Last week I spent some time up at Roan Mountain photographing the flame azaleas and the catawaba rhodenderon. In the parking lot before the hike up to the Bald, a family of 4 arrived back to their vehicle, which was parked in the hot sun with the windows rolled up and I overheard the boy, about 10 or 11, say with dismay that “all of the salamanders are dead!” I looked over to see him holding up a ziplock bag filled with water and what I can only guess were indeed salamanders. The father told him to “dump them outside.”As if they were nothing but garbage and not living, breathing, wild animals.
This broke my heart and I felt such an overwhelming sadness for the creatures that were never meant to be in that bag in the first place. I wanted badly to walk over and yell until my throat ached, to ask them how they could have let this happen. Of course I did not know the circumstances of how the salamanders got into the bag and where they came from. I can imagine that they collected them from some nearby stream, putting them into the bag with the intention of taking them home and putting them in some aquarium to keep as a “pet.”
I will never understand why any parent would ever allow this.
What right do we have to STEAL a wild animal–be it a salamander, a frog, a turtle, a snake, etc–from its home and stick it in a box for the rest of its life?
A place where it can never feel the sunlight or the rain or the cool breeze, where it can never interact with other animals, where it can’t eat the food it was used to and do the things it was used to doing? All so our child can “have a pet.”
So often the animal will die. And if it doesn’t die, the child will get tired of caring for it and they will take it outside and set it free, unaware that releasing it in a spot other than where it came from, will only result in a slow, but eventual death of the animal as it starves to death or gets attacked by another animal trying to defend its territory.
I beg all the animal lovers out there who may be reading this, PLEASE leave the wild animals outside! They are not meant to be our “pets.”
When your child asks, just tell him or her no. No to the pet turtle, the pet snake, the pet fireflies, the pet salamanders. Let your child look, and touch, when appropriate.
Let them hold the animal gently in his or her hand. Let them feel its tiny weight and look it in the eye. Encourage their sense of wonder and awe at getting to touch a wild animal. Guide them in admiring its tiny feet or feathers or tail, the way it feels in their hand.
Then place the animal gently back where you found it. Say goodbye. Whisper a “Thank you for letting us visit with you.” Then walk away. And leave the animal there. In the woods. Where it belongs.
These animals belong outside, not trapped forever in some square of glass! If you really love animals, then leave them outside.