Problems with keeping native Australian mammals as companion animals
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Karen L. Viggers, David B. Lindenmayer, 2002. "Problems with keeping native Australian mammals as companion animals", A Zoological Revolution: Using native fauna to assist in its own survival, Daniel Lunney, Chris Dickman
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Keeping native animals as pets has recently been proposed as a new strategy to enhance the conservation of wildlife in Australia. In this paper we critically examine the arguments put by the proponents of a native animal pet industry, discuss potential problems associated with it and cover a range of important related issues. The primary argument for a native animal pet industry is that it will generate major benefits for the conservation of Australia's biodiversity. However, the use of native animals as pets (and associated captive-breeding and re-introduction programs) will only ever focus on a small subset of species, will be unable to address larger biodiversity conservation issues, and will be unlikely to make more than a very limited contribution to nature conservation in Australia. Other approaches such as setting aside reserves and off-reserve conservation strategies such as landscape restoration will be far more important for nature conservation. Yet, a native animal pet industry has the potential to divert funds from these important activities, and may possibly even reduce public appreciation of the critical need for them.
We provide a range of reasons why native animals are unlikely to replace domestic animals as pets. We also raise concerns about animal welfare and other issues that could flow from keeping native animals as pets. These include (among others):- potential for a significant incidence of stress-related and husbandry-related diseases, problems with access to appropriate husbandry and veterinary care, and the potential for inappropriate breeding to select particular anatomical traits. Keeping native animals as pets also has the potential to:- transmit disease to wild populations of the same species, transmit disease to other species in close contact, and spread disease from animals to humans (zoonoses). These problems have major negative implications not only for wild populations of Australian native animals, but also for human health in this country. It is essential these issues are fully addressed prior to the further development and promotion of the concept of a native animal pet industry. Indeed, for the establishment of such an industry to be justified, there must be substantial positive conservation outcomes for wild populations. It must also be demonstrated that any new industry would not have any negative effect on the status of wild populations.