A total of 187 private addresses across 126 local authorities in the UK hold licences to keep dangerous wild animals such as lions, tigers, crocodiles and venomous reptiles.

This includes a vast amount in Wiltshire, from wolves to cobras and leopards. There was even a Gila Monster reported in nearby Oxfordshire.

Today, international wildlife charity Born Free is releasing new data exposing the number of dangerous wild animals being kept legally as ‘pets’ in the UK.

Research undertaken by Born Free found that in 2023 more than 2,700 dangerous wild animals were being kept privately in Great Britain under licences permitted by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976.

The charity has been campaigning to protect the welfare of exotic wild animals kept as ‘pets’ since 2005 and has regularly monitored the scale of dangerous wild animal ownership since 2017.

Here we take a look at the dangerous animals being kept in private properties in Wiltshire:

Wiltshire's dangerous pets:

  • Common Brown Lemur: 2
  • Collared Brown Lemur: 1
  • American Plains Bison: 47
  • Bactrian Camel: 3
  • Ocelot: 2
  • Asian Leopard Cat: 5
  • Serval: 1
  • Savannah Cat: 1
  • Wolf: 4
  • Ring-Tailed Lemur: 3
  • King Cobra: 1
  • Siamese Peninsular Pit Viper: 1
  • Pope’s Pit Viper: 1
  • Hagen’s Pit Viper: 1

Dr Mark Jones, Born Free’s head of policy, said: "It is unbelievable that, in this day and age, so many dangerous animals, including big cats, large primates, crocodiles and venomous snakes, continue to be legally kept in people’s homes in the UK.

"Increasing demand for and trade in all kinds of wild animals as exotic pets puts owners and the wider public at risk of injury or disease. It also results in serious animal suffering, and the demand increases the pressure on many wild populations which are often already under threat.

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"The UK likes to claim to be at the forefront of efforts to protect nature and improve the welfare of animals, yet our legislation governing the keeping of and trade in exotic pets is woefully outdated. The Dangerous Wild Animals Act should be overhauled as a matter of urgency, in order to phase out the private keeping of those species that clearly don’t belong in people’s homes."

Chris Lewis, Born Free’s captivity research officer, added: “The Dangerous Wild Animals Act was intended to make the keeping of such animals categorised as “dangerous” a wholly exceptional circumstance. However, Born Free’s ongoing research paints a very different picture.

"Many members of the public will rightly be shocked to learn of so many animals being kept by private keepers. Yet, at its core, the act is based upon the assumption that it is possible to keep dangerous wild animals in a way that minimises or eliminates risk to the public and in a manner that meets an animal’s welfare needs.

"This has resulted in legislation being reactionary, struggling to keep pace with ever-changing scientific evidence and becoming increasingly out-of-date. The regulations pertaining to the keeping and trading of wild animals kept as pets are in urgent need of review.”