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Law on exotic pets 'must be changed to save species'

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 14/09/2021 Colin Fernandez For The Daily Mail
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Laws on the keeping of exotic pets need a radical overhaul to stop animals being driven towards extinction in the wild, a report warns.

The Born Free Foundation and RSPCA want the public to choose pets from a list of permitted animals, rather than dangerous or threatened species being banned on a case-by-case basis.

The report found 1.8million reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates in UK homes. On top of that, 1.3million indoor birds are kept as pets, and 100million ornamental fish. 

In 2020, 6,119 incidents involving exotic animals were reported to the RSPCA.

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Reptile species traded as pets were five times likelier to face extinction in the wild than those that were not. 

RSPCA chief Chris Sherwood said: 'There needs to be better regulation of the keeping and trade in exotic pets, and we are proposing the Government gives consideration to a ''positive list'' system.'


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The two charities warn that due to a lack of knowledge or resources, owners are often depriving their pets of at least one of their basic requirements, including space, appropriate food or warmth.

At the moment, almost anyone can buy and keep most exotic animals as a pet, they said.

As well as suffering and distress caused to the individual animal, the pet trade has caused devastation to wild animal populations.

Species can become particularly fashionable after featuring in television or films, with an upsurge in demand for terrapins seen following the release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the report found.

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Finding Nemo, which featured a clown fish, led to a spike in demand of 40 per cent, with wild populations declining up to 75 per cent in some areas, and local extinctions in parts of south and south-east Asia.

The vogue for newly discovered reptiles is so great among collectors, that some ecologists will no longer include location details in their published research in a bid to protect them.

Will Travers OBE, co-founder and executive president of the Born Free Foundation, said: 'Current legislation relating to the trade in and keeping of exotic pets is reactionary and unable to keep up with or predict where demand will be focused in the future.

'This not only places government and policy makers on the back foot, but also results in countless species being imported into the exotic pet trade before legislation can take effect, with potentially disastrous consequences for conservation and animal welfare.'

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