Exotic pets are for life - not just for Christmas.
That is the message from wildlife experts from SeaLife Blackpool this year as unusual and difficult-to-care-for animals soar in popularity.
Snakes, giant spiders, chameleons, turtles, and exotic species of tropical fish can be easy to get hold of thanks to the internet -–but some wannabe exotic pet owners could find themselves in trouble as they struggle to meet the unique needs of their new family members.
Matthew Titherington, general manager at Sea Life Blackpool, said: “We are frequently contacted by people asking if we can take in unusual pets. Our advice to people looking to buy an exotic or unusual animal or creature as a present is to make sure they are fully aware just how much work is involved in caring properly for their new pet.
“These animals may look fun, but they are a great responsibility. The same goes for species of tropical fish. You have to look at all aspects of care, plus how large some of these creatures can become.”
Some fish, such as the Pacus species – a relative of piranha fish – can grow up to almost one metre in length.
Matthew said: “When it comes to fish people don’t appreciate they are taking on a pet that really needs a lot of care and attention and that could live for more than 30 years.
“Something that initially fits in an aquarium in a front room can grow into a creature well over a foot in length. Insects and reptiles also need specialist care and attention to keep them healthy.
“There is a well-known saying ‘a dog is for life, not just Christmas’. That goes for all forms of pets. The advice is out there, we’d urge people to take it and think really long and hard before committing themselves.”
Scott Blacker, head aquarist, added: “It can be very easy to buy an exotic pet over the internet. But things become much more complex as soon as it arrives. There are often special requirements in terms of habitat, temperature and diet.
“People often underestimate the burden this can become, especially if you’re going away on holiday, for example. Some owners then become disillusioned and are looking to give the pet away or, worse still, dump them.”