Should you get an Easter Bunny?

Beyond The Ferns (wild rabbit) Nicole Corrado © 2011

Easter is just around the corner and people are thinking about rabbits.  Many people think rabbits are low maintenance pets that are great for kids.  This is not entirely true.  For one thing, rabbits, like any other pets, need to be spayed or neutered.  (However, most animal shelters spay or neuter rabbits as part of the adoption fee.)  Rabbits teeth are constantly growing, so they need things to gnaw on, and occasionally require special dental treatment for malocclusion (buck teeth).  All this costs money.

One big misconception is that rabbits don’t live very long.  The truth is, rabbits can live anywhere from 8 to 10 years.  Some live even longer.  So if you get a bunny now, you can expect many more years with your furry friend.

Another important step is to get everyone in the home allergy tested, before bringing any animal into the home.  You don’t want to make the mistake of getting a rabbit, only to find yourself allergic.

Are rabbits good pets for kids?  It depends on the age of the kid, and on the size of the rabbit. Very small rabbits could accidentally get injured by children. Always supervise children around rabbits.  Rabbits also need to be socialized, so that they learn that humans are not predators that need fending off with teeth and big feet.

You should also consider what other pets you have in the house, before deciding on a rabbit.

Pets are not disposable.  They are not playthings, novelties, or holiday decorations, but living creatures with feelings.

If you believe a rabbit is right for you, get one from a shelter or rescue group, as opposed to a pet store.  Try fostering one first. Then, if you decide a bunny is the right pet, you can adopt one.  At the very least, you will have helped an animal find a permanent, loving home.  You can find local shelters and adoption agencies through www.petfinder.com, or in the phone book.  (You can find your local municipally run shelter in the blue pages.)  You can also foster or adopt rabbits through an organization called Rabbit Rescue Inc. (www.rabbitrescue.org).

What if you get a rabbit, only to find yourself in a situation where you can no longer keep it?  Remember, when you adopted a rabbit, you made a commitment to bring someone into your family.  There are far too many animals in shelters, and you don’t want to add to the number of homeless pets.  If you really can’t keep your bunny, then contact your veterinarian.  He or she may help you find a home for your bunny, or direct you to an adoption organization.  Never abandon a rabbit, or release it outside, where it could starve or get eaten by other animals.

I hope that this Easter is a happy one for both bunnies and people.  Happy Easter to all my readers!

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Earth Day Films

Two weeks ago, I commented on the film Born to be Wild.  Today, I would like to recommend two more films that are appropriate for Earth Day.

Today, the film African Cats opened.  Produced by Disney•Nature, this documentary follows the families of two cat species, lions and cheetahs.  The mother cats put their own lives at risk, from predators and rival adolecent males to protect what is most important to them, their cubs.  Beautifully shot, African Cats depicts the unconditional love and self sacrifice that was previously only attributed to humans.

Another film I saw recently was Rio.  This animated musical adventure depicts the beauty of the Brazilian rainforest and its avain residents.  Rio depicts, in a child friendly way, the issue of smuggling birds into the exotic pet trade.  Rio is a fun movie that opens important discussions about keeping wildlife wild.

Both these films encourage people of all ages to preserve the natural world.  Check them out in local theatres.

My Thoughts on the New Documentary ‘Born to be Wild’

There is a really nice documentary opening today called Born To Be Wild.  Created by veteran filmmaker and zoologist David Lickley, Born To Be Wild follows two wildlife rehabilitators on two separate continents as they care for wild orphans.

 

One of the rehabilitators is Daphne M. Sheldrick, who founded The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust fifty years ago.  The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust was founded after Daphne’s husband, a park ranger in Kenya, brought back baby elephants who had been orphaned by poachers.  Through trial and error, Daphne learned the best way to care for the elephant calves.  The Sheldrick Trust now has dozens of volunteers who care for baby elephants 24/7.  The volunteers sleep in bunks in the elephant’s stalls, play with them, and even put sunscreen on their ears (since they have no adult elephants to give them shade).  The documentary shows us one baby elephant whose mother has just been killed by ivory poachers.  The little elephant is now lost in a herd of bull elephants who have no idea how to care for a baby.  So the volunteers chase the bulls off in their car, until a ranger plane can bring the baby to the orphanage.

 

When the elephants get old enough, they are moved to a “halfway home,” a fenced off area of savannah where the baby elephants can get a glimpse of their new home.  The release of the elephants is really heartwarming as a group of adult elephants joyfully greet them.

 

The other rehabilitator is Canadian primatologist Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas.  Here, on the island of Borneo Dr. Biruté and her team of volunteers have been rescuing orphan orangutans since the 1970’s.  One of the biggest new threats to these endearing creatures is habitat loss due to the palm oil trade.  When the trees get cut, the orangutans have nowhere to hide, which put the animals at risk from poachers who kill the mothers and steal the babies to sell as pets.  Dr. Biruté and her team find these orphans, rescue them, and raise them much as they would a human baby.  They wash them, play with them, feed them, and carry them constantly in their first year, just like their own mother would do.  We see one rescue take place, in which a mischievous baby orangutan is being kept as a “pet” in someone’s home.  The baby is brought to the orphanage to learn how to live as a wild animal.  The baby orangutans are first taught how to climb on a jungle gym before learning how to climb trees.  While they are raised by female volunteers in their first few years of life, male volunteers take over once the orangutans are old enough to climb big trees.  The male volunteers climb up the trees using both hands and feet much the way an orangutan would.  When they are old enough, the orangutans are released into a protected area.

 

What struck me about Born To Be Wild is the incredible work that goes into wildlife rehabilitation.  This kind of dedication is not just restricted to larger animals.  Several years ago, my family and I rescued a baby skunk.  We brought the skunk to a rehabilitator, who, along with caring for abandoned cats, took care of wild orphans as well.  I asked her how much work went into caring for orphan wildlife.  She told me that, if you want to rehabilitate wildlife, you dedicate your entire life to that job, with little time for anything else.  Because of this wildlife rehabilitation centres rely on public donations to keep doing their life saving work.  I would encourage people to donate to, or even volunteer at, their local wildlife rehabilitation centre.  The GTA has two wildlife rehab centres, The Toronto Wildlife Centre (www.torontowildlifecentre.com), and Earth Rangers (www.earthrangers.org).

 

I would also recommend people denote to the two wonderful organizations featured in Born To Be Wild.  The website for the film (which has links to the individual organizations) can be found here: www.imax.com/borntobewild/.