Non-native small mammal species in the South African pet trade.
Non-native small mammals are amongst the most popular species traded as pets around the world. Some of these mammals have become invasive through various pet trade releases and escapees in most countries. In South Africa, several nonnative small mammals have been introduced for pet trade purposes. We assessed the sale of non-native small mammals in South Africa from September 2018 to 2019 to determine their abundance and degree of trade online and in pet shops. A total of seven websites were recorded selling 2,681 individuals representing 24 species belonging to seven taxonomic orders. For physical pet shops, 19,391 individuals representing 16 species and seven orders were recorded from 122 pet shops. Rodents and primates were the most dominant groups in both online and pet shops. The most common small mammal species traded were the Norwegian rat Rattus norvegicus, the guinea pig Cavia porcellus, the European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus and the house mouse Mus musculus. Prices ranged from ZAR9.00 to ZAR12,000.00, with rodents offered at relatively low prices. The most abundant species traded were relatively cheap when compared with the least abundant species and CITES species were more expensive than non-CITES species. Species with high abundances traded at low prices and have a history of invasion through pet trade releases and escapes pose an invasion risk in South Africa. Therefore, their trade should be strictly regulated.