Globally, there are an increasing number of wild animals being kept as ‘exotic pets’. Animals such as reptiles, amphibians, mammals, birds and tropical fish are commonly kept and the number of privately owned big cats and primates is growing.
The demand for exotic pets fuels both the legal and illegal wildlife trade. Wild animals are widely available from pet shops, trade fairs/markets and breeders, and can be seen advertised for sale in newspapers and on the internet. Whilst many animals are captive-bred to supply the demand, some animals are wild-caught and others are sourced from zoos and circuses as a result of uncontrolled breeding.
The wild pet trade causes suffering to millions of animals, disrupts ecosystems and may even be driving species to extinction. The capture of animals from the wild is regularly cited as a major cause of species decline and is a significant factor driving biodiversity loss. Exotic pets that escape or are deliberately released by their owners also pose a threat to native species, habitats, and the public.
Many wild caught animals die from the stress and disease associated with capture. For every wild animal captured and sold as a wild pet, many more may be killed or die during transit. Those that survive often suffer neglect or are abandoned when their owners find that they lack the necessary expertise to care for them or when the novelty has worn off.
Apart from the obvious safety risks of keeping large animals, such as tigers, as pets, many exotic pets also carry diseases that are transmissible to humans (zoonoses) that may be potentially lethal. Pet retailers often fail in their responsibility to inform their customers of the health risks associated with keeping and handling such animals.
Born Free opposes the keeping of wild or exotic animals as pets, challenges the exotic pet industry and trade, and campaigns for national and international legislation to reduce and where possible end this practice.