Exotic pets

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 January, 2008, 12:00am

Paper 1a

Decide which pet each summary is about and then fill in the blanks below. Use only one word for each blank. The word may or may not be in the passage.

It is quite difficult to see what pleasure anyone could get out of keeping a king scorpion as a pet, but it seems they are quite popular in the world of strange pets. They are large as scorpions go (about six inches long) and black. They do not like being handled. If you need to move them, you must use tweezers or forceps to gently lift them by the stinging end. These are not the most dangerous of the family and a sting is said to be not much more painful than a bee sting. They are nocturnal (a black pet that only emerges in the dark ...). They need a fish tank with a warm, humid atmosphere, a layer of soil to dig in and some rocks scattered around to hide in. You have to feed them about six large insects a week.

The North American skunk is a handsome furry creature said to be loyal, friendly and fun to be with. They can be house-trained with a great deal of patience. Skunks get lost very easily so you need to keep a close eye on them. You can take them for walks on a leash (though people might stare at you). Skunks like to dig so they will destroy your home if you are not supervising them. And, although I have left the obvious fact until last, they do, if upset, spray a disgusting smelling liquid all around (some have their stink gland removed, but others say it is cruel).

Although some of us spend a lot of time avoiding cockroaches, it seems they can be lovely pets. And if you are going to have a cockroach, why not have one that can make a noise, too? The Madagascar Hissing Cockroach grows up to three inches long, lives about three years and enjoys eating vegetables, particularly carrots. They will happily live in a fish tank with some wood shavings scattered around and a few nice hiding places to lie low in. A bit of cotton wool dipped in water should supply their liquid needs. They thrive in a warm environment.

There is a remarkable monk, Pra Acharn Chan, in Thailand who keeps about 18 tigers as pets. His motivation is concern for their welfare. Villagers take wounded or sick animals they find to his temple and he cares for them. He hates to see them locked up all day, so the tigers are given a great deal of freedom to wander around. Hard as it is to believe, the tigers seem to understand they are among friends and, being well-fed, do not hurt any of the people or other animals there. The monk believes in the power of love, but not everyone would feel comfortable with tigers strolling by.

Tarantulas are large, hairy spiders which would make most of us scream, but they appeal to some pet-owners. There are many species to choose from. You may need a big home for ones which live in trees and need branches to hang their webs from. Many species dig holes so there needs to be a reasonably deep layer of some suitable material. If you handle tarantulas it can damage them and will certainly leave your skin feeling itchy. If a tarantula bites you, in most cases it will be unpleasant but not dangerous. Females - rather than males - are recommended because they live much longer (a surprising 20 years) and settle down to caged life much better. They are not social creatures and need to be kept alone. They need a few insects or worms a week.

Pigs are becoming popular as pets. The species chosen by many pig-fanciers is the pot-bellied pig, an intelligent animal which is quite willing to be trained in various ways. Despite their reputation for dirtiness, they are naturally clean, but their reputation for greed is justified. Your pig will soon learn how to open food cupboards and refrigerators and eat everything. Your cute little piglet can soon become a very large animal that you might not want on your lap. Pigs are also fairly aggressive and may try to challenge their owner unless there is firm discipline. As I would hate to be ordered about by my pig, I think I will give this pet a miss - like all the others mentioned above, which probably aren't even legal in Hong Kong!

1. This pet is the smallest mentioned. It makes a noise a bit like a _____________________. Its favourite food is _____________________. It does not live very _____________________ and needs a _____________________ environment.

2. There are many different species of _____________________, some of which _____________________ in the trees while some prefer to be _____________________. _____________________ them is not a good idea. Avoid buying a ________ one as they do not like living in cages and do not live as _____________________ as _____________________.

3. It may be hard to see this pet as it is _____________________ and comes out only at night. The _____________________is not very ______________________ but still should be handled with great care. Their diet consists of _____________________.

4. _____________________ are fun as pets. They are clean but ___________, so you must be very careful where you store your food. You also need to teach them who is _____________________as they can be aggressive. Remember when you buy a cute baby pet that they ________ very fast and can become enormous!

5. The bad thing about _____________________ is that they sometimes give off a bad _____________________. They may also do a lot of damage with their_____________________. But they are also very cute and will show you a lot of loyalty and _____________________.

6. If you like _____________________, you had better go to _____________________ where there is a temple with the animals wandering _____________________. Strangely they do not harm anyone, perhaps because everyone is so nice to them and they have ____________________ to eat.


1. snake; carrots; long; warm

2. tarantula(s); live; underground; handling; male; long; females

3. black/dark/; king scorpion; poisonous/dangerous/venomous; insects

4. Pigs; greedy; boss/master; grow

5. skunks; smell/odour; digging; friendship

6. tigers; Thailand; around; plenty/lots/enough