Seems I am as of late sending many apologies to the non-human world. One of the ways I apologize is to monitor my own behavior towards the natural world. Sometimes I say prayers, sometimes I write. Here is my latest form of apology to the python and exotic creatures, most recently prompted by the deaths of two Canadian boys, killed by a python.
My heart goes out to the two brothers in Canada who were killed by an escaped 14 foot python as they slept at a friend's house above a pet shop. My heart also goes out to the python, who was euthanized after the incident.
The snake was apparently being kept as a pet in the apartment where the boys were sleeping. It broke free from its glass tank and fell through the ceiling into the living room. An event such as this is tragic for all concerned. 1,000 people reportedly attended a vigil for the boys. I wonder if anyone thought to say a prayer for the python.
I am not making light the death of two young children. There is no way to rationalize this kind of tragedy. But let's face it, until we wake up and respect the rights of all creatures and leave exotic animals where they belong, in their own habitat, these kinds of tragedies will occur.
Pythons are found in sub-Saharan Africa, Nepal, India, Burma, southern China, Southeast Asia from the Philippines southeast through Indonesia to New Guinea and Australia. And in a private home above an exotic pet store in Canada. They will generally not attack humans unless startled or provoked.
Young, wild animals may seem cute or interesting, but as they get bigger and stronger, the stress of living in an unnatural environment can cause these animals to lash out at people, especially small children.
I visited a wolf sanctuary in New Mexico where the rescue staff explained that people adopt wolves as pets when there are small, but as they grow, their wild natures prevail, and they are dumped at the side of the road, left to starve.
Exotic pet trade is estimated to be a 10 billion dollar/year industry and growing. Siberian tigers, African rhinos, Australian parrots, all kinds of monkeys, apes and other primates - even insects, piranhas, lungfish, and poisonous reptiles are all part of the burgeoning trade in exotic animals. The two countries often cited for trade in animals are the United States and China.
Over 37 million individual birds, amphibians, mammals and reptiles from 163 countries were legally imported into the United States from 2000 - 2004. America is responsible for about 1/3 of the trade in exotic animals. These figures are staggering and this is not even accounting for what is happening in illegal trade in the worldwide markets.
Thousands of animals die in the field after coveted body parts are chopped off with knives or chainsaws, and thousands more die while being transported in tiny cages, inside spare tires, or plastic tubes, stuffed into storage containers with hidden compartments. Some exotic animals are lucky enough to go to professionally managed zoos, (if you consider that lucky) while others end up at medical research labs hunting ranches, roadside attractions, petting zoos, circuses, breeding mills, pet stores or slaughterhouses.
There are legal auctions held across the United States for exotic pet buyers, but the Internet has become the leading place for people to buy exotic animals. All you need to purchase one is a credit card. In a few days a tiger, or giraffe can be delivered to your door.
Many species are becoming endangered or extinct due to exotic animal trade. Asian bears, rhinoceroses, elephants and tigers, to name a few are being traded, or slaughtered and soon may disappear.
What can you do to stop or discourage the trade in exotic animals? Don't buy one. Don't patronize any store or website that sells merchandise like jewelry made from exotic animal teeth, bones, feathers or fur. Avoid attractions where they are on display. Get active with groups like the ASPCA and be aware of support laws that would limit or ban the trade in, or possession of, any exotic animal or exotic pet.
I chose to write this blog, prompted by the death of the two young Canadian boys. I feel for them and their families. I hope their deaths will not be in vain, and will highlight what is happening in the exotic pet trade. I also feel for the python who had little say in the matter. He was just being a python. My apologies to you, dear snake.
I must confess that years ago I traveled to a Colorado mountain town where a local store handled all kinds of exotic animal parts. Each year when I visited, I purchased many of these parts. I look back on these purchases and I cringe. I can't believe that I was an exotic animal part consumer. Finally one year, something inside myself prompted me to ask the store owner where he obtained the parts. He stammered and said, "oh I get them from a friend of mine back east that hunts them."
That was my last trip into the store, and this article is my attempt to make amends for my own unconscious consumerism. I have forgiven myself and moved on, and now I send an apology to the exotics on behalf of humanity, and commit again to monitor my own destructive behavior and interactions with the natural world.