No One Needs A Tiger. So Why Do So Many People Own One?

What Is The Exotic Pet Trade?

The exotic pet trade is estimated to be a multi-billion-dollar industry, eclipsed only by black-market sales, and the trafficking of drugs, firearms, and humans. Monkeys, zebras, lions, tigers, chimpanzees, bears, and giraffes are all common victims of the exotic pet trade.

Animals who are in the exotic pet trade have a variety of origins. Some are the product of careless backyard breeders and are born into captivity, some are stolen from their natural habitat and sold at auctions or pet shops, and some are leftover “products” from zoos. Animals are sold alive or for their parts. They are easily purchased through illicit online sales or auctions. Wild animals as pets threatens public health, public safety, and is a threat to animal welfare. This damaging industry is growing right in our backyards…

Anna Panakova/ Via Flickr

These exotic “pets” are purchased as infants, when they are small and cute, and are often abandoned as they grow large and unmanageable. Wild animal sanctuaries cannot accommodate the large numbers of unwanted pets, and are often overwhelmed. Because of limited sanctuaries and a large number of under-qualified and irresponsible owners, many of these wild animals are euthanized or abandoned.

Budi is a beautiful young orangutan that is sadly suffering because of the exotic pet trade. After spending most of his life trapped in a small cage, Budi is under developed and cannot even sit up on his own due to damaged joints, muscles and severe malnutrition. Luckily, he found a safe haven with International Animal Rescue, and is on his way to recovery.

Shockingly, there are no federal laws that regulate the possession of exotic animals as pets. This leaves the decision in the individual state’s power, and exotic pet regulations vary from state to state. Some states have a complete and total ban on exotic pets, other states simply require permits for their possession, and then there are some states that have no regulations at all, which means that a person can keep an elephant, hippo, or tiger in their backyard without so much as a permit.

Does your state ban the possession of exotic pets?

Humane Society
Via Humane Society

Keeping wild animals in captivity is cruel. It deprives the animals of their ability to engage in behaviors that are instinctual and natural to them. They require special care, housing, diet, and maintenance that an average person just cannot provide regularly, and the animal is the one that suffers. The conditions that wild animals are kept in raise serious animal welfare concerns, as they are often being stored in tiny backyard kennels, or abandoned, or killed.

Exotic pets that have been let loose or escaped from their enclosures are a threat to public safety. Often, the ownership of exotic pets ends poorly, with injury to humans, deaths, and lawsuits. Wild animals are – at their core – wild and unpredictable, and were never meant to be kept in domestic environments. Keeping them in these conditions is basically asking for a tragedy to occur.

Matt Reinbold/ Via Flickr

Many exotic pets carry diseases that they can pass onto humans if they come into contact with them. Herpes B, monkeypox, and salmonellosis are all examples of diseases that have been spread from wild animal to human, often with deadly results. In fact, 80 to 90 percent of all macaque monkeys are infected with herpes B virus, which can easily be spread to humans through contact.

Removing wild animals from their natural habitats also negatively affects the delicate ecosystems in which they live. These ecosystems, like the rainforest, rely on these species to keep animal population under control and to further the life cycle of plants.

Anna Panakova/ Via Flickr
Anna Panakova/ Via Flickr

Realizing the severity of this issue, the US government is attempting to crack down on the exotic pet trade with arrests, investigations, and research on the topic. Bringing a multi-million-dollar industry to a halt is no easy task, however, and we need your help. Take the pledge to keep exotic animals in their natural habitats, and teach the public that wild animals belong in the wild, not in our homes!

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