Wildlife rehabilitators have long understood the need to educate the public about appreciating and living in harmony with wildlife. Moreover, rehabilitators have ready access to non-releasable animals who can help put a face on some abstract concepts and drive home an important message. In fact, it’s often the chance to meet a wild animal “up close and personal,” rather than the educational theme of the program, that draws a crowd. And that’s fine, because if we’ve done our job well, they’ll leave having been enlightened as well as entertained.
Still, nearly everyone who’s stood before an audience—be they preschoolers, millennials, Gen-Xers, boomers, or the greatest generation—with a wild animal has had to deal with the dreaded question: “Can I keep one as a pet?”
Of course, this is not the message intended to deliver, but can you blame them? There you are, standing in front of a bunch of envious people holding a cool creature who looks pretty calm and healthy, so obviously it does pretty well in captivity… we really shouldn’t be all that surprised when they wonder, “how come you can do it while telling me I can’t?” If only there were some way for wildlife educators to avoid or overcome this hazard of using live animals in education programs.