More people are keeping exotic animals, such as snakes, terrapins and lizards, in the UK. If you're thinking of keeping a unusual animal it's important to make sure you've done your research and can provide a safe and healthy environment for them.
Exotic animals aren't domesticated like traditional pets, such as cats, rabbits and hamsters. As such, the RSPCA considers them 'wild animals that are kept in captivity', and reminds anyone interested in keeping them that they come with unique and sometimes challenging needs.
Some animals require a specialist environment, diet or lifestyle, so it's important to do your research and make sure you can afford the time and money it takes to look after them properly.
Some questions to ask
Before you rush out to buy one make sure you know the answers to questions such as how long it's expected to live, how big it will grow, how much and what food it eats and whether it's active by day or night.
You'll need to find out how much space it needs - and remember that this will increase as it grows. Does it prefer to be kept alone or does it need to live with others? What does it need within its enclosure (for instance, you may need to provide branches for perching, dust for bathing or rough rocks to help reptiles lose their skin when moulting).
You should also find out if there is a local vet with knowledge about the animal you're interested in keeping, should it suffer with health problems.
It's also your responsibility to find out if you need a licence to keep it and if there are any current legal restrictions on selling it.
You can find lots of books and sites online that will help answer your questions. It can also be a good idea to chat to others who keep the same kind of animal, who may have useful tips.
If you do decide to go ahead, take time to find a reputable breeder and check that the animals are kept properly.
For more information, read the RSPCA's excellent 'Handle with Care' report which looks at the dangers and needs of keeping different exotic animals.