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Tigers, Monkeys, Zebras Among Exotic Pets Popular in South East UK

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By Erika John - - 5 Mins Read
A tiger in dark-themed background
Tiger | Efe Yağız Soysal

A recent report revealed that over 2,700 privately owned exotic animals are being kept as pets in the UK, with a significant number residing in the South East region.

Among these animals are two tigers in Dover, a zebra in Maidstone, wild cats in Wealden, and even a crocodile in Canterbury.

Moreover, the Born Free Foundation, a charity dedicated to wildlife protection, has raised concerns about the current legislation surrounding the ownership of dangerous animals in the UK.

They emphasize the need to revamp existing laws to ensure the animals' and the public's safety and well-being.

One UK resident, Lisa Marie Bearman, from Rochester, has kept marmoset monkeys in her garden for 13 years.

These primates, which do not currently require a license to own, have captured Lisa Marie's heart since she was a child. However, the government plans to implement a new law by 2026 requiring all primary owners to obtain licenses.

Data collected through freedom of information requests by the Born Free Foundation from 126 local authorities indicates that there are currently 2,727 exotic animals owned under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 in the UK.

This includes over 200 wild cats and 250 primates, as well as about 400 venomous snakes, a number significantly higher than those kept in zoos.


Two monkeys rest on wooden platform
Photo by Dan Dennis on Unsplash


All regions in England, Wales, and Scotland have licenses for dangerous wild animals, with the South East region having the highest number of exotic pets, including primates, crocodilians, and venomous snakes.

On the other hand, the East of England has the most wild cats, with licenses for over 60 cats, such as leopards, cheetahs, and lynxes.

Chris Lewis, the captivity research officer at Born Free, expressed that the Dangerous Wild Animals Act was originally intended for exceptional circumstances, but the current scenario raises concerns about the ownership of small wild cats, with several cats and hybrid cats being the most licensed species.

The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs has highlighted the importance of a vetting process and obtaining a license for anyone seeking to keep animals under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act.

Additionally, the government has recently increased the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty to five years and is in the process of introducing legislation to prohibit the keeping of primates as domestic pets.


Also Read: 7 Unusual Pets That Are Surprisingly Legal to Own in USA


Dr Mark Jones, Head of Policy at Born Free, has expressed shock at the continued practice of keeping dangerous animals as pets and emphasized the need to protect both animals and the public.

Born Free advocates for updated legislation addressing the welfare and safety concerns of keeping wild animals as exotic pets in the UK.

The charity warns that the increasing demand for exotic pets places additional strain on already vulnerable wild populations and poses risks to owners and the public, urging the UK government to review and update the Dangerous Wild Animals Act to better safeguard the welfare of exotic animals and address gaps in regulation.