Dozens of exotic animals for sale in Netherlands, incl. illegal & invasive species: Report

The trade in exotic mammals is "alive and kicking" in the Netherlands, according to a study by animal protection foundation AAP. The foundation found 55 different breeds of exotic mammals for sale in the Netherlands, mainly online on Marktplaats and Facebook, but also at pet shops and animal fairs. 

The researchers checked Marktplaats and Facebook for exotic pets at three points between February and May this year. They also anonymously visited two pet shops and two animal fairs. They found 45 different exotic mammal species for sale online, 14 different species at pet shops, and 17 at animal fairs. The species ranged from a Djungarian hamster to a zebra, and included prohibited species like primates, according to the foundation.

According to AAP, exotic pets have complex needs that are often very difficult or even impossible for the average owner to provide. Even species that can be legally kept in the Netherlands, such as the zebra or yak for example, are unsuited to a life in captivity and need a very spacious outdoor area so that they can express their natural behavior. Another of the species offered for sale was the Indian mongoose, which is an invasive alien species in the European Union and therefore illegal to import, breed, trade or keep, according to the foundation. 

Many exotic pets end up under the care of rescue centers, according to the foundation. Eight out of the top ten animals most frequently given up to AAP are among the 55 species the researchers found for sale. 

AAP noted that the number of species available to buy at the animal fairs was likely higher, as many of the animals were pre-ordered and therefore not physically present at the fairs. The foundation also noted that only the two visited pet shops, in Utrecht and Bussum, took the time to explain the needs and care requirements of the animals it sold. 

"Regardless of all the problems attached to it, the keeping of exotic animals as pets is a largely uncontrolled trend which benefits from unclear, incomplete or inexistent regulation and enforcement in most EU member states", the foundation said. "Since 2010 the number of rescue requests to AAP has tripled, and the diversity of the species on offer has increased." 

The foundation calls for the establishment of a so-called positive list, which lists which animals are suitable to be kept as pets in the Netherlands. According to NU.nl, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality is currently working on an assessment system to make such a list possible. 

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