Exotic animals, such as lions, tigers, wolves, bears, reptiles and non-human primates, are wild creatures that belong in their natural habitats and not in the hands of private individuals. These animals are not suited to a captive environment and require specialized diets that are essential to their well-being. When their needs are not met, they can become malnourished and develop diseases and illnesses. Many exotic pet owners are not prepared to provide adult tigers, lions and bears with tens of pounds of raw meat or primates with an adequate diet. Some people bring wild animals to PAWS after having kept them illegally for a period of time, while others purchase them through the wildlife trade.
Most exotic pets are bought when they are babies, but they become unmanageable and aggressive as they age. The damage caused by irresponsible people who acquire exotic animals to keep as pets is well documented. Habitual animals cannot be returned to nature, as they can become a nuisance or danger to humans. Apes, including chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, orangutans and gibbons, are intelligent, sensitive and highly social animals. The desire to own exotic animals is often short-lived, but it is the animals who suffer in the long term. Stories often appear in the news about wild animals that have been kept as pets attacking and injuring people, sometimes fatally.
Although there may be rare cases in which families have lived with exotic animals without suffering physical harm, these pets are still wild animals that deserve their freedom. Wild animals can carry zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans), such as brucellosis, salmonella and ringworm. Many of these animals die of hunger; others cannot compete with the hostile elements they are not used to and end up being run over by cars or killed by native species. Zoos are only prepared to care for a certain number of animals and those that cannot be accommodated are often euthanized. Exotic creatures such as chimpanzees, pythons, kinkajus and red macaws have won the hearts of animal lovers looking for company. However, having exotic animals as pets can entail hidden costs for both people and animals.
It is important to remember that these creatures are wild and should not be kept as pets.