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For Immediate Release: 04/05/12

Earth Day Message: Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Born Free USA is calling on public leaders on Earth Day, April 22, to protect the environment from a problem of increasing magnitude: the private ownership of exotic animals. As a national leader on animal protection and wildlife conservation, Born Free USA is working to halt the epidemic of wild animals as “pets” and the deep impact keeping wildlife in captivity has on conservation by spearheading efforts to preserve wildlife’s rightful place in the wild.

Every year in the United States, exotic “pets” are involved in incidents that result in human injury and death. With so many exotic animals in private hands, tragedy, danger and the waste of taxpayer resources to try to protect citizens from harm or death will continue. Furthermore, what many people do not realize or understand is that the environment will continue to suffer as well.

According to Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA, “It is absurd how easy it is to obtain an exotic pet. Thousands of websites sell big cats, primates and potentially invasive reptiles to anyone, anywhere. A tiger can be purchased for as little as $300 — less than a purebred dog. The sellers frequently ignore laws regulating this industry and have little concern about the dangers, difficulties, physical and physiological needs of the animals they peddle. And after acquiring an exotic ‘pet,’ people soon realize they are in over their heads and cannot properly care for them.”

Born Free USA tracks numerous reports of exotic “pets” who escape or are intentionally released into our nation’s ecosystems, causing myriad problems.

Roberts explains, “The Everglades is a perfect example of how the environment is directly affected by the exotic ‘pets’ epidemic. Right now, there are 100,000 or more pythons on the loose there, released by human ‘owners’ who could no longer meet their needs. Recently a 16-foot-long Burmese python was found in the Everglades with a 76-pound deer in his belly. Six years ago, a 13-foot-long python there burst while trying to digest a 6-foot-long alligator. Americans need to understand that the exotic pet trade deeply impacts not only the life of an animal, but also public safety, wildlife conservation and the environment.”

Born Free USA wants to educate the public by sharing these startling facts about exotic pets:

  • There are more tigers kept as “pets” in the United States (between 5,000 and 7,000) than there are in the wild, where fewer than 4,000 remain. At the turn of the 20th century there were an estimated 100,000 in the wild.
  • An estimated 13 million reptiles are kept as “pets” in the United States. Most were captured in the wild or are the offspring of wild-caught parents. Tens of thousands of Burmese pythons — formerly kept as “pets” — have been let loose in the Florida swamps.
  • Since 1990, more than 300 dangerous incidents involving big cats kept in captivity occurred in 44 states. Four children and 16 adults have been killed, and more than 240 have been mauled or injured.
  • More than 60 percent of the recorded dangerous primate incidents in the United States in the past 10 years involved “pet" primates. Since 1990, more than 200 people — including dozens of children — have been injured by primates, and many more incidents likely went unreported. One well-known case happened in 2009, when a pet chimpanzee mauled a woman’s face off in Connecticut.
    Many exotic wild animals, especially non-human primates, are carriers of zoonotic diseases, such as herpes B, monkey pox and salmonellosis, all of which are communicable to humans.

Born Free USA tracks Exotic Animal Incidents through its online database, designed as a resource for the media, lawmakers, activists and the public to help shed light on the magnitude of the issue. Learn more about how to stop the exotic animal trade and what you can do to help save wildlife and the environment by visiting www.bornfreeusa.org.

Through litigation, legislation and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to the United States the message of “compassionate conservation” — the vision of the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film “Born Free,” along with their son Will Travers, now chief executive officer of both organizations. Born Free’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally.

More at www.bornfreeusa.org; on Twitter at http://twitter.com/bornfreeusa; and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BornFreeUSA.

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