Why you shouldn't give exotic pets as gifts this holiday season

December 19 2018

For many of us, it’s the most wonderful time of the year…but for wild animals caught up in the exotic pet trade, this time of year could mean increased suffering, trauma and the risk of being bought and sold like a toy.

Over the holiday season, there are usually concerns about animals being bought or adopted as gifts only to be returned in the end. But what if those animals gifted as pets have been taken from the wild?

We are urging people not to give or ask for an exotic animal as a gift this holiday season. These animals include snakes such as ball pythons, sugar gliders which are from the marsupial family and exotic birds such as parrots.

An African grey parrot kept as a pet. Up to 66% of grey parrots illegally caught for the exotic pet trade die in transport. They are also highly social animals and like to nest in large groups. In the wild they would fly up to several miles a day. (Credit: CC0 Creative Commons)

Exotic wild animals are often purchased on impulse without the proper research done on caring for the animal. In Canada, public polling conducted by Strategic Communications showed that 30% of Canadians surveyed who owned an exotic pet spent only a few hours researching before buying, while 17% did no research at all.  The same poll shows that 10% of Canadians own an exotic pet. Freshwater fish are the most common exotic pet followed by exotic birds, small mammals, lizards and iguanas.

While we know most people want exotic pets because they love and appreciate animals, what many don’t know is that millions of these desired wild animals are snatched from their natural environment and even if they are bred in captivity, they suffer horribly from the exotic pet trade. It’s become a multi-billion dollar industry and is still growing.

Animals are often shipped long distances before reaching their new home. As many as four out of five animals will die in transit or within a year in captivity. If they survive, they suffer from not being able to move or behave naturally. That takes a toll on their mental and physical health. They often are also not provided proper food and shelter.

Star tortoise hatchlings are sorted and prepared to be smuggled out of India. (Indian) Star tortoises have a distinctive radiating pattern on their shells, which is one of their desirable features. World Animal Protection has been involved in a report exploring this aspect of the pet trade.

Over 500 species of reptiles and 500 species of birds are traded live across the world, presumably destined for people’s homes or private zoos. According to recent reports, social media is now recognized as the “new epicenter” for the trade in exotic pets.

When owners decide that they can no longer care for their exotic pet, responsible owners will hand them into rescue centres when they can. But the reality is many end up abandoned and back in the pet trade or released into the environment – potentially causing irreparable harm to the ecosystem.

Melissa Matlow, Senior Wildlife Campaign Manager with World Animal Protection says, “Whether they are sourced from the wild or bred in captivity, many wild animals suffer and die when cruelly transported, handled and kept as pets in inappropriate conditions that can’t meet their complex needs. Exotic pets are often an impulse buy and we know people are pressed to make quick decisions over the holidays. We urge people to take time to consider what is needed to care for these animals properly. Once they are informed, we believe they will understand why wild animals are not appropriate gifts or pets.”

Please do not give exotic wild animals as gifts this holiday season.

Visit our Wildlife. Not Pets campaign page to learn more about issues related to the exotic pet trade.

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While we know most people want exotic pets because they love and appreciate animals, what many don’t know is that millions of these desired wild animals suffer horribly from the exotic pet trade.
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