What is the Exotic Pet Trade?
The exotic pet trade involves the selling and ownership of wild animals across the globe. This can be done legally (if you have a license), however, most times animals are captured from the wild illegally to give profit to the ongoing business. Exotic pets can range from wild cats to reptiles and monkeys, but as much as it may seem exciting to own animals you find at the zoo, it can be incredibly harmful to the animal and humans.
In recent years, this trade has become increasingly popular in the UK, with over 13.000 exotic species being kept as pets. Some argue that the use of social media, like YouTube, encourages poaching to take place as owners of these ‘pets’ are able to showcase them and promote buying these species. This type of content can mislead viewers into believing that these pets are a worthy investment, when in reality they are unaware of the potential risks involved.
What are the risks of owning an exotic pet?
Owning an exotic pet isn’t as simple as some may think. We are used to the needs of average domestic pets like cats and dogs, but a lot of the exotic species require specialist care. For example, lions need to have a large, caged area for them to live comfortably and be able to exercise their innate behaviours. This can lead to animals being abandoned as owners may find it too difficult to adequately care for them.
The unpredictability of certain species also adds danger to the ownership of these animals as they can easily inflict harm on their owners or other animals. A late study found that between the years of 2009 and 2020 there has been a rise in the number of snakebites in the UK with 321 snake bites registered by the National Poisons Information Service (NPIS).
"A total of 72 patients were teenagers or children and 13 were under five years old."
Additionally, exotic pets can carry deadly diseases which can threaten public health and animal welfare. Global biodiversity is also jeopardized as animals are being taken away from their natural habitat and in some cases being put back into the wild, which would be an unfamiliar environment to them. Therefore, causing potential psychological and physical trauma to the animal and to other animals surrounding it.
What is being done to help animals in captivity?
Charities like BornFree and the RSPCA are calling for the UK Government to review their laws and legislation on exotic pets. BornFree has even encouraged people to write to their MP by supplying a template letter on their website. Similarly, Freedomforanimals is also helping to tackle this business through joining forces with other animal welfare groups in order to get the UK Government to ban primate pet trade. They are also raising awareness of exotic pet trade on their website, social media platforms and the press. They also have resources available to educate the public on the cruelty of this industry.