Wild Animals As Pets: Casually Keeping Such Creatures Can Impact Ecosystems

A wide variety of creatures are kept as pets in Japan. Such animals may impact the natural environment after being abandoned by owners who can no longer manage them. People must be cautious about having these creatures as pets.

Keeping wild animals as pets simply because they have a cute appearance is highly problematic. For instance, raccoons, which are native to North America, were imported into Japan in large numbers as a result of a popular anime series in the 1970s.

However, contrary to their adorable looks, raccoons can be aggressive and they have ended up propagating across the nation after being abandoned by people who were incapable of controlling them or escaping from their owners. Raccoons now devour agricultural products and live in the attics of people’s houses, causing serious damage.

Invasive species may drive out native species and disrupt ecosystems. Once established, they are difficult to eradicate. It needs to be recognized that keeping them as pets without careful consideration can have a serious impact on ecosystems.

In recent years, Asian small-clawed otters from Southeast Asia have become popular. Their cute appearance has gone viral on social media, giving the impression that they can be kept as pets even in apartments. The emergence of cafes where visitors can interact with otters has also contributed to the trend.

However, otters have strong jaws and sharp teeth that they use to eat fresh fish and shellfish. They actively move around in group, on land and in watery environments. It is difficult for ordinary people to provide them with their natural habitat, and specialized keepers and veterinarians take care of them in zoos.

As long as there is demand for the otters and they can be sold at a high price, suppliers continue to emerge. Authorities in Southeast Asia have cracked down on the smuggling of otters destined for Japan. Consumers’ casual desire to keep them as pets can be said to have resulted in the poaching and smuggling of rare animals.

A wide variety of creatures, including amphibians and fish, are traded extensively, including through online sales. Both sellers and buyers need to confirm where the creatures come from and whether there are any legal problems with carrying out transactions for them.

Wild animals are different from dogs and cats, which have adapted to life with human beings. People who are not sure about whether a specific creature can be kept as a pet are advised to refer to the Exotic Pet Guide on the website of WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) Japan.

For example, regarding little owls, which are popular to keep as pets, the website provides an explanation from an expert saying they can be aggressive and sensitive, and cannot be described as an easy animal to keep as a pet.

There was a case in which a python caused turmoil after it escaped from an apartment. It is important to keep in mind that having and raising a living creature involves responsibility.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 20, 2024)