Interview: Dr Jane Goodall

Wild animals are not pets, leading expert warns

By Jamil Khan @ The Gulf Today-Sharjah, Jan 25, 2015

DUBAI: The wildlife expert, Dr Jane Goodall, warned the public to forgo domesticating wild animals as an alarming number of cases are being reported where their owners incur injuries.
Goodall, PhD DBE, primatologist, is visiting the UAE and shedding light on different aspects of the rising trend of domesticating wild animals in homes. In an exclusive interview with The Gulf Today, she said that chimpanzees are wild animals and cannot be domesticated. New York University Abu Dhabi Institute (5)
“When they are small they are cute. They can be dressed up and they are very loving if treated well. They are clever and can learn much from humans, like drinking from a cup, riding a tricycle, and so on. But when they reach adolescence, they can become very dangerous; at 8 years old, they are stronger than us. They are unpredictable and can suddenly lose their tempers,” she added.
According to information from different parts of the world, she said that a woman had her face and both hands bitten off. Other wild pet owners have been injured. To get a baby chimp, the mother has often been killed. Members of their community who come to the rescue, often the top ranking male, are likely to be shot also. Many infants are wounded and die before they ever reach the market. Chimpanzees once numbered 2 million in Africa. Today, the maximum number is 300,000, spread over 21 countries, many in isolated groups in fragmented forest patches that will not survive in the long run due to inbreeding.
Describing the behaviour of the animals, the expert pointed out that when a pet becomes too strong, what will happen to him or her? They will either be shut in a small cage for life or sent to a bad zoo. They can never be successfully integrated into an existing captive group – they do not know how to behave like a wild chimpanzee – something an infant learns as it grows up in a natural setting. Such pets have been humanised. Their life is ruined, and they can live to be 70 years old.
Dr Jane Goodall was in the country to attend different activities under the banner of “Roots & Shoots Programme” partnered with The Jane Goodall Institute and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
Shedding light on the background of the Roots & Shoots Programme, Goodall said that “the Roots & Shoots Programme began in 1991 when 12 high school students from 9 schools came to my house in Dar es Salaam to talk about wildlife after I had lectured at their schools.  We discussed many problems – poaching in the national parks, no environmental education in schools (at the time), cruelty to animals in the market, stray dogs, street children, dynamiting coral reefs (to stun fish for easy catching) and so on.  We decided to form clubs through its main message “every individual makes a difference every day.”
There are always some children who care about animals, some about people, some about the environment. So it was decided that every group, or club, would choose three hands-on projects to help animals, people and environment to make the world a better place.
Currently, the movement reached 138 countries, with 150,000 groups, with members from kindergarten to university level. These young people are doing amazing projects and changing the world.
When she asked how it benefits the young generation, she said that when young people are allowed to choose to be involved in what they truly care about, when we listen to their voices, when we allow them to go ahead and plan and execute their projects, they are empowered. Everywhere they are influencing their parents and grandparents. “There are already many people in the world, adults who have been involved in R&S when young. They share a philosophy of respect for all living things. They are changing the world ever since they became part of the initiative,” she added.
She expressed her gratitude to Razan of Abu Dhabi for her help in establishing an R&S office in the country. “After one year we have an R&S celebration involving seven schools and two universities. They will gather in New York University to share their projects and their enthusiasm,” she added.
Dr Elsayed Mohamed, Regional Director IFAW, Middle East responded on the wildlife trade in the region and said that the “Middle East is considered a transit area for some wildlife trade like ivory and shark fin. And also considered a final destination for other species like cheetah and lion cubs, many reptile species, birds of prey for falconry. The major problem now is the wildlife trafficking of elephant ivory that is headed to the Far East, as the trade results in more killing of thousands of elephant every year,” she added.
As a final destination for some species, the problem of exotic pets (keeping many wild species as pets including dangerous ones like lion and cheetah) is a big problem and needs to be tackled through awareness and adopting proper legislation that prohibit possessions of wild animals as pets.
She lauded the UAE government in adopting good legislation that prohibits importation of dangerous animals, but there is hope for a federal legislation that prohibits the keeping of wild animals as pets.
End

~ by jamilkhan on January 25, 2015.

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