Is it time to close down the exotic species trade?

I read this story today about a boy in Oklahoma catching a pacu in a neighbourhood pond.

I know that exotic species (animals AND plants) are a big business, and that most people who own/collect are pretty responsible about preventing escapes or release into the wild but lately I have wondered if it’s just too risky to continue with these trades.

Like so many things that start with decent intentions, all it takes is one under-informed citizen to, well… ruin it for the rest of us.

Should we restrict ownership of exotics to research labs and zoos?

Given the rapidly worsening global ecological crisis, can we continue to afford to expose environments to these sort of risks?

What’s your view?


Exotics are so controversial. There are so many owners who are doing the right thing, and then there are the impulse buys because they are cute, or worse, people buying animals as a status symbol. The ones that don’t end up in specialized rescues end up nuisanses.

Be careful with the term ‘exotics’. This is a wide term and some animals classified as exotic are actually domesticated. (Goldfish, domestic rabbits, etc.) I don’t think the domestic species will stop being bred soon.

Taking them from the wild is obsiously horrible for the animals and the enviroment, but also bred in captivity is sometimes no better. For example, breeding monkeys in captivity doesn’t deplete the natural population, but there are questionable ethic issues instead. Things like how many of these animals die in transportation, and whether breeders are inbreeding animals.

I myself own exotics, Japanese Coturnix, Northern Bobwhite, and a brown anole. The anole was likely kept in poor conditions before I purchased her, and even though I love her dearly, if I knew what I know now, I may have thought differently, but… that’s life I guess. Brown anoles are also an extreme problem because of released pets, sadly.

I think that the best thing we can do is to rescue when we can (If I ever purchase a parrot or parrotlet it will only be if it is a rescue bird) And there are some that should never be kept unless the owner is a professional and has experience with the creature. Things like primates and big cats need to be limited to zoos and professionals. With everything else, the best we can do is to just educate people about these animals, and tell them that like any other pet, exotics require the same (if not more) work and dedication.


This is a topic that I think has a lot of nuance and can’t have a blanket answer. Big dangerous exotics (IE mammalian predators) and primates? Yeah, definitely keep those to accredited zoos.

But once you get into things like birds, reptiles, fish, etc, it get stickier. I fully am for places - like Florida - limiting certain species because of how invasive they are locally (such as Green Iguanas,) but if that isn’t an issue, a lot of these animals can have perfectly good care setups by knowledgeable owners. Even venomous species (though those should definitely require at least a permit)

I think, when possible, people should definitely try to source captive-bred animals instead of wild caught animals, because wild-caught animals tend to do poorly and well, they’re not always being taken out of their ecosystem legally.

But there are species that are only still around because of the pet trade - one that comes to mind being Spix’s macaw, Cyanopsitta spixii. Now of course the pet trade isn’t perfect, but habitat destruction was horrible to these birds and the only reason anyone was able to re-release animals after they went extinct in the wild was due to a few individuals in captivity.

So I don’t know. Its complicated


Just a quick note that this is a topic that can arouse strong viewpoints and feelings (and has in the past). Please remember to assume that other forum users mean well and check out the Forum Guidelines if needed.


Ah, remembered one thing that I want to add

People need to not own zebras. Zebras are assholes.


My only direct experience with exotics is with fish so that might colour my perceptions. I think owners get an unfair burden of the blame. While some owners dump their fish, I think suppliers, especially the low-cost ones, bear a more significant share of the responsibility. There are entire YouTube channels dedicated to catching exotic fish dumped in the ditch, canal, pond, or storm drain behind the local big box store that also coincidentally happens to sell pet fish.


We’re already restricting ownership of all kinds of things in all kinds of ways. I don’t trust people whose default solution to a problem is to Make Yet Another Rule.

Have you ever been inside a law library? We already have more rules and regulations than you could even read in a lifetime, yet we’re expected, somehow, magically, to know to obey each and every one of them.


Last line says - male zebra protecting females.
Zebra was shot.
Why are zebras ‘exotic pet’ animals?

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In the US, zebras would definitely be considered exotic.

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In South Africa captive zebra would be on a game farm.
At best for tourism.
But probably waiting to be trophies for canned hunting.

My question was more - why would someone choose a zebra?

There are certain Americans that take being aggressivly idiotic as a point of pride


I believe that ownership of other living beings is fundamentally problematic, as it reduces other beings down to objects. That implies trade in any living being is off the table too. Care and cultivation are another thing, without which it is hard to imagine a world in which we still get to eat, but I would say that even these should be reduced to cases in which they can be considered guardianship or a matter of survival. I do not consider zoos nor private pet ownership to be either of these, regardless of how well pet owners might look out for the animals in their care. A case for living with certain domestic animals and plants might be made if the relationship is indeed mutualistic, just as there might be a case for sanctuaries, research facilities, and perhaps certain captive-breeding facilities for endangered species.

I don’t see any other valid reason why we should run the risk of exposing whole ecosystems to invasive species. Even the most responsible amongst us, who practice ethical sourcing and eliminate the chance of our exotic species ever affecting the wildlife around them, still contribute to the objectification of living beings and normalization of wildlife trade. This can unfortunately never be separated from unethical and irresponsible practices, because when there is an object to be traded there will always be someone trying to make a buck on the cheap that will disregard the responsible practices most of us know are necessary. As a responsible exotics owner you would probably avoid buying from that person, but you cannot guarantee that you haven’t inspired someone less ecologically prudent to engage in the same hobby.

(Just for clarity, I am not attacking or take any issue with anyone personally taking care of another (exotic) being, I am simply concerned about the systemic implications)


In the news today there is an animal not belonging into the environment.

Police and firefighters are looking for a “maybe female lion” just south of Berlin, Germany.

There is a short video taken last night by some people. And policemen and Co. also have seen an animal, which may have been a lion…

They have no idea where this animal may has escaped from…

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Maybe they’ve ran out of Panzer? :leopard:

Brown anoles are also an extreme problem because of released pets, sadly.

While this is true of most of Florida’s other introduced lizards, I don’t think there’s any evidence that brown anoles have ever been imported intentionally or introduced to a region due to the pet trade. They first showed up in Florida in the 1800’s (likely introduced accidentally on cargo) and weren’t found in the US pet trade until long after they became established. Now they regularly show up outside their normal introduced range in the southeast by stowing away and are a familiar sight to anyone who receives shipments of plants from Florida, which is probably how they ended up in the other locations where they’ve now become established.


Exotic plants are a problem too. We have a seller here in the UK who is widely known to be importing orchids in the back of his truck. They are openly advertised on the web. They even say when the next shipment is due on Facebook.
Other sellers I know are regularly inspected so how they’re getting away with it I’ve no idea.

This is a fascinating thing with how humans think. You have horses that have been selectively bred for centuries to be perfect for various tasks while being domesticated and loyal yet someone always wants a bleedin’ zebra. It’s the same with dogs. We have perfect dogs and yet some people insist on having those inbred, unhealthy breeds that are like a walking advert for animal cruelty. If we could work out how to make humans realise that they can be content with sufficiency then it would fix a lot of the world’s problems.

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They decided it is a wild pig now… :rofl:


Report them to the relevant department?

Correct. Brown anoles appeared in the pet trade because they became so common that it was easy/cheap to collect and then sell them. Some other anoles likely were imported via the pet trade, though ironically those haven’t expanded as much (like A. cybotes, A. chlorocyanus).

That said, there are plenty of examples of exotic pets that have become terribly invasive (pythons, tegus, sliders, etc.), so this definitely is an issue (even if not for brown anoles).