Australian Senator thinks keeping native species as pets will protect them

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It’s not actually a bad idea, at first glance: if individuals kept native species as pets, they’d have a greater stake in keeping them safe, thereby staving off the possibility of extirpation or extinction. But Australian Senator David Leyonhjelm might be missing the mark.

In a report by The Guardian, Leyonhjelm was quoted as saying “the long-term survival of at least some Australian animals is assured because they are kept as household pets in other countries. Just as dogs and cats are in no danger of dying out, the same will be true if native animals are privately owned.”

The logic Leyonhjelm uses is sound; keeping native species as pets would, in fact, prevent their extinction. But they’d no longer be native species, and no longer would be living in their native habitat.

Everything from the cyanobacteria that was in the primordial soup to the frogs National Geographic loves to photograph has a place in ecosystems. Each species plays a role as part of the ebb and flow of nature. And when something is removed from that system, the whole web has the potential to fall apart. That's why protecting these species – in nature, not in homes – is so vital to the future of the planet.

While it’s a positive that the senator is looking for solutions to the dangers facing native species of Australia, he may have to make harder, more long-term decisions: preventing climate change, protecting habitat and working against defragmentation, and putting in place real laws that will stand up to industries seeking to exploit wildlife or the environment.

It won’t be an easy road to travel, and it won’t happen overnight. But with compassion, dedication and patience, Leyonhjelm and those who want to save the wildlife of Australia will surely be successful.

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