When pets become pests: the role of the exotic pet trade in producing invasive vertebrate animals

The exotic pet trade is a multi-billion dollar industry involving thousands of animal species. Research has historically focused only the conservation and disease risks, however the risk of pets becoming invasive species has been overlooked. We show this trade is now the leading contributor of non-native establishments and invasions worldwide among vertebrates. We highlight areas of future research/policy changes needed to avoid more invasive pets in the future.

By Julie L Lockwood, Dustin J Welbourne, Christina M Romagosa, Phillip Cassey, Nicholas E Mandrak, Angela Strecker, Brian Leung, Oliver C Stringham, Bradley Udell, Diane J Episcopio-Sturgeon, Michael F Tlusty, James Sinclair, Michael R Springborn, Elizabeth F Pienaar, Andrew L Rhyne, Reuben Keller in Research

June 3, 2019


The annual trade in exotic vertebrates as pets is a multi-billion-dollar global business. Thousands of species, and tens of millions of individual animals, are shipped both internationally and within countries to satisfy this demand. Most research on the exotic pet trade has focused on its contribution to native biodiversity loss and disease spread. Here, we synthesize information across taxa and research disciplines to document the exotic pet trade’s contribution to vertebrate biological invasions. We show recent and substantial worldwide growth in the number of non-native animal populations introduced via this invasion pathway, which demonstrates a strong potential to increase the number of invasive animals in the future. Key to addressing the invasion threat of exotic pets is learning more about the socioeconomic forces that drive the massive growth in the exotic pet market and the socioecological factors that underlie pet release by owners. These factors likely vary according to cultural pet-keeping traditions across regions and whether purchases were legal or illegal. These gaps in our understanding of the exotic pet trade must be addressed in order to implement effective policy solutions.

Posted on:
June 3, 2019
1 minute read, 182 words
conservation invasive species wildlife trade exotic pet trade
See Also:
Drivers of the Australian native pet trade: The role of species traits, socioeconomic attributes and regulatory systems
Response to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment's 'Proposed amendments to the Appendices of CITES for Australian Native Reptiles'
Challenges and perspectives on tackling illegal or unsustainable wildlife trade