Animal health risk of legally imported exotic animals into the Netherlands in the period 2013-2014

Clazien de Vos-de Jong*, Manon Swanenburg, Nedzib Tafro, Annika van Roon, Olaf F.J. Stenvers, Armin R.W. Elbers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The worldwide trade in exotic animals is a potential moderator for the global dispersion of infectious disease agents. Better insight into the pathogens that could be introduced by these trade flows can help to target surveillance efforts. The aim of this study was to evaluate the animal health risk for the Dutch livestock sector associated with the legal importation of exotic mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians originating from third countries (i.e. non-European Union member states). An inventory was made of exotic animals that were legally shipped to the Netherlands in the period 2013-2014 classified according to taxonomy and geographic origin, the results of which were used to assess the associated animal health risk. In this period, a total of 2.1 ×105 exotic animals were imported into the Netherlands from 25 different countries. The majority of these animals were reptiles (94%), whereas birds and mammals constituted < 1% of all imports. Trade figures were linked with information on worldwide occurrence of diseases and susceptibility of imported species to diseases to identify those exotic diseases that could potentially be introduced by these trade flows. This resulted in a selection of nine diseases for which the animal health risk due to the legal importation of exotic animals was assessed semi-quantitatively using proxy variables to score the probability of introduction and the expected impact of disease. The estimated introduction risk for the selected diseases varied from very low to moderate. Whereas importation of exotic animals might result in introduction of some diseases, the expected consequences for the livestock sector are expected to be limited. The diseases with the highest risk score were salmonellosis (exotic strains) and infection with Salmonella arizonae. Furthermore, the arboviral diseases Japanese encephalitis, Eastern equine encephalitis, and Western equine encephalitis might pose a risk due to the potential role of reptiles and amphibians as reservoir hosts for these diseases and the large numbers of these animals being imported by the Netherlands.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-20
JournalMicrobial Risk Analysis
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Animal health
  • Introduction risk
  • Legal import
  • Livestock health
  • Risk assessment
  • Wildlife trade


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