A survey conducted by the Born Free Foundation has revealed that 4,798 dangerous wild animals are being privately kept in Great Britain - 496 of which are living in Scotland.
The international wildlife charity is calling on the UK Government to review the law and put a stop to some of the world’s most remarkable but often deadly creatures being in kept in unsuitable environments.
While an estimated 11 million people own a pet in the UK, Born Free’s research asked every council in Scotland which dangerous wild animals are currently licenced to be kept in private hands.
Of the dozen local authorities north of the Border that responded, including Fife and East Lothian, they revealed that among the 496 dangerous wild animals there are at least 21 big cats, including servals and caracals, and 14 crocodiles such as the broad snouted caiman, nile crocodile and the American alligator.
A dozen venomous snakes were also registered, including the western diamondback rattlesnake, death adders and gaboon vipers.
A total of primates are licensed, including ring-tailed lemurs, 10 bison, 407 wild boars, and one zebra.
The survey includes establishments and companies that require a Dangerous Wild Animals licence to rescue animals, for animals such as wild boar and ostriches on farms, and those who use animals for TV and film.
But the charity said a large proportion of the dangerous wild animals were still being kept as personal pets.
Last year a man in Hampshire was killed by his 8ft African rock python, Tiny. In a separate incident, police found an illegally-kept 4ft caiman crocodile and 16 snakes at a property in Essex.
Dr Chris Draper, head of animal welfare at 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 purchase a wild animal without clarification as to where it has come from or how it should be cared for.”