Australia’s First National Pet Show
SYDNEY, Nov 8 (NNN-AAP) – While dogs and cats make the top two popular pets in Australia, interest in raising an alternative animal – birds, snakes, lizards, frogs and insects – is also on the rise, as visitors may notice at the country’s first national pet show.
Held over the weekend and attended by over 80 exhibitors, the Pet Show not only melted the hearts of numerous dog lovers and “cat slaves” with Akita Inu puppies and rescued kittens, but also attracted a huge crowd to its “Scales and Tails touch zone.”
On Sunday, the working time for Ryder, a part-time volunteer with the Feature Creatures team, started at 9 a.m. local time, as the first batch of visitors surrounded him, asking for a touch of stick insects.
Like magizoologist Newt Scamander from the fantasy film “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” Ryder would invite his “Bowtruckle Pickett” – an over 20-centimetre-long, twig-like bug — to crawl slowly onto the visitors’ hands, letting them observe the master of disguise before their eyes. Many people keep stick insects at home in Australia.
“A lot of people are mammal lovers, but some people would like to get an easier pet. Stick insects, as well as some spiders and scorpions … they are ideally easy to look after,” said the volunteer, adding that stick insects can adapt well to room temperature and just feed on gum tree leaves.
Apart from insects, animal enthusiasts of all ages were also able to observe tree frogs and central netted dragons kept in glass enclosures, caress the back of a bearded dragon, and feel the skin texture of Rumpelstilskin – a chill and non-venomous Darwin carpet python, with no history of attacking human since it hatched 12 years ago.
“Traditionally, dogs and cats have been the most popular pets kept by people, who have kept dogs as pets for tens of thousands of years, but today people keep everything as pets,” said wildlife advocate and pet expert Ben Dessen, after finishing a presentation about “Which small animal pet is best for you?”
“You start getting into the really weird stuff with reptiles and insects. People keep things like giant cockroaches, scorpions and tarantulas. There are lots of different pets you wouldn’t typically consider as pets that can be kept,” he noted.
From the moment his parents brought home Rosie, a pet snake, for his sixth birthday, Dessen has developed an unstoppable love for animals.
Rosie passed away at the age of 21, and now Dessen still keeps many snakes and lizards as pets, and runs a wildlife sanctuary, taking care of rescued kangaroos, parrots, frogs and a black swan with only one wing left.
According to a national survey in 2019, by Animal Medicines Australia, three in five Australian households – or 5.9 million in total – have a pet, with combined spending of over 13 billion Australian dollars (about 11.3 billion U.S. dollars) per year, to keep their pets fed, healthy and well-accessorised.
People’s taste for pets grew increasingly diverse. So did relevant medical services.
Kiara Simonis works for Unusual Pet Vets, a team that runs clinics across Australia providing veterinary services for reptiles, birds and small mammals.
She told Xinhua that, almost every “patient” they treated is a different species, with its distinctive anatomy and diet, which is a challenging part of being an alternative pet vet.
What set Simonis on the path to studying in a vet school was her cockatiel Tinkerbell she got at the age of 10. “Tinkerbell got really sick and we couldn’t find a bird vet for her,” Simonis said. The cockatiel, now 19-year-old, still lives with Simonis in good condition.
Simonis, also having a Bullmastiff at home, regarded it as a “completely different” experience to become a pet carer for a reptile or a bird. “They’re quiet. There is less work than a dog. So they are often more appealing to people living in apartments and smaller homes that don’t have access to a big backyard,” Simonis said.
During the pet show, there were multiple activities for children’s pet education, such as meet-and-touch opportunities, lectures and workshops. By participating in the Future Vet Kids Camp programme, children were able to learn how to conduct pet CPR and basic first aid.
The inaugural event of the pet show came to an end in Sydney, and Dessen will tour with the show to Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, from March to July next year, looking forward to helping more people share their lives with pets in a scientific and responsible manner.