Many wild animals are beautiful and surprisingly intelligent - qualities that can make them attractive pets to animal lovers. However, they have complex needs and behaviours that can only be met in their natural habitat, and most owners aren't aware of the suffering they experience.
Read on to find out why you shouldn't buy an exotic pet.
Reason #1: They are wild animals
Pets like cats and dogs have been domesticated over thousands of years, which means they have been selectively bred for specific traits that mean they can live with humans in captivity without fear or suffering. Wild animals just aren’t born to live in our homes. Even those bred in captivity still possess the same qualities of a wild animal which make them unsuitable to be kept in a domestic environment.
Image: Asian Otters, an increasingly popular exotic pet in Japan and Thailand. Photo credit: Fernando Machado.
Reason #2: They suffer in captivity
Captivity limits the natural behaviour of an animal and places both their mental and physical wellbeing at risk. For example, African grey parrots can fly up to 10km a day to forage and interact with large social networks of other birds. Due to the stress caused from the lack of these conditions, parrots often rip out their own feathers – a behaviour similar to self-harming in humans.
Image: Roy, a rescue African grey parrot who was being kept as a pet
Reason #3: They suffer in the pet trade
The journey for an animal in the global exotic pet trade is cruel – and often deadly. Either poached from the wild or bred in captivity on a farm, exotic pets are often shipped huge distances before reaching their final destination and can be deprived adequate shelter, food, room to roam, and environment control to keep their body at the temperature it needs to be.
The illegal wildlife trade is the world’s 4th most lucrative crime, after the trafficking of drugs, humans and arms. Shockingly, as many as up to 66% of poached African grey parrots die before starting their life as a pet.
Image: birds confiscated from the illegal wildlife trade in Brazil. Photo credit: SOS Fauna.
Reason #4: The exotic pet trade threatens wild populations
Animals are being taken from the wild in great numbers. This is endangering the populations in their natural habitats, which together with other threats like habitat loss can threaten their survival. Recent investigations have reported over 55,000 Indian Star tortoises were removed in the space of a single year from just one of the many trade hubs in India.
Up to 21% of the wild population of grey parrots are harvested for the trade every year, with wild populations having decreased by up to 79% in almost 50 years. Since 2016, Grey Parrots have been now protected from international trade but are still threatened by the illegal wildlife trade.
Image: young Star tortoises are packaged in bags to be smuggled out of India
Reason #5: You can end up with more than you bargained for
Many owners buy an exotic pet because they want something a little more unusual than a cat or dog. But very few people who do so have a good idea what they are letting themselves in for. Keeping a wild animal as a pet can be demanding.
A grey parrot is a highly intelligent animal and requires as much attention as a human toddler. They can often live for up to 60 years and outlive their owners - as a result of this, they have to be rehomed multiple time and suffer emotional damage.
Reptiles often have highly specific dietary and environmental needs. As a result, thousands of exotic pets in the UK each year are confiscated, abandoned or handed to rescue centres.
Image: Roy the rescue African grey parrot. When kept captive, this species can have very destructive behaviours.
What can you do to stop the suffering of wild animals kept as pets?
Share awareness: if your friends or family are thinking about buying an exotic pet, please share this article with them.
Don’t share the “good sides”: a huge driver in the wildlife trade are the cute videos of exotic pets on social media – by sharing these, you are providing this cruel industry with free advertising. Call out the cruelty behind these cute videos!