Caged African Grey parrot

This article discusses the increasingly rampant trend of keeping exotic pets and the direct link of the practice to possibility of Animal Cruelty

                                                                       By Advocate Juliet O. Nyangái

Keeping exotic animals as pets or for human entertainment is nothing new and the same has been practiced since time immemorial. In the good old book, the book of Kings 10; 13 mentions that King Solomon had a fleet of ocean-going ships which would sail and return bringing apes, monkeys and precious stones and minerals. The fact that gold and silver would be brought back to Jerusalem together with the apes and monkeys means that the animals were esteemed and deemed valuable.

Michael Jackson also known as King of Pop, an American singer, producer, songwriter and dancer was known for keeping exotic pets in his Private Ranch. It is a known fact that Michael Jackson owned wild animals, including giraffes, elephants, tigers, crocodiles and his most famous pet monkey named Bubbles. Though their confinement might not have been illegal, it is arguably mentioned that the conditions of their confinement could have been inhuman.

Even as it might not be illegal to keep an exotic animal as a pet, it ought to be noted that there are various challenges and humane issues that could arise. Renowned Veterinarian, Dr Marsden Onsare, Managing Director of Aniworld Veterinary Clinic, Kenya says that animals are generally social and thrive in a naturalistic environment. The Veterinarian is adamant that the confining of some wild animals in certain structures and away from their natural habitat triggers stress which may lower the immunity of the animal and ultimately fuel disease.

It is quoted that the exotic animals living status and confinement structures in Michael Jackson’s Ranch were a case of outcry amongst Animal Welfare Advocates. Veterinarians and Animal experts almost always dissuade the keeping or confining of wild animals emphasizing that all animals will often have their animal instincts and this can be ignited anytime. Confining animals in inhumane conditions whether domestic or wild thus indisputably amounts to animal cruelty.

Michael Jackson and his pet chimpanzee, Bubbles is a great case study for the thematic subject matter. Many said that Bubbles was the pop star’s favorite pet. He appeared in many photo shoots with the celebrity all dressed up in human clothes and was much loved by fans. Jackson had purchased the chimp from an animal trainer for a whooping $65,000 (equivalent of KSh 6,500,000) in the 1980’s and they lived side by side at his Neverland Ranch. It is said that Bubbles slept in a crib and ate sweets at the cinema. Nonetheless Bubbles moved out of the ranch 2003 amid fears that he was becoming aggressive and was a potential threat to the pop icon’s children.

A lot of people would like or prefer wild animals when they are of young age, cute and cuddly but as most of this wild animals grow older, some become massive in size and can be deemed less manageable. Further, some exotic wild animal keepers, keep the animals as a source of entertainment which should never be the case. Animals do not exist for human entertainment and all human beings ought to embrace popular slogan amongst animal lovers that; “If you cannot love an animals at least do not hurt them.”

Closer home, in the year 2015, the Kenya Wildlife Service rescued three lions and two cheetahs from a late Senator’s ranch. This was after an expose of the deplorable conditions of the animals by a local daily. Former Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo was licensed to keep some wild animals. Nonetheless after his demise, it is alleged that his animals were neglected and starved thus precipitating the Kenya Wildlife Service taking them away.

The debate of confining wild animals in a home environment away from their natural habitat is a contentious topic that cannot be exhausted. At the end of the day, it ought to be emphasized animal welfare and animal rights ought to  be jealously guarded. Animals under captivity or away from their natural environment are still sentient beings are deserve to be treated in a way that does not undermine their welfare.

Ms Juliet O. Nyangái is an Animal Enthusiast, Principal Partner Juliet Nyangai & Co. Advocate, Legal Advisor AVC

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