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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Rescue me

No, I'm not talking about that awesome, extremely politically incorrect, FX TV series created by, and starring, Denis Leary.

Monday, 18 June, 2007

Last week, whilst browsing through pet shops on this fair tropical island fool's paradise, I came across a rather distressing sight: a 12" x 8" ft x 8" (approx. 30 cm x 20 cm x 20 cm) tank housing 8 large freshwater lobsters (crawfish). Overstocked, with neither mechanical nor chemical filtration, the water was cloudy and smelled foul. To add to the awful (and stressful) conditions, there was no substrate on the tank bottom — only bare glass — a definite no-no for crustaceans. Two of the lobsters were especially large — easily 10 inches (25.4 cm) long; three were at least half-a-foot (15 cm) long. It is a wonder they remained alive at all.

Not exactly lobsters, but this picture gives you an idea of how terrible conditions can be at some pet stores. You don't need a degree in biology to figure that the ammonia and nitrite levels in this tank must be at deadly levels.

One of the larger lobsters is an especially gorgeous specimen: an electric-blue body, with the outer curvature of its pincers highlighted with a stripe of fire-engine-red. Even in its appalling surroundings, it looked majestic.

I have been ruminating over the prospect of purchasing this critter. Due to space and maintenance constraints, I cannot offer it a tank larger than Pinchy's 6-gallon tank (i.e. 40 cm x 25 cm x 25 cm) — hardly adequate space for a 25.4 cm lobster that might still molt and grow bigger. I also have no experience handling a full-grown lobster: water changes and gravel vacuuming, for example, would be significantly more complicated with the presence of a pair of powerful pincers.

At the same time, what little I can offer is not exactly insignificant for the poor creature: it would leave 7 battling tankmates behind; be the master of its own tank; have a good diet; live in filtered water; enjoy regular water changes, with clean gravel substrate to walk and burrow in; even a cave to hide in and call home.

Of course, I am not deceiving myself here, even if I rescue this critter*, I leave the other 7 to suffer in abject conditions; and the only reason why I am even considering acquiring this lobster is because its shape and form pleases my eyes — I am no crusader for animal welfare.

So, while I twiddle my thumbs in an Onanist exercise of animal welfare ethics / theatrics / hysterics, the unnamed lobsters — some with feelers and antennas snapped or broken off, others with entire pincers missing — struggle to live, in a disgusting pet store shucked in a corner of a wet market in Bukit Timah.

* Yes, I do have a heart; often, I just find it more satisfying to get people's goat and piss the crap out of them.

Some people write to please, to soothe, to console. Others to provoke, to challenge, to exasperate and infuriate. I've always found the second approach the more pleasing.
         (Edward Abbey)


Tuesday, 19 June, 2007

Deciding that I just couldn't ignore the plight of the poor creatures, I felt I had to do something. Purchasing just one of them is not an answer, neither is attempting the unsustainable task of setting up eight 6-gallon tanks for them in my room. I had another idea.

The pet shop had changed the water since my last visit, but as any individual who ever owned a fish tank can attest, water in an overcrowded tank quickly fouls.

I guess it was her lucky day when I said I would take them all.

A short cab ride and a half-hour hike later: the lobsters' new* home, a 6.12 billion gallon lake, far roomier than their former 2.7 gallon tank.

Food, space, and crevices to hide in, exist in abundance, and the water always pristine.

Awaiting patiently inside the bag.

They're fast — most of them scurried into the numerous crevices before I could snap a picture.

But the large lobster, which originally caught my eye and brought about this effort, stuck around to wave goodbye (or is it "Thank you"?).

Have fun, little guys  :-D

I guess, in the grand scheme of things, what I did is pretty ineffectual: the pet shop may (and probably will) replenish its stock of lobsters by calling for another delivery tomorrow. I could have contacted the Center for Animal Welfare and Control (CAWC), of the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), or even the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). I still might. But the impetus of my actions was to do something for these lobsters. I am not out to be some animal activist or to save the world. Besides, not everything (nor everyone, for that matter) in this world is deserving of saving.

For the price of a few pizzas, I now know that 8 lobsters live free; whether lobsters can feel happiness or not is irrelevant as I feel it myself; and that, IMHO, is hell of a deal.

*It's not exactly "new" as they were captured from such bodies of water, so I am merely returning them home.


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