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Animal Underworld: Inside America's Black Market for Rare and Exotic Species

Animals  (tags: abuse, abused, AnimalCruelty, AnimalWelfare, animaladvocates, animalcruelty, animalrights, animals, animalwelfare, crime, cruelty, death, endangered, ethics, extinction, investigation, killed, killing, law, protection, wildanimals, suffering, wildlife, sl )

- 3746 days ago -
In the spring of 1998, the American Zoo and Aquarium Association inadvertently let the world in on one of its most closely guarded secrets: AZA Animal Exchange, an eighteen-page, TV Guide-size monthly newsletter that's all fine print. Each issue consis

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Kathy Chadwell (354)
Tuesday March 18, 2008, 9:55 pm
In the spring of 1998, the American Zoo and Aquarium Association
inadvertently let the world in on one of its most closely guarded secrets:
AZA Animal Exchange, an eighteen-page, TV Guide-size monthly
newsletter that's all fine print. Each issue consists, from beginning to end,
of listings submitted by AZA members of mammals, birds, and reptiles
that -- for one reason or another -- are no longer needed or wanted. For
decades, the AZA had mailed this Blue Book for pre-owned zoo animals
to its member institutions and to a select group of affiliates, with the
stipulation (almost universally ignored) that copies not go to unaccred­
ited dealers, auctioneers, and other undesirables. Then, in late 1996, the
AZA launched an electronic version of the monthly newsletter on its
Web site-a password-protected edition that permitted members to con­
tinuously update their offerings, search three years' worth of listings, and
even track daily price fluctuations of tigers and bears, much the way
commodity traders monitor the market gyrations of grain or cocoa fu­
tures. It was an appropriate addition for member zoos eager to rid them­


Questia Media America, Inc.

Publication Information: Book Title: Animal Underworld: Inside America's Black Market for Rare and Exotic Species. Contributors: Alan Green - author. Publisher: PublicAffairs. Place of Publication: New York. Publication Year: 1999. Page Number: 44.

Kathy Chadwell (354)
Tuesday March 18, 2008, 10:07 pm

A shocking investigative exposé documents the big business of exotic animal trafficking—and implicates leading zoos, wildlife parks, and dealers nationwide

A vast and previously undisclosed underground economy exists in the United States. The products bought and sold: animals. In Animal Underworld, veteran investigative journalist Alan Green exposes the sleazy, sometimes illegal web of those who trade in rare and exotic creatures. Green and The Center for Public Integrity reveal which American zoos and amusement parks dump their "surplus" animals on the middlemen adept at secretly redirecting them into the private pet trade. We're taken to exotic-animal auctions, where the anonymous high bidders are often notorious dealers, hunting-ranch proprietors, and profit-minded charlatans masquerading as conservationists. We visit some of the nation's most prestigious universities and research laboratories, whose diseased monkeys are "laundered" through this same network of breeders and dealers until they finally reach the homes of unsuspecting pet owners. And we meet the men and women who make their living by skirting through loopholes in the law, or by ignoring the law altogether. For anyone who cares about animals; for pet owners, zoo-goers, wildlife conservationists, and animal welfare advocates, Animal Underworld is gripping, shocking reading.

Alan Green is a veteran investigative reporter who was the founding editor of AlterNet, the news service for North America's alternative news weeklies. His reporting has won awards, including the Worth Bingham Prize for his work in New Republic magazine. The Center for Public Integrity, based in Washington, D.C., is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that examines public service and ethics-related issues. Founded in 1989, the Center has completed more than thirty investigative reports, including the 1996 "Lincoln Bedroom" story profiling fundraisers and donors who had stayed overnight in the White House.

Kathy Chadwell (354)
Tuesday March 18, 2008, 10:11 pm // Help An Animal // Factsheets // Inside the Exotic Animal Trade
Inside the Exotic Animal Trade
Every year, people succumb to the temptation to purchase “exotic” animals like hedgehogs, macaws, lizards, and monkeys—even tigers and bears—from stores, auctions, or the Internet to keep them as “pets.” But often, life in captivity rapidly leads to pain and death for these animals, who can easily suffer from malnutrition, an unnatural and uncomfortable environment, loneliness, and the overwhelming stress of confinement. The exotic animal trade is also deadly for animals we don’t see: For every animal who makes it to the store or the auction, countless others die along the way.

