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We are working to achieve effective legislation to protect wild animals, and to improve enforcement of existing legislation to safeguard their welfare in all circumstances – whether in the wild or in captivity, traded or kept as exotic pets.

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Over recent years there has been a growing trend towards keeping exotic animals instead of traditional pets, making the EU a top importer of tropical fish, reptiles, birds and mammals. There are more than 200 million pets in Europe, including mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and amphibians. However, many species, especially exotic animals, are unsuited to a life in captivity.


Wildlife icon – Exotic Pets

The import of exotic species for the pet trade threatens the survival of wild species, the welfare of the animals and the health of humans and other animals from the spread of disease. Some wild animals are captured under dire conditions and suffer high mortality rates throughout the trade cycle. The complex needs of exotic animals can be difficult to meet in captivity. When animals become too costly, difficult to manage, or lose their novelty, they are often abandoned and can threaten native wildlife and the ecosystem.


Wildlife icon – Wildlife Traffic

Exotic animals are traded as pets, for zoos, and for use in research. The EU is a top importer of tropical fish, reptiles, birds and mammals, with 6.7 million live reptiles imported between 2005 and 2007.
The main animal welfare concerns are related to the considerable suffering involved during the various steps of the trade: capture, killing methods used, or – in the case of animals sold alive – transportation and keeping conditions at holding centres and at the final destination.
The EU is also a major destination market for illegal wildlife products. The value of the legal and illegal wildlife trade has been estimated to be between US$20 billion and US$323 billion. In 2008, the black market in wildlife trade was estimated to be the fourth most lucrative crime after trafficking in drugs, arms, and human beings.
We are working to promote a reduction of wildlife trade and trafficking, while advocating with stakeholders and decision-makers for an interpretation of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in a way that improves the welfare of animals, averts biodiversity loss and promotes nature conservation.


Wildlife icon – Invasive species

As a member of the European Commission Working Group on Invasive Alien Species, we participate in the consultation process concerning EU Regulation N. 1143/2014 on invasive alien species. This involves supervising the implementation and enforcement of the Regulation, and ensuring the development and promotion of best practices and guidelines for the welfare of the invasive alien species during management operations at Member States level.


Wildlife icon – Circus

For wild animals, circuses and dolphinaria fail to provide some of the most basic social, spatial and health requirements:

  • The ability to execute many natural behaviours is severely reduced
  • The animals are obliged to perform unnatural behaviours
  • The training of the animals involves punishment
  • The animals are exposed to close confinement, large, noisy crowds of people, inappropriate social groupings and disruption of established social ties

In recent years, there has been an increasing discussion about the justification for the use of wild animals in public entertainment. This has also been reflected in different national legislations, and 18 Member States have now adopted limitations on using wild animals in circuses. We believe that a coordinated approach among Member States would eliminate these outdated entertainments and offer a coherent and effective solution to the physical and emotional suffering of wild animals in circuses.


Wildlife icon – zoo

In the EU, more than 1,500 zoos keep animals ranging from elephants to small insects. Many are kept in conditions that cause them great stress and suffering. According to the EU Zoo Directive, modern zoos should fulfil three objectives:

  • Conservation,
  • Research
  • Public education

However, there is overwhelming evidence that the Directive is inconsistently implemented and enforced across the Member States, and in some cases it is completely absent.

As a direct result of Eurogroup for Animals action, the European Commission has opened legal proceedings against certain Member States for failing to properly enforce EU rules protecting wild animals kept in zoos.

  • Download our Position Paper on the EC evaluation of the EU Zoos Directive 1999/22/EC