Thursday, 18 November 2010

Aussie natives hostage to foreign pet industry

Australian native animals are being illegally exported, bred and sold as pets overseas - despite many of them being illegal to own in their home country, or only available to those with extensive training and permits. Many of these animals commonly have a much longer life span than conventional domesticated pets such as dogs and cats.

The exotic pet trade is a lucrative one, and every year wildlife smugglers are exposed by customs officers trying to sneak reptiles, birds and small mammals out of this country.

Among the most popular species overseas are:

An obese pet Sugar Glider - over-fed by his owners.
Sugar gliders - Outside Australia, the Sugar Glider is a popular domestic pet, but is one of the most commonly traded wild animals in the illegal pet trade, where animals are plucked directly from their natural habitats. Although not endangered, this appealing little marsupial does not have much of a life to look forward to in foreign climes - its natural food of eucalyptus, acacia and gum tree nectar is scarce, leaving it to feed on the other things that make up its diet such as small insects. As a consequence, many become obese (such as the animal pictured above) and develop other health problems. Their native trees and vegetation are replaced with curtains and furniture upholstery. Life Span: 12-15 years. Wildlife status: Not Endangered.
A man and his full-grown pet wallaroo in the US.
Two young wallaroos kept in nappies!
Wallaroos - A wallaroo is any of three closely related species of macropod, intermediate in size between the kangaroos and wallabies. The name 'wallaroo' is derived from a combination of the words wallaby and kangaroo. In general, a large, slim-bodied macropod of the open plains is called a "kangaroo"; a small to medium-sized one, particularly if it is relatively thick-set, is a "wallaby": most wallaroos are only a little smaller than a kangaroo, fairly thickset, and are found in open country in Australia where they can bound around to their heart's delight. Abroad of course it's a different matter - they can be found trapped in suburban backyards and homes, some dressed up like dolls or wearing nappies. Life span: Up to 20 years. Wildlife status: Not Endangered.

A Bearded Dragon suffering from MBD - Metabolic Bone Disease, caused by poor
diet/animal husbandry - an agonising condition for the animal.
Bearded Dragons - The Inland or Central Bearded Dragon is found in arid, semi-arid woodlands and rocky deserts in central Australia, where they are incredibly fast and agile. While they can do well in captivity, they will miss that chance to stretch their legs. And poor diet can be a major issue for the reptiles, resulting in bone and other problems. Life Span: 10-20 years. Wildlife Status: Not Endangered.

And our bird life isn't immune either, with the species almost too numerous to mention but include many of our colourful and sizeable parrots. Judging by this Dept of Environment and Conservation press release, many of our smaller birds are also popular in foreign pet shops...

An Orange Chat in the wild.
A 43-year-old Bibra Lake man has been fined $1200 in Perth Magistrates Court for attempting to export protected Western Australian birds without a licence.

John Alan Middleton pleaded guilty to attempting to export 11 orange chats, five crimson chats, four white-fronted chats and three splendid fairy wrens in November 2008. 

The birds were part of two consignments tracked by the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) as part of an operation involving wildlife authorities in three States.
DEC prosecutions coordinator Gail Ritchie said that due to the cramped conditions in which they were held, 12 of the birds were dead upon arrival in Sydney. 

"Wildlife smugglers have little or no regard for animal welfare, which is why native WA birds can only be legally exported interstate with a valid export licence issued by DEC," she said.

"Some orange chats can fetch up to $500 each on the black market and splendid fairy wrens can be worth up to $250 each but the message is clear - if you try to smuggle birds out of WA, you will be investigated and prosecuted."

The maximum penalty for each offence of illegally exporting and possessing wildlife under WA's Wildlife Conservation Act is $4000. 

Smuggled birds discovered stuffed into a small box. They'll most likely die from
dehydration or suffocation, or if they're discovered at the other end of their trip, they'll be
destroyed by Customs officials. They miss their wild life.
So next time you think about getting an exotic animal for a pet...maybe think again. Not everyone is equipped to cater to the special needs of these animals, and you may very well be unwittingly supporting a black market in unusual fauna that is best left in its natural environment.

If these birds survive the trip - and it looks as if these ones didn't - they're
destined for life in a cage. Can you imagine what hell that is for a wild bird?
Could you imagine anything crueler for an animal or bird than being stuffed in a cardboard tube, a suitcase, a small box or strapped to a human body unable to move, drink or feed?

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