Lions, tigers and cheetahs among 4,000 dangerous wild animals kept as pets in UK

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Nearly 4,000 dangerous wild animals are being kept in Britain as pets – including lions, tigers and cheetahs, as well as zebras and elephants.

More than 274 primates including 150 lemurs live in people’s homes as well 158 crocodilians.

There are also 320 wild cats living among us including 11 lions, 8 tigers, 11 leopards, 18 pumas, 10 cheetahs, 2 ligers and 1 jaguar.

The figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the charity Born Free, also discovered how 508 venomous snakes including 57 diamondback rattlesnakes, 332 scorpions, 106 venomous lizards and two elephants are also being kept as pets.

Other species include zebras, camels, hyaena, sun bears, wolves, and otters are licensed under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1972.

The current rules were introduced after owning exotic creatures became increasingly fashionable in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Born Free wants the law changed to protect creatures which, it says, suffer in private homes.

The organisation warned how the figures of 3,951 is “the tip of the iceberg” as many additional dangerous wild animals are being kept without a licence. Eight local authorities also failed to respond to their request.

Just last year, a hybrid Savannah cat escaped in Hampstead, London, while a seven-foot-long Boa constrictor appeared in a back garden and then turned on its rescuer biting his hand and wrapping itself around his wrist on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent.

There have been other horror stories where a woman was bitten in the eye by a python at Mayfair club and almost blinded, while a man in Hampshire was killed by his 8ft African rock python.

Records held by the RSPCA say officers rescued over 4,000 exotic animals in 2018 alone. Due to the nature of the animals, most owners fail to report escapes or attacks for fear of the animal being removed or their licence revoked.

Dr Mark Jones, Veterinarian and Born Free’s Head of Policy, said: “ Since the millennium the wild animal welfare and conservation charity has seen a dramatic increase in the number of exotic pets in private ownership.

“The UK likes to claim to be at the forefront of efforts to protect nature and improve the welfare of animals, yet our legislation governing the keeping of and trade in exotic pets is woefully outdated.

“While the Government’s recent proposal to ban the keeping of and trade in primates as pets is a welcome first step, there are many other species that need to be protected from this form of exploitation. The Dangerous Wild Animals Act should be overhauled as a matter of urgency, in order to phase-out the private keeping of and trade in those species that clearly don’t belong in people’s homes.”