Oh, this topic is so hot at the moment, you could fry an egg on it! Preferably a domestic chicken egg, please. Because it addresses the question of keeping wild, or exotic animals as pets. Domestic animals are those which have undergone genetic changes over centuries of selective breeding. These animals have come to naturally live in the human society, like dogs, cats, sheep, goats, etc.

The keeping of wild animals and especially exotic animals (animals from foreign countries) have those in the know very hot under the collar. While pet shops and syndicates are coining it, hundreds of thousands of wild animals like monkeys, lizards, iguanas, snakes and lemurs end up as pets in people’s homes and more often than not, eventually in a sanctuary somewhere… or worse.

Exotic animals suffer greatly when caught and in transport

To import a wild animal legally is almost impossible, so a lot of the exotic animals in the pet trade are smuggled in under horrific conditions and in 2019 this cruel trade is still rife across the globe.

The trouble with animals is that they do not travel well, especially not in a taped up box, hidden away on a plane somewhere, so the majority will die on route. In order to have, for instance 10 tarantulas make it safely to their country of destination, a 100 will be trapped and shipped…

“The exotic animal trade is also deadly for animals we don’t see: For every animal who makes it to the store or the auction, countless others die along the way.” PETA (People For the Ethical treatment of Animals), a worldwide animal rights organization goes on to write, “Birds’ beaks are taped shut so they can’t cry out, animals are stuffed inside plastic tubes and put in luggage, leopard cats have been stuffed into backpacks, and one man was even found with a pygmy marmoset in his underwear. Most of these animals end up dead. A customs agent in Germany said that the mortality rate was about 80 or 90 percent.”

The African Grey Parrot is the most trafficked bird in the world and going extinct. Although you buy a healthy parrot from a breeder, the industry is rotten at its core. Parrots are caught and shipped to breeders who sell the offspring as pets…. the buying of these birds is very much alive in our country in 2019! What are we thinking? … Are we thinking?

It does come at a great, great price…

The Animal Sanctuary @ Butterfly World daily deals with exotic and indigenous wild pets being dropped off by owners who realized that they had bitten off more than they had bargained (or budgeted) for.

We are one of the very few institutions to still take in exotic animals from the public. We are already housing over 700 individual creatures (all of which are donations) and this number is on a very steep incline as more and more people buy exotic animals and as facilities are shutting their doors to the influx of donations by private owners. We are already bursting at the seams and have to come up with innovative ideas (and resources) to create suitable habitats for all these animals, from Brazilian Tarantulas to an Arctic Fox, not to mention the scores of birds. The alternative to a sanctuary not taking these unwanted animals is unthinkable, so we keep making plans to provide the highest quality care for them. A few months ago, the Vervets got their enclosure and are thriving. As I am typing, the guys are insulating the Arctic Fox’s cold room so that he can have his own temperature controlled “Arctic hide-out” throughout the year.

Exotic animals do not belong in our homes.

Annie Roth published a brilliant article called DON’T BE FOOLED BY SOCIAL MEDIA – WILD ANIMALS MAKE TERRIBLE PETS. She makes the very valid point, and I quote: “Wild and Exotic pets might seem appealing, but the reality is often smelly, difficult, and sometimes dangerous”.  Where domesticated animals thrive in the company and in the care of humans, wild animals don’t necessarily. In fact most of them are miserable, suffering from malnutrition, loneliness, and the unbearable stress of confinement to an environment they were never supposed to be in.

So for those who are STILL not moved by the animals’ welfare side of things, let’s turn to the welfare of the owners and have a contest, pitting Wild / Exotics vs our trusted Domestic friends

First up: You want something cute?


