Poisonous snakes, tigers and monkeys are among 70 known "exotic" animals cared for by private owners in Northern Ireland.
The owners of the animals, which have been classed as exotic, have had to apply for a Dangerous Wild Animal (DWA) licence.
They include a king cobra and two west African Gaboon vipers.
Pet shops selling species defined as dangerous under the Dangerous Wild Animals Order must ensure the buyer has a DWA licence from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency before sale.
DUP MLA Alex Easton said that while it is important to protect endangered animals, those that keep such pets as a "status symbol" were wrong to do so.
The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) revealed there are 70 known exotic animals in the possession of private owners. The majority of animals listed would be classed as extremely dangerous.
There are two squirrel monkeys, four black capped capuchins, 10 emus, 19 raccoons and two tigers in private possession.
Venomous snakes proved very popular, such as the two western diamondback rattlesnakes, two west African Gaboon vipers, two orange pastel albino monocled cobras, the white-lipped pit viper and the eastern green mamba.
Michael Griffith from Jubilee Veterinary Centre in Newtownards explained that people who must acquire a DWA for their animal in Northern Ireland are subject to rigorous checks, such as their knowledge of the animal and its enclosure, and annual inspections.
He added that the animals included on DAERA's list are dangerous, but some may pose a similar level of threat to certain dogs.
"You could argue that if you had a massive anaconda snake, it is potentially as dangerous as some small monkeys," said Mr Griffith.
"In a lot of cases the people that have these animals are very well resourced and very well intentioned hobbyists.
"These are animals they have a particular fascination and love for and by having the licence, they are having to prove that they have a level of understanding of the conditions.
"In certain cases our conditions are probably stricter that elsewhere in the British Isles," he added.
Mr Easton, a North Down MLA, asked the Agriculture Minister Gordon Lyons what species of exotic animals are allowed to be kept in Northern Ireland through an Assembly question.
He said he wasn't surprised there were so many dangerous pets here.
He recalled an instance some years ago where a man kept a tiger in a garage.
"I just think keeping exotic animals and big cats in private possession is wrong - it's cruel," Mr Easton added.
"I can understand when an animal is endangered, certainly tigers are very much up there, but keeping them for the sake of it or for some status symbol is ultimately wrong.
"There needs to come a time when we need to look at the law to stop this sort of thing.
"We need to be preserving these animals and not keep them for show.
"I just think it is fundamentally wrong and this is something I feel very strongly about," Mr Easton said.