This campaign aims to raise awareness among EU citizens, particularly those interested in owning exotic pets, about the strict regulations in place and the wider implications of this trade.
The EU is a key market for exotic pets, including reptiles, amphibians, ornamental birds, and fish. While many of these animals are traded legally, there is a substantial illegal market fueled by traffickers exploiting loopholes and using various platforms like e-commerce sites, social media, fairs, and pet shops. This illegal trade not only profits traffickers but also poses severe threats to biodiversity and public health.
TRAFFIC and WWF’s campaign seeks to inform potential pet owners about the legal and sustainable ways to acquire exotic pets. Emilie Van der Henst, Senior Manager Wildlife Trafficking at TRAFFIC, emphasized the necessity of understanding the rules to avoid contributing to wildlife trafficking. Similarly, Stéphane Ringuet of WWF France highlighted the importance of recognizing and following regulations, not just for responsible pet ownership but also for safeguarding against conservation, legal, health, and financial risks.
The illegal wildlife trade, which generates billions of Euros annually, has significant negative impacts on biodiversity, human livelihoods, and national security in source countries. Additionally, it poses global health risks by circumventing veterinary checks and potentially introducing invasive species to European ecosystems.
Recent efforts have been made to monitor and crack down on this trade. Between 2018 and 2021, thousands of live birds, reptiles, and amphibians were seized each year in the EU, many intended for the illegal exotic pet market. In 2022, a joint operation by TRAFFIC, WWF, IFAW, and EUROPOL led to numerous wildlife seizures and arrests.
This campaign is part of the broader UNITE project, which unites law enforcement, NGOs, EU and international agencies, and the private sector to combat environmental crime. It is funded by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Home Affairs and led by various European police forces and NGOs.