London's Richmond Park has become a dumping ground for exotic pets, and we don't mean deer.
The Daily Mail shared that the park has now become the new, but sometimes temporary home for pets like snapping turtles, tarantulas, chinchillas, and gerbils. Many of these animals are at risk of starving or becoming dinner for wild animals.
Richmond Park has ponds which often become the new home for aquariums full of fish and reptiles which threaten the ecosystem. Rangers have looked after the park's herd of red and fallow deer since 1637, but now they have to look for members of the public dumping pets which threaten the animals, plants, and visitors to the park.
Adam Curtis, the assistant park manager at Richmond Park, explains that while they have discovered odd pets now and then, the people dumping their fish and other aquarium contents is a bigger concern.
"There is a problem with people emptying their aquariums in our ponds," Curtis said. "While a goldfish is likely to be a tasty meal for a local pike, there is a more serious problem here because people can introduce new invasive species such as pond weed or terrapins which can upset the delicate ecosystem of our ponds and rivers."Rangers recall finding an abandoned goat once in the park, which was later used as evidence to prosecute the former owner for animal cruelty. Former royal parks gamekeeper John Bartram, in his memoirs, kept a tally of some of the stranger finds, including two chinchillas, a six-foot American corn snake, a black gerbil, a tarantula, and the goat, which was on the verge of starvation.
Bartram explained in his memoirs that many people believe they are doing their pets a favor by setting them free in the park, but in actuality, they are condemning them to death. He laments that pets don't know where to find sources of food or water, and they have no clue what predators lurk in the city park.
Curtis warns that there are better options for re-homing a pet than turning them loose in the wild or even in a monitored park.
"You should never release an animal into the wild. Domestic pets are unlikely to survive the winter. If someone has a pet they can't take care off, they should contact a rescue or rehoming agency."Both rangers also stated that another warning to pet owners is to keep your dog on its leash when visiting the park, as there have been recent fatalities when dogs take off after the deer herd.