Wild cats, poisonous snakes, scorpions and crocodilians in Dacorum
Dozens of dangerous wild animals are living at private addresses across Dacorum, the Gazette can reveal.
According to figures held by the borough council, private owners keep 20 servals, a breed of 40lb African wild cat which feeds on rats, birds and reptiles.
Residents also own 21 venomuos snakes, five scorpions, and three crocodilians - the order of animals which includes crocodiles, alligators and caimans.
Dr Chris Draper, head of animal welfare and captivity at the conservation group Born Free, said: “The keeping of wild animals as pets is a growing concern.
“The widespread use of the internet has made it easier than ever to ‘order’ or purchase a wild animal without clarification as to where it has come from or how it should be cared for.”
Elswhere in Hertfordshire another 31 wild cats were in private hands, including four snow leopards, five pumas and one jaguar, plus four ring tailed lemurs.
And nationally there are 240 privately-owned primates, 650 venomous snakes, one elephant, one giraffe, and nine tigers.
Currently, under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976, anyone in Britain can keep a dangerous wild animal as long as they obtain a licence from their local authority.
The licence application merely requires them to demonstrate that their animals are properly contained and not at risk of escape.
Dr Draper added: “Wild animals are particularly vulnerable to welfare problems because of their complex social, physical and behavioural needs.
“They require specific housing conditions, dietary requirements, and furthermore, the safety risk these animals pose to their owners and the wider public should not be ignored.”