Snakes alive! they're legal
By Jo Duckles
More than 115 dangerous wild animals including deadly snakes, crocodiles and jaguars are being kept as alternatives to traditional dogs, cats and goldfish in Oxfordshire.
There are six lions, one jaguar, a grey wolf, 12 crocodiles, 20 venomous snakes, as well as various monkeys, bears and leopards among the "dangerous" animals in the county, according to a survey by the Big Cats in Britain Research Group.
The group got the information by approaching England's 408 local authorities to find out how many creatures classed as Dangerous Wild Animals were being kept by licensed private keepers.
The Freedom of Information Act survey revealed there are 2,000 licensed ostriches in the UK, along with 500 monkeys, 250 poisonous snakes and 150 big cats.
When asked which of Oxfordshire's beasts were the most dangerous, Mark Fraser, of BCIB, said: "Certainly the jaguar is quite a vicious animal, and I wouldn't like some of those snakes to get out."
He said owners who kept such animals had to devise strict contingency plans in case their pets escaped, in order to get a licence.
Mr Fraser said: "Our survey has only revealed the legal ones. The trade in illegal animals is second only to the drugs trade. I would love to know what is being kept illegally."
He said he would prefer wild animals to be re-introduced to their natural habitats. He added: "In captivity they won't be reaching their full potential. They will be emotionally stunted.
"Zoos help with endangered species, but who wants a crocodile as a pet? You could use it for chasing tax collectors and that's about it."
BCIB scientific advisor Chris Moiser said: "In this day and age, with so many restrictions on keeping exotic animals, it is a pleasant surprise to see how many people go to such lengths to keep their animals properly and lawfully."
BCIB will be discussing its findings at the British Big Cat Conference in Hull in March.
9:06am Tuesday 2nd January 2007