Arxiu d'etiquetes: marmosets

The problem of wild animals as pets

Although the first animals we think of as life partners are dogs or cats, the truth is that unfortunately many people decide to have a wild or exotic animal at home. Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs, sugar gliders, fennec foxes, meerkats, raccoons, monkeys… Is it possible to have a wild animal in good condition at home? What are the issues we can find? What wild mammals do people have as pets? We invite you to continue reading to find out.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A DOMESTIC ANIMAL AND A WILD ONE?

A domestic animal is an animal that has lived with humans for thousands of years. During the history of our species we have artificially selected these animals to obtain benefits, such as food, companionship or protection, like dogs, which have even co-evolved with us. Most domestic animals could not survive in the wild, as they would not know how to find food or would be easy prey for predators. Those who survive when abandoned, like some dogs or cats, cause serious problems to wildlife or even people.

 lobo perro dog wolf perro lobo
Some domestic animals, such as certain dog breeds (right), resemble their wild counterparts (wolf, left), which gives rise to the false idea that wild animals can be domesticated. Photo: unknown

And a wild animal? Many people confuse wild animal with ferocious or dangerous animal. A wild animal is an animal that has not been domesticated, that is, its species has not been in contact with people (at least not for thousands of years as the domestic ones). The fact that some wild animals are not dangerous (or not at all) for us, that they appear in series and movies, some celebrities own them and the desire to have a “special” animal at home, continues favoring the purchase-sale of these animals as pets.

monkey mono capuchino marcel ross friends
The character of Ross in the world-famous series ‘Friends’ had a capuchin monkey, which has to be donated when it reaches sexual maturity for aggressive behavior. Source

WHAT PROBLEMS DOES IMPLY TO HAVE A WILD ANIMAL AT HOME?

PROBLEMS FOR PEOPLE

The main reason why wild or exotic animals cause problems for humans is the lack of knowledge of the species: some have very specific diets that are practically impossible to reproduce in captivity. Others may live longer than the owner, be very noisy, occupy a lot of space, have nocturnal habits, transmit diseases or be poisonous. This results in maintenance difficulties and changes in  the behavior of the animal, until it becomes dangerous for its owner. The consequence is usually the abandonment of the animal, which will cause death, cause problems in nature or very high maintenance costs if they end up in a wildlife rescue center (according to Fundació Mona, keeping a chimpanzee costs 7,000 euros a year. Their life expectancy is 60 years: 420,000 euros in total for a single animal).

Raccoons undergo behavioral changes and may attack their owners. Source

Many species released in the wild end up being invasive, endangering the native ecosystems. If you want to know the difference between introduced and invasive species, read this post. To know the threats they pose to ecosystems, visit this post.

Do not forget that the purchase, sale and possession of many wild animals is totally illegal.

PROBLEMS FOR ANIMALS

Animals must live in an environment where their needs, both physical and mental, can be met. Although we put all our good intentions, give love and spend money keeping a wild animal, we  will never be able to reproduce their natural conditions. Lack of space, contact with other animals of their species, time searching for food, temperature conditions, humidity, light… the animal can not develop its normal behavior even if it is in the most optimal conditions of captivity.

The consequences that will suffer an animal that has not met their needs implies health problems (diseases, growth deficit…) and behavior (stereotypic-compulsive movements, self-injury, anxiety, aggression…).

A fennec fox, a carnivorous animal of the desert, in an evident state of illness. According to social networks, because he was being fed a vegan diet. According to its owner, Sonia Sae, because it is allergic to pollen despite following a vegan diet. Be that as it may, it is clear that the pollen amounts in Sahara have nothing to do with those of Europe. Source

Finally, the most serious consequence when we acquire a wild animal is that we are favoring the trafficking of animals, the death of thousands of them during transport to our house and even their extinction. Animal trafficking is the second cause of biodiversity loss on our planet, behind the destruction of habitats.

Slow loris are nocturnal and poisonous animals that are marketed as pets and, like mostof them, are transported under terrible conditions. Learn more about the calvary of slow lories visiting blognasua. Photo: Naturama

EXAMPLES OF WILD MAMMALS AS PETS

PRIMATES

Marmosets, slow loris, lar gibbons, chimpanzees, Barbary macaques… The list of primates that people have in captivity is almost infinite. One of the main mistakes people make when they want a primate as a pet is to believe that they have our same needs, especially in superior primates such as chimpanzees. Its expressions are also confused with ours: what the photo shows is not a smile of happiness and what the video shows is not tickling, but an attitude of defense (slow loris have poison in their elbows).

This chimpanzee is not smiling, he is scared. Photo: Photos.com

Many primates live in family groups and the offspring need to be with the mother the first years of life, so that just the simple fact of acquiring a little primate entails the death of all the adults of their family group and psychological problems for the animal. To know the extensive and serious problem of keeping primates in captivity, we strongly recommend reading this post.

SUGAR GLIDERS

Sugar gliders (Petaurus breviceps) resemble a squirrel, but in fact they are marsupials. They have a very specific diet (insects and their depositions, eucalyptus sap, nectar …), they live in the canopy of trees in groups from 6 to 10 individuals and move between the trees jumping up to 50 meters with a membrane that let them hover. They are nocturnal so they yell and call at night. It is evident that it is impossible to reproduce these conditions in captivity, so the majority of sugar gliders die due to nutritional deficiencies.

Sugar glider caged. Photo: FAADA

VIETNAMESE POT-BELLIED PIGS

Although they are a variety of a domestic animal, Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs (Sus scrofa domestica) are small when tey are young, but adults can weigh more than 100 kilos, so it is impossible to keep them in a flat. There have been so many abandonments and they have reproduced so much, that there are populations established in nature. They can reproduce with wild boars and it is unknown if the hybrids are fertile. There are no wildlife recovery centers or shelters for these pigs, so they continue to affect the native ecosystems.

Since actor George Clooney introduced a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig as a pet, the trend to own one quickly spread. Source

RACCOONS AND COATIS

Other mammals that, because of their pleasant appearance, some people try to have as pets. Raccoons (Procyon sp) develop aggressive behaviors when they do not having their needs covered, they are destructive to household objects and have a tendency to bite everything, including people. Currently in Spain and other countries it is illegal to acquire them and it is classified as an invasive species.

In addition to aggressiveness, one of the most common behaviors of raccoons is “theft”. Source

Coatis (Nasua sp) are related to raccoons and, like them, when they grow up they become aggressive if kept in captivity in a home. In Spain, their possession is also illegal.

coatí nasua
The coati, another friendly-looking mammal that can be dangerous. Source

MERKAATS

Merkaats (Suricata suricatta) are very social animals that live in colonies of up to 30 individuals underground in the South African savanna. They usually make holes in the ground to protect themselves and are very territorial. Therefore, having a meerkat at home or in a garden is totally unfeasible. In addition, the climatic conditions (high temperatures and low humidity) in which they are adapted are not the same as those of a private home.

As sugar gliders, their food is impossible to reproduce at home: snake meat, spiders, scorpions, insects, birds and small mammals… Like raccoons, they do not hesitate to bite and are very active animals.

Meerkat with a leash where you can see his fangs. Photo: FAADA

FENNEC FOX

This species of desert fox (Vulpes zerda) has also become trendy as a pet. Although its tenure is still legal, it has been proposed several times as an invasive species.

The main reason why you can not have a fennec at home are the desert climatic conditions to which it is adapted. Living in an apartment causes kidney problems and thermoregulation problems. Also, it is a nocturnal animal. Changes in their circadian rhythm cause them hormonal problems.

Fennec  fox in the desert. Photo: Cat Downie / Shutterstock

Like the previous two species, behavioral problems can turn up and become violent against the furniture or its owners.

ELEPHANTS, TIGERS …

Although it may seem incredible, there are people who have an elephant in the home garden and other people have felines, like tigers. At this point we do not think it is necessary to explain the reasons why these animals have not their needs met and the potential danger they pose to their owners and neighbors in case of escape.

Dumba, the elephant that lives in a home garden in Spain. Photo: FAADA

IN CONCLUSION

As we have seen, a wild animal in captivity will never have its needs covered to guarantee its welfare. Here we have presented the best known wild mammals that are kept as pets, but unfortunately the list does not stop expanding.

In order not to favor animal trafficking and cause unnecessary suffering during the life of the animal, avoid buying wild animals, inform yourself and inform the people around you, denounce irresponsible tenures and in case you already have one wild animal as a pet and you can no longer keep it, contact a recovery wildlife center and never abandon it into nature.

MIREIA QUEROL ALL YOU NEED IS BIOLOGY

 

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Reasons to have captive primates (or maybe not!)

These days there is a lot of controversy in Spain because of the TV program Vaya Fauna” in Telecinco, in which captive non-domestic animals show their abilities. Leaving aside the training methods that suffer these animals, like in a previous post by Marc Arenas, Reasons to watch marine mammals in captivity (or maybe not), in this post we will talk about the consequences of keeping primates in captivity, especially great apes, and what is in your hands to preserve your closest relatives, all of them endangered.

MONKEYS SEEM HAPPY INTERACTING WITH US

Surely you’ve ever been to the zoo and have observed human behavior mockery to chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. People laughing, pounding his chest, imitating vocalizations. They are responded by chimpanzees, so we believe is an imitation game.

Humans have a tendency to humanize everything, that is, to perceive the reactions of others as human beings, which is not usually related. In the primate communication, the look is very powerful, sometimes intimidating. Who does not look the other way in the elevator when we are with a neighbor? This also happens with gorillas: staring look into their eyes is to them an aggression, so you can suppose the stress of feeling threatened by hundreds of visitors at a zoo watching at you every day. What we interpret as a smile, in which the animal bares his teeth, is actually a gesture of fear or tension. What we interpret as a game or insult, like throwing feces against the glass, it is also a sign of discomfort and stress.

chimpancé riendo, chimpancé miedo, asustado, estres
This chimpanzee is not laughing, he’s scared. Photo: Photos.com

The typical gesture of striking the breast, it is actually a demonstration of strength and health, which can lead to tense situations such as that experienced by this family at the zoo in Omaha when her daughter beat his chest in front of a silverback (male gorilla):

IN ZOOS THE FACILITIES ARE MORE NATURALIZED NOWADAYS

It is true that the trend in zoos is increasingly to mimic the conditions that they could have in nature, with green spaces, logs or ropes to climb, according to species. But primates enjoy these conditions a few hours a day, specifically when zoos are open to the public. At night or in adverse weather conditions, many zoo animals live in cages smaller than the display area without any natural setting.

Most great apes are social and have well-established group hierarchies in nature. In captivity, family groups tend to be artificial because the animals are from different origins, in addition to cases where there is overcrowding (too animals in the same facility) or they are kept isolated in cages with tiny dimensions. In case of conflict within a group, animals do not have enough space to keep their distance and avoid future tensions.

Gorilasbuscando alimento en el Parque Natural de los Volcanes, Ruanda. Foto de Philip Kromer.
Foraging gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. Picture by Philip Kromer.

They are also deprived of natural behaviors such as foraging. In the case of lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), they can travel several kilometers a day searching for food (mainly shoots, but also fruit and some insects) and never sleep two consecutive nights in the same place. Enrichment plans in zoo are essential to occupy their free time available.

Inappropriate behavior of some visitors does the rest (hitting glass, shouts, pictures with flash, food, excessive influx of public ).

IT HAS EDUCATIONAL AND CONSERVATIONAL VALUE

As in the case of marine mammals, investigations in captive primates do not allow reliable conclusions about the biology and behavior of animals due to the artificial conditions in which they live. In zoos, primates are not animals used in performances or in educational visits to the general public, in other centers, the information given about them is poor and biased in favor of the show or simple display of the animal to the public. The reintroduction of primates in the wild is very complex. The captive breeding programs that are implemented increasingly in zoos for conservation reasons, often produce animals for exhibition and not to release into the natural environment, for lack of means or interest.

THEY ARE ADORABLE AS PETS

The fact that an animal may seem to us nice-looking or share more than 90% of genes with us, does not mean that it will have same needs. These needs usually are not known by people who acquire a primate as a pet, causing them health problems both physical and psychological, including death.

Most come from illegal trade, which means that to capture a baby, hunters have to kill several members of its family, especially in the case of great apes that will protect their offspring to death.

The most famous orphan primate was undoubtedly Snowflake, the only albino gorilla known to date. In this case, his entire family was murdered in 1966 by entering banana and coffee plantations in the jungle of Nko, Equatorial Guinea. Snowflake was sold to Jordi Sabater Pi by 15,000 pesetas in Barcelona and was raised in an apartment in the first 11 months. Then was moved to Barcelona Zoo where he became a symbol of the city and lived there the rest of his life.

Copito de nieve, floquet de neu, gorila, snowflake, zoo de barcelona
Snowflake on an inside installation. Photo taken from blog Sigur Rós.

Small primates are also victims of illegal trade, which has increased because of the presence of videos on the Internet about how “adorable” are marmosets or loris (Nycticebus) according to a study published in PLoS ONE. Besides many species are endangered, as we saw in a previous post slow lorises are the only poisonous primate in the world, so they are mutilated without anesthesia (they cut them teeth, claws) before sale, which provoke sometimes deadly infections. The study found only in Indonesia 15,000 loris enter the illegal market per year, not counting those who die before. To that evidence must be added the death of the mother and/or entire families. They are sold with a few months of life, when in the wild spend the first 14 months with its mother, so their emotional and nutritional needs will never be covered.

loris, venta, ilegal, trade
Loris from Sumatra to sell crammed in a cage without food or water, in daylight (they are nocturnal). Photo by The Little Fireface Project.

It is estimated that the illegal trade in wildlife is worth more than 19 billion dollars annually, equivalent or above the illegal trade in drugs and weapons. In addition to pets, many primates living in zoos come from seizures, like Coco gorilla at Barcelona Zoo.

The Primates order is protected by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), so trade is banned or highly regulated. In Spain for example, they can’t be kept in particular installations.

THEY ARE VERY SMART AND CAN DO THINGS LIKE US

Another clear case of humanization is forcing primates to represent situations taking them as natural and easy to learn for them,  like walking upright, cycling and other stunts that are fortunately seen less and less in circuses, movies, commercials or sets of TV.

We have already discussed the origin and living conditions (often unhealthy) of these animals. We won’t go into detail about how they are trained, based on negative reinforcement (deprivation of food, company, beatings, imprisonment…) or stress levels to which they are subjected between spotlights, people and noise. Primatologist Sarah Baeckler conducted a study in 2002 on the status and conditions of these animals. What happens to them when they do not serve to act? They are abandoned, and in lucky cases recovered in sanctuaries or recovery centers, such as Mona Foundation in Catalunya or the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center, the largest sanctuary for chimpanzees in Africa promoted by Dr. Jane Goodall. This video of the emotional release and history of the chimpanzee Wounda by Rebecca Atencio and Jane Goodall went viral:

CONSEQUENCES BEFORE AND AFTER THE FAME”

Chimpanzees are the most commonly apes used for this kind of shows. According to studies, such as the one by the University of Kent (2011), primates end with psychological problems such as:

  • Self harm and mutilation
  • Bone fractures and wounds
  • Psychomotor deficit
  • Malnutrition
  • Development problems
  • Abnormal behaviors such as ingestion of feces and urine
  • Repetitive movements with no function (stereotyping)
  • Decreased gestures to communicate with each other
  • Hyperaggression
  • Social phobia, fear, agoraphobia (phobia of open spaces and agglomerates
  • Apathy
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Despression
  • Inability to its development in conditions of freedom
Campaña "Los animales no son payasos" de Acção Animal and Liga Portuguesa dos Direitos do Animal (LDPA).
“Animals are not clowns” campaign by Acção Animal y Liga Portuguesa dos Direitos do Animal (LDPA).

So they have the same consequences as any human can suffer in the same situation. We share 96.9% of our DNA with orangutans, 98.4% with gorillas, 98.8% with chimpanzees  and 99.9% with other humans.

Rehabilitation and socialization, it is not impossible in some cases, but it takes years and thousands of euros of effort, which does not justify its use in shows or keeping them as pets.

WHAT CAN YOU DO FOR PRIMATE CONSERVATION?

In June 2015, after years of struggle by Jane Goodall and other institutions, captive chimpanzees enjoy the same protection in the wild USA, they are considered endangered. Two chimpanzees have also been recognized as legal persons in court on his compulsory detention. Primatologists agree that the intelligence of a chimpanzee is equivalent to a 4 years old child and the debate is still alive on the inclusion of the great apes on Human Rights. Something is changing in consideration of our closest relatives, but is still clearly insufficient. What it is in your hands?

  • Learn and share with your children, family and acquaintances capabilities and problems of these wonderful animals.
  • Do not buy or accept a primate as a gift or souvenirs made from them, especially if you are traveling to foreign countries where the sale is cheap and easy. You can go to jail.
Un simple llavero o cenicero hecho con la mano de un gorila lleva muchas muertes detrás. Foto de WWF
A simple key ring leads behind many deaths. Photo by WWF
  • Do not attend circuses or give audience to television programs which use animals and participate in campaigns against it.
  • Do not eat primate meat  (bushmeat)
  • Avoid visiting zoos and other institutions that keep primates in captivity for profit.
  • Do not use products tested on animals, especially cosmetics.
  • Do not buy tropical wood or seek FSC certification of sustainable logging.
  • Extend the life of electronic devices, especially mobile phones and recycle it as coltan and cassiterite it is used for manufacturing it.
  • Report illegal wildlife trading
  • Make donations to recovery centers or adopt a chimpanzee, also here
  • Do not use products with palm oil, responsible for causing the deaths of dozens of orangutans daily.
orangutan quemado, aceite de palma, pal oil, palmitate, pongo, deforestacion, muerto
Orangutan (Pongo spp.) (Literally, “man of the forest”) victim of deforestation for palm oil industry. Photo: unknown credit

REFERENCES

MIREIA QUEROL ALL YOU NEED IS BIOLOGY

Who are the hominids?

