When good pets go wild: Biosecurity risks of escaped pets

We all love a unique pet, but did you know some escaped pets pose a major threat to our native animals, plants and ecosystems?

Several pet species have gone on to form wild populations in New Zealand, including goldfish, galahs, rosellas and cockatoos.  In Taranaki we occasionally get reports of pets where they shouldn’t be.

One of the most memorable was the Australian eastern water dragon that lived near New Plymouth’s Herekawe Stream for at least 18 months.

By luck one of our officers was nearby when the fourth sighting was reported and captured it. Kawe the dragon, almost 1m long, now lives happily in a secure enclosure in our ecologist’s backyard.

Red-eared slider turtles start off tiny and cute but over their 20-30 year life span can grow to more than 40cm.  

We’ve had a number of sightings including in the Huatoki Stream near Puke Ariki and one wandering up a Bell Block street, leading to speculation it was the return of a turtle that had escaped from a school many years ago!

And we get regular reports of rainbow lorikeets on the loose, especially around Inglewood, with owners letting them out for a ‘fly around’.

The problem is if exotic pets become established in the wild they can destroy native habitats and out compete native animals or plants. They can also pose problems for our economy and health.

The Ministry for Primary Industries is responsible for stopping pets become pests and has set up a National Pest Pet Biosecurity Accord.  Check out their website if you’re considering gifting a pet this Christmas. And make sure the recipient is willing and able to care for the animal for its lifetime.

Finally, if you have an exotic pet you can no longer care for, please don’t set it free. Return it to the pet shop or breeder, or find someone willing to take it on.