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International trade in exotic pets is an important and increasing driver of biodiversity loss and often compromises the standards required for good animal welfare. We systematically reviewed the scientific and gray literature and used the United Nations Environment Programme - World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) trade database to establish temporal and geographical trade patterns of live exotic birds, mammals, and reptiles and to describe trends in research, taxonomic representation, and level of threat and legal protection of species traded. Birds were the most species-rich and abundant class reported in trade; reptiles were second most abundant but unusually the most studied in this context; and mammals were least abundant in trade. Mammalian and reptilian species traded as pets were more likely to be threatened than expected by random. There have been a substantial number of Appendix I listed captive-bred mammals and birds and wild-caught birds and reptiles reported in trade to CITES. We identified the Middle East's emerging role as a driver of demand for exotic pets of all taxa alongside the well-established and increasing role of South America and Southeast Asia in the market. Europe, North America, and the Middle East featured most heavily in trade reports to CITES, whereas trade involving South America and Southeast Asia were given most emphasis in the literature. For effective monitoring of and appropriate response to the international exotic pet trade, it is imperative that the reliability and detail of CITES trade reports improve and that scientific research be directed toward those taxa and locations that are most vulnerable.

Original publication




Journal article


Conserv Biol

Publication Date





663 - 676


CITES, animal welfare, bienestar animal, exotic pet trade, mercado de mascotas exóticas, mercado de vida silvestre, wildlife trade, Animal Welfare, Animals, Birds, Commerce, Conservation of Natural Resources, Mammals, Pets, Reptiles