5 reasons to join our efforts to end the black market trade in exotic pets

The IFAW MENA office recently held a "Wildlife Trade in UAE" seminar promoting responsible tourism by encouraging travelers to "Think Twice" before buying wildlife souvenirs.Keeping wild animals as pets is an ongoing issue in the Middle East and North Africa (like other regions around the world); weekly or daily news may describe accidents, problems in the streets or in the neighborhoods due to the escape of a wild animal from its owner.

Common species that are used as exotic pets include lions, cheetahs, monkeys, wild squirrels, raccoons, parrots (grey parrots, macaws and cockatoos), and reptiles (Nile crocodiles, Greek tortoises, green iguanas, pythons).     

In general, there are always two motivations behind keeping wild animals as pets, either to demonstrate the strength and power of their owners through keeping dangerous animals; or to offer them to the hands of a child who innocently consider them as some sort of toy.

It is common to see ads offering wild animals for sale especially on the internet.

If we have a look at the number of ads offering different exotic animals for sale, we can clearly understand the consequences of keeping those animals.

The following is a translation of an ad published recently on the internet in a forum that shall remain unnamed:

Dear forum visitors:

Today, I am offering you a lion for sale, in good health, free from all diseases. Its age is one year and two months. Off course it is very domestic especially with children. It had claws extraction operation.

The price through negotiations and I hope seriousness in dealing with this.


For communication:

Phone:  !! !! !! !! !!

Blackberry Whats up: !! !! !! !! !!


Among the fallacies of the offer, you can see the misleading claims that a child would be safe with a 14 month old lion and seller's certainty that the animal is free from all diseases. 

This is the kind of black market trade the International Fund for Animal Welfare Middle East/North Africa office and our entire organisation is fighting right now. Through the internet, especially in the dark web (forums), many things can be up for sale, including wild animals.

In dealing with the issue of the exotic pet, we have to look into the consequences of this problem much more deeply than simply in the issue of it being dangerous to keep wild animals.

There are at least five reasons for prohibiting the keeping of wild animals as pets, the first being animal welfare.

1. Animal Welfare

From the time of harvesting the wild animal from its natural habitat using painful methods, shipping it for hours or maybe days in an inappropriate package, displaying it in a shop in a cage and finally reach the new owner’s hands who would like to enjoy having a strange creature for fun, it is a serious lack of animal welfare.

Even if the animal survives, it has no chance to have a natural habitat home in captivity. In many incidences, the new owner will feel bored of the animal (especially a child) and could potentially abandon the animal without care to suffer from lack of food or water only to die in a slow, painful way.

2. Survival of the species

The second reason is that it threatens the survival of the species. There is no doubt that the continuous over exploited harvest of the wild animals from the wild by humans is leading certain species to extinction. This is happening to many species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and even amphibians.

3. Saftey concerns due to unpredictable behaviour 

Additionally, wild animals will be always wild even when born in captivity and tamed, they will not be transformed into domestic animals, and nobody will be able to predict their behavior. Once these animals feel fear, hunger, pain, or become under any other stress they may attack to defend themselves.

4. Risk of disease

These critically endangered tortoises, the radiated spider and angulated tortoises were illegally removed from their natural habitat and were en route for sale in public markets in China when they were intercepted by customs officials at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia. These rare tortoises sell for thousands of dollars each as exotic pets, luckily these were returned to their home country of Madagascar.Fourthly, there are hundreds of diseases shared between human and wild animals. Especially primates whose have almost the same anatomical and physiological features. One of the microbes’ strategies to survive is to live in a host like non-human primates without harming it and use it to spread out to other hosts like humans.

Bats, monkeys, raccoons, foxes, skunks, wolves, coyotes and mongooses may transmit rabies, reptiles may transmit salmonellosis; birds may transmit bird flu and so on. So, healthy wild animals may not really be healthy for their human owners and can act as a host for those diseases. 

5. Threats to native biodiversity due to escape

Lastly, many species which are imported as exotic pets that find their way outside their intended owner's homes threaten the local biological diversity of their new environment.

Examples range from Burmese pythons to ring-necked parakeets who are introduced to new habitats through exotic pet trade. The effect of the invasive alien species on the new environment ranges from adverse effects on the ecosystem to extinction of other native species.

IFAW MENA office is planning to work with different governmental bodies in the region to monitor the internet market offering wild animals for sale to be used as exotic pets and offer solution for combating the use of wild animals as pets.

On other side we intend to work on raising awareness about the drawback of keeping wild animals as pets among children.


For more information on our efforts to combat the illegal trafficking of wildlife on the Internet, visit our campaign pages.

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Country Representative, Germany
Country Representative, Germany
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy