Exotic pets could be harmful to the Sultanate of Oman’s ecosystem and accordingly Environment Authority has taken a stern action. The Environment Authority has suspended granting of permits to import wild reptiles and insects to the country.
For now, permits will be given for import of wild reptiles and insects for scientific purposes only and this includes zoos as well.
The decision is currently temporary and was taken to assess the current situation as many incidents of wild species that are alien to Omani environment have been found in the open causing direct threat to the native species of the country.
The situation is considered as a threat due to the fact that Omani environment is defined as fragile.
The Director of Biodiversity at Environment Authority, Saleh al Saadi, explained, “During the recent years we have faced a lot of problems regarding native species or the invasive ones and one of the main problems is the invasive alien species. We have plants and animals in this category and the issue is that they are brought in as pets or out of special interest. They are wild animals but are being kept as pets and when they cannot manage them, the animals are released outdoors and at times they are escaping on their own. The wild species are at times breeding and require plenty of food as well as specific care. When the pet owners cannot meet the demands the animals are let free in the wilderness. This is effecting our native species and also the ecosystem.”
House crow and common myna are considered as examples of the invasive species among birds that have been increasing in population. Invasive plants such as Mesquite (Prosopis juliflora) and Parthenium hysterophorus have been harming the environment and competing with native species as they multiply quickly and currently they are occupying huge areas in the country, according to the director of biodiversity.
“It is important to try to eradicate them or prevent the pathways and one of the pathways is importing of these species to the country. So we have to take actions to minimise the impact of these species whether they are reptiles or birds,” he pointed out. Even pythons have been imported as pets.
“People have been importing pythons, lizards and so on. We do not know exactly the purpose. Sometimes they claim some reptiles are meant for consuming and this explanation cannot be taken seriously. The suspension is a temporary step until we streamline solution process on how to manage the situation,” he noted.
The authority, meanwhile is dealing with scientific centres and zoos. The zoos tend to have good management and care too. But normal people when they keep the wild reptiles and insects at home or farms, they tend to be careless.
“Sometimes we do not know whom the wild animal belongs to. There is a different way to manage wild animals compared to domesticated ones. If they keep it in their own homes it is still okay but the general public get worried when they spot rare species in their surrounding areas. We do receive complains from the public often. They say prevention is better than cure so it is best to stop importing them rather than trying to eradicate them later,” said Al Saadi.