Reaseheath College animal experts are calling for the public not to buy exotic pets for Christmas unless they are absolutely sure they know how to care for them.

Lauren Lane, Deputy Manager of the Animal Collection at Reaseheath Zoo, is concerned that unusual pets like snakes, chameleons, turtles, monkeys and parrots are becoming more popular – but that often their special requirements and care are not being met.

She and other members of the zoo team are appealing for families to think carefully before welcoming a new pet into the household, or at least to get expert advice on all aspects of its care before making the purchase.

“Caring for exotic pets is far more complicated than you think”, says Lauren, who specialises in invertebrate management and lectures on the subject at professional seminars and conferences nationwide.

“It’s becoming much easier to buy reptiles, amphibians, birds and more unusual mammals but they don’t necessarily make good pets because they need specialist management to keep them healthy.

“For instance, reptiles need certain levels of UV lighting. Many owners have a UV bulb but have no idea how to measure it to make sure it’s correct. Fish are often bought as first pets or won as prizes but people don’t appreciate that they are taking on an animal that could live for more than 30 years and grow to over a foot in length.

“Primates are very social animals and shouldn’t be kept on their own. Even commonly kept pets like rabbits need specific feeding to avoid digestive problems, a companion to bond with and more space than most people appreciate.”

Lauren suggests that anyone tempted to buy an unusual pet should first talk to an expert and make sure they are fully aware of the animal’s specific requirements. If you need this information before Christmas, Reaseheath’s Zoo is open over the next two weekends – 10th and 11th and 17th and 18th December – when keepers will be on hand to answer questions and demonstrate the expert care which the 1,000 animals in the collection receives.

Reaseheath’s animal management department, which already trains RSPCA officers on the care of exotic animals, is planning to hold a seminar on the subject next Spring.

The event will offer a range of short talks and workshops for pet owners which will be delivered by college experts. Topics are likely to include primate behaviour and welfare, and the requirements and care of reptiles, rabbits and guinea pigs, parrots and birds of prey.

Emphasises Lauren: “We want to raise awareness of the minimum care standards required by exotic pets.

“Our team of zoo keepers have a lot of expertise between them and we hope, through this seminar, to offer practical and useful help to members of the public who already own or are considering purchasing an exotic pet.

“It is up to us to ensure that the animals in our care lead happy, healthy lives in accommodation which is fit for purpose and which allows them as far as possible, to exhibit natural behaviour. They need correct nutrition and, when necessary, veterinary care. Hopefully they will repay this by giving their owners enjoyment for many years.”

More details on Reaseheath’s exotic pet care seminar will be available on our website in early Spring.

For further details on Reaseheath’s Zoo and its special opening times over Christmas, visit our website here and visit the Reaseheath Zoo Facebook page to see more photos of our range of animals.