Photos courtesy of NEEC

Who says Metro Manila is the epicenter of animal clubs in the country? Many other clubs are working hard to educate people across the Philippines about various kinds of pets. Take the Nueva Ecija Exotic Club or NEEC.

 

Founded in April 2011, The NEEC believes in learning, sharing, and responsible pet ownership. In pursuit of this, they work to give their members and those who inquire with them the best information they need to care for exotic pets, which are often misunderstood and/or surrounded by various misconceptions.

The group is guided by three Rs―research, responsibility, and respect―in their activities. Hence its NEEC on Wheels project, which began in 2013, tours various universities to introduce the public to different kinds of pets.

The aim of NEEC on Wheels is to educate the general public, especially the people of Nueva Ecija, on how to be responsible pet owners. Visitors to the NEEC on
Wheels booth can take pictures of themselves at the photobooth with the exotic pets on display. While most visitors are students, the club welcomes all who come to their booth.

Their most popular creatures are the albino burm, ball python, eyering, bearded dragon, green iguana, and chameleon; visitors love having their photos taken with them. Snakes are a crowd-drawer too; while the first reaction to them is usually fear, visitors quickly learn as they handle the snakes that these creatures are languid and harmless. The club uses the regular and amusing mix-up of the labels of the chameleon, bearded dragon, and iguana to help people learn more about the three species, which are often mistaken for one another.

As many tend to hate or fear what they don’t understand, while inside the booth, the club’s members take the opportunity to talk to them about exotic pets, working to “educate” and encourage people thus: “don’t hate.” The exposure to reptiles and other exotic pets, the club hopes, will teach people not to fear the creatures and to understand that these animals also deserve love and care, and that their lives are valuable too.

The uphill fight NEEC members face is how some of the animals they display were used to frighten people as children. They need to convince visitors that many of these animals, when handled properly and treated with respect, will not hurt humans in the vicious way that some people claim they will. After all, they point out, we humans are often more responsible for hurting these animals by reducing their numbers.

Currently they’ve visited schools, day care centers, and universities within Cabanatuan City, with the occasional invitation coming from other places within Nueva Ecija, such as their recent visit to the Central Luzon State University. Young minds, the club reasons, are easier to mold and their beliefs can be changed with less difficulty than with adults.

Interactions don’t stop at the NEEC on WHEELS booth; the group also has a Facebook page where they welcome inquiries about exotics, and they organize up to five events a year for exotic animal keepers to meet in Nueva Ecija. Speakers and experts on various exotics are invited to these events, which double as meeting places for exotic pet keepers.

What the club learns from these events is passed on to booth visitors and anyone else who makes inquiries with them. In addition, the NEEC donates what they earn during events to special causes such as feeding programs for children in Cabanatuan.

This story appeared in Animal Scene’s April 2015 issue.