Concerns as Minecraft triggers kids' axolotl craze


Fears of a craze for pet axolotls sparked by the popular video game Minecraft has prompted a warning against impulse buys of exotic pets because of these animals' complex needs.

Amid signs of a growing interest in purchasing an axolotl as a pet, the RSPCA are highlighting the challenges of providing appropriate care for exotic pets living in a domestic environment. Before buying, they would urge prospective owners of any exotic pet to research the needs of the particular species thoroughly and ensure they can meet them at all times for the lifetime of the animal. 

Senior Scientific Manager, Dr Ros Clubb said: "We urge parents to resist their kids' pleas for a pet axolotl - or any other exotic pet - this Christmas.

"Looking after exotic pets is very challenging as they have the same environmental, diet and behavioural requirements as their relatives in the wild. We're particularly concerned when new pet trends such as axolotls emerge as exotic pets often end up in our care later down the line when people realise they're not easy to care for, or once the novelty wears off. Playing with an axolotl in Minecraft is one thing, but taking on the care of a real live axolotl is a whole different matter. These amphibians need care and attention for their entire lives, which can be 15 years - long after the kids may have flown the nest."

Dr Clubb added: "As well as investing in the correct set-up, including a large tank with good water filtration and heating, they need regular water changes, veterinary care if they become ill and someone to care for them during holidays and other times away. It's a big commitment. They also shouldn't be handled, so will kids still be interested months or years down the line?"

Movies spark trends for exotic pets

Unfortunately, many people are unaware of how much of a commitment axolotls and other exotic pets are when they take them on. The RSPCA believe that the decision to acquire one should not be taken lightly as impulse-buying risks animals suffering as people may not fully understand what is needed to care for them properly.

The axolotl/Minecraft phenomenon threatens to have similar consequences as previous media-related trends. For example, following the release of the Compare the Market advert in 2009, calls about meerkats to our cruelty and advice line rose by 184% the following year. Similarly, there was an upsurge in the trade in terrapins following the release of the film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and increases have been recorded in the trade in iguanas following the release of Jurassic Park and in clownfish after the Finding Nemo film was released.

The axolotl phenomenon underscores some of the issues highlighted in a recent report into exotic pets published jointly by the RSPCA and Born Free, which says current laws are inadequate and need an urgent overhaul.

Dr Clubb added:

"Exotic pets should never be an impulse buy. Potential owners need to make sure they can give their animal the environment it needs and that they have the facilities, time, financial means and long-term commitment to maintain a good standard of care. We encourage potential owners to read books written by experts on the particular species they wish to keep and to join member societies where there are experienced keepers who can help if they are struggling. Specialist vets are also an excellent source of support and advice for owners."