Teaching youth about the problems associated with owning exotic pets

Downloadable poster for Arabic elementary school studentsOwnership of exotic animals in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is rampant. To stem this phenomenon, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has launched an educational program in collaboration with the UAE Ministry of Education.

‘Belong to the Wild’ is the latest development in our Animal Action Education program, which is on target to educate more than 30,000 students in grades four and five in UAE schools.

The lessons and activities urge youth not to keep wild animals as pets and encourage students to explore, examine and discuss the risks to human health and safety, animal welfare and conservation and the problem of invasive threats.

The free educational materials include a teaching plan, a student magazine, worksheets, posters, an art contest and give-away puzzles. The materials have been endorsed by the Ministry of Education and distributed by educational zones for use in the classroom.

IFAW has long been involved in efforts to combat the private possession of wild and exotic animals. This conservation problem is particularly popular among young people who don’t realize the danger of keeping exotic animals as pets.

Many people believe that wild animals can be socialized and domesticated by taming or training or even breeding them whilst they are young. This is not true; you cannot kill or eliminate the predatory and aggressive behavior of wild animals because this behavior is naturally instinctual.

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According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 75 percent of (recently emerging) infectious diseases affecting humans are diseases of animal origin. Wild animals are hosting a long list of infectious and sometimes deadly common diseases which can be transmitted from animals to humans such as monkey pox, rabies, parrots fever, gastric ulcers and salmonella.

‘Belong to the Wild’ highlights some disturbing statistics associated with wildlife trafficking. 90 percent of reptiles die during transportation from their natural habitat to consumer markets. 30 percent of parrot species are endangered because they’re sold to private owners.  The demand for buying wild animals fuels illegal wildlife trade and pushes species to extinction.

IFAW warns that some wild species are threatening the native biodiversity. Invasive species are known to damage the environment and cause a reduction in biodiversity. There are more than 20 invasive species in the UAE alone such as the Indian myna and the red-eared slider turtle, which is considered one of 100 of the world's worst invasive species.

This is not the first time that we collaborated with the Ministry of Education in raising youth awareness about animal welfare and conservation. Previously, we launched a two-year program about elephant conversation with its cooperation.

--MO

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Experts

Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Jan Hannah
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Nancy Barr, Program Director, Animal Action Education
Program Director, Animal Action Education