When I read the Friday article on Twiggy the celebrity water-skiing squirrel, I didn’t find it funny. I found it to be a sad story of animal exploitation.
The original Twiggy was an orphaned squirrel taken in by a woman who is supposedly a “licensed animal rescuer.” But instead of rehabilitating and returning this animal to the life he was born to lead in the wild, the family turned the squirrel into a money-making joke, and has since subjected several other squirrels to the same fate. A truly professional and compassionate licensed wildlife rehabilitator would not use injured and orphaned animals for personal wealth and fame, but understands that rehabilitation is about preserving and honoring the wildness of creatures entrusted to their care.
Just as vexing, The Herald encouraged people to pursue an illegal activity with the “Five easy steps to train your own squirrel to water ski,” included in the article. In Washington state, it is illegal for individuals to capture and posses a wild animal (WAC 232-12-064). The newspaper’s attempt to be funny was in poor taste.
Wildlife educators have enough challenges instilling young people with a respect for wildlife, and inspiring them to take action to protect our environment. They have to wade through the endless sensational messages of greed and indifference to reach them. This side show act teaches that it’s OK to do what you want with nature as long as it’s fun and makes a profit.
Mary Leake Schilder
Public Affairs Manager
Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS)