The number of dangerous wild animals legally kept as pets in Suffolk has fallen since 2020, matching a UK-wide trend.

Figures released by charity Born Free show that there were at least six licenced exotic pets in Suffolk last year, compared to 27 in 2020.

Dr Mark Jones, Born Free’s Head of Policy, said: “It is unbelievable that, in this day and age, so many dangerous animals, including big cats, large primates, crocodiles and venomous snakes, continue to be legally kept in people’s homes in the UK.

“The UK likes to claim to be at the forefront of efforts to protect nature and improve the welfare of animals, yet our legislation governing the keeping of and trade in exotic pets is woefully outdated.”

A Cuvier’s dwarf caiman resides in Babergh, East Suffolk is home to a monocled cobra, a western diamondback rattlesnake and a Gaboon viper, and Mid Suffolk is the residence of two servals.

Across the UK, there were 2,700 wild animals kept privately in 2023 under licences required by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, down from 3,951 in 2020.

The rising cost of living and expensive licencing costs have been blamed for the fall in licenced pets, with concerns that numbers of animals kept illegally are rising.

In 2022, a pet owner was fined for keeping two serval cats on land in Colby, Norfolk.

A 2022 survey by the British Veterinary Association found that 81% of vets were concerned the welfare needs of non-traditional companion animals were not being met, with the most common reason (82%) being “irresponsible animal ownership”.

A spokesperson for Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils said: “Before any licence is issued, we carry out a thorough inspection together with a suitably qualified vet, to ensure the animal’s welfare needs can be met – focusing on both the needs of the animal and on public safety.

“We also attach a number of conditions to the licences which cover, amongst other requirements, the security and suitability of the animal’s living conditions and standards of care, steps to be taken in the event of fire or emergency on site, and the level of insurance required by the owners against liability for any loss, damage or injury caused by the animal.”