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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Caveat: Exotics are not for everyone

I feel the need to define “exotic pet,” as this may mean different things to different people. As far as this blog is concerned, it doesn’t include species that would be better served by zookeepers, veterinarians or licensed wildlife rehab specialists. While it is not illegal to own many non-native species like the fennec fox, kinkajou or sugar glider, they don’t necessarily make very good pets for the average pet keeper. Of course, this does not include dangerous species such as bears, various cats, coyotes, wolves, poisonous reptiles and other reptiles beyond a certain size. These are very likely illegal. Every state in the U.S. has different laws regarding pet ownership so if you find yourself falling in love with a baby alligator or coatimundi, you’d better check your state’s laws first. One website I found helpful was the Animal Legal and Historical Center supported by Michigan State University College of Law.

Most of the animals you find in a pet store or with breeders are safe to keep because they’re managed by the
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES. This is an organization that maintains international government agreements with regard to the trading of plants and animals. Legal transfer of animals to and from the 175 countries partied with CITES requires strict documentation.

I recently read the book, “Life on the Ark,” by Dr. Lester Fisher, former director and veterinarian for the
Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. He had several stories about “collecting trips” made to Africa and Asia to acquire species from the wild. This usually involved a group of men and a net or some kind of cage. While they intended no direct harm on the animals, it was sad to read because you could just imagine what the chimpanzee must have been thinking or feeling. That was the old days when there were little or no restrictions. Now before pet stores, zoos, collectors and individuals can legally import or export species, they have to meet CITES requirements. This includes souvenir items that might be made from the wood of an endangered tree or the tusks or bones of an animal.

It’s possible I may someday write about coatis or sugar gliders, but that post will likely lean toward providing facts and leaving care to those with experience. Of course, to become experienced, one needs time and a strong sense of commitment not unlike what’s needed to care for a toddler. One must ask one’s self if they’re prepared to make those kinds of sacrifices. So are you?

This is a coatimundi, a term which refers to a lone coati species. It's natural habitat is wooded areas of Latin America though it has been found as far north as southern Arizona and New Mexico. They're in the family of procyonidae along with raccoons and ringtails.

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