Commentary: Just because it’s legal to own an exotic animal, does that mean you should?

SINGAPORE: Videos of a grey crowned crane escaping from a home made the rounds on social media in April, piquing much public interest in the majestic, endangered bird.

While the owner says the bird is licensed, it brings to mind other viral clips of otters, hedgehogs, slow lorises and more being kept as pets. Such images and videos have ballooned in popularity over recent years, with Instagram accounts and YouTube videos dedicated to showcasing the domestic lives of these exotic animals.

While most people are content with the companionship of a dog, cat, hamster or rabbit, there are those who prefer the idea of keeping an exotic pet because of the perceived novelty and challenges of rearing a rare animal.

In Singapore, government regulations prohibit keeping many species of wild animals as pets. The Wildlife Act, however, allows for the keeping of certain exotic animals where risks to public safety and health are considerably lower.

These include red-eared terrapins, American bullfrogs and birds (excluding crows, pigeons, mynahs and protected wildlife species) among others. Ownership of these animals is regulated and must be accompanied by a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) permit.

Regulations aside, one question remains – even if it were legal to own an exotic animal, does that mean you should?

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