Animals Suffer During Capture and Transport
The journey for many of these animals begins in places like Australia, Africa, and the jungles of Brazil. The few laws and penalties that do exist hardly dissuade dealers in light of the money that can be made from smuggling: Prices on animals’ heads range from tens of thousands of dollars for a hyacinth macaw to a few bucks for a giant cockroach.(1,2)

Taken from their natural habitats by trappers, animals may change hands several times, through intermediaries and exporters, and endure grueling transport conditions. Parrots may have their beaks and feet taped and be stuffed into plastic tubes that can easily be hidden in luggage, and stolen bird and reptile eggs are concealed in special vests so that couriers can bypass X-ray machines at airports.(3) Baby turtles have been taped so that they are trapped inside their shells and shoved by the dozen into tube socks, and infant pythons have been shipped in CD cases.(4) Their chances of survival? “We have a mortality of about 80 or 90 percent,” says a German customs agent.(5) Goliath frogs smuggled into California from Cameroon were so severely crowded in their cardboard boxes that their skin absorbed their feces and poisoned them to death.(6) Four exotic birds died when a California man tried to smuggle them in his suitcase.(7)

Ignorance Breeds Misery
Animals who arrive alive are often subject to inadequate care. Because caretakers are often unprepared or unable to provide for the needs of species that are so far removed from their natural habitats, the animals will likely die or be abandoned by their caretakers. For instance, the head of the Western Cape of Africa’s Environmental Crime Investigation unit estimates that 90 percent of exported reptiles die within a year.(8) Animal control authorities confiscated a crippled cougar cub from a Buffalo, New York, basement: The animal, kept by a teenager, had not been fed a diet sufficiently high in calcium and, as a result, suffered from deformed legs.(9) Hedgehogs, who roll themselves into tight balls, can easily become injured if children try to “uncurl” them or if cats attack them. Sugar gliders are very social animals and, if they are not given enough attention, may self-mutilate or die from the stress of loneliness.(10)

The American Zoo and Aquarium Association says that “zoos are being asked by irresponsible owners to relocate displaced and unwanted animals . . . [but] because most zoos do not accept donations—there are literally thousands of exotic animals [who] remain in unsuitable conditions.”(11) Some people sneak animals into exhibits—and risk infecting zoo populations with diseases—or leave animals in front of zoo gates; usually, these animals are euthanized. Jack Cover, a curator at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, says, “We’d have to have two or three warehouses to handle the donations we get calls on.”(12)

Other people try to return unwanted animals to their natural homes or simply abandon them along rural roads. Without appropriate habitats or rehabilitation, these animals will starve or fall victim to the elements or predators. If they do survive, they may overpopulate and wreak havoc within the ecosystem, killing native species.

Disease Threat
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) handles the importation of animals—specifically cats, dogs, turtles, and nonhuman primates—that may pose a disease threat to humans.(13) Unfortunately, according to one CDC officer, “[T]here are all kinds of exotic species that may be unknown vectors of human disease.”(14) Seventy-five percent of all new infectious diseases originate from nonhuman animals.(15) The monkeypox outbreak that affected dozens of people in the Midwest in 2003 was traced to a Gambian rat from Africa; the animal had been housed with prairie dogs in an Illinois animal dealer’s shed.(16) Prairie dogs also have been known to carry the plague and tularemia.(17) The herpes B virus can be transferred from macaques to humans; the CDC warns that “this risk makes macaques unsuitable as pets.”(18) Human contact with reptiles and other exotic animals accounts for 70,000 cases of salmonellosis each year.(19) One Minnesota infectious disease expert had his son’s African dwarf hedgehog tested for diseases: The lab found three strains of salmonella that had not previously been seen in the state.(20)

