I’m out for my walk on the coastal pathway near home when a rather excited young woman approaches me.
“Hey, there’s a big lizard on the rock over there, do ya reckon it would be alright if I took it home as a pet?” she asks, pointing.
I look over and see a mid-sized Eastern Water Dragon catching some late afternoon rays.
“You mean the Eastern Water Dragon?” I ask.
She hesitates, clearly not familiar with the species name.
“Yeah, that! Water Dragon! It’s just sitting there. I reckon I could grab it and take it home. I have an old fish tank that I could keep it in.”
She gestures vaguely towards a nearby car where hubby sits in the passenger seat sipping bourbon and coke from a can.
“He says I shouldn’t take it but I reckon he’s just too bloody scared to pick the fricken thing up!”
“What do you reckon, do you think I should take it?”
I’m not sure why she asked me. Perhaps she was hoping for an ally. Someone to aid and abet her dastardly abduction plan.
But she picked the wrong bloke.
You see, I LOVE Eastern Water Dragons! They are one of my favourite little creatures. And the thought of someone abducting one and keeping it in a dark fish tank filled me with horror.
“No”, I don’t think that’s a good idea at all”, I say. “It’s a wild animal and this is its home”. It’s not a pet!”
Hubby gives me a thumb’s up.
“I dunno, it COULD be a pet!” she gushes.
“Well, I don’t think it would be fair to take it out of its natural habitat to live in a fish tank”, I tell her.
She doesn’t seem swayed by my argument and looks set to go dragon hunting.
“Besides which,” I say, “if you try to pick them up they can scratch and give you a pretty nasty bite”. Bites from animals can get badly infected and make you sick”, I add.
“Shit, why didn’t ya tell me that in the first place?” she says. She heads back to the car. Hubby gives me another thumbs-up. They drive off.
I keep walking. I feel relieved. Perhaps I’ve saved an innocent little creature from a rather dismal fate. She obviously had no idea even what species it was let alone how to look after one in captivity.
People do keep water dragons as pets, but their care is quite involved. The Australian Museum’s Husbandry Guidelines for keeping the animals runs to 70 pages.
To stay safe and live a decent life in captivity, water dragons need a lot more than an old fish tank.
I can only imagine what would have happened if she had gone ahead and nabbed the poor thing. It may well have died in her care.
What is it about us humans that makes us think that animals exist just for our benefit or amusement?
I simply can’t contemplate taking a beautiful wild creature from its home and keeping it imprisoned for no good reason. Why would anybody want to do such a thing?
Of course, if an animal is sick, injured, or in danger, removing or relocating it might be necessary. Our wonderful wildlife carers do just that. And, in some cases, keeping the animal in captivity might be required if it can’t look after itself or releasing it back into the wild is not possible.
But simply grabbing a wild creature from the bush and keeping it locked away just to give us some fleeting pleasure or fulfilment? For me, that’s just not on.
This story was originally published on Medium.