LOOK: Take a sneak peek at what other weird and wonderful pets your neighbours may be keeping
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A Boksburg crèche owner was left shocked and understandably terrified after seeing a fully grown white tiger peering over a boundary fence last week.
Surprisingly, this is not an isolated case.
Wealthy Gauteng residents have been keeping exotic wild animals for some time, here are a few weird and wonderful pets you may encounter on a drive through some Joburg suburbs.
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1. Fennec fox
The smallest fox in the world, the Fennec fox carries loads of cuteness and charm wherever it goes.
Their most notable characteristic is their large ears which make them one of the favourite exotic pets to keep. These pint-sized canids are extremely adaptable in their native Saharan desert environment.
The fennecs are most recognisable by their large ears, reaching 10 to 15 cm in length. Those ears not only help them listen for prey underground but also serve to dissipate excess heat of the desert. They have a thick, sandy-coloured coat that keeps them warm at night and reflects the sunlight during the day.
They even have fur on their feet that protects their footpads from the scorching ground.
Smaller than a house cat, with large, dark eyes, velvety rounded ears, and plush, greyish fur, the chinchilla is perhaps one of the most enchanting rodents you will set eyes on. They are incredibly social, living in family groups, which can form vast colonies, called herds, of over 100 individuals. Unlike other rodents, male chinchillas help raise the youngsters if needed.
There are two chinchilla species: the long-tailed or Chilean Chinchilla Lanigera and the short-tailed chinchilla. Both have suffered from excessive hunting and trapping, and both are currently listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Endangered, as their numbers continue to decline despite current protection measures. C. Lanigera is the type more likely to be kept as a pet.
3. Capuchin monkeys
Long known to be the most intelligent of monkeys, capuchins are most commonly targeted for the pet trade because of their “entertaining nature”. In reality, they don’t make very good pets.
According to Money Sanctuary, “Capuchin monkeys are energetic animals that require enrichment and an active lifestyle, yet often when raised by humans, they rarely get enough stimulation.
“They may be adorable as babies, but as they get older, they get bored easily. They usually end up as incompatible pets, rendering them difficult to care for and resulting in rescue or euthanasia.”
Pheasants are wild game birds, shy and rarely seen. Like chickens, pheasants can be raised in your backyard, and they can provide endless entertainment. You will need to keep your pheasant confined because of predators such as eagles. Beyond that, their survival needs are basic to keep them healthy and content.
According to Science Direct, “pheasants are characterised by strong sexual dimorphism with male birds being highly ornate with bright colours and adornments such as wattles and long tails. There are 35 species of pheasant belonging to 11 genera; the best-known is the common pheasant or ring-necked pheasant, which has different subspecies and is widespread throughout the world.
“Pheasants are native to Asia but have been introduced elsewhere as game birds. Today, the common pheasant lives either in the wild or in breeding facilities (pheasantries), from where it is released and subsequently hunted.
These may seem somewhat common around Hindu Temples, especially in and around Durban but peafowls are not native to Africa. These exotic birds originated in Asia with the males being prized as ornamental garden pets for their stunning plumage.
According to the San Diego Zoo, “although most people call them all peacocks, the word really only refers to the male bird. Just like among chickens, where the male is called a rooster or cock and the female is called a hen, male peafowl is peacocks, female peafowl are peahens, and babies are peachicks. There are two peafowl species: Indian or blue peafowl and green peafowl. Most people are familiar with the Indian peafowl.”
Peafowl should be kept as families to ensure minimal stress on males when searching for a mate.
Although stunning to look at, these birds are extremely vocal with loud calls throughout the day. They are also quite messy birds, so be prepared for a lot of cleaning up.
City of Ekurhuleni spokesperson, Zweli Dlamini, told media that “although the metro strongly condemns the keeping of exotic animals as pets, especially dangerous animals like tigers, there is nothing the city can do.
“The city’s by-laws and policies protect our indigenous fauna and flora. The import, breeding, keeping and trade of exotic animals as pets is regulated by provincial and national legislation.
“These laws, however, do not criminalise keeping wild animals as pets. The NSPCA executes the Animals Protection Act. This body can only react if there are signs of animal's abuse or any other form of animal cruelty. Current provincial legislation in Gauteng allows for exotic animals to be kept as pets in built-up areas.”