Leipzig: Exotic animal husbandry – “knowledge gaps are enormous”

Exotic animal husbandry is becoming increasingly popular in Germany. However, the gaps in knowledge are often huge.

Leipzig – The popularity of exotic animal husbandry is growing in Germany. However, many people often miss it: the conditions of preservation that go hand in hand with canaries, turtles and the like. In the end, it is always the animals that suffer the most.

Turtles have been popular pets for years. However, a lot can go wrong, especially with feeding, and this can make your reptile sick. © Anett Breiting / Avian and Reptile Clinic Leipzig

Explains Professor Dr. . Maria Elisabeth Krautwald Junghans, Director of the Ornithology and Reptile Clinic at the University of Leipzig.

Among other things, the veterinarian coordinated the “Exopet” study conducted across Germany between 2005 and 2018, which was funded, among other things, by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. “The study showed that most owners are not at all aware of how they keep the animal they have bought,” says Professor Krautwald-Junghanns.

The knowledge gaps are enormous, both for unprotected animals like canaries and bearded dragons and endangered species like gray parrots and Greek tortoises. “Turtles, for example, hibernate,” says the vet. “But many don’t know how to properly groom their animals.”

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Food is also a problem area. “Some pet stores offer food that sooner or later will make animals sick. But no one checks for it exactly. Then the owner comes with the one who means good, buys the expensive food and uses the wrong one.”

In the Clinic for Birds and Reptiles in Leipzig, turtles with kidney problems and metabolic disorders are repeatedly treated for poor keeping.

Gray parrots are highly intelligent and should never be kept alone, says Professor Krautwald-Junghanns.  If this happens, behavioral problems may occur, among other things.

Gray parrots are highly intelligent and should never be kept alone, says Professor Krautwald-Junghanns. If this happens, behavioral problems may occur, among other things. © Maria-Elisabeth Krautwald-Junghanns / Avian and Reptile Clinic Leipzig

University professor Krautwald-Junghanns has been campaigning for better conservation conditions for exotic animal species for years, and recently asked the German news agency to draw up uniform regulations.

“As veterinarians, we are always in front of people and we have to tell them that they are not keeping their animals properly. If you do it ten times a day, you wonder if something is wrong somewhere else,” says the clinic manager.

Other countries such as Austria and Switzerland are already much further afield by offering consistent guidelines for keeping exotic animals.

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“For example, gray parrots are only kept in pairs and there are training courses for chameleons so that people learn how to keep such an animal in a species-appropriate way before they get hold of it. The only thing that works here in Germany is the general animal welfare law.”

Not only do improvements need to be made at the legal level, but there is also a lack of access to information. “Although there is an Exopet study we did, but who would look for it online at the federal ministry and then get the information there? We are also calling for significant improvements to the standardized breeding specification there.”

The advice Professor Krautwald-Junghanns can currently give anyone interested in exotic animals before making a purchase is to find out exactly what the animal needs and whether you can guarantee proper breeding of the species.

“Most people would dare to do this in principle, but this begins with the fact that, for example, the required high humidity level for tropical animals in the apartment cannot be achieved or the required free daily flight for each bird cannot be guaranteed,” the vet says. “So: get the info first, then make the purchase.”

Cover photo: Maria-Elisabeth Krautwald-Junghanns / Avian and Reptile Clinic Leipzig

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