There is a myth in the exotic pet community asserting that if you hand-rear wild, exotic animals from birth, they can actually be successfully domesticated.
Unfortunately while these exotic animals might indeed lose their capacity to survive in the wild and also unable to hunt for food, it does not indicate successful “domestication” as such. Simply keeping wild animals in captivity does not indicate that the entire species as a whole has been domesticated, much less that specific animal itself. Instead, people have merely rendered them reliant on humans to live. These animals have simply been “tamed” by humans through abuse, fear or starvation, at the very same time still retaining their natural instincts to hunt, run, mate, and naturally, to be wild.
Domesticated animals are those which have come to naturally live in the human society. Through selective breeding by humans that spans over a great period of time, they have undergone the behavioural, morphological and physiological changes that, as hypothesised by Charles Darwin, would occur during domestication. Although domesticated animals may still have some remnants of their original wild instincts, the repercussions of releasing them and allowing them to run free would actually be more devastating than keeping them in captivity.
Domestication is a long procedure that can successfully materialise only after generations of selective breeding. Take household pets like dogs and cats as an example: they were domesticated over a good number of thousands of years. Trying to domesticate an exotic, wild animal would naturally take centuries to accomplish. The argument by exotic pet-owners is therefore invalid: just because they could get their exotics to behave “well” in the human environment does not mean that it constitutes to the successful act of domestication.
While it might be possible for present-day humans to speed up the domestication process for potential candidates of today, it would not work for all species. For instance, foxes are similar to dogs in terms of its diet, growth rate, social hierarchies etc., so accelerating its domestication (if any) might be probable. Other wild, exotic animals like the bears, tigers and lions, on the other hand, are nothing like the dog. When it comes to the larger exotic animals, disparities between such wild animals and domesticated cats or dogs are usually immensely wide.
Wild animals were domesticated many centuries ago out of necessity, and despite attempts by exotic pet owners and enthusiasts to prove otherwise, domesticating wild animals in this modern era by people of today is usually to serve for self-gratification.