By A. Jeyaraj
I have been going to the main market for many years on Sunday mornings to buy fruits. Only about two months back I noticed that two stalls were selling endangered amphibians in the area where crabs are sold. One stall has put up a list of animals being sold which includes turtle, tortoise, iguana, pythons and others.
For the past few weeks, on Sundays I have seen more than 10 fully grown iguanas on sale. They were kept in small cages in which they could not move. There were a couple of turtles and a number of tortoises. Full grown pythons were kept in semi-transparent plastic bags and one was kept in a cage. There were rabbits, hens, birds and frogs. The latest I saw were baby porcupines with white spikes. The lady selling them informed that they are imported and cost RM200 per pair.
More and more exotic animals comprising endangered species are making their way to dining tables here. Human beings love to sample just about every living thing and their insatiable cravings have led to mindless killing of these creatures; many of which are on the verge of extinction.
Driven by myth infused folklore, consumers of exotic animals mistakenly believe that ingestion of these animals will increase their sex drive and improve their health. The animals cannot breed as fast as they are consumed and would become extinct.
There is no need to resort to brutal killings of protected animals just to savour their meat. These animals deserve to co-exist with nature’s fauna and flora and play a role in the ecosystem.
There are a number of laws on the protection of animals and under the International Trade in Endangered Species Act 2008, a fine of up to RM100,000 is imposed for illegal possession of endangered animals and there is a 60 page-long list of protected species. The Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 also has more than 60 pages of listing of endangered animals. There are also the Animals Act 1953 (Revised 2006) and Animal Welfare Bill 2012. All these laws will not be effective unless enforcement is stringent.
These exotic animals may not be attractive, but spare a thought for their rights and struggle for survival. They are not loveable as household pets, but no one has the right to trade them.
It is sad to see the cruel way the animals are slaughtered. We have to show some love to the exotic animals and treat them in such a way to allow them to have a fighting chance to survive in an increasingly hostile environment so that in future our children will still be able to see them.
NGOs which are concerned with protection of wildlife must look out for sales of endangered animals and inform enforcement officers and also encourage their friends not to eat meat of endangered animals. As long as there is demand there would be supply.
My house faces Sungai Pari and there is a big vacant land in front of the house. I come across many iguanas and monitor lizards. One big iguana with a fat stomach used to come in front of the house across the road. Lately, I have not come across big iguanas. Iguanas and monitor lizards are not active and stay in one place for a long time waiting for prey to come. Early in the morning and late evenings, squirrels run along the telephone wires and their numbers are decreasing.
Friends who come to my place ask whether I am not afraid of the snakes lurking in the undergrowth. Definitely there are plenty of snakes and there is a Tamil saying “I don’t see you; you don’t see me”. I have been staying here for more than twenty years and have seen snakes only a few times and usually when the bushes are cleared and they come out.
We can certainly do our bit to ensure their survival if our craving for exotic meat stops. For a start, maybe we should declare Fridays as meat-free days.