Alarm as 2,500 private owners keep elephants, tigers and lemurs as pets

Alarm as 2,500 private owners keep elephants, tigers and lemurs as pets

Imagine living next door to a tiger, puma or ­crocodile, or a lemur, ­mountain lion, honey badger or ostrich.

Strange as it may sound, there are at least 2,500 wild animals in private collections in England, including snakes and scorpions, 300 wild cats, more than 200 primates – and even two elephants.

As exotic pet ownership soars, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) is urging people to reconsider their choices, fearing many owners buy them on a whim and then struggle to look after the animals properly.

More than eight in 10 vets raised concerns about the welfare of exotic reptiles, amphibians, birds and other animals in a BVA report, with most blaming what they called ­“irresponsible animal ownership”.

Vets said nearly 60% do not have their basic welfare needs met, while more than a quarter of those surveyed reported a rise in the number of exotic animals brought in for treatment in the past year.

Exotic pet ownership has sparked alarm among animal lovers ( Image: Getty Images/500px)
Exotic pet ownership has sparked alarm among animal lovers ( Image: Getty Images/500px)

“We understand why so many people would love to have them as pets, as they are unusual and are a bit different to owning a cat or a dog,” said Justine Shotton, a veterinary surgeon and senior vice-president at the BVA.

“But it is so important not to buy exotic species on a whim as they have very complex needs and it can be both challenging and expensive to look after themproperly.”

Many exotic pets have particular environmental, dietary and housing needs and require specialist care that may be available only in certain parts of the country.

Some animals also have specific heating, lighting or UV needs that people could struggle to pay for because of soaring energy bills.

The BVA is campaigning for stricter rules for online sales and advertising of exotic animals, while it says the importing of amphibians and reptiles caught in the wild for the pet trade should be banned. It also wants a register of ownership and for owners to pass a test to prove they can care for an exotic pet.

“We know people who keep these animals have the right intentions to give them the best care they can, but their needs can be difficult to meet, ­particularly if they are a new pet and owners are not sure exactly what they require,” Justine added.

“We want potential buyers to take the extra time to really think twice about if they can look after them properly, as well as encouraging them to do proper research to ensure they know exactly what the species needs to live a happy and healthy life.”

This article by Nada Farhoud was first published by The Mirror on 19 February 2023. Lead Image: Getty Images.

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