Exotic Pet Trade

And The Internet

April 25, 2019

“I want a pet (insert exotic animal here).” This statement commonly comes along with a video of an animal doing something cute or unusual. Even though the person sharing will probably not act on the desire to own one, there are people who will and with the internet it is very easily done. 

The term exotic can refer to a wild animal or one that is more unusual than a standard dog or cat. The Internet has given mediums the ability to communicate and create connections around the globe.  Due to the popularity of e-commerce and social media websites, unique animals have increased in demand. Millions of people visit social media every day and many posts can become viral, especially ones with tigers, primates, and other wild animals as the main characters. These websites not only give owners a platform to share and show off, but it provides an easy way to advertise the sale of live animals with little or no concern about getting in trouble. Because there is weak enforcement, the trade of these animals is not buried in the “dark web.”

A study in 2016 found over 3,706 exotic animals listed for sale online in a span of three months. The animal species listed consisted of primates, exotic cats, canids, snakes, and many others. Some of the exotic animals sold as pets are bred in captivity but there are countless taken from the wild.  Once the animals are captured they may be used in breeding operations, sold locally, smuggle out of the country, or intentionally mislabeled as captive bred and exported legally. Some of the trade is legal, but many of the animals are captured illegally to supply the demand for exotic pets. Exotic pet breeders will produce babies for profit as juvenile animals are the most popular. The sale of live animals adds to a major part of the illegal wildlife trade, a multibillion-dollar black market. This trade is the 4th largest illegal trade globally worth around $20 billion USD annually. 

Exotic pets often suffer abuse and neglect including removal from mother at a young age, inadequate food, housing, and socialization, as well as other forms of neglect. The exotic pet trade is causing wild animal populations to decline at a devastating rate. The next time you see a video of a wild animal as a pet, think twice before clicking share to help protect and save wildlife.  

Written By Education Intern Abby Hickam