More Awareness and Information for Potential Exotic Pet Owners
EcoHealth Alliance recently issued a press release addressing the problems caused by keeping exotic animals as pets and calling for more education of the public and better awareness.
One of the EcoHealth Alliance's main concerns is the spread of diseases, which has increased enormously over the last few decades.
Although the pet trade is not the only factor in this, it is certainly contributing to the problem. Rabies is one of the most well-known examples, but more recent examples of this are the emergence of the deadly Nipah virus, the West Nile virus, the Avian influenza virus and Swine influenza.
Another problem is the accidental or deliberate release of pets into the wild, which can sometimes lead to ecological disaster if they do manage to adapt to the local conditions. Some recent examples of this are the disastrous invasion of lionfish in the Caribbean, the boa constrictor problem on Aruba, and the iguana and Burmese python problems in Florida.
The number of abandoned and released pets is increasing rapidly all over the world as exotic pets have become more popular, among others by popular movies such as Finding Nemo, and the Princess and the Frog. Not surprisingly, sales of a particular animal increase enormously when they are featured in a popular movie. When pet owners find out it is much more difficult to take care of them than they thought, or the animal grows too large, or shows aggressive or destructive behavior (often caused by being kept in confinement) they simply turn them out with no regard for the consequences for the animal itself, other people and pets, and nature.
The illegal trade in wildlife could cause many already endangered species to become extinct. They are often sold as being bred in captivity whereas they are actually captured in the wild. For every animal that arrives in the pet shop, at least one other has died. Transportation can be fatal to as many as 70% of the animals. Better awareness and information could help potential pet owners to make a more responsible choice, preferably not to buy an exotic pet.
Dr. William Karesh, International Wildlife Veterinarian and Vice President of Health and Policy at EcoHealth Alliance, said during the recently held OIE Global Conference on Wildlife that the illegal trade in wildlife is the second largest threat to wildlife, after loss of habitat.