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Front. Ecol. Evol. | doi: 10.3389/fevo.2019.00052

Why have a pet amphibian? Insights from YouTube

 John Measey1*,  Annie Basson1, Alexander Rebelo1,  Ana Nunes1, Giovanni Vimercati1, Marike Louw1 and  Nitya P. Mohanty1
  • 1Stellenbosch University, South Africa

The desire to own a pet amphibian is growing, and with it a growth in amphibian trade and in negative impacts on native populations, including disease transmission and invasive amphibian populations. We know very little about how or why people choose amphibians as pets, but amphibian owners share large numbers of videos on freely accessible platforms, such as YouTube. We aimed to use videos of captive amphibians to determine which species are kept, their life-history stage and the types of videos uploaded. We watched and categorized 1162 videos by video type, type of amphibian behavior and amphibian taxonomy (superfamily, family and species). We used data on the amphibian trade from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), on conservation status from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list, and on potential environmental impact from published Environmental Impact Classification of Alien Taxa (EICAT) records, to determine potential conflicts of owning pet amphibians. We recorded 173 captive species in 847 videos with a taxonomic overrepresentation of salamandroids and pipoids, and an underrepresentation of ranoids and plethodontoids. When compared to videos of wild amphibian species, videos of captive animals featured disproportionate amounts of adults feeding, being handled and moving. The videos watched had a smaller proportion of threatened amphibian species, but a higher proportion of invasive species, than would be expected by chance, with the proportion present in CITES appendices (18%) being non-significant. We suggest that such data can be used to profile potential pets for trade and attempt to avoid conflicts with threatened and highly impacting alien species.

Keywords: Pet trade, invasive species, pathways, Anura, Caudata, Gymnophiona

Received: 14 Aug 2018; Accepted: 12 Feb 2019.

Edited by:

Mike Rogerson, University of Essex, United Kingdom

Reviewed by:

Richard A. Griffiths, University of Kent, United Kingdom
Karen Beard, Utah State University, United States  

Copyright: © 2019 Measey, Basson, Rebelo, Nunes, Vimercati, Louw and Mohanty. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. John Measey, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa,