Herps across England: investigating the scale of reptile and amphibian trade

Helen Tedds, Simon Sneddon, Ros Clubb, Jeff Ollerton, Wanda McCormick

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review

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In recent years the herpetological trade has become increasingly accessible to pet owners. What was once a specialist hobby between a network of keepers has now become mainstream, with reptiles and amphibians often found in general pet shops and online. Animal welfare legalisation has struggled to keep up with this rapid growth, and we have little idea of what species and how many individuals are being traded. Given their specialist needs, there are concerns as to how these animals can thrive in captivity. Previous research by the Blue Cross and Born Free Foundation initially highlighted the potential issues, but was only able to monitor small samples of classified adverts for 3 months.This ongoing research will look at trade in pet shops (both physical and online) and classified adverts over 3 years, utilising a bespoke expert software system to process the large data sets. Adverts uploaded to four classified websites in August 2017 (n= 2551), 2018 (n= 2665) and 2019 (n= 1295) represented 263 different species of reptiles and 50 species of amphibians for sale, which is a much larger quantity than what the previous research found (53 and 7 respectively). Of those adverts that gave reasons for sale (excluding businesses and breeders), the most frequently occurring was 'lack of time' (n= 515) followed by 'moving house' (n= 382). Prices varied between species, morph variety, age, and whether equipment was included, however 78 adverts were listed as ' free to a good home' with 32 of those also offering a complete set-up, meaning that a specialist pet could be acquired with very little effort. Emotive concerns that the animal did not get enough handling or attention were expressed in 252 adverts, suggesting that some owners feel that these species may suffer from being constantly caged. When comparing locations of individual animals for sale per 100,000 of the population of England, trade 'hot spots' (by Local Authority) were identified, with Lincoln, Torbay and Chesterfield being the highest. During 2017, 159 physical and online pet shops across England were visited to further quantify species for sale, which identified a further 168 reptile and 72 amphibian species.Whilst we are at an early stage to properly quantify the herpetological trade, these preliminary findings give a highly detailed snapshot of part of it, which could help inform welfare organisations as to where and how their efforts on education and rescue could be targeted.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020


  • Reptile
  • Amphibians
  • Animal Welfare


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