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How zoos can educate about exotic pets?

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by Jurek7, 19 Oct 2022.

  1. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    Zoos and exotic pets are linked. I wonder how zoos can use this connection? Zoos could teach people positively, encouraging interest in responsible keeping exotic animals. Zoos could also teach not to keep pets irresponsibly, e.g.buy baby turtles which end up in zoos or suburban canals.

    In Lyon Zoo there is a pond with a sanctuary for 100s of former pet slider turtles. However, the obvious message to the public - don't buy a baby turtle unless you want to keep it for the next 20 years or so - was not visible.

    Several zoos in Europe have exhibitions related to the Silent Forest campaign, and focus on keeping exotic birds, but in Indonesia. Valuable, but not directly relevant to people in Europe.

    I think keeping exotic pets can be very positive. Keeping an exotic pet as a child can give a person soft spot for animals for life. And, of course, children who kept unusual pets grew into many famous conservationists in the past and many zoo people today.

    I think zoos can easily educate about keeping exotic pets, simply because many zoo animals are exotic pets. It may be done in an insectarium, aquarium, reptile house or a bird house. Or in the children zoo, which is usually an area without any serious educational or conservation message.

    Do you know any examples of zoos doing it? And what zoos could also do?
     
  2. Aardwolf

    Aardwolf Well-Known Member

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    One option is to lead by example. Keep a few exotic species that are commonly kept as pets - umbrella cockatoo, spur-thighed tortoise - in very high quality, natural enclosures with optimum enrichment, social group, etc. Convey the message that THIS is the standard of care these animals require and deserve, that a common species available in pet stores has needs just like any more endangered, exotic species. It’s harder to think that keeping a ball python in a 20 gallon tank lined with newspaper is acceptable if your zoo has one in a large, natural habitat that allows it to display natural behaviors.

    As an example, I remember the Africa grey parrot exhibit at Columbus Zoo - a big aviary with lots of furniture and, most importantly, an actual FLOCK of birds. Not one ratty, plucked bird on a perch
     
  3. cloudedleopard611

    cloudedleopard611 Well-Known Member

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    When I visited Cedar Cove Feline Conservatory, the tour guides gave a lot of information on why its harmful to keep wild cats as pets. I guess that's the kind of thing most people would assume, but a lot of their animals did come from those situations. I also see a lot of social media content creators that post content of pet wild cats. Caracals and servals seem especially common with stuff like that. A lot of people seem to not take issue with that kind of content and enjoy the novelty of it, so teaching people about how unethical it really is can be beneficial.
     
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  4. Neil chace

    Neil chace Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    It's also important for zoos to be reasonable and encourage a high quality of care, not an "all exotic pets are bad" approach, which seems to be a norm in many AZA facilities nowadays. I've heard at a few different zoos employees mentioning animals that should never be kept as pets, including bearded dragons and ball pythons. If anything, zoos should be encouraging people to keep these species- and keep them correctly- as it's the ethical alternative to them keeping, say, a Reticulated Python or Alligator.
     
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  5. Great Argus

    Great Argus Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    Education about the animal's habits is one of the best things, whether in signage or verbal in a presentation. Showcasing parrots in flocks and explaining how in home settings we essentially become their flock, especially for species prevalent in the pet trade. I've seen a few signs explaining how the long lifespan of a tortoise needs careful forethought as they will almost certainly outlive you. Many people don't realize just how long many reptiles can live. A friend of mine who still works in the zoo industry still has her first snake, a boa that is now well into its 30's and still going strong. When talking to people interested in snakes as pets she often mentions him and gets surprise over the age, and it's a great education example.

    I do feel however that the pet stores themselves need to attempt some better education and/or limit certain exotics that are hard to care for properly. Zoos can help with signs and presentations of why these species don't make good pets, but when you see them again in the pet store it sonewhat undermines the situation. People often don't read signage either, let alone have it stick and carry over. Then there's also the bad influence of social media with all these backyard zoo YouTube channels and animal "celebrities", and their posting photos and videos of "cute and cuddly" exotics. There are some good channels out there, but many of them are horrible sources of information on exotic pets. Unfortunately this is what many people are most likely to come across surfing the web for for exotic pets rather than a site explaining the issues with the animals as pets. Even with good information handy there are those who look at zoo animals and still think they'd make great pets. I've talked to a few of them personally, including one who apparently had kept some of the animals they were looking at, probably illegally. Despite my best efforts and examples I don't think any of them thought any differently about exotic pets, unfortunately. Facts and real examples only goes so far against human stubbornness and curiosity...
     
  6. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    Zurich zoo is an example - it has a huge walkthrough aviary with over 10 pairs of grey parrots, world apart from a typical aviary or cage.

    I agree that zoos simply saying no to exotic pets are ineffective, and also contradictory to the idea of raising interest in wild animals. A zoo could show examples of good exotic pets. Instead of a baby tortoise, which will grow ten times larger and live for 50 years, a zoo could propose a dwarf hamster or a similar rodent which stays small and lives two years. Or a small aquarium or perhaps a treefrog or a day gecko.

    A zoo might even make a little exhibit of suitable and unsuitable pet reptiles, like ball python, bearded lizard etc, and the specimens could be former pets which landed in the zoo.

    In Frankfurt Zoo I saw an advertisement of a local small mammal keepers society - a simple way to direct wannabe pet owners to (hopefully) a serious organization.
     
  7. Great Argus

    Great Argus Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    I'm not sure how effective this would be. It would have to be done very well I feel to have the intended effect. Zoos are routinely offered large reptiles that have outgrown their holding or no longer wanted. Many larger fish species are also often offered such as Red-tailed Catfish, pacu, and similar tankbusters. Sometimes the sheer size of seeing a zoo specimen can help deter people; I've seen massive Red-tail cats that were nearly 4 feet long, yet also have seen them arriving in pet stores at not even an inch long. All too often people don't realize just how fast they grow, nor do the sales associates tell them.
    I think part of the difficulty in creating a good/bad pet exhibit is the word 'pet' itself - it can easily be misconstrued for the bad pets, or people think, "Oh but I can do it." I still see far too many species offered for sale that ought not be.
     
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  8. zoogoer92

    zoogoer92 Well-Known Member

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    This is more of a BTS thing, but many AZA members are part of the Confiscation Network. It looks like there's a campaign too with AZA and partners putting up wildlife trafficking PSAs in airports
     
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  9. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    I imagine such an exhibit for a smaller local zoo. Several good exhibits with suitable reptiles, and as a contrast, several mistakes, with a clear sign - not a pet, and explanation why this animal will not make a good pet.

    Actually, even a simple info plate by an animal exhibit would be often good. An info plate in a visible place in an aquarium could show good and poor aquarium fish - like these hatchling red-tailed catfish.

    In my local zoo, every time I pass meerkats, some visitor is wondering how he could buy one as a house pet. A simple information plate with a title: 'meerkats cannot be pets' would probably save the staff time answering the same question 100th time.