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Today’s Toronto Star

  • December 8, 2009 2:40 pm

I opened my morning paper and on the front page, top right corner was a picture of a gecko with the heading: “XMAS exotica-Pet presents don’t have to come wrapped in fur.” – pause – hmmmm….excuse me, what?! Let me think about that for a minute. Ok, now I’m curious and little warning bells are rapidly firing off in my head….So I go to to Section E1 to read on.

A story about buying pets for your kids for Christmas. Oh! the whole family better be on the same page when it comes to committing to something as major as a dog. You don’t want Fido to end up back at the pet store on boxing day. Then it suggests alternatives to dogs – why not look into smaller, easier to care for pets such as snakes, or turtles – or hey! – cute little geckos (!!!). I could go on and on about what this article says but I want to shout about what it doesn’t say.

First- why on earth is this reporter writing about buying puppies, or ANY pet from a pet store? I wish there were no pet stores that actually sold pets. Please, let’s just buy pet food, toys and other supplies – not actual live animals! There are plenty of rescue organizations where one can adopt a beautiful pet. There are rescues for practically any type of “pet” you could want. It has been well documented that many puppies found in pet stores come from puppy mills. So, given that a dog is such a big commitment, she suggests looking into exotics instead ?! What is the Toronto Star thinking? There are tons of articles out there on endangered species, climate change, environmental issues ( the whole world is focused on the Copenhagen Climate Conference right now, for pete’s sake!). Why promote going out and purchasing a turtle or a gecko? Even if the animals mentioned are not endangered- the mere indication of buying an exotic pet makes my head explode. In case the world doesn’t know – there is a thriving illegal pet trade out there. THIS ARTICLE IS NOT HELPING.

So, go buy little Tommy a Western Hog Nosed snake ( PLEASE DON’T! ). It’ll teach him some sense of responsibility ( GIVE HIM A PLANT OR A PAPER ROUTE! ). This poor snake will get handled by people, live out its life in a glass aquarium – no taste of freedom to live in its natural habitat. What if Tommy loses interest in his snake? What then? Back to the pet store? Neglected ? Or worse…!

It appears to me we still have a long way to go to change the way some people see animals and our relationship with them.
It’s news articles like this one that reinforce my sense of purpose and spur me on to try harder to be a voice for these creatures that can’t speak for themselves.
Thanks for listening.

Crikey-ridge tailed monitor-commission for Earth Rangers


© anouk bikkers 2010

Sea turtles and other ocean adventures…

  • November 22, 2009 2:23 pm

I am privileged to have had a few sea turtle experiences in my life.

While camping on a grassy plateau overlooking the ocean on the island of Maui-
After a night of torrential rain, tent soaked inside and out, completely sleep deprived… the brilliant morning sun poked its hot face out from the disappearing clouds (cue dramatic music with full string section and thundering drums)… I soggily crawled out of my tent and wandered to the cliff’s edge. All around me the grass and trees were shining- lush, revitalized and sparkling from the night rain – quite unlike myself. I could hear faint hollow, haunting sounds coming from the bamboo forest to my left. The bamboo were playing tunes provided by the light breezes passing through. The hills were alive with the…(whoops… couldn’t help myself…heh). Below, the waves were gently brushing the rocky shore, finally relaxed after a restless night. The blue of the ocean was brilliant in the early sun. My eyes scanned the water. I noticed something bobbing in the waves – a turtle? A huge turtle! What a sight. So peaceful, just floating about as if also celebrating the morning after the storm. I scrambled down the cliff to get a closer look but she had vanished.

Oh….this also reminds me of another time in Maui….
My friend and I decided to surf. We gave it a valiant couple of hours trying to stand up on huge boards in lazy, not surf – promoting waters. I eventually decided it would be more fun to put on some flippers and a mask and check out what life there was underneath my board. A brilliantly coloured puffer fish swam by. It was covered in polka dots and had huge bulging eyeballs on top of its head that seemed to move in opposite directions. One of the eyes fixed its gaze on me while the other looked ahead. I was mesmerized. With the warm water and the steady sound of my breathing flooding my ears, I began to trail alongside it. It was practically beckoning me to follow! I’m convinced we were communicating in silent fish language. :) I don’t know how long I was swimming with this comical creature, but after a time, out of the blue (hah!) a big dark shape ( shark- shape ?) crossed my path catching me offguard. I sputtered and panicked and sucked in salt water which made me gag. I raised my head to see where I was. The shore was so far away! My friend was running along the sand – a tiny dot with arms waving wildly. I had been under the puffer’s spell and floated out to sea. I had no idea what had just passed by me so huge and shark – er – I mean dark – yeah… dark. It took every bit of mental strength to not completely freak out. I focused on redirecting myself back to shore….

Okay, so that wasn’t about a turtle but I felt like sharing it anyway. ;)

Another sea turtle experience was not as natural and spontaneous, but rather a planned trip while visiting the Cayman Islands. There is a Sea Turtle Farm that breeds turtles for research, conservation and to supply the market place ( that last part, not cool…just sayin’ ). I did find it interesting to see them in their various stages of growth though. The adults were floating around in large salt water pools. They came to the edge to check us out. I dropped to my belly and extended my hand. Within seconds a turtle came to get its head rubbed. I could barely breathe it was such a magical experience.
I came away with mixed feelings though…sadness at their captivity and hopeful for their release into the wild and the research that brings awareness to their plight. It’s also the whole commercial aspect and the need for such a place to exist to maintain the lives of these beautiful creatures that weighs heavy.

The idea that future generations may not be as fortunate to come across a sea turtle naturally in the wild saddens me. To have looked into the wise old eyes of these ancient creatures is a treasured memory.