Sunday, December 15

The ecological impact of the exotic pet trade

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Contrary to the popular misconception that rearing exotic animals in captivity or keeping wild animals as pets is the answer to protecting endangered species, the exotic pet trade creates serious ecological challenges in both source and consumer countries.
Non-native wild animals carry exotic diseases that are difficult to manage in a new environment where people and non-humans have not developed resistance to certain pathogens. Captive-bred animals can turn on their owners if they break loose. Animal control officials are authorized to kill wildlife to avoid human fatalities.
The African grey parrot is critically endangered primarily because of people’s desire to keep this intelligent, vocal mimicking bird in their homes. Mass removal from the wild, especially if the species is endemic to the region, impacts the entire ecosystem. The demand for live chimpanzees is catastrophic — to seize just one baby chimpanzee from its family, wildlife traffickers have to kill most or all the adult members trying to protect it. Great ape species like the chimpanzee are slow breeders — females can take 3-5 years between births — making the loss of adults even more detrimental to the growth of the species.
Until consumers realize the horrors of their interest in owning exotic species, the poorly regulated trade in live wild animals will continue. The journey from the cheetah’s savannah grassland in East Africa to a home in the Middle East is dangerous — up to 70 percent of the cubs die en-route to their buyers. With the sale of exotic pets moving online in the last few years, traders using social media sites and dedicated animal trade websites are scrambling to meet demand in new markets. It is a grossly inhumane activity that unchecked, will wipe out Africa’s wildlife.

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