Tag Archives: snakes

Exotic pets: a deadly business

By Jennifer O’Connor

Last year authorities at Bangkok’s international airport arrested a passenger whose suitcases were reportedly jam-packed with leopard and panther cubs, a bear and monkeys. The dazed animals had been drugged and were headed for Dubai, apparently part of an international trafficking network.

While this seizure made headlines, smuggling of exotic and endangered animals takes place every day, and those animals who somehow survive often end up in pet stores, classified ads and flea markets right here at home.

Animals who were flying through rainforest canopies or roaming vast savannahs find themselves stuffed into pillowcases, duffle bags and spare tires. Since concealment is paramount, they are denied food, water and any semblance of comfort during transport. Many, like the 18 dead and dying monkeys found jammed into a man’s girdle last year, suffocate or succumb to starvation and dehydration. Others suffer injuries from rough handling or from fights with other crazed victims. Continue reading Exotic pets: a deadly business

In the year of the snake, shed your skins

By Paula Moore

As people around the world prepare to ring in the Year of the Snake, here’s a simple way to honor these mysterious, misunderstood animals: Keep them out of your wardrobe. Snakes and other reptiles should not have to suffer and die just for our cold-blooded vanity.

According to a recent International Trade Centre (ITC) report, the global trade in python skins—which is poorly regulated and often illegal—is threatening these animals’ survival. Half a million python skins are exported each year from Southeast Asia to be turned into designer handbags, boots and other accessories, and the extent of the illegal trade is thought to be on a par with the legal trade. Many snakes are illegally caught in the wild—and killed before they are able to reproduce—because it takes so long for farmed snakes to grow large enough for their skin to be usable.

Of course, for the snakes, who are beaten to death, decapitated or suffocated, it hardly matters whether the trade in their skins is “legal” or not. In either case, it is unethical. In Vietnam, for example, snakes are commonly killed by being inflated with air compressors. This “is functionally the equivalent of suffocating them … they inflate and suffocate and it kills them,” says Olivier Caillabet, coauthor of the ITC report.

Other snakes have hoses inserted into their mouths, and they are pumped full of water, which causes them to swell up like balloons, loosening their skin. Workers then impale the snakes on meat hooks, rip their skin off and toss the animals’ peeled bodies onto a pile. After hours—or days—of unimaginable suffering, the snakes finally succumb to dehydration or shock.

“Snakes are never killed in a good way,” says Dr. Clifford Warwick, a specialist in reptile biology and welfare. Neither are the other animals who are killed for the exotic-skins trade. Farmed alligators are bludgeoned to death or have a chisel smashed through their spinal cord with a hammer. Lizards writhe in agony as they are skinned alive. Crocodiles poached in the wild are caught with huge hooks and wires then reeled in by hunters when they become weakened from blood loss.

These animals are not unfeeling automatons. Snakes can feel pain, and they are keenly aware of their environment, thanks to their ability to sense chemical stimuli with their super-sensitive tongues and to feel vibrations. They may also have richer social lives than we ever imagined. Female snakes separated at birth can recognize relatives when they are reintroduced years later. One study found that female timber rattlesnakes, who often cluster together in groups of six or more in rookeries, prefer to associate with relatives than with strangers. Rulon Clark, a behavioral ecologist at San Diego State University, says that snakes are “so cryptic and secretive that, for many species, we really only have brief glimpses of their lives.”

We are also discovering more about the other reptiles who are cruelly killed for their skins. Researchers from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee found points along the jaws of alligators and crocodiles that are more sensitive to touch than human fingertips. This makes sense because mother alligators use their jaws as we might use our hands—to gently crack open their eggs and carry their babies. Alligators communicate with one another through hisses, yelps, coughs and other sounds, and crocodiles can recognize their own names, as a pair of dwarf crocodiles at a facility in England have demonstrated.

Reptiles might not win any popularity contests in the animal kingdom, but no sentient being deserves to be killed for something as frivolous as fashion. In the Year of the Snake and beyond, please help save animals’ skins: Don’t wear them.

Keeping exotic animals as “pets”

By Deb Young

It may be hard to resist that exotic pet at the store. However, the importance of researching and preparing ahead of time for a new pet cannot be overstated. If you are thinking of getting a new pet, there are many factors you must consider before deciding on an exotic pet. You will have a much happier time with your pet if you choose one that meshes well with your lifestyle and needs.

Once you are sure an exotic pet will be well suited for you, you can set up a good home for your pet well before bringing him or her home. The transition to a hew home is stressful, and having a good environment ready and waiting for your pet will help your pet settle in with the least amount of stress possible.

Even though being drawn to the beauty of exotic animals is natural, remember extreme caution is necessary. Many exotic animals do not make good pets since they can be unpredictable and difficult to handle. The resources and commitment to care for an exotic maybe more difficult for the average owner to manage. The line between exotic and domestic is hard to define, especially when it comes to reptiles and amphibians. However, sticking to captive bred and easy-to-manage animals is the best choice for the majority of people.

There have been several incidents in recent years where owners were killed by their large constricting snakes. Since the feeding drive is so strong even tame snakes sometimes instinctively start constricting when something triggers a predatory response. If you own a large constrictor, you should always have a second person present when handling, feeding, or cleaning the tanks of your snake (someone who can help you or at least call for help if necessary). Even experienced owners can get into trouble unexpectedly since these snakes are so strong, so this is a guideline that can save your life.

