The Channel 4 documentary titled "UNTOLD: Exotic Pet Trade - Exposed" explores the booming popularity of exotic pets on social media. The film delves into the romanticized portrayal of these animals, revealing a darker reality of shocking conditions and exploitation. The undercover investigation examines the ease of acquiring exotic pets, particularly focusing on the exotic pet trend on platforms like TikTok. Wildlife activist Nadem Perera questions whether social media influencers bear responsibility for the surge in exotic pet ownership. The documentary also highlights concerns from exotic pet vets and wildlife professionals about the welfare of these animals and the potential impact of social media content on encouraging ownership.
The documentary begins by discussing the exponential growth of the exotic pet trade, fueled by social media's influence. Nadem Pereira, a wildlife activist, expresses concern about the exploitation and abuse of animals featured as pets on platforms like TikTok. The film examines the popularity of exotic pet content on social media, showcasing influencers like Birdman, who has over 700,000 followers on TikTok and features endangered species like the blue-throated macaw.
The investigation questions whether such online content encourages others to acquire exotic pets. The TikTok hashtag #exoticpets has gained significant traction, with millions of views and a 250% rise in interest. Birdman discusses the financial aspects of his content creation, revealing substantial earnings from virtual gifts. The film explores the potential impact of such earnings on encouraging others to enter the exotic pet trade.
Exotic pet vet Fabian Rivers raises concerns about the welfare of these animals, citing a poll indicating that over 80% of vets believe the needs of exotic pets are not being met. Reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates are particularly popular as exotic pets, with a notable increase in the pet snake population. The documentary highlights issues such as premature deaths of pet reptiles and the violation of Animal Welfare Act guidelines.
The film also investigates events promoting the sale of exotic pets, revealing a lack of adherence to welfare standards. It questions the ethics of selling animals at these events and challenges the notion that such transactions ensure the well-being of the animals.
The documentary further explores the sale of primates, particularly marmoset monkeys, through online platforms. It reveals breeders violating guidelines by selling separated individuals, which is traumatic for sociable animals like marmosets. The RSPCA estimates thousands of primates kept in homes may face welfare issues. The film concludes with concerns about the ease of acquiring exotic pets and the potential negative impact of social media content on animal welfare.