Exotic Pet Trade as a Cause of Biological Invasions: The Case of Tree Squirrels of the Genus Callosciurus
The pet industry is a growing global multibillion dollar market. The increase of exotic and non-domesticated animal ownership has led to an increase in the number of non-native pets released that create invasive alien species (IAS) populations in the wild. IAS negatively impact the biodiversity, human health and countries’ economies. We use tree squirrels of the genus Callosciurus as a well-documented case study of pets that become IAS. We review the pathways and range of introduction and the challenge and legal importance of species identification. Next, we document how they negatively affect native plants and animals, their parasitic infections that can threat native wildlife and human health and their impact on human activities and productive systems. We discuss the diverse biological, social, political and economic reasons that make control/eradication of these charismatic species difficult in most countries. However, we also highlight the successful management of the IAS in two countries where the early detection and engagement of stakeholders were key to successful eradication. We conclude that efforts to educate and involve the broader public by actively engaging a diversity of stakeholders are more likely to build a consensus toward IAS management and should be a priority for each country.