Surely Australia doesn’t really have any involvement in a trade of wildlife to the rest of the world for purposes of pet ownership, does it? Pet ownership couldn’t really be a significant driver of the biodiversity loss across the globe, could it?
This is my first blog for Nature Needs More having become a director nearly one year ago. I have had a long interest in the wildlife trade centred around rhino conservation and the issues associated with the trade of rhino horn. My interest and knowledge on the wider issues of the wildlife trade, both legal and illegal, grew from there and, as a veterinarian, a natural extension of this was to delve into the subject of the exotic pet trade and look at answers to the types of questions asked above.
Culturally, Australian pet ownership is centred around the staple of dogs and cats. In comparison to other parts of the world our interest in “pocket pets,” such as guinea pigs, rabbits and birds is proportionally low. In fact, ownership of rabbits as pets is even outlawed in Queensland. Ownership of native mammal species is prohibited and reptile ownership requires licensing in all states and territories with some of these states only relatively recently allowing this. With that said, a quick online search of internet markets shows no shortage of Australian bird and reptile species for sale as pets suggesting that there is an active trade there domestically that is quite likely poorly understood. On a whole though, my impression of the veterinary profession and Australians in general is that we are blissfully unaware of the scale of the international trade in exotic species for pets and remain blind to Australia’s contribution, both legally and illegally, to it.