Exotic Pets

Community, Uncategorized

“I want one!”

Asanti's Family

It is almost impossible not to think this when seeing animals at a zoo or videos on social media of people with exotic pets. They might appear to be calm and sweet, but caring for exotics can be a lot more difficult and dangerous than many people realize. Although most people know the danger to themselves of living with a large exotic animal as a pet, it can also be very dangerous for the animal, and potentially have a negative impact on the survival of the species. That is why exotic animals belong in the care of zoos and parks with professionals.

Prehensile Tail Porcupine

Even though most exotic pet owners love their animals, they do not know the proper way to take care of them. Feeding these animals a proper diet can be complicated or expensive and many pets are either malnourished or overweight. Both of these can be damaging to their health and cause problems for them as they grow older. Sadly, animals that are viewed as dangerous, like big cats, are often declawed or can have their sharp canine teeth removed to make them less dangerous for their owners. These practices are harmful to the animals and can take away from their quality of life. Although most people are not intentionally harming their animals, they can still cause a lot of damage.  

Lion Cubs

It is not just the individual animal that can be harmed from being owned as a pet, but the species itself. When an animal is kept as a pet, whether it was taken from the wild as a baby or born in captivity, it looses it ability to hunt and survive in the wild. That means that the animal will never be able to return to the wild. Similarly, animals that are born to private breeders and sold as pets can not be a part of the species survival plan (SSP) which keeps a healthy population in accredited zoos to help increase their genetic diversity. Because the genetics of animals from private breeders is not often known, those animals can not become members of the SSP if they are ever given to a zoo. This means that every time an exotic animal becomes a pet, it is one less animal that can help increase their genetic diversity and help the species out in the wild.


Exotic animals are beautiful and even though you might wish you could own one, they are better left in the wild or in responsible zoos with people who know how to care for them in the safest and healthiest way possible. Exotic animals in accredited zoos have the best chance to live happy and healthy lives in captivity, and become part of diverse population that will conserve the species for many more years to come.


Coco and Swiper

Ambassador Days, Creature Feature

Coco and Swiper are domestic ferrets that live in the Education Department of Wildlife Safari. They spend their days meeting people of all ages as our animal ambassadors!

Many people are familiar with ferrets as pets, but not many know that here is the US we have a native ferret species: the black-footed ferret. Once common across most of the United States, black-footed ferrets are now endangered, mostly due to loss of prey (and predation) from feral cats. Cats will hunt the same foods that ferrets are hoping to catch, and will also actually catch a ferret if they can.

While they are not black-footed ferrets, Coco and Swiper still do a pretty good job of teaching people about what ferrets are like; what they eat, when they sleep, and the things they do all day (hint: mostly sleep).

Swiper loves to find new snuggle spots, here he has found some toilet paper for craft.

Swiper loves to find new snuggle spots, here he has found some toilet paper for craft.

Ferrets are obligate carnivores, which means they ONLY eat meat. They are extremely flexible, which allows them to move through holes and burrows in search for mice or other small animals.

They are crepuscular, a kind of nocturnal, which means they hunt in the early morning and evening.

The rest of the time they sleep. For ferrets, nap time takes up around 19 hours of the day.

Coco getting her sleep

Coco getting her sleep

The reputation they have for their characteristic smell comes from their musk gland, which they use both for marking territories and to tell each other apart. Their smell acts sort of like a name tag, and through this they can tell who is who, and even who is family. That’s a lot to tell from just a smell!