The phobia related to the fear of snakes is called ophidiophobia . Fear of reptiles in general is Herpetophobia. Both are very common, so walking down the street with your snake around your neck is probably not a good idea.

Know your laws, in Massachusetts : No person may possess as a “pet” a wild bird, mammal, fish, reptile or amphibian unless the animal was owned prior to June 30, 1995. This group is defined as any undomesticated animal that is not the product of hybridization with a domestic form and not otherwise contained in the exemption list.

Being a responsible exotic pet ownership is good for you and your pets, but is also means being a good ambassador for exotic pet owners everywhere. Given the increased attention to incidences of injuries and illness from exotic pets, and invasive species resulting from irresponsible owners releasing their exotic pets, responsible guardianship of the animals we choose to keep as pets is more important than ever.

I can’t say this enough: never release an exotic pet into the wild! There are several problems with this, both for the pet and for the ecosystem. If you can no longer care for your pet, the responsible solution is to find another home for your pet or turn it over to a shelter or rescue.

Exotic pets: a deadly business

By Jennifer O’Connor

Authorities at Bangkok’s international airport recently arrested a passenger whose suitcases were reportedly jam-packed with leopard and panther cubs, a bear and monkeys. The dazed animals had been drugged and were headed for Dubai, apparently part of an international trafficking network.

While this seizure made headlines, smuggling of exotic and endangered animals takes place every day, and those animals who somehow survive often end up in pet stores, classified ads and flea markets right here at home.

Animals who were flying through rainforest canopies or roaming vast savannahs find themselves stuffed into pillowcases, duffle bags and spare tires. Since concealment is paramount, they are denied food, water and any semblance of comfort during transport. Many, like the 18 dead and dying monkeys found jammed into a man’s girdle last year, suffocate or succumb to starvation and dehydration. Others suffer injuries from rough handling or from fights with other crazed victims.

From kinkajous to tigers, sugar gliders to pythons, as long as a dealer can make a buck, any animal imaginable is available for the “right price.” Continue reading Exotic pets: a deadly business

Exotic pets must be outlawed

By Lisa Wathne

An Indiana boy and his dog were injured recently by the family’s pet monkey—who had been locked in a cage for years because of “aggression”—after he escaped and ran amok. You’d think that after a Connecticut woman’s face was ripped off by her friend’s pet chimpanzee last year—or after a toddler was strangled to death by her family’s python, or a Texas teenager was mauled to death by her stepfather’s tiger—that lawmakers would step in to put an end to the carnage.

But there’s still no federal law prohibiting people from breeding, selling or acquiring exotic and dangerous animals to keep as pets. Why?

The journey for many of these animals begins in places such as Asia and Africa and in the jungles of Central and South America. Many are imported legally in the billion-dollar-a-year exotic-animal industry. Others are jammed into trunks or suitcases or not infrequently, strapped or taped to the smuggler’s body. Such was the case with a Mexican man who was recently caught with 18 dead and dying monkeys stuffed into a girdle. Continue reading Exotic pets must be outlawed

Next time you go to PETCO or PetSmart, think of this …

For more than seven months, a PETA investigator worked undercover inside U.S. Global Exotics (USGE), a major player in the pet trade. USGE buys and sells hundreds of thousands of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and arachnids from all around the world, many of whom are eventually sold to large pet store chains PETCO and PetSmart—stores that we have campaigned against and even won major concessions from over the years.

The extent of the cruelty and neglect that our investigator documented in this massive and filthy animal warehouse was mind-boggling. Tens of thousands of animals— including ring-tailed lemurs, wallabies, sloths, hedgehogs, hamsters, guinea pigs, prairie dogs, squirrels, ferrets, snakes, turtles, and tortoises—were dumped into severely crowded and filthy boxes, bins, troughs, and even soda bottles and left there, often without food and water, basic care, or minimal veterinary attention for their life-threatening injuries. The following are a handful of examples that we documented of the daily, systemic mistreatment of animals:

Scared hamsters were crammed by the thousands into litter pans, unable to move for fear of being attacked by other distressed hamsters. These cruel conditions resulted in rampant cannibalism, horrific wounds and infections, and a daily death toll. Faulty watering-system nozzles routinely flooded bins, drowning the animals trapped inside. Continue reading Next time you go to PETCO or PetSmart, think of this …

No ‘crocodile tears’ for tanking skins trade

By Paula Moore

According to a recent USA Today article, the global economic downturn has taken a bite out of America’s alligator industry. With the sharp slump in sales of so-called “luxury” goods such as alligator bags and belts, fashion houses worldwide are placing fewer orders for exotic skins—and some American alligator farms are in danger of going belly-up as a result.

Let me be the first to say, “Good riddance.”

Alligators are bludgeoned with hammers and steel bars so that their skins can be turned into overpriced accessories. Snakes and lizards are skinned alive and left to die in agony. The routine cruelty in the exotic skins trade should make any caring consumer’s skin crawl, and the sooner this industry dies off, the better. Continue reading No ‘crocodile tears’ for tanking skins trade