Why you should not keep wild animals as pets

Exotic pets like hedgehogs have become popular in recent years among pet owners. But do you know that it is illegal to keep wild animals as pets in Singapore? Even the sale or display of these animals is against the law. Under the Wild Animals and Birds Act, any person who kills, takes or keeps any wild animal or bird (other than those specified in the Schedule) without a licence will be fined up to S$1,000 and the animal confiscated by the authorities. Smuggling of wild animals into Singapore will result in a maximum S$10,000 fine and/or a jail sentence of up to 12 months.

If the animal in question belongs to an endangered species listed under CITES, the penalty is much harsher: fine of $50,000 per animal (up to a total of $500,000) and/or up to two years of imprisonment.

Hedgehogs are popular as pets due to their cute appearance. Unfortunately, these adorable creatures may carry diseases that are contagious to humans, including Salmonella bacteria in their stool. Fungal spores in their quills and skin can also cause ringworm in humans.

Wild animals may spread diseases like rabies and bird flu

According to AVA, wild animals may:

  • Introduce and spread diseases to humans and domestic animals, especially exotic animal diseases such as rabies and bird flu.
  • Cause ecosystem imbalance and threaten the survival of endangered species.
  • Experience compromised welfare due to unsuitable living conditions, poor diet and pet owner’s lack of knowledge.
  • Affect Singapore’s biodiversity if non-native animals are released into the wild.
  • Escape and cause nuisance, fear and trauma to the general public
Sugar Gliders are social, arboreal animals that prefer to live in trees, and in groups of up to 30 or more. This makes them unsuitable as pets. And being an Australian native, the hot and humid Southeast Asian climate may affect their well-being.

Singapore is one of the world’s top 10 hubs for illegal wildlife trade. According to the World Wildlife Fund, this is, ironically, due to our “clean reputation and efficient port”. Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) work closely together to monitor imports and combat animal smuggling. Over the years, their vigilance have led to the interception of numerous attempts to smuggle wild animals like hedgehogs, sugar gliders, slow lorises and star tortoises into Singapore.

It causes suffering and death

According to SPCA Singapore, when poachers hunt for animals in the wild, they often subject them to suffering. For example, to capture baby orangutans, poachers kill the mother orangutans. This makes it easier to capture the babies as they will cling on to their mothers’ dead body in fright instead of running away.

Many wild animals also die while being transported due to poor conditions. On 4 May 2015, more than 24 critically endangered Yellow-crested Cockatoos were rescued by the Indonesian police at Port of Tanjung Perak in Surabaya, Indonesia. The birds were crammed into empty water bottles to be smuggled across borders. You can read more about the story here.

Critically endangered cockatoos can be sold for as much as £650 each. Around 40% of birds die during the illegal smuggling process. Image source

Even if the animals survive the transportation, their welfare may be compromised due to unsuitable living conditions, malnutrition, and the pet owner’s lack of knowledge of proper animal care. For example, Star Tortoises are extremely sensitive to respiratory problems if kept in conditions that are too cold or too damp. (source: SPCA)

An abandoned Hawksbill Turtle that was rehabilitated at S.E.A. Aquarium was also a victim of poor care by its owner, resulting in an irreversible shell deformity. You can read more about Hawke’s story here.

Hawke’s pyramided carapace was due to lack of proper nutrition and care.

Please do not keep wild animals as pets. Most wild animals require specialised environments that are difficult for pet owners to replicate in a home situation. If you wish to own a pet, consider adopting a dog or cat from SPCA or shelters such as Cat Welfare Society and SOSD.

To learn more about marine species and take a closer look at our rehabilitated sea turtles, visit the S.E.A. Aquarium.

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