Today’s article is dedicated to primates. We will talk about some of its key features, the classification of the living species and we will discover who the hominids and hominans are.

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF PRIMATES

Primates are an order of placental mammals that appeared about 65 million years ago in the tropical rainforest. There are currently over 400 living species, most of them arboreal. Since there are no single trait that defines them, they are difficult to classify; so we have to consider a set of features, which are:

  • Complex visual system: with frontally placed eyes, their vision is stereoscopic, allowing them to perceive the distance and depth with great accuracy. Most species can see in color.
  • High mobility of the shoulder: allows an easy arm movement in all directions. Hands and feet have five fingers and opposable thumb (at least in hands) allowing them to grasp and manipulate objects with precision. Although some have claws, most have flat nails and all (except some orangutans) have a flat nail on the big toe.
  • Torso and tail: several primates rest and move with an erect torso. Except apes, in some cases they have a prehensile tail, and can use it as a fifth limb.
  • Brain size: besides some species of toothed whales, some primates have, in relation to the body, the largest brain of all mammals.
  • Social organization: only orangutans, some lemurs and galagos are solitary, other primates are organized in complex social groups.
Gorila comiendo (Gorilla sp.) donde se aprecian algunas de las características descritas (Foto: pixabay.com)
Gorilla eating (Gorilla sp.) where whe can see some of the characteristics. Photo: pixabay.com
 

CLASSIFICATION

The relationships among the different groups of primates were not clearly understood until relatively recently, so the commonly used terms are somewhat confused (mokeys, apes…). Modern cladistic classifies primates in two suborders, Haplorrhini (“dry-nosed primates”) and Strepsirhini (“wet-nosed primates“). A possible classification would be:

Taxonomia primates english
Primates taxonomy. Clic to enlarge. Created by Mireia Querol based in an image taken of humanorigins.si.edu.

Traditionally primates are classified into three groups: prosimians, monkeys and apes.

PROSIMIANS

Prosimians are the oldest primate group. They are distributed throughout Southeast Asia and Africa marginal islands. Prosimians include lemurs, lorises, galagosindris, the aye-aye and tarsiers. They share the following characteristics:

  • Claws instead of nails (they have at least a fingernail)
  • Long snout with wet nose. They have the best sense of smell among primates
  • More lateral orientation of the eyes than other primates. These are big and have good nocturnal vision
  • Mobile pinna
  • Minor brain proportion than other primates
Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis). (Foto: Frans Lanting)
Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis). Photo: Frans Lanting
 

Tarser de Filipines (Foto: Kok Leng Yeo)
Philippines tarsier (Carlito syrichta). (Photo: Kok Leng Yeo)

OLD AND NEW WORLD MONKEYS

The New World monkeys are distributed throughout Central and South America. They have a long, often prehensile tail. The muzzle is flat and the nostrils are situated in the side. They are completely arboreal. The best known representatives are marmosets, spider monkeys, capuchins, and sakis.

Sakí cariblanco macho (Pithecia pithecia). (Foto: Charles Miller).
Male of White-faced saki (Pithecia pithecia). Photo: Charles Miller
 

The Old World monkeys are distributed throughout Africa and Asia. Usually they are bigger than New World monkeys. The nostrils are directed downward or forward. The Old World monkeys cover a wide range of species, such as macaques, baboons, mandrills, mangabeis, drills, colobus, proboscis monkeys, langurs

Langur dorado (Trachypithecus geei). (Foto: Wikimedia).
Gee’s golden langur (Trachypithecus geei). Photo: Wikimedia
 

APES

Apes are divided into two families: Hylobatidae (gibbons and siamangs) and Hominidae (orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees and humans). They are distributed throughout West and Central Africa and South and Southeast Asia, except humans: we are distributed all over the planet and habitats. Apes have a flat face, with the nostrils downwards and an anatomy that facilitates upright posture and materials handling, including the creation and use of tools in some species.

Bonobo (Pan paniscus). (Foto: Pierre Fidenci)
Bonobo (Pan paniscus). Photo: Pierre Fidenci
In conclusion, hominids are human beings (Homo sapiens) together with orangutans (two species: Pongo pymaeus and Pongo abelii), chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), bonobos (Pan paniscusand gorillas (two species: Gorilla gorilla y Gorilla beringei), because we all belong to the family Hominidae. The term also refers to all fossil species of this family, and therefore our ancestors, that we will discuss in future articles on human evolution. However, to refer exclusively to our evolutionary branch (including H. sapiens) the used term is hominans or hominas, which refers to a tribe (Hominini) of the Hominidae family.

REFERENCES

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