List of illegal pets in South Africa and where to get wildlife permits

List of illegal pets in South Africa and where to get wildlife permits

Are you informed on the list of illegal pets in South Africa? The exotic pet trade is a multi-billion-dollar industry as many people own exotic pets today. Whether being held illegally or legally, there are a couple of things you should know before taking ownership of an animal.

exotic pets
List of illegal pets in South Africa. Photo: @order_anarchy85
Source: UGC

The South African nature conservation and environmental department regulates the legal requirements concerning exotic creatures. Johannesburg Zoo education supervisor, Nathi Mvula, stated that individuals who run pet shops do it for entrepreneurial benefits. However, conservationists keep the animals to teach people about them and monitor their welfare, as well as health.

What are exotic pets?

The term exotic is mainly used to refer to something that is not indigenous to a particular country. However, when referring to pets, it means unusual. Therefore, exotic pets include animals such as parrots, snakes, iguanas, and monkeys. These are not commonly kept pets, thus referred to as exotic.

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ferret South Africa
Image:, @stinky_little_thieves
Source: UGC

When choosing an exotic pet, it is important to uphold ethical considerations as many traders sell illegally. Therefore, it is your responsibility to ensure that you buy a pet from a reputable trader or corporation.

A list of illegal pets in South Africa, and some legal species

Local pet shops in South Africa sell popular exotic animals such as the corn snake from South America. However, buyers sometimes forget that the cost of keeping and maintaining a pet, mostly the exotic species, is more than the price of the pet itself.

Considering factors such as meeting veterinary requirements and providing food for the animal, you are expected to spend quite a lot of money. You should also be able to take proper care of your pet everyday, which involves doing things such as cleaning it and spending time together.


Ferrets are domesticated animals, meaning that they have been adapted from the wild species by human beings to fulfill specific requirements. For many centuries, these animals have been effective and reliable hunting partners as they are highly skilled in flushing out rabbits from burrows. Additionally, they respond well to human affection and interaction. They can also be very entertaining.

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legal exotic pets in south africa
Image:, @rigatonitheferret
Source: UGC

These creatures are small, measuring between 40 and 60 cm long. Males are referred to as hobs while the females are known as jills. The latter weighs around 0.5-1.5 kg while hobs weight from 1.0-2.5kg. Their lifespan is about eight to ten years. Interestingly, they come in different colors.

Ferrets sleep between 18 to 20 hours every day. However, they are highly active when awake. It is essential to get them toys to keep them physically and mentally occupied. They enjoy playing with other ferrets, as well as human companionship.

These little creatures are obligate carnivores, thus need meat for survival. To ensure that they receive all the nutrients they require, it is advisable to feed them with specially-designed complete ferret food such as Burgees Excel Ferret which can be bought online or from selected pet food retailers.

wildlife permits South Africa
Image:, @xprincess_lattex
Source: UGC

According to the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act5 10 of 2004; Alien and invasive species regulations (NEMBA), ferrets have been classified as a highly invasive species. To pet a ferret, South African authorities in charge of animals expect you to meet specific requirements and obtain various permits before purchase.

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Marmosets, commonly known as finger monkeys, are small South American primates that are increasingly being kept as pets in South Africa. Interesting to note, Aap is used to refer to a monkey in Afrikaans.

When marmosets are still young and innocent, they are simply adorable and charming. There are various sites showing finger monkey for sale South Africa today.

finger monkey for sale South Africa
Image:, @marmoset_punarak
Source: UGC

Once marmosets grow to sexual maturity, they tend to become aggressive, unpredictable, and quite dangerous to human beings. Therefore, a majority of veterinarians do not encourage people to keep these creatures as pets.


In South Africa, African Pygmy hedgehogs have increasingly become popular pets. Their lifespan is around four to six years, but some live up to ten years. While the quills on hedgehogs may look sharp, it is unlikely to get injured or hurt by them.

Depending on the province you reside in, African Pygmy hedgehogs may be legal or illegal to keep as exotic pets South Africa has today. In Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Free State, it is unlawful to keep a hedgehog as a pet. If you come across hedgehogs for sale in Gauteng or Limpopo, you can purchase one or more without a permit. However, if you live in Northern Cape, North West, Kwazulu Natal, or Mpumalanga, you are required to have a permit.

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hedgehogs for sale in Gauteng
Image:, @hedgehog_heaven_tx
Source: UGC

As government regulations are constantly changing, it is vital that you make further inquiries from the local authorities in your province to ensure that you can purchase and own a pet hedgehog legally.


As you would think, reptiles are very different from cats and dogs. Animals from the reptile family are cold-blooded, meaning that they cannot control the temperatures of their bodies without the influence of external factors. Therefore, they need to have a warm spot where they can bask, and a cool place in case the heat is too much. Another necessity is fresh drinking water and a place to swim if possible.

A good number of pet shops in SA sell snakes for pets. In most cases, these are usually multiple-generation captive-bred animals. Prospective owners should know that most of these snakes are generally reluctant to bite. However, they may bite when in fear or pain from an injury. This is similar to how a dog can bite when handled in the wrong manner.

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exotic pets
Image:, @4theloveofdragons
Source: UGC

There are various pet shops that sell extremely harmful animals. Therefore, when considering to buy a snake, you should be aware of the implications of a bite. A bite from a venomous snake is potentially fatal and could even lead to death within a short time. Considering that there is no antivenom for various species in the country, it could take a long time to get your hands on one. The only likely place to get antivenom is from snake park, and it could be difficult for them to share it because this would endanger their staff if one of them got bitten.

Where can one get wildlife permits South Africa?

You can apply for wildlife permits at the CapeNature Head Office or any regional office. CapeNature strives to provide administrative support that is efficient, fair, and effective, as well as monitor compliance in terms of all relevant environmental legislation.

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monkey in Afrikaans
Image:, @allis
Source: UGC

At CapeNature, you can apply for different permits. Some of them include:

  • Import, Export, and Transport of Wild Animals and Game
  • Sale of Game Permit
  • Permit to Possess the Carcass of an Endangered Wild Animal
  • Certificate of Adequate Enclosure
  • Wild Animal Educational Exhibition/Show
  • Wild Animal Captivity Permit

It is necessary to be aware of the list of illegal pets in South Africa for each province. This will help you determine which pets you can keep and which you cannot. By doing this, you protect yourself from being charged for illegal ownership of an animal, or animals, as well as breaking laws and policies.

DISCLAIMER: This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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