers there are in Texas.
It's clear that to make a dent in animal trafficking, legislation is needed to make any animal, dangerous or not, that would suffer due to their capture, transport or detainment in civilization, illegal.
Even the fluffy and adorable slow loris whose teeth are ripped out so they can't bite their new owners.
But many people see images of illegal animals, like the slow loris above, and think they are rescuing when in fact they're supporting the very industry that ripped the animal from its natural home and family-because of this, internet animals sales are notorious for passing animals off as captive-bred.
I want to share with you one last quote from Jani Actman's National Geographic article because it stuck with me:
"Every year millions of animals—especially reptiles, birds, and monkeys—are moved around the world, destined for people’s basements, garages, and backyards. Many are plucked from the wild and smuggled across borders."
We need to end the demand and make all of these suffering animals 'dangerous' to the consumers who buy them.