One of the main things that the members of the ICARUS project want to counter, and eventually eradicate, is the practice of handling and playing with wild animals of all kinds. We, as a group, do not endorse private ownership of wild animals, be they native or exotic, dangerous, or benign. It is a complex subject, but the fundamental keystone of the matter, is that humans should not in any way exploit wild animals. Exploitation of wild animals includes owning one as a pet, paying for the opportunity to hold/play with/swim with/take photographs with an adolescent or adult animal, riding elephants, or owning and utilizing a wild animal for profit, or hunting them for sport or pleasure.
Most of us have either dreamed of getting the chance to directly interact with a wild animal, or have actually done so. As children, there was nothing more magical than the circus, and who hasn’t gone to the zoo? Movies and books only feed this primal desire that humans have to somehow commune with wild animals. The media has always been littered with imagery displaying human/wild animal interactions. But this is an instance in which reality is starkly different from fantasy. Captive wild animals will never be wild the way they were born to be, nor will they ever be truly domesticated. Rather, they exist in a dangerous limbo between the two. The list of how captivity adversely affects wild animals is extensive, and not something to be addressed in this particular post.
Instead, what we want to focus on here, is the fact that directly interacting with captive wild animals is something that has become so ubiquitous that few of us have gotten through life without participating in it in some fashion. The ICARUS team wants to change the way people perceive this problem, and teach them to recognize such interactions as the animal abuse that it is. But that doesn’t mean we condemn anyone who’s ever attended a circus, or held a big cat cub. People make mistakes. That’s how we learn. All of us have made them in the past, but now that we’ve learned better, we try to do better. Mistakes made in innocence can be forgiven. But learning from them is important, because there is a distinct difference between making an innocent mistake, and making an informed excuse.
People who do not understand the depth of suffering that goes on behind the scenes of cub-petting situations, or circuses, or road side attractions cannot be expected to know that they’re participating in a form of animal abuse. But people who have been exposed to the scientific facts behind these situations, and still choose to endorse certain institutions involved with them, are no longer innocent, they are actively supporting the problem.
The goal of the ICARUS team is to teach the public about the differences between beneficial sanctuaries, and damaging ones, but we never want those who follow us to feel guilty or shamed for having visited a harmful institution, or having participated in things like cub-petting or elephant rides. Rather, we want them to be inspired to act in support of animal welfare. There is no debt to repay for making an innocent mistake, but they can now help the animals still suffering by supporting groups like ICARUS who are fighting to remove animals from abusive situations.
A term we like to use in regard to wildlife in general is ‘If you love us, leave us wild.’
It’s simply the best way to protect the animals. Wildlife should never be owned or handled by members of the public, and no reputable sanctuary or rescue institution will participate in activities that allow the public to directly interact their wildlife. It’s vitally important that our children have the opportunity to appreciate wildlife, and embrace the very wildness which makes the animals so special, but there are ways of doing it without supporting things that harm them. GFAS (Global Federation Of Animal Sanctuaries) accredited sanctuaries are the standard to which we refer when we say “accredited sanctuary” and the GFAS guidelines are that to which we prescribe.
The members of team ICARUS are excited to engage the public, young and old, in helping to keep wildlife wild, contact us on our Facebook page, or through Twitter to find out how you can be a part of the movement.
Author: Artemis Grey