Blind Trading: A Literature Review of Research Addressing the Welfare of Ball Pythons in the Exotic Pet Trade
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Extensive numbers of Ball pythons are caught, bred, traded and subsequently kept in captivity across the world as part of the exotic pet industry. Despite their widespread availability as pets, relatively little is known about the potential welfare challenges affecting them. We reviewed the literature for research focused on the health and welfare of Ball pythons in the international pet trade. From a total of 88 articles returned from the search criteria, our analysis showed that very few actually focused on trade (10%) or animal welfare (17%). Instead, the majority (64%) of articles focused on veterinary science. There was a considerable bias towards physical health, with most studies neglecting the four other domains of animal welfare (behaviour, nutrition, environment and mental health). Furthermore, very few studies considered Ball pythons prior to resulting pet ownership, during wild capture and transportation or captive breeding operations. Our review demonstrates that our current understanding of welfare for Ball pythons traded as exotic pets is limited. We recommend that future research should focus on aspects of the industry that are currently overlooked, including the potential consequences of genetic selection during captive-breeding and the conditions provided for snakes prior to and during international transportation.
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