Whether it is my animal zodiac sign of Tiger that is believed to be highly incompatible with anyone with that of monkey, let me just clarify that monkeys are my least favorite animals. However, that doesn’t mean that I should not feel strongly about the article from a recent issue of BBC Wildlife about the U.K.’s primate trade accompanied by the title photo of the baby marmoset named TikTok. Call it milk of human kindness. I cannot just leave the pages closed and forget about it as a piece of memory. The images and words still haunt me, which prompts an enduring reckoning, resulting in writing this essay.
The primate trade in the U.K. and here in the States evokes the human history of slavery. Under slavery, human lives were counted as chattel, and the families were continuously disintegrated because of volatile trade-offs. On the same token, keeping primates as pets seems no less different from colonialists or slave owners whose eyes were set upon the exotic physical attributes of the people they subordinated.
The article has also taken me to my brief research into the U.S. primate trade with the following facts: in 2012, 19 states, including California, where I live, had outright bans on private monkey ownership. The primates are considered a threat to wildlife and public safety and health because their habitats and nature are not agreeable to our environment despite our conventional knowledge of primates as the closest to our species lost in the evolution tree. Come to think of it, the idea of “Planet of Apes” has a point in reversing the directions of gaze from humans to apes, and vice versa, showing us why the two species could not cohabitate by confining them in the opposite environments.
We should not think of animals as live toys or ornaments that will satisfy our whimsical, capricious tastes. From pets to wildlife, animals are not our property but companions. I know it for sure when I feel a little heart of my cat Toro sleeping at my feet.
“So you have now the earth, the water, and the sky in your room! Awesome!” That was my brother when I told him over the phone about my recent adoption of a parakeet from a Petco. The paroxysm of excitement catapulted me into the awareness of a reality that I did bring a bird—those small but sharp beaks and those wrinkled tarsi feet manifesting the atavistic characteristics of dinosaurs, particularly the T-Rex. The truth that I now have to cohabitate with the least-likely coveted descendent of T-Rex still swivels my head in wonderment as if the ghost of Alice in Wonderland possessed me. So why the bird then?
While there might be the remotest chance of using my parakeet as a divine medium to consult my future, I have recently brought Sera home with great expectation of making a friend with the lonely Toro. Toro is now one year and four months old, and his growing curiosity calls attention for a playmate to share his enthusiasm and vociferous nocturnal stamina. Of course, the kinship of feline presence is the best option to fulfill the requirement. Still, the existential circumstances of present life eliminate it. Hence the lot fell into a blue parakeet I named Sera after the talking bird Serah, a travel companion of Sinbad the Sailor, from my favorite childhood cartoon. As you can guess, Sera is a girl who spends most of her time in front of the mirror and then trills in high soprano like a pretty and prim starlet prima donna.
My endless attempts to tame Sera to sit on my finger and her constant ignorance of my presence are both disheartening and ireful. Toro is a susceptible and timid cat who denied looking at dead fish by turning away his head from the sight. Even though Toro wishes no harm on his new friend Sera, who fastidiously avoids him with all her feathers and beaks, she defends herself from him with all her might. Toro looks at me with his large sad eyes full of liquid heartaches whenever the conflict occurs, and I comfort him in my arms. Sera then flaps her tiny pretty wings, returns to her castle, and ensconces herself on a twiggy perch with a loud and snappy chirping as a sign of victory over the feline Goliath.
I still don’t know if my decision to extra-species friendship is counterproductive amid Sera’s callous attitude toward Toro and me despite our apologies and continuous endeavor to reconcile with her. Perhaps I should not have taken Sera yet from the cage while she might have been still not familiarized with her new home. Still, there’s hope in my Pandora’s Box weaved in a rope of sparkling diamonds that promises a dazzling delight of trust and love filling the loneliness of the little hearts in our room. Who knows, one day Sera suddenly talks both Korean and English and tells me my todays and tomorrows? You never know.
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