IT is fair to say Aleksandr Orlov has gone a long way to raise the profile of the meerkat species. As the the forefront of the infamous Compare The Market adverts, Orlov has enthralled a generation of television viewers.
But at JFM Exotics pet store, in Ely, keeping one of these furry meerkats as a pet is not the dream idea many think. “What people don’t realise is that meerkats are actually really dangerous pets,” said owner Nicki Clarke. “I get people coming in every week to ask if they can buy one but they have no idea.”
JFM Exotics is a family owned and operated reptile store, based on Cowbridge Road. As well as its meerkats – which are not yet for sale – the store stocks a wide range of exotic animals for more ambitious wannabe pet owners.
Just a quick walk round the store can bring you face to face with some of Cardiff’s less traditional wildlife. Bearded dragons, lizards and iguanas are among those available for sale.
Ms Clarke said: “We have a large stock of animals but we’re looking to start breeding our own soon, so there’s less costs with importing them.
“We currently have about 100 enclosures with animals ranging from lizards and insects up to large boas and pythons.”
Having run the shop for the last year, Nicki admits it is not always easy taking care of all the animals they store.
“I even have to take animals home with me to look after. I remember the funny looks I got when I took a skunk out for a walk through Ely.”
Before taking over the store, Nicki ran children’s parties there – where youngsters would get up close and personal with the wildlife in store.
She said: “The shop was originally owned by my father and my son used to work here in his spare time.
“After my father died last year he left us money which we used to buy this place. Most of my family work shifts here each week and we often have students coming in to help.”
As Nicki explains, the store also has a vital role to play in educating children about wild and endangered animals.
“We’re hoping to build an extension to the store to use as a classroom, so we can bring in children from local schools, and work closer with charities including ACE and Communities First.”
For more information on JFM Exotics, visit www.jfm-exoticsltd.com or call 02920 564435.