Tuesday, 11 September 2007

OPINION: Registration of Wild Exotic Pets Should Be Mandatory

OPINION: Registration of Wild Exotic Pets Should Be Mandatory

In his opinion piece of August 23 in the Jakarta Post , reptile vendor
Prihatin "Tutut" Deha argued that a public order bylaw to require the
owners of wild animals to register their pets, is unnecessary. In fact,
within his very reasoning are strong arguments for registration.

He argues, first, that most of the animals he sells are from domestic
breeders, not wild sources. However, wild birds such as cockatoos and
parrots are often sold as 'hand-raised' , often by doctoring their papers
or appearance. And even in his last sentence, Tutut admits that turtles are
still taken from the wild. Registration could reduce such illegal trade in
protected animals, if it was enforced knowledgeably.

He states that customers are "afraid of ordering animals straight from the
wild"-- yet undercover investigations by groups such as ProFauna Indonesia
and the Indonesian Parrot Project demonstrate that the illegal sale of wild
animals is rampant in Indonesia. Just recently, a large number of wild
parrots was confiscated from a high-ranking police officer who admitted
that he had bought them at a bird market . It is well-known that animals
purchased illegally may actually be favored by wealthy buyers as symbols of
prestige and power. Tutut also argues that wild animals are more expensive,
but provides no data to back that claim. Hand-raising exotic animals such
as cockatoos and lories is time-consuming and therefore expensive. At least
in other countries, animals such as parrots taken illegally from the wild
by poachers are considerably less expensive than hand-raised ones--it is
this price difference which actually promotes smuggling.

In addition, the care of wild animals in captivity is fraught with
difficulties and frequently leads to considerable abuse and suffering when
they are cared for in conditions which cannot mimic their innate,
genetically-dictated needs in the wild. Registration might provide a way
not only to look for illegally-obtained wild animals, but hopefully will
require inspection of the wild animals to determine whether they are cared
for on even a minimally-acceptable basis. It should be noted that merely
putting a wild animal in a cage--or buying one which is only a few
generations removed from its capture in the wild-- may involve some degree
of taming, but it is not "domestication"--it took centuries to domesticate
dogs, for instance. In fact, both illegal trade and inhumane treatment of
wild animals is documented in the article on the topic of registration in
an unsuing (August 28) Jakarta Post.

Unfortunately, Pepey, Tutut and other traders provide only arguments about
why registration would be inconvenient for them. Indonesia still has a
widely-recognized problem with the poaching of wild animals, and its pasar
burung are viewed around the world as the keaiban [disgrace] of Indonesia
(see for example, Elizabeth Weise, "Endangered animals sold at market in
Jakarta", USA Today, November 21, 2006 ). The time has come to seriously
protect the wild heritage of Indonesia--and registration of wild animals at
the site of their sale is a good place to start. However, it will only be
another bureaucratic annoyance unless it is coupled to serious efforts to
ascertain the true provenance and conditions of the animals being

Stewart Metz, M.D., Director
the Indonesian Parrot Project (USA) and
Konservasi Kakatua Indonesia (Indonesia)
Fax 866-711-8213 (USA)
parrotdoc@att.net; projectbirdwatch@att.net