Exotic pets - are you willing to pay the price?

In this blog, Neil D’Cruze, Technical Expert for Animals in the Wild at World Animal Protection at World Animal Protection, explains the risks and issues involved in the exotic pet trade, and discusses the results of a recent survey on consumer attitudes towards exotic pets.

The exotic pet trade is big business; it is worth in the region of $31-43 billion annually, of which up to half is illegal. In 2014 there were more than 42 million rare and unusual ‘exotic’ pets kept in UK households alone.

But, experts warn ‘exotic’ pets (including animals like snakes, parrots and tropical fish) can be a threat, not just to the welfare and survival of these animals but also to our own health.

The ‘exotic’ pet trade is cruel to animals, and a health risk to humans

The global nature of the ‘exotic’ pet industry makes it an excellent mechanism for transmitting diseases, from E. Coli to bird flu. The legal ‘exotic’ pet trade has a criminal underbelly; illegal smuggling and forged paperwork can generate huge profits for organized gangs.

The ‘exotic’ pet trade also can be cruel; causing severe suffering to wild animals during capture, transport, sale or resulting captivity. The ‘exotic’ pet trade is a conservation concern; leading to severe declines and extinctions for over-exploited wild populations

What would deter consumers from buying ‘exotic’ pets?

Researchers at the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) built a website to test if raising public awareness could influence people’s attitudes towards buying an exotic pet. The study found that information about the human health and legal consequences of a buying an ‘exotic’ pet made purchasing them far less appealing [1].

In contrast, information about animal welfare had less effect and details of conservation consequences had no impact on attitudes at all. It appears that potential ‘exotic’ pet owners may be motivated to avoid outcomes that might directly harm them, but not their pets.

The study suggests reducing demand for ‘exotics’ – and all of the negative consequences that accompany it – may indeed be possible.

Further Reading

[1] Moorhouse, T. P., Balaskas, M., D'Cruze, N., & Macdonald, D. W. (2016). Information Could Reduce Consumer Demand for Exotic Pets. Conservation Letters.

A full version of Neil's blog was originaly posted in the Huffington post in June 2016. 


* This is a personal blog. Any views or opinions represented in this blog belong solely to the blog owner and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of World Animal Protection.