The sugar glider is one of the most desired pocket pets around, with their adorable big eyes, cute little ears, and tininess that make them small enough to hold in a human hand. But the truth behind the exotic pet industry — including sugar glider sellers — is nothing short of insidious.
Television programs and films with beyond-cute exotic animals create demand for them. Some people impulsively buy them online. The Internet has made purchases of exotic pets practically effortless. Grab your credit card; it’s like buying a T-shirt.
According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the exotic pet trade is a multi-billion dollar industry, second only to drugs and weapons on the black market. It’s a $15-billion-dollar business in the United States alone. Sadly, animals suffer and die because breeders and brokers greedily exploit victims of this lucrative trade.
Sugar Gliders are found in Australia and Indonesia. They are marsupials, like kangaroos, and carry their young in their pouch. Their babies are also called joeys. They love swinging from trees and being with their families and friends. They engage in social grooming. When they are stolen from the wild, placed in mills and eventually human homes, they lose all that they enjoy and everything that nature intended for them.
Sugar gliders are easy to kidnap because they are nocturnal and can be found asleep in groups during the day. Unscrupulous breeders help themselves to a bunch to use as inventory. Sometimes poachers will kill a mother sugar glider protecting her babies because the youngest ones are in greatest demand.
At sugar glider mills, living conditions are similar to those of dogs in puppy mills. They are squeezed into cramped cages and sometimes suffocate or are injured after being traumatized from being stolen from their natural habitat. They are not cared for. PETA reports that many of them are marketed as trinkets. They are picked up and put down constantly to show them, handled roughly, fed improper and inadequate food, and then forgotten and sorely neglected once the novelty wears off.
Sugar gliders are also sold at trade shows, gun shows, mall kiosks, and flea markets at exorbitant prices. One of the most notorious online sugar glider broker is Perfect Pocket Pet. They peddle them on the following websites, pretending that they are separate entities: www.sugarbears.com www.pocket-pets.org, www.sugargliderinfo.org, www.mynasga.org, www.mynasba.org, www.sugarglidershere.com, and www.ASGV.org
The brokers do not provide proper nutritional information to the buyers of sugar gliders. Many suffer from malnutrition and become ill. Also, the animals are often neglected or abused, and need time to adjust to their human home and to trust their new family. If smothered with affection before they feel comfortable, they might be frightened and bite. People sometimes let them loose in the wild when they don’t want them anymore. The sugar gliders don’t know how to survive in a foreign environment.
It’s tragic for sugar gliders and other exotic animals to suffer and die because breeders and brokers exploit them for big profit — and most people don’t know how deplorable the exotic pet industry is. Increasing awareness and taking action via organizations that are trying to end the industry are vital to stopping this horrible travesty.
Here are some ways to help stop the endangered pet trade:
- Join Endangered Species International to ban illegal trade of endangered animals and plants.
- Write to the Indonesian government to express your concern (a sample letter and addresses are provided).
- Support Born Free USA by signing up for Action Alerts and sending emails to targeted individuals or campaigns with just a click of a mouse.
- Support the Species Survival Network, an international coalition of over eighty non-governmental organizations (NGOs) committed to the promotion, enhancement, and strict enforcement of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).