Having an exotic pet can appear to be quite glamorous, or so the celebrities who pose with them in magazines make it appear. But is it really? Let’s take a look at what is involved in looking after a leopard.
Habitat, range and diet
The leopard is the smallest of all big cats, i.e. tiger, lion and jaguar, and there are a number of breeds within this species, such as the African Leopard, the Sri Lankan Leopard, the Amur Leopard and the Clouded Leopard. The leopard was once distributed across eastern and southern Asia and Africa, from Siberia to South Africa, but its range of distribution has decreased radically because of hunting and loss of habitat. It is now mainly found in sub-Saharan Africa; there are also fragmented populations in Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Indochina, Malaysia, and China. Because of its declining range and population, it is listed as a “Near Threatened” species by the Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).
The leopard’s natural habitat is grassland and woodland which extends for miles. Their home ranges can extend from 12-30 square miles for males and 5.8-6.2 square miles for females. They have a very broad diet and eat anything from an antelope to insects and they mostly go hunting from sunset to sunrise.
Bearing all this in mind, how would you be able to humanely house and feed a leopard in NYC??
According to Born Free USA, the exotic pet industry is a multi-billion dollar business, but it is incredibly difficult to rear animals such as leopards in an enclosed environment when they have been used to living in a home that measured a minimum of 6.2 square miles of grassland or woodland, not to mention the problems with trying to feed them. I mean, where can you go to stock up on fresh antelope for them to eat?? Where would you be able to take them for a walk?
Effects on wild animals living in captivity
According to the ASPCA malnutrition, stress, trauma, and behavioural disorders are common in exotic animals kept as pets. In the states where it is legal to have an exotic animal (only a few states allow this, and even then you will need a license) getting medical care is extremely difficult. It may require a trip to your local zoo as your everyday veterinarians aren’t trained to deal with the diseases specific to animals usually found in the wild such as salmonella and herpes.
The reality is no matter how adorable an exotic animal may look, or how cool you think it would be to have one living with you, it really isn’t a good idea for you or for them. The little that we do know about them shows that humans cannot meet their needs properly in captivity at all.
Leo is in the hands of trained experts who know what he needs and have the means to provide him with it, which is why he was such a handful for us at Pet Chauffeur! If that wasn’t the case he may have ended up like a number of wild animals living outside of their environment do; as the majority of people who keep exotic animals cannot meet their needs, the animals end up caged, chained, or beaten into submission. Some owners will even have an animal’s teeth or claws removed, so that the animal cannot harm the owner should an attack occur.
Outside of their natural environment, the best place for a leopard or any other wild animal is a smaller, controlled environment such as a reserve where, even though there isn’t as much room as they are used to, they can roam freely and get the specialist care and attention that they need.