Eight fire salamanders and natterjack toad the latest in a series of exotic animal seizures

Eight fire salamanders and a natterjack toad were intercepted by Customs officers in Dublin in recent months.

Eight fire salamanders and natterjack toad the latest in a series of exotic animal seizures

Eight fire salamanders and a natterjack toad were intercepted by Customs officers in Dublin in recent months.

The incident is the latest in a series of exotic animal seizures. The trend has prompted the ISPCA to call for tougher sanctions on breeding, keeping and selling exotic animals in Ireland.

The salamanders and toad were being imported by post from Spain for the pet trade market.

Since being intercepted by customs officers, they have been cared for by ISPCA staff.

The salamanders are to be transported to a purpose-built facility at the Galway Atlantaquaria, while the natterjack toad will be rehomed to the Wild Ireland Education Centre as it cannot be released to the wild here.

A natterjack toad seized by Customs officers in Dublin. Picture: ISPCA
A natterjack toad seized by Customs officers in Dublin. Picture: ISPCA

The seizure followed the rescue of two stray snakes last summer, including a royal python named Penelope.

More recently, an emaciated Burmese python was discovered abandoned in the Wicklow Mountains, and an ISPCA inspector seized a Hermann’s tortoise and an axolotl from a property in Roscommon.

Last week, two Horsefield tortoises were surrounded into the care of the ISPCA by an owner who felt they were unable to care for them and both were subsequently diagnosed with a metabolic bone disease caused by a lack of calcium in their diet. It can prove fatal.

The charity is also frequently contacted by owners of red-eared and yellow-bellied terrapins who are looking to rehome their pets which were bought as tiny babies but which can grow to 12 inches in length.

It is extremely difficult to find homes for such large specimens as they are so abundant and so difficult to care for. And, in recent years the charity took into its possession a ring-tailed lemur which was being kept as a pet in Kildare.

The ISPCA has urged people to inform themselves before getting exotic animals as their social needs, nutritional requirements, health risks and environmental impact are often more complex than other domestic animals.

A salamander seized by Customs officers in Dublin. Picture: ISPCA
A salamander seized by Customs officers in Dublin. Picture: ISPCA

ISPCA chief inspector, Conor Dowling, said: “We are raising serious concerns about the poor standard of care provided to exotic animals that need specific environmental and nutritional requirements.

"These animals are frequently allowed to suffer, sometimes unwittingly, by owners who simply do not have the knowledge to care for them properly. In some cases, they may have been poorly advised when purchasing the animals.

What must also be taken into consideration is that there can be a huge disparity between the size of exotic animals when they are babies and when they are fully mature.

The charity is seeking the introduction of a list of species that can be bred, kept and sold, based on their welfare needs, their risk to public health and their risk to the environment if they escaped or are deliberately released.

Mr Dowling said, "Until we see a strengthening of the regulations, we are working with Veterinary Ireland to ensure that appropriate information is available to exotic pet owners to ensure their pets’ welfare needs are adequately met."

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