LET KIDS CATCH ANYTHING THEY WANT
March 6, 2011
little boy who catches a turtle in a trap have to let it go right away
or should he be able to keep it for a day? I was recently asked to comment
on a draft copy of an illustrated children's book someone has written
about turtles. In the story, a little boy's dad takes him to a coastal
marsh where they use a trap to catch crabs for dinner. They also catch
a small diamondback terrapin. The boy is allowed to take the turtle home
as a temporary pet.
as reviewer was to comment on whether the facts about terrapin ecology
were accurate, not necessarily to comment on the story itself. However,
other readers of the draft decried letting the boy keep the terrapin.
Their argument was that allowing the boy to take the animal home signaled
to readers that removing animals from the wild is acceptable. In their
opinion the terrapin should never make it off the dock because the boy
should drop it right back into the water.
that was OK for the purposes of the book. But I told the author that I
think in real life children should be able to catch any animal they want
as long as they follow the one-day rule (or 10-day rule, or five-minute
rule, or whatever time period a parent thinks appropriate for the animal
in question) before they let it go. My reasoning is that the knowledge
children gain by becoming familiar with different animals ultimately contributes
far more to conservation efforts than the hands-off approach some people
Children should not be prohibited from catching and keeping any animal
they can get their hands on. What better way to learn how an earthworm
moves than holding it in your hands and watching it, or maybe even keeping
it in a homemade terrarium? And isn't catching a tadpole and raising it
in a bowl of water the best way to know what kind of frog or toad it will
turn into? Why shouldn't a child take a caterpillar home, let it build
a cocoon or chrysalis and turn into a moth or butterfly? Children should
be taught proper husbandry for any pet but not discouraged from keeping
worry about a single specimen of a species being removed from its natural
habitat. Instead, let's celebrate the wonderment and appreciation for
nature that children get by catching an animal and keeping it for awhile.
Children who grow into adults with an appreciation for nature from firsthand
experience will likely be proponents of wildlife conservation. Conservation
is best served when we focus on the well-being of the species population
as a whole rather than an individual animal. No child is going to have
a serious impact on the status of any animal population by removing one
individual. If they do, the population was already doomed anyway.
of rules about keeping wild animals as pets, some states have laws that
would benefit from revision. At the very least the laws should not apply
to children. An example of one such ill-conceived regulation from Georgia:
a kid who enjoys nature and wants to learn about animals cannot legally
keep a flying squirrel, a garter snake, or even a green anole for a pet.
This law is not in the best interest of wildlife protection. Any of those
species can make good pets and be educational for the owner, and none
are in danger of being affected by the removal of individuals by children.
book about turtles has some good information on terrapin ecology. I do
not know what decision the author made about whether to have the child
keep the turtle or immediately let it go. But if he does keep the turtle,
the message would be equally as good, maybe better, than if he releases
it. Kids should be allowed to catch and keep (for a short while) anything
they want except a cold.
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