With the exposure to the outside world brought about by the internet, more South Africans are looking into owning animals outside the traditional definition of ‘pets’.
Exotic pets, as they have come to be referred to, are pets that are not indigenous to a particular country, are often ‘unusual’, and are mostly found in the wild.
Some of the pets gaining popularity in the country are animals like: snakes, parrots, monkeys, iguanas etc.
Internationally, the exotic pet trade is a multi-billion dollar industry. The Humane Society of the United States ranks it second only to the drugs and weapons trades in terms of revenue.
Most of it happen underground and illegally, with majority of the pets being plucked out of their natural habitat instead of being bred in captivity.
A lot of the animals end up in the hands of wealthy people, or in circuses entertaining paying guests.
Is trading exotic pets legal in South Africa?
South Africa actually has legislation that permits the trade of exotic pets, while ensuring the safety and environmental impact of obtaining them.
The National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004 (NEMBA) refers to an alien species (exotic animal) as ‘a species that is not an indigenous species in South Africa’. An indigenous species means ‘a species that occurs or has historically occurred naturally in a free state within the borders of the Republic but excludes a species that has been introduced in the Republic as a result of human activity’.
While there is no actual definition of a pet in SA laws, wild animals have special protections.
Much of the trade happens underground and illegally, with little enforcement of policies. Many wild animals, big and small, are taken out of their native habitats and traded in the black market.
Poaching of often large and endangered species dominates all of the wildlife media coverage, as this trade of mostly smaller species continues unchecked.
Can you own a pet tiger in South Africa?
One of the most popular types of exotic pets, not just in South Africa, but in the whole world, is the tiger.
Tigers are not native to South Africa, and therefore have to either be imported or bred. They fall under the ‘alien’ animal tag.
In 2015, it was reported that there were close to 300 tigers in 44 facilities across the country. However, that number is a great under-calculation, as there is no legal obligation to report private pets to any authority.
In fact, several private households in the country own their own private tigers.
In one particular incident in 2015, there was outrage after a tiger cub estimated to be 3 months old, was discovered in someone’s backyard. An animal rights protection group tried unsuccessfully to convince the owner to send the animal to a sanctuary.
He simply promised to build a bigger cage once the tiger gets bigger.
There are similar stories of pet lions in the country.
So, yes, you can own a pet tiger or lion in South Africa. In some provinces and cities, you may need a special permit to do so.
How much does a pet tiger cost in South Africa?
According to industry sources, a Bengal tiger cub can cost about R20 000 to own. This will most likely come from a breeder, and not imported.
How much does a pet lion cost in South Africa?
From the same sources, a lion cub in the black market can costs upwards or R50 000.
Can you own a monkey as a pet in South Africa?
Exotic monkeys are treated similar to other exotic animals. So, in most cases, you can legally own an exotic monkey without any permit. Some regions however will require special licenses and home conditions for the pet monkey.
Also, it is worth noting that transportation of the monkey may require additional permits from both provincial and local governments and the national government.
How much does a pet monkey cost in South Africa?
In the black market, the price of a baby monkey is about R4 000, putting it within reach of many South Africans who would want one.
Can you own a fox as a pet in South Africa?
Another exotic pet gaining popularity in the country is the Fennec Fox. It is native to North Africa, and looking at it, it is clear why this one is a favourite of many.
This fox looks like a small, cute house dog, ready to be pet and cuddled.
However, the Fennec is still a wild animal at heart, and is an avid digger of holes and tunnels. This may end up being very destructive in your household.
While you can have the Fennec and or any other as your pet, you will need special permits in certain SA provinces. You will also face restrictions, such as the requirement that you cannot release it into the wild, in order to safeguard indigenous species.
So, before owning the fennec or any other type of fox, get information from your local authorities about any permits or licenses that you need.
Parrot as a pet in South Africa
Another very popular exotic pet is the parrot. Specifically the African grey parrot.
South Africa is by far the largest exporter of the bird, despite it not being native to this country. It is also often listed as the top exotic pet in the country.
The fact that you can get one for under R1 000 make it very attractive.
In most of the country, you can own a parrot without any permits required. Even in areas where permits are required for such exotic pets, there is little if any enforcement.
The top 5 most popular exotic pets in SA are: Iguanas, geckos, chinchillas, African grey parrots and non-venomous snakes.