• Post category:2021 / News
  • Reading time:3 mins read
15 February 2021 | By Ndivhuwo Shivambu and Colleen Downs

Small mammals are amongst the most charismatic animals widely sold as pets around the world. Increasing trade for these pets has resulted in several species releases and escapees from captivity. Consequently, several small mammal pets have become invasive, with significant impacts on crops of agricultural importance, biodiversity, human social wellbeing, and the economy. In addition, some threatened species have become invasive in their introduced ranges, for example, the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus).

In South Africa, this pet trade is growing, and most of the species are sold online and in physical pet stores. Mrs Ndivhuwo Shivambu (C∙I∙B. PhD student), Mr Tinyiko C. Shivambu (C∙I∙B. PhD student), and Prof Colleen T. Downs (C∙I∙B Core Team member) surveyed online trade and physical pet shops across South Africa to determine the degree of trade in non-native small mammals.

In total, 122 pet shops selling 19,391 individuals representing 16 species were documented, while for online sales, seven websites selling 2,681 individuals representing 24 species were recorded. Of the 24 recorded species for sale, seven have become invasive through pet trade escapees and releases in other countries. The most dominant species in both online and pet stores were the Norwegian rat (Rattus norvegicus), guinea pig (Cavia porcellus), European rabbit and the house mouse (Mus musculus). About 46% of the species are listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and this includes most of the primate species. The recorded species’ price ranged from ZAR9.00 to ZAR12,000.00, with primate species sold at relatively higher prices than other groups. Species found to be most popular, cheaper, not listed on CITES, least concern and invasive elsewhere pose a particular invasion risk to South Africa. Given this, the study recommends that sale of these species should be regulated to prevent future invasions and possible impacts.

We believe that potential impacts of non-native small mammals can be mitigated through monitoring the trade, including engagement with the public, pet industry, researchers and policy developers. Appropriate management strategies can also be implemented through such engagements”.

Read the full paper for more information

Shivambu N, Shivambu TC, Downs CT (2021) Non-native small mammal species in the South African pet trade. Management of Biological Invasions 12 (in press). https://www.reabic.net/journals/mbi/2021/Accepted/MBI_2021_Shivambu_etal_correctedproof.pdf

For more information, contact Mrs Ndivhuwo Shivambu (ndivhuwomaligana@gmail.com) or Professor Colleen T Downs (downs@ukzn.ac.za)

Examples of non-native small mammal species sold as pets in South Africa
Examples of non-native small mammal species sold as pets in South Africa. Pictures were taken from different advertising websites in the present study (photograph Gumtree, PublicAds)