The recent “Exotic 101” event showcased different animals and plants in its thrust to introduce the exotic keeping hobby to participants, and to create awareness regarding responsible and legal pet keeping. Held at the Z Square Mall in Quezon City, Exotic 101 was aimed at addressing how the hobby of caring for exotic plants and animals in Manila has long been an
underground and disorganized sub-culture, with most hobbyists having at least one story about being conned by scammers, or about infighting among hobbyists. There is also apprehension about not knowing where to get information regarding exotic pet and plant keeping―and more importantly, a lack of awareness regarding Republic Act No. 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act (WRCPA) despite the burgeoning interest in exotic creatures. Thus the flora and fauna selected for the exhibit were carefully chosen to help educate all guests on responsible pet keeping. Participants paid a minimal fee to enter the exhibit area and interact with creatures they were very much unlikely to find in zoos, but were curious about: tarantulas, scorpions, a very colorful centipede, nonvenomous snakes, a ball python (and an albino Burmese python), Pacman frogs, leopard geckos in a plethora of morphs with contrasting color combinations, friendly bearded dragons, a green iguana, and tame sugar gliders. There were also colorful birds, including parakeets, African lovebirds, cockatiels; an assortment of rodents like hamsters and a tame large rat. Other visitors were drawn to the uncommon display of carnivorous plants like sundews, Venus flytraps, trumpet plants, and some impressively sized pitcher plants. Guests got to take their photos with the animals and plants they were most interested in. Though the organizers, Keepers of Extreme Exotics Philippines or KEEP, expected attendees to be teens and young adults, families also flocked to see the creatures and plants on display. With the goal of education through awareness, KEEP has a lineup of future exhibits through which they intend to showcase more species and work with more collaborators to educate the public and to dissipate fear and misconceptions about the unfamiliar and to protect and conserve the plants and animals that KEEP and its partners are passionate about. KEEP secured DENR papers for all exhibit subjects, including local transport permits and certificates of wildlife registration in keeping with their advocacy for the legal ownership of such creatures to discourage poaching, endangerment of wild specimens, and irresponsible keeping. Why go to such lengths? Ryan Uy, co-founder of KEEP, says, “KEEP (aims) to build a community of responsible hobbyists. This means making people aware of WRCPA and the procedure for registering their exotic pets with the DENR. Part and parcel of this advocacy is letting people know what pets are legal to keep and how to get them. This will protect hobbyists from unscrupulous individuals, most of whom take advantage of over-eager newbies by selling mislabeled, sick, or poached wildlife.” Those interested in exotic pets, or who would like to learn more about responsible, legal exotic pet keeping can go to KEEP’S Facebook fan page, https://www.facebook. com/keepatid.