Project information

Help us to stop the exotic pet trade

The exotic pet trade is responsible for widespread animal abuse, ecologically unsustainable practices, and growing human health threats. Urgent action is needed to protect vulnerable species from being traded and to educate against the practice of keeping of wild animals as pets.


Charity information: Animal Protection Agency Foundation

Animal Protection Agency Foundation logo
  • Need


    The exotic pet trade is extremely wasteful and destructive. Our research has shown that in the UK at least 75% of the 1.1 million pet reptiles, and over 90% of the 45 million pet fish die within just one year in the home. The trade is regularly cited as a major reason for species decline and a key pathway for invasive alien species and zoonotic disease. More public and political awareness of the problems caused by this trade is needed to support our calls for greater restrictions or bans.


    The Animal Protection Agency is the only European organisation solely focused on ending the trade in wild animals as pets. APA is a science-based organisation supported by leading biologists and vets in fields of exotic animal welfare and conservation. APA conducts research published in peer-reviewed journals; undertakes investigations leading to prosecutions; produces & distributes educational materials and lobbies at national and European level for improved legislation and better enforcement.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Research and investigate key problems such as animal welfare issues and unregulated trade


    » Undertake in-depth data gathering (including covert investigations) and commission independent research into the exotic pet trade
    » Identify shortfalls in law enforcement and current legislation that need to be addressed
    » Continue to publish key research findings in peer-reviewed journals

    What success will look like

    Good use of up-to-date evidence obtained from our research and investigations to inform our educational & lobbying campaigns, and to assist with law enforcement

    Aim 2

    Increase awareness of the problems associated with trading and keeping exotic pets


    » Use evidence from our research and investigations to inform our campaigns and increase awareness amongst the public and relevant authorities
    » Publicise the cruelty, destructiveness and corruption associated with the wildlife trade
    » Make educational materials available free of charge, including those targeted at individual consumers who may be considering a wild animal as a pet

    What success will look like

    The success of our educational work is hard to demonstrate. One indication is a growing number of supporters e.g. on social media who agree with our message

    Aim 3

    Lobby for greater restriction or bans on the exotic pet trade and improved enforcement


    » From the sound evidence-base that we have established, lobby at local, national and European level for greater restrictions or bans on trade
    » Call for improved enforcement of animal welfare or wildlife protection legislation and actively assist with enforcement wherever possible
    » Build support by collaborating with, and assisting, other wildlife protection organisations with similar aims

    What success will look like

    Ultimately our work should result in greater restrictions or bans on the trade in wild animals as pets, as well as improved enforcement

  • Impact


    Our clear and consistent messaging regarding the unsuitability of wild animals as pets and the negative impact that the exotic pet trade is having on individual animal welfare, the environment and public health will be reflected in a reduction in demand for exotic pets. In the long term this increased level of public and political awareness will generate policy changes that seek to ensure greater restrictions or bans on the trade.


    Our campaigns often target illegal wildlife traders, some of whom have been prosecuted or have lost their businesses, and so we have to be generally security- and safety conscious. Our staff, trustees, scientific and veterinary consultants are often ‘trolled’ and libeled online and trade-proponents seek to damage the reputation of our organisation by fabrication of falsehoods. We have policies in place outlining measures to deal with any serious threat to our health, safety or reputation.


    Our donors will receive a quarterly update by post as well as a monthly email report giving details on the progress that has been made and any action they can take to assist (if they wish to be actively involved). Updates will also be featured on APA’s website and social media.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £4,000

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      Amount Heading Description
      £2,000 Investigations Fees and expenses for investigators (field or desk-based)
      £750 Design and printing costs Costs of publishing educational materials
      £500 Travel Travel to meetings & conference presentation in the UK and Europe (train journeys)
      £250 Accommodation Budget accommodation, mainly in Brussels
      £500 Postage For posting educational materials, e.g. to schools
  • Background


    Based in the UK but the European Union is the one of the largest consumer markets for exotic pets and so ultimately the legislative changes we seek will be EU-wide. We are a member of Eurogroup for Animals, which has now adopted the exotic pet trade as a key area of focus. We investigate pet shops and wild animal markets around the UK. Scotland is likely to be a focal point of our activity over the next year as the Scottish Executive has committed to reviewing the exotic pet trade.


    There are significant animal welfare, environmental and human health benefits to ceasing the exotic pet trade. Wild animals that would have been caught or bred for the trade will benefit as demand for exotic pets reduces. For many species in the pet trade their conservation status is unknown and they are subject to little or no legal protection in source countries. Conditions for animals that are captive-bred are also typically very poor and exotic pet breeders are largely unregulated.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    APA has a track record in publishing innovative research, including high mortality rates in pet reptiles and a scientific system classifying any animal according to its suitability/unsuitability as a pet. We successfully campaigned against the legalisation of exotic pet markets in the UK, proposed by DEFRA and were instrumental in ensuring that a long-term ban on the trade and keeping of reptiles & amphibians in Norway was upheld. We have achieved much on a very limited budget.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Elaine Toland BSc(Hons) MSB

    APA Director. Elaine has been investigating the exotic pet trade for over 15 years and will be responsible for coordinating this project.

    Clifford Warwick PGDipMedSci CBiol CSci EurProBiol FSB

    Consultant Biologist

    Catrina Steedman BSc(Hons) MSB

    Consultant Biologist

    APA's Research Volunteers

    APA is fortunate to have a large team of researchers who donate their time to help expose the harm caused by the exotic pet trade.

A Far Cry from Nature