sugar glider

7 Reasons We Need to End the Exotic Pet Trade



Wild animals are not domesticated, yet millions end up in people’s homes around the world each year.

While some animals in pet shops are not seen as “wild” because they’re readily sold, these animals continuously suffer in captivity for our companionship. Unlike dogs and cats, animals such as snakes, lizards, sugar gliders, and chinchillas are not domesticated and live in unsuitable captive environments.

Here are a few reasons to end the exotic pet trade.

African Gray Parrots are often poached from the wild.

African Gray Parrots are some of the world’s most trafficked animals. A 2019 World Animal Protection report found that wild African grey parrot populations have declined by as much as 99% in some areas. Poachers use cruel tactics including brutally chopping off flight feathers and cramming the animals into tight boxes to trap other parrots.

The exotic pet trade is both legal and illegal.

There are both legal and illegal aspects of the exotic pet trade. Some animals are intensely bred for legal sale in pet shops. Others are poached from the wild and smuggled into the United States. But legality doesn’t matter; whether an animal is poached from the wild or born in captivity, legal to own or illegal - it’s all cruel.

Some wild animals sold as pets carry diseases.

Reptiles shed the Salmonella bacteria from their intestinal tract and carry it on their skin or shells. Harmless to reptiles, Salmonella bacteria infections in humans can cause stomach cramps, fever, and diarrhea, or infections in the blood, urine, bones, and joints. Many people are treated without hospitalization, while others require it. Salmonella infections can even lead to death, especially in small children and the elderly.

Turtles, snakes, geckos, bearded dragons, lizards, and other reptiles are wild animals who carry diseases, bacteria, and infections. Salmonellosis is just one of many zoonotic diseases, diseases that can jump from an animal to a human. These diseases place public health at risk.

Otters are taken from the wild as cubs after their parents are killed.

As the craze for keeping otters as pets or in cafes rises thanks to social media, so does the number of animals being poached from the wild. World Animal Protection’s investigative team was told that hunters will use dogs to smell out otter dens (known as holts). The fiercely protective parents are shot, electrocuted, or have their nests smoked out, so poachers can take their cubs.

Wild animals cannot have their basic needs met in captivity.

It is impossible to meet all the needs for a wild animal if that animal is not in the wild. In a home or an enclosure, there is no way to replicate the space and freedom these animals enjoy in the wild.

Many are kept in spaces drastically smaller than their natural habitats. This means they can’t perform normal behaviors. Often, the animals do not receive the correct nutrition, even if owners try their best to feed them properly.

African Gray Parrots often fly for miles every day, but are locked in small cages their entire lives. Reptiles are forced to live in small glass tanks and often do not get the proper nutrition required. Some wild animals sold in pet stores are nocturnal, with unknowing consumers purchasing an animal and disrupting sleep patterns. Big cats and primates are commonly left to suffer in backyard cages when they are too big and deemed dangerous. At least 75% of pet snakes, lizards, tortoises, and turtles die within one year of becoming a pet.

Social media is fueling the exotic pet trade.

Parrots, turtles, lizards, snakes, fish, primates, big cats, and otters have all been subjected to the abuses of the exotic pet industry and social media depicts a false narrative of the ease of keeping them as pets rather than a realistic view. It can also connect buyers and sellers almost instantaneously.

Social media has helped popularize the keeping of wild animals as pets. Animals like otters may look cute and cuddly when they are with their families, but they are not cats or dogs. They do not belong in human homes far away from their native habitats.

Sugar glider sales are rising in the US.

Even if wild animals are captive-bred, it does not mean that they become domesticated. Sugar gliders, for example, are bred in facilities similar to puppy-mills for the international exotic pet trade and their needs can never be fully met in captivity.

In the wild, these animals live in large family groups and enjoy interacting and grooming with each other. These tree-dwelling marsupials are known to glide from tree to tree and have sharp claws, which can be uncomfortable or painful when interacting with humans. Sugar gliders are also nocturnal with daylight and loud noises in homes disrupting their sleeping patterns. And of course, being awakened at three am by a noisy Suger glider exercising his natural nocturnal habits does not make for a good pet experience for the household.

Sales of sugar gliders are unfortunately rising in the United States, with few states imposing bans or regulations on them.

Many exotic pet owners are unaware of the daily suffering their animals endure.

We know people often purchase exotic pets because they’re animal lovers. Animals bring joy to our lives, so it’s understandable that we’d want them to be part of our homes. We encourage everyone to appreciate and respect wild animals by keeping them where they belong – in the wild. We should only share our homes with domesticated animals who’ve evolved over thousands of years to be our companions, and whose needs can be completely met as pets.

Exotic pets are often dangerous animals.

October 2011, Zanesville, Ohio. Terry Thompson released 49 wild animals in captivity on his property before taking his own life. The local sheriff’s department was not prepared or trained to capture the animals, so the 18 Bengal tigers, 17 lions, six black bears, two grizzlies, three mountain lions, two wolves, and one baboon were killed.

Across the United States, individuals just like Thompson continue to breed and keep big cats like lions and tigers. Many of these majestic animals are drugged and used as selfie props. When they are too big and too strong, they are sold into the exotic pet industry. They often languish in basements and backyard cages, too big for households, and too dangerous to be in contact with humans and family pets.

How can we protect wild animals?

Educating family and friends on why keeping wild animals as pets is cruel and pledging to never buy a wild animal is one of the best things you can do to help end the exotic pet trade. Additionally, you can take a stand on social media posts where people are interacting with wild animals or keep wild animals as pets!

When legislation, such as the Big Cat Public Safety Act, is introduced, you can take political action and submit comments to your representatives urging them to protect wild animals and keep them in the wild.

Animals bring joy to our lives, so it’s understandable that we’d want them to be part of our homes. We encourage everyone to appreciate and respect wild animals by keeping them where they belong – in the wild.