A pet African Grey Parrot

Wildlife. Not pets.


Millions of animals are suffering in captivity in homes across the UK. Royal pythons, bearded dragons, tree frogs, African grey parrots, sugar gliders and even meerkats. 

Right now, a huge variety of wild species are sold into a lifetime of misery as ‘pets’. But whether they’re caught in their natural habitat or bred in captivity, these species have complex needs that simply can’t be met in people’s homes. 

Each animal is a living, thinking, feeling being. When they’re not free to eat, move, behave and socialise as they would in the wild, they suffer.  

Wild animals aren’t ours to use for companionship, enjoyment or entertainment. Yet the trade in wild species as pets is thriving. They can be bought in high street pet shops or via online ads, social media and even dedicated wildlife markets.  

This just isn’t right. We’re determined to show people that wild species aren’t pets and to stop them being sold as products for profit. 

Wild species’ complex needs

Caught in the wild or captive bred, wild species in captivity have the same social, physical and behavioural needs as animals in their natural habitat. Caring for them is about much more than just keeping them clean, fed and safe. 

In the wild, many animals roam and explore for miles. They run, jump, climb or fly freely. They hunt or forage for food, eating a hugely varied diet. They can have complex social relationships and strong family ties, living together in diverse, stimulating environments.

It’s simply impossible to recreate this wild environment in someone’s home. The reality is that very few people have the knowledge, skills or resources needed to give wild animals a good life in captivity. 

For wild species kept as pets, even the best care is no match for life in their natural habitat.

The stress of life in captivity

Wild species kept as pets can suffer serious health or behavioural problems. Even more, many wild species don’t like to be touched or held. Some are very sensitive to light, temperature, humidity or noise, and need very specific conditions to stay healthy. 

When animals are unable to express their natural instincts or behaviours, they can become stressed and frustrated. Being trapped in the same environment can lead to boredom and psychological distress. 

Often the impact of these unmet needs is hidden, but sometimes it’s obvious. Parrots shriek and pluck out their own feathers. Mammals pace up and down, or groom themselves excessively. Reptiles repeatedly bash the walls of their tanks. For animals with longer lifespans, this torment can last decades.

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Taking a closer look

The difference between an animal’s life in the wild and their day-to-day existence when kept as a pet is vast, as these examples show. 


Royal python

In the wild, royal pythons can be found in West and Central Africa. They’re seen as easy to care for, which makes them popular as pets. But the reality is, they have specific needs in terms of heat, humidity, lighting, environment and diet. Without proper care, royal pythons can experience stress, injury, malnutrition, disease and premature early death. They’re also selectively bred to create certain colours or patterns, which can cause genetic disorders. Because they can live up to 30 years, royal pythons kept as pets may be sold on or rehomed by their owners.

A sugar glider clings to a blue cage

Sugar gliders

These tiny marsupials live in Australia, New Guinea and the surrounding islands. In the wild, their home range is the size of six football pitches and they can glide up to 45 metres between trees. In captivity, sugar gliders can be kept in cages as small as two metres wide. Without mental stimulation or the chance to move freely, they can develop behavioural problems such as overgrooming, fur loss and pacing. Sugar gliders are very social animals and live in groups of up to 12, but as pets they’re often kept in isolation. Prolonged stress makes them prone to health problems, while poor diets in captivity can cause obesity and metabolic bone disease.

African grey parrot in the wild - Credit: Jurgen and Christine Sohns / Getty Images

African grey parrot

These intelligent birds may be as smart as a five-year-old child. They can live for up to 60 years, so often endure decades of suffering as pets. In the wild, African grey parrots live in family groups, nest in flocks of thousands and can travel up to 10km in a day. But when they’re kept as pets, they often live alone in unstimulating, barren environments where they can’t explore or socialise. When their complex cognitive, social and behavioural needs are not met, African grey parrots can become bored, stressed and engage in self-harming behaviour such ripping out their own feathers.

Fighting for change

Wild species don’t belong in people’s homes. The only place they can live a full life is in the wild. We’re working to show people how much these animals suffer in captivity and that they are Wildlife. Not Pets.  

Will you join us? Together, we can tackle the trade in wild species as pets by: 

  • Making it socially unacceptable to keep a wild species in your home.
  • Disrupting the lucrative trade in wild species as pets.
  • Pushing for stronger laws and better enforcement to regulate the pet trade.
Exotic pet markets Doncaster

Wildlife. Not pets.

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Learn more

Wild species kept as pets: what are the facts?

Wildlife. Not pets.

We answer some frequently asked questions about the wild species as pet trade. At World Animal Protection, we believe that the only place wild animals can full lives is in their natural habitat: the wild.

Suffering in silence

Wildlife. Not pets.

Reptiles are sentient animals that can feel pleasure, distress, excitement, fear and pain, and they suffer greatly when kept as pets. The UK’s cruel trade in reptiles as pets is an animal welfare crisis.