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The practice of importing and exporting wild animals to be used as pets, commonly known as the exotic pet trade is nothing new. For decades, people have been buying exotic pets because of a desire to own a cute animal that is different than a cat or a dog.

But few exotic pet fans recognize that the trade subjects millions of wild animals, including monkeys, hedgehogs, baby tigers, bears, and lizards to immense cruelty and is one of the largest sources of criminal earnings, only behind arms smuggling and drug trafficking. Most are stolen as infants and confined in cages. On the trip to the animal’s destination, they’re subject to starvation, harsh weather conditions, injuries, and illness. Most animals sold as exotic pets never even make it to their intended buyers. In fact, biologists found that around 70 percent of traded exotic animals die at the wholesaler, where the animals wait before being shipped again to stores such as Petco and Petsmart.

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And our egos have inflicted immense cruelty. Slow lorises have their venomous teeth removed, birds have been reported to have their beaks taped shut for transport, and sealed plastic pillows containing live turtles, fish, and amphibians are reportedly sold as trinkets, and perhaps most shockingly, there are currently more tigers living in U.S. backyards than in the wild. Even if they do survive the transport to their destination, it’s still not a positive outcome. The animals experience loneliness, malnutrition, and stress from being held captive in an unnatural environment.

Pygmy monkeys, also known as “thumbnail monkeys” because of their small size, are a popular animal that suffers from the exotic pet trade. Due to demand, the illegal trade of these animals is escalating. According to The American Journal of Primatology, Pygmies were the second-most trafficked primate species (squirrel monkeys were the first), accounting for 13 percent of the primates the research team found for sale as pets and bushmeat at Peruvian markets. According to the International Union for Conservation and Nature, their population numbers are in decline due to the illegal pet trade.

Many traders sell animals online in a seemingly innocent way and it’s important to know the red flags of an exotic pet trader so you (or someone you know) doesn’t fall into a trap.

What to Look Out For

There is currently one exotic pet seller still listed on Facebook that can help highlight what to look out for. “Monkeys for Sle” is listed as in Los Angeles, California and boasts, “Cute trained marmoset and Capuchin monkeys available for sale/ They come with all their paperwork and are all VET checked and dewormed,” on the “About” section of the page.

There is no website listed and no reviews. And the sellers make no mention of any state or local laws regarding the private possession of exotic animals. There is also no mention of any of the potential dangers, or physical or psychological needs of the animals.

With the rise of social media, many can log in and with a credit card, purchase a baby monkey with a click on the finger. Don’t fall for it! 

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To help raise awareness about the exotic pet trade, you can take action right now by leaving a review on the “Monkeys for Sle” Facebook page, expressing your concerns for the Marmoset monkey babies they are trying to sell. If you happen to see someone within your network sharing this page (or like it), leave a polite comment explaining the inherent dangers behind selling wild animals.

And sadly, this isn’t the only Facebook page selling baby monkeys. “Capuchin & Marmoset Monkeys for Adoption/Sale” is yet another page listed on the social media platform that sells baby monkeys to unsuspecting buyers. We must speak out against animal abuse every single time we see it!

More Ways to Help

The rise of social media has only perpetuated the desire for an exotic pet. For instance, There are tens of thousands of selfies on Instagram that feature exotic animals, and with every post, followers are left believing handling wild animals is natural. Thankfully, social media platform, Instagram is cracking down and has implemented a new warning to users about the cruelty of animal selfies.

But we all have a role in ending the exotic pet trade. It’s absolutely critical that we don’t encourage the illegal wildlife trade by viewing these living beings as pets. They all exist to play a role in their individual ecosystems and removing them for the sake of our entertainment or amusement is not only cruel, it’s irresponsible. No matter how hard we try, we can never recreate the environment or life that wild animals would enjoy in their natural setting.

If you’re longing for a cuddle buddy, consider adopting a dog or a cat from your local rescue shelter. Shelters for these animals are overflowing, and by taking in a homeless cat or dog, you will be making a real difference.

For more information on the exotic pet trade, check out these other One Green Planet articles.

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