When pets become pests: The role of the exotic pet trade in producing invasive vertebrate animals


The annual trade in exotic vertebrates as pets is a multi- billion- dollar global business. Thousands of species, and tens of millions of individual animals, are shipped both internationally and within countries to satisfy this demand. Most research on the exotic pet trade has focused on its contribution to native biodiversity loss and disease spread. Here, we synthesize information across taxa and research disciplines to document the exotic pet trade’s contribution to vertebrate biological invasions. We show recent and substantial worldwide growth in the number of non- native animal populations introduced via this invasion pathway, which demonstrates a strong potential to increase the number of invasive animals in the future. Key to addressing the invasion threat of exotic pets is learning more about the socioeconomic forces that drive the massive growth in the exotic pet market and the socio-ecological factors that underlie pet release by owners. These factors likely vary according to cultural pet- keeping traditions across regions and whether purchases were legal or illegal. These gaps in our understanding of the exotic pet trade must be addressed in order to implement effective policy solutions.

Publication Type
Journal Article
Julie L. Lockwood
Dustin J. Welbourne
Christina M. Romagosa
Phillip Cassey, University of Adelaide
Nicholas E Mandrak
Angela Strecker, Portland State University
Brian Leung, McGill University
Oliver C. Stringham
Bradley Udell
Diane J. Episcopio‐Sturgeon
Michael F. Tlusty
James Sinclair
Michael R. Springborn
Elizabeth F. Pienaar
Andrew L. Rhyne
Reuben Keller, Loyola University
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment

Related Content