Exotic pets in the Philippines: what to consider before buying one

It’s Christmas time, and as in past years, pets are again high on the list of the gift lists of people — for themselves and for others. Not only are cute dogs and cats sought after at this time, but also exotic pets and plants. 

Exotic pets include snakes, pythons, geckos, salamanders, turtles, pangolins, insects, and even wildlife such as ostriches, tigers, and monkeys. Sadly, a number of these may fall under the Philippines’ list of endangered or threatened species. 

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on

As you can imagine, there is a wide range of sources for all these exotic animals, not all of which comply with laws or do business ethically. Unfortunately, there is a big black market for exotic pets where no regulations exist. While there are legitimate sellers, so do you have opportunistic sellers and poachers, many of them on social media, who are out there to make a quick buck. 

This is why you need to be very thorough when dealing with traders of exotic pets.  It’s always a buyer beware scenario.  Just as I always tell buyers of dogs and cats to thoroughly research the background of breeders, so is it very important for buyers of exotic pets to be very aware of the sources of their pets.

Here are some reasons why you have to pay extra attention to your sources:

You don’t want to break the law. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has rules on the sale of exotic animals. Pet sellers need a permit from DENR to sell exotic animals. The store also needs a Wildlife Farm Permit. Why is this important? The last thing you want is to find out that you bought a nice pet that turns out to be on the endangered list, putting you afoul of the law. A legitimate seller wouldn’t take this risk. (Sometimes, exotic pets without papers sell at a lower price). Besides, you need to register your exotic pet with the DENR, which issues a Certificate of Wildlife Registration. Having this assures you that your pet won’t get confiscated.

You need continuing guidance and support. Taking care of a pet is never easy. Even dog owners rely on their breeders for knowledge and support on a host of issues such as maintenance and upkeep, diet and nutrition, sources of pet products, veterinary care, and the like. This is the same for exotic pets, who need highly specialized care. For instance, their diets, living conditions, and upkeep could be very specific. A reputable source will be able to give you the guidance and assistance on these matters.  

Disease prevention and care are important considerations. Animals can get sick and may even harbor diseases or bacteria/viruses that can be passed on to your other pets or even to human beings. An opportunistic seller will not be interested in dealing with this, because this carries associated costs and entails an investment in time and resources.  Opportunistic sellers will want to just make a quick buck — nevermind if the exotic pet he sold you is actually sick (and neither you or the seller are aware of it). This is also true among those who buy dogs and cats — unethical breeders do not care if the animals they sell are properly vaccinated and health checked. 

Some of these species are threatened or endangered. Some of the most high-value pets being offered to you might actually be on the endangered species list. These animals are sometimes seen as trophies or prizes by poachers and buyers, who completely forget that they are breaking the law and contributing to the loss of biodiversity. Consider, too, that most of these animals are caught illegally and are usually smuggled or transported in less-than-ideal situations, usually making them sick in the process. Most of all, these animals are usually unable to survive outside of their natural habitat, which means that they will most likely die once in captivity. Ask yourself: why would you want to buy a pet that has suffered? Are you comfortable with the thought that you have contributed to the loss of biodiversity, specifically, for the loss of a threatened species? (If you are comfortable with this, I must say you’re pathetic.)

Pets are a long-term commitment. Pets are not disposable items that can be traded away or discarded once you’ve grown tired of them.. If you’re getting one for yourself, you better be ready for the pet’s maintenance needs. Yes, that includes cleaning its droppings, feeding it, even making sure it gets sun light or whatever else it might need. Similarly, if you are thinking of getting someone an exotic pet,  you can’t assume that the receiver of your gift is ready for it. It’s the same whatever that pet may be. Whether it’s a ball python, a sun conure, or a good old cat, a pet is a creature to be nurtured and taken good care of. (If you know what those commitments are, read my blog here to know if you’re ready for a pet.)

If you ask me, exotic pets and domesticated pets may be very different in some ways, but they require the same thing of their potential owners — responsibility, due diligence, and knowledge. Before you decide to have one, make sure you’re absolutely ready.

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