A documentary, The Elephant in the Living Room, is exploring the ramifications of allowing people to keep exotic pets. Check out the trailer below.
The issue of exotic pets certainly has plenty of angles to make it interesting: human safety, environmental destruction, animal welfare. Along with these aspects, I have always been interested in what the phenomenon says about our connection to the environment.
To me, the popularity of such pets indicates that people seek to maintain or reestablish a connection with the natural world. In other words, having these animals as pets fills a void left by a general disconnection from nature. However, attempting to domesticate the wild represents a distorted connection, one that puts animals in circumstances that shackle their spirits and places people in danger.
The best indication of the problems in this connection is that most people end up having to give up their exotics because they can no longer control them. In the best case scenario, the animal finds a home behind the fence at some facility that houses and cares for it at a considerable expense. Many times, however, the animals are released into the wild or destroyed.
Some part of us feels a need to affirm our links to the environment, so we should definitely explore healthy ways of doings so. We must remember though that we don't have to lock up nature to experience it, and there is power in even little connections such as going to a park.