Exotic pets have been a mainstay of American homes for decades now. While the dog and cat stand on the pedestal of the domestic pet kingdom without an heir apparent in site, it is not uncommon to see less traditional pets in homes across the country.
While adopting an exotic pet, be it a primate, rodent or reptile, might seem more exciting prospect or even a statement of your own personality, we always remind prospective owners to take account several considerations — the environment in which you will raise this animal, its natural habitat and its history of domestication. The reason for this is simple, many animals have been pushed to the brink of extinction due to the exotic pet trade.
Shady pet dealers around the world have made sizable fortunes in plucking animals out their native habitats and creating a market in wealthy and developed nations. However, the ongoing supply of endangered species smuggled into the hands of individuals would not exist without a demand. In other words, the exotic pet trade will only exist if there is a market.
Here are five animals that have and continue to be threatened by the global exotic pet trade.
Native to Africa and Asia, monitor lizards have been extremely popular in the exotic pet world due to their prehistoric features. Specifically, the blue-colored tree monitor lizard has become a massively appealing pet for it’s striking hues. But a relatively small habitat in Papua New Guinea, coupled with demand for the rare lizard, has threatened its livelihood.
This soft member of the rodent species have been kept as pets for many years and quite easy to care for and manage. However, in part due to the pet trade and poaching, chinchillas are disappearing in their natural habitats. PETA and other animal welfare organisation estimate that 90 percent of wild chinchillas have been lost in the last 20 years.
Salmon Crested Cockatoo
Within the cockatoo family, Moluccan or better known as the salmon crested, are highly social birds. As pets they can be extremely affectionate and gentle birds. Due to their adaptable nature, salmon crested cockatoos have become prime targets for pet dealers in their native Indonesia. In recent years, numbers have declined due to illegal trapping for the cage-bird trade and habitat loss.
Although not all threatened, certain breads such as the black-footed ferret has seen a dramatic population decrease in the past two decades. Due to dedicated campaign by both NGOs and animal conservation organizations, numbers in the wild have improved. Estimates put the population at nearly 1,000 ferrets present across the North American grasslands, but conservationists remain concerned that an illegal trade in the breed will again reemerge.
Striking blue feathers and the gift of the gab have meant that macaws are perennially popular exotic birds. Less appealing is that 18 species are now on the endangered list, with the pet trade playing a major role in this unwanted designation. Even more distressing is that up to 99 percent of macaw chicks die between capture and final sale.
As an animal lover and a pet owner, we all have a part to play in ensuring this list of animals remains in their natural habitat without the looming threat of extinction. Be the change by avoiding purchasing pets that you know or suspect are at risk.