The exotic pet trade is the 2nd largest trade in the United States landing right behind the illegal drug trade. Many people have no idea that this is going on. Would you believe that there are more tigers living just as pets, not counting the ones in zoos, in the U.S. than there are left in the wild?
I became aware of this in 2008, I completed an internship at an animal sanctuary in Indiana. I was shocked at the horrible background stories some of these animals had.
Why had I never heard of this before? These stories hardly ever hit main stream media.
I found out that these horror stories are happening all over the U.S. They often start with the purchase of cute fuzzy babies that soon turn into wild poop throwing primates, or 500lb carnivores.
After working in zoo education for years, I have come to the realization that the majority of the general public just don't have a clue. They don't want to harm animals, they honestly don't understand when they are supporting the mistreatment of exotic animals; by paying for pictures with baby animals, and paying to see exotic animals at traveling shows that many fairs and festivals host.
As an animal caretaker I believe it is my duty to not only properly care for my animals but, to be their voice, letting the general public know the difference between supporting organizations that care for animals versus organizations that only exploit the animals in their care.
I'm convinced that if true animal caretakers stick together, we can successfully spread the news and share the animal's stories. Once enough people know and begin to care about this topic, change will follow.
Hopefully we can achieve this before more tragic incidents like the one that happened in Zanesville, OH in 2011.