On November 12, the body of farmer Marius Els was found bloodied, submerged, and lifeless in the Vaal River, which flows through his farming property in South Africa. The culprit is believed to be a 1,200-kilogram bull hippopotamus named Humphrey. While hippos often play the fool on TV, especially in cartoons, they are widely regarded as the most dangerous animal in Africa.
Els initially rescued Humphrey as a calf during flooding. The farmer would feed apples to the hippopotamus each day and sometimes even ride him like a horse. Despite what sounds like a playful interaction between a wild animal and a human, Humphrey had bitten Els several times in the past. Els responded by saying, “Humphrey’s like a son to me. He’s just like a human.”
Although it’s natural to develop emotional attachments to animals, as you would with any friends or family—it can often be dangerous. Remember: While you can train a cat to use a litter tray, you can’t train a wild animal to forget his or her instincts!
Rescuing a wild animal in need is admirable, but keeping him or her as a pet is not—neither is the exotic-animal trade. When people succumb to the temptation to keep a wild-caught animal as a “pet” or to purchase wild animals—such as hedgehogs, macaws, lizards, monkeys, and even tigers and bears—from stores, auctions, or the Internet, it often leads to pain and death for these animals.
We must remember that just like our regular companion animals, exotic “pets” can easily suffer from malnutrition, loneliness, and the overwhelming stress of confinement to an unnatural and uncomfortable environment. The exotic-animal trade is also deadly for animals we don’t see: For every animal who makes it to a store or an auction, countless others die along the way.
The journey for many of these animals begins in places like Australia, Africa, and the jungles of Brazil. When trappers take animals away from their natural habitats, the animals often change hands several times through intermediaries and exporters, and they endure grueling transport conditions. Their chances of survival? According to a German customs agent, there is “a mortality [rate] of about 80 or 90 percent.”
If your life is in need of some animal enrichment, please don’t support the exotic-animal trade. Go down to your local animal shelter and adopt today! Not only will you get a new family member, you’ll also be saving a life—which is something to be proud of!
Posted by Robert Fry