EC survey says 8 out of 10 want restriction on exotic species in trade!

Results of a European Commission survey* on invasive alien species (IAS) have been welcomed by the Animal Protection Agency, an organisation that campaigns against the trade in wild animals as pets. Of over 5,000 respondents to the survey (which ended in April 2012), more than 80% indicated they wanted restrictions on the sale of exotic species of animals and plants. 

The online public consultation was carried out to inform the forthcoming EU Invasive Alien Species Strategy.  Despite a particularly high response to the survey from vested interest hobbyists as well as traders who oppose restrictions, these results show there is strong support for restrictions among the wider community. Earlier this year the Animal Protection Agency along with International Animal Rescue and other European organisations published an independently researched report showing that a wide range of species traded as exotic pets through markets have the potential to become invasive across numerous regions of the European Union.

Following their popularity in the pet trade, ring-necked parakeets are now well established in Britain, as is the American bullfrog, Siberian chipmunk and goldfish, which can spread disease and parasites to other animals. IAS are considered to be a major contributory factor to global biodiversity loss and the European Commission** estimates that the damage caused may cost around 12.5 billion euros per year. For the majority of exotic species kept as pets, their capacity to become established in the wild and threaten biodiversity is unknown.

A new study on alien mammals in Europe published in Integrative Zoology*** reported on recent invasions of raccoons in Sweden and Ireland, and American red squirrels that probably escaped from a commercial pet breeding facility and are now at large in Denmark. These latest introductions confirm that the pet trade is an important pathway for IAS.

Says Elaine Toland, Director of the Animal Protection Agency:

The global exotic pet trade has already caused untold damage to natural ecosystems around the world and we are only just beginning to appreciate its full implications. Future generations will wonder why action was not taken sooner given the huge diversity of animal species in trade. But we hope and expect that stringently enforced restrictions will be implemented soon.”

Wild animal dealers and keepers in the UK have complained that pending legislation could have “potentially devastating consequences for traders and pet owners.” However, many exotic pet keepers and dealers are ignorant of the environmental degradation caused by this trade.

The European Commission anticipates that its proposal for a new legislative framework for Invasive Alien Species will be published before the end of 2012.

Notes to Editors

  • **European Commission (2011) Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020[1].pdf Communication from the commission to the European parliament, the council, the economic and social committee and the committee of the regions.
  • ***Genovesi, P., Carnevali, L., Alonzi, A., Riccardo, S. (2012) Alien mammals in Europe: updated numbers and trends, and assessment of the effects on biodiversity, Integrative Zoology, 7: 247-253
  • For further information or images, please contact Elaine Toland on 01273 674253 or out of hours on 07986 535024. We have an ISDN line for broadcast-quality interviews.

Animal Protection Agency

Brighton Media Centre, 15-17 Middle Street, Brighton BN1 1AL

Tel: 01273 674253