Oceanarium appeals to exotic pet owners during National Pet Month
This month we are celebrating the fact that Ziggy, our now 4 year male green iguana, arrived at the Oceanarium 2 years ago, rescued by Vikki Cartwright at All About Animals and the RSPCA.
We invested £4,000 in a brand new, 3m² naturally themed display. Custom-built specifically for the requirements of an iguana, Ziggy’s habitat replicates natural conditions he would experience in the Amazonian Rainforest, including three daily showers by the aquatic team, sun lamps, a basking tree, bathing pool and foliage to climb amongst. Ziggy clearly loves his home, displaying bright green colouring on his under-belly indicating he is a very content lizard. See photos from his arrival here.
Ziggy’s anniversary poignantly coincides with National Pet Month - April 7th to May 7th, which promotes nationwide responsible pet ownership. During this time aquarists here at the Oceanarium wish to draw attention in particular to their areas of expertise – fish and reptiles – or the group of pets known as ‘exotics’.
Our Aquatics team take weekly calls from members of the public who are looking to re-home their exotic pets, and while we would like to say yes to everyone, we are simply not able to accommodate all the unwanted and oversized fish and reptiles..
Sarah Barker, our Aquatic Supervisor explains; ‘Ziggy is a real success story and we are thrilled he is displaying such obvious signs of health and happiness. Exotic pets can make incredibly rewarding and interesting pets, however, green iguanas in particular do not always make good ones. They can grow up to 6ft in length and can often be very aggressive and territorial. They have long sharp claws and their tails can be used as whips if they feel threatened.
‘Reptiles are termed ‘exotic’ pets for a reason – they need a different approach and have very different needs to a pet rabbit or a hamster. It is essential that people understand the species they want to buy as this will help to determine how big the pet will grow, what specific diet it needs and will ensure the pet is provided everything it needs to live a happy and healthy life.’
Creature donations from the public is not a problem only we at the Oceanarium faces – it is a growing national issue which sparked the NAW (National Aquarium Workshop) and the BIAZA Aquarium Working Group (of which our curator Oliver is a commitee member) to create the Big Fish Campaign. The campaign aims to highlight the problem public aquaria face of having to re-home large unwanted tropical fish. The Oceanarium is instrumental in raising public awareness for the campaign through our own displays which house an abundance of rescued creatures including terrapins, catfish, giant pacus and illegally imported hingeback tortoises brought to the Oceanarium after being confiscated at Heathrow airport plus information videos and information points with posters and leaflets around our building.
At the Oceanarium we are passionate about the welfare of all creatures in residence here and although we hate to turn away creatures in need we find ourselves in a dilemma. We need to consider our current creatures first and it is very difficult to introduce new ones as this could upset the careful balance we have created. In addition new-comers could carry disease or infections. We have a duty to focus on species for conservation purposes as well as those which are unique and interesting to visitors.
We therefore are urging people to be informed before buying any exotic pets and to be responsible with the care of them.