Both scoring full marks on the cuto-meter, BUT our prickly friend on the left can’t cuddle, is smelly, is nocturnal (meaning one of you is going to lose sleep) and is ILLEGAL in the Western Cape! Note to pet shops, Gumtree and our new neighbours from Gauteng…

# 2 Looking for entertainment?


So you want some entertainment and thinking “What better than a monkey to monkey around?” Try house training it first, then get used to its kind of humour, because he might look like your cousin-once-removed, but funny to monkey is not funny to man. As they reach adolescence they become uncontrollable and destructive, because they need strict, social hierarchy within a large troop (same as Meerkats). Your old family dog, on the other hand, might still have a few tricks up its sleeve after all!

Funny dog – 1   Grumpy Monkey – 0

#3 Or would you like to go for impressive!


Your friends WILL be super impressed by your strange sugar glider, when they first see it. You will be the hot shot with all the info, but they will go home and leave you with your sugar glider now on a mission to mark your territory using 4 anal glands! FOUR ANAL GLANDS!!!Count me out, right  there! Here Kitty Kitty! PS. Hairless cats are known to be curious, smart and funny and they’re perfect for those with allergies.

#4 You want your animal to keep you company?


African Grey parrots are so smart they can use 1000 words in context like a 3 year old! Fantastic, hey? But they don’t switch off when it’s convenient. Bare in mind that they will be completely dependent on the owner for its entire life…that can be 50+years! They require a rich environment and friends, like back at home in the jungle, where they eat and live with 50 others of their own kind… So, homesick parrot, or satisfied mutt?

My vote… Mutt

#5 Maybe you’re more into life’s cool things.


I know of many 10 year olds who want a snake (and get one) at some stage. Then I only know a handful of adults and teenagers who keep snakes. Co-incidence that the novelty wears off rather quickly?  It’s a SNAKE… it doesn’t love you back, in fact it doesn’t even know you. It doesn’t care who cleans the cage, picks up the wet, smelly sheds, or feeds it new born mice.  Man’s best friend, on the other hand can do the coolest things and LOVE you for it!

#6 You just need something that will freak out your sister?  


Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches don’t have wings so they can crawl up and nestle under your ear without the risk of them flying away. I’m not even going to continue with this argument.  A rat in the hand bag will win you the round, OK?

#7 If cuddly is more your thing…


Yes, chinchillas have the softest fur of all animals. That’s why they are almost extinct. They are wild rodents from the Andes… where, as you know, it’s cold. They can (and will) chew through floor boards, keep you up at night when they are hyper active and suffer if it gets hot. Combined with humidity, temperatures above 27 degrees Celsius can cause death. Pretty, but I would prefer my pet to play with me during day time and leave my wooden furniture alone, thank you. Guinea Pig it is. (It might seem a little ordinary, but my identity is definitely not determined by the animal in my house.)

#8 Something really pretty!


By the way, Leopard Geckos are the latest fad. Granted, they are pretty and they have eyelids …yeh! So does that gorgeous fur ball snuggled up in your lap… or face.

#9 Do you perhaps prefer cheap and easy to care for?

    vs    Pick me! Pick me!

Firstly, you need a permit for a tortoise. They eat a wide variety of plants, so don’t for a moment think your garden is safe. Then you end up building an enclosure for Freddie and the feeding starts…a wide variety remember! Give up house training at the start. You want a tortoise caged up in your back yard? Thousands of gorgeous animals are up for adoption at the SPCA.

#10 Want your pet to reflect you living in the danger zone?


Tarantulas are beautiful, granted. And they are big and hairy and scary and venomous. Anyone with access to the internet also knows that the bite of a Tarantula might sting but it won’t require medical attention. So much for dangerous!! They are also illegal… like blacklisted… like fines and jail time illegal!! Hey! Little guy with big dog… You’re the real deal!

That’s our very subjective contest done and it won’t take me long to do the adding:


Come on guys. Keeping Wild and Exotic animals is not as cool as you think. In fact, next year it will be “So last year” anyway. Then what are you going to do with the poor thing you bought? Oh, yes, drop it off at a sanctuary… There is a huge variety of domestic animals that will suit you perfectly and be too happy to be your companion, entertainment, show-off, ego boosting, best friend for its entire life!

Thanks for listening!


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