Parrots can transfer psittacosis, which can be deadly, to humans.(21) Exotic Newcastle disease (END), which devastated whole flocks of chickens and turkeys in the 1970s, was believed to have been brought to this country from South American parrots smuggled in for the pet trade.(22) An outbreak of END in Florida resulted in the deaths of 8,000 parrots in 1980.(23) “We’re not trained to detect diseases,” says a U.S. Fish and Wildlife inspection officer.(24)

Reverse zoonosis, or the transfer of human diseases to animals, can be a threat as well. Mumps, tuberculosis, and hepatitis are only a few of the diseases that can be transferred from humans to other animals and back to humans.(25)

Few Government Regulations
The multibillion-dollar business of buying and selling protected wildlife is one of the largest sources of criminal earnings, behind only arms smuggling and drug trafficking.(26) The United States is the main destination for exotic and endangered wild animals.(27) National, state, and local governments are passing laws that prohibit the capture and sale of certain species, but most of these regulations are poorly enforced and are designed to protect humans from disease rather than ensure that animals are handled humanely.

It can be difficult to sort out what government regulations exist to control the influx of exotic animals into the U.S. Endangered species are supposed to be monitored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), but smugglers find ways around inspections. Protected species may be hidden among legal animals or dangerous species of animals so that officers are less likely to thoroughly hand-inspect shipments.(28) The FWS also suffers from a lack of resources: “With the number of inspectors, we are able to physically inspect 25% of wildlife shipments,” says one federal wildlife inspector.(29) Penalties for violations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) are stipulated by individual countries, and the punishments range from short jail sentences to fines. “People simply pay [the fine] and continue to break the law,” according to one CITES representative.(30)

There are thousands of tigers, lions, and other big cats held captive in the U.S.(31) “A 600-pound tiger will do what it wants, when it wants to,” says Tippi Hedren, a former actor who now runs a big-cat sanctuary in California. “You buy this cute creature at 8 weeks old. After six months, it’s torn your house apart and taken a good chunk out of you.”(32) There have been dozens of captive big-cat attacks on humans in the past decade, including incidents in which a tiger mauled his guardian’s 3-year-old grandson, a lion killed several dogs and trapped a child in his room, and a Bengal tiger tore off the arm of a 4-year-old boy.(33) Wolf hybrids have also increased in popularity—it’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of them live in homes across the country—and since 2000, at least four people have been mauled to death by these offspring of wolves and domesticated dogs. One veterinarian and animal behaviorist says that “people who breed these animals and sell them as pets are playing Russian roulette. It’s a gross misrepresentation to sell these animals as pets.”(34)

In the United States, 23 states have banned the ownership of big cats and 15 do not permit nonhuman primates to be kept as pets. Thanks to a law signed by the governor of Maryland in 2006, state residents can no longer own, sell, breed, or transport animals such as foxes, poisonous snakes, alligators, or chimpanzees.(35,36,37)

What You Can Do
Never buy exotic animals from dealers or pet shops. Animal shelters and rescue groups are filled with dogs and cats who need good homes. Support legislation that would make owning exotic animals illegal in your community and prohibit the interstate sale of exotic animals.

If you are concerned about the welfare of an exotic animal in your community, contact your local humane society. Sometimes animal control officials only conduct investigations after they receive complaints from neighbors.

1) Kevin G. Hall, "Trafficking of Animals Becoming Big Business," The Virginian-Pilot 16 Aug. 2001.
2) "Feeling Lonely? Snuggle Up to a Pet Cockroach," China Daily 20 May 2003.
3) Hall.
4) "Animal Underworld," Panorama, narr. Tom Mangold, BBC, 25 Feb. 2001.
5) "Animal Underworld."
6) "Animal Underworld."
7) "Man Sentenced for Monkeys in Pants," Reuters, 19 Dec. 2002.
8) Business Day, "South Africa; Wily Smugglers Give Mother Nature a Raw Deal," Africa News 28 Jan. 2004.
9) "Sickly Baby Cougar Taken From Suburban Basement," Buffalo News 9 Nov. 1995.
10) Christina Mehra, "Going Sweet on Sugar Gliders " VetCentric, 11 Jan. 2001.
11) Vicki L. Duckett, "Call of the Wild," Communiqué May 2001: 40.
12) Douglas Birch, "Zoos Slam Door on Exotic Pets Looking for Homes," The Baltimore Sun 17 Jul. 1995: 1B.
13) U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Infectious Diseases, "Importation of Pets and Other Animals Into the United States," 24 Aug. 2006.
14) "Weak Regulation Allows Import of Exotic Animals," The Baltimore Sun 11 Jun. 2003.
15) "Veterinarians on Front Lines of Human Diseases ," Associated Press, 9 Apr. 2004.
16) Jodi Wilgoren, "Monkeypox Casts Light on Rule Gap for Exotic Pets," The New York Times 10 Jun. 2003.
17) "Weak Regulation Allows Import of Exotic Animals," The Baltimore Sun 11 Jun. 2003.
18) Stephanie R. Ostrowski et al., "B-Virus From Pet Macaque Monkeys: An Emerging Threat in the United States? " Emerging Infectious Diseases 4 (1998): 117-21.
19) U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Infectious Diseases, "Diseases From Reptiles," 9 May 2006.
20) Lauran Neergaard, "Growing Number of Diseases Jump From Animals to Humans," Associated Press, 9 Jun. 2003.
21) David T. Roen, "Newcastle Disease Again Threatens Poultry, Pet Birds, Too," Lewiston Morning Tribune 20 Jan. 2003.
22) California Department of Food and Agriculture, "’Exotic Newcastles Diseases," Animal Health and Food Safety Services Fact Sheet No. 7, Oct. 2002.
23) H.L. Shivaprasad, "Exotic Newcastle Disease in Caged (Exotic) Birds," Oct. 2002.
24) "Weak Regulation Allows Import of Exotic Animals."
25) Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Veterinary Public Health, "Overview of Zoonoses,", 6 Sep. 2006.
26) Clifford Coonan, "Illegal Wildlife Trade is Worth £6bn a Year," The Independent 23 Aug. 2006.
27) Kris Axtman, "After Exotic Pets Are Rescued, What Next?" The Christian Science Monitor 26 Jul. 2006.
28) Michael Blood, "Critter Crackdown Has No Bite," New York Daily News 23 Jun. 2003.
29) Hall.
30) Nancy Imperiale, "Monkeypox Gives Wake-Up Call About Exotic Pets Brought Into Country," Orlando Sentinel 1 Jul. 2003.
31) "Animal Underworld."
32) Tom Vanden Brook, "Exotic Pets Growing More Accessible in USA; So Is Concern to Protect Humans as Well as Beasts," USA Today 6 Dec. 2002.
33) Erin Kelly, "Attacks on Humans by Wildcats Kept as Pets," Gannett News Service, 30 Nov. 2002.
34) Dan Nephin, "Fatal Mauling Shows Dangers of Wolf-Dog Hybrids," Associated Press, 5 Aug. 2006.
35) Erin Kelly, "Picking Primate Pet Not Monkey Business," Tuscon Citizen 18 Aug. 2006.
36) Andrea Fanta, "Tiger Owner Sparks Debate in Florida," Associated Press, 4 Jun. 2006.
37) Maryland General Assembly, "Criminal Law-Prohibition Against Wild Animals," House Bill 704, 16 May 2006.


Marian E (152)
Tuesday March 18, 2008, 10:16 pm

Thanks Kathy, this is really revealing!

Kathy Chadwell (354)
Tuesday March 18, 2008, 10:19 pm
Excerpt from Animal Underworld

Page 210: "What exactly constitutes a canned hunt is the subject of ongoing debate. When the U.S. House of Representatives considered the Captive Exotic Animal Protection Act of 1995, the ill-fated legislation sought to ban the trophy hunting of non-native species within enclosures of less than one thousand square acres. Some hunters say that, depending on the terrain and kind of animal being stalked, it's possible to simulate actual hunting conditions even on one hundred acres. Others, including many avid hunters, take a harder line: that because fences make escape impossible, such hunting-whether on ten acres or ten thousand-should be outlawed."

Kathy Chadwell (354)
Tuesday March 18, 2008, 10:20 pm

Animal traffic: the road to oblivion
Posted: 28 Apr 2001

by Maya Pastakia

The trade in endangered animals and plants has never been more insatiable and lucrative. Maya Pastakia reports on a ruthless trade which is threatening many rare plants and animals with extinction.
The global trade in live and dead wild animals and plants is huge, with an annual turnover estimated at billions of pounds a year. And despite international efforts to curb it, the trade is growing.
A customs officer inspects a reptile shipment at Heathrow Airport
© Crawford Allan/TRAFFIC

Accurate global figures are difficult to estimate as there are few statistics for certain species, little or no detailed information for certain countries or regions and, of course, a large proportion of the trade is undocumented because it is either unrecorded or illegal. Calculations are also sometimes based on declared import values and do not take into account retail trade values and domestic trade.

The scale of the trade can, however, also be illustrated by the wide variety of species that are bought and sold. The wildlife trade involves 25,000 to 30,000 primates, 2 to 5 million wild birds, 10 million reptile skins, 7 to 8 million cacti and over 500 million tropical fish.

The illegal trade in rare and endangered animals is estimated to be worth some $6 billion a year - bigger than the world's arms smuggling rackets and second only in size to the illegal traffic in drugs.

Despite international agreements like the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), which aims to protect species from being poached and traded to extinction, they carry little weight in developing countries like Cameroon where illicit animal dealing is a fact of life. In the cool of the evening, hunters come out into Cameroon's forests. The catch is small and vulnerable, the harmless creatures of the night, and the pickings are easy - frogs, chameleons - that don't flee or fight back. Trapped inside linen bags, the reptiles are on the first leg of a journey that will end in a glass tank or cardboard box somewhere in the first world.

Huge profits

How lucrative the illegal trade is can be illustrated by some of the prices species fetch on the international black market.

Rare orchid - US$10,000

Rare cacti - US$7,000

Trained falcon - US$5,000 - $20,000 even up to $50,000

Rare macaw - US$20,000-$40,000

Shahtoosh shawl (from the Tibetan antelope) - US$35,000

Musk (from the musk deer) US$50,000 per kilo

Huge profits are a lure for the illegal animal dealer who can expect to make vast sums of money from dealing in rare species. A reptile such as a little turtle or Rainbow snake can be bought from a local village for around $6 by an animal courier, then sold on to an animal trader for around $50 who then sells the creature in the private market for $150-200. With just one animal, a turnover of close to 2,000 per cent profit can be expected. The profit scales are roughly equal to those for in cocaine and heroin.

However, unlike the penalties for dealing in illicit drugs, the penalties for smuggling endangered animals and plants registered under CITES are lenient. Mike Van Nostrand was regarded as America's biggest reptile dealer. He tried to corner the market in the rare Indonesian frilled dragons, a protected reptile, but was caught by FBI agents. Van Nostrand pleaded guilty to several smuggling charges and was sentenced to eight months in prison and ordered to pay $250,000 to a conservation programme - a miniscule amount considering the profits from his business (both illegal and legal) were in the region of $6-10 million a year.

Biggest catch

Only until recently the animal underworld's biggest dealer, Anson Wong, a Malaysian, ran the largest smuggling operation that's ever been broken. Known as 'King Rat' to the FBI, Wong, young, cultured and ruthless, worked his way to the top of the animal underworld and his name carried weight and respect.

Anson Wong/© BBC

In Malaysia, Wong owned his own private zoo, a perfect front for illegal dealing in protected wildlife. Behind the scenes, Wong dealt with creatures protected by CITES, which lists in its two appendixes rare and endangered species threatened with extinction. Trade in these creatures is either forbidden or strictly regulated.

According to a BBC Panorama report, Animal Underworld, Wong stole the almost extinct Komodo dragons from their remaining islands in Indonesia. The world's largest lizard, each 'dragon' is valued at $30,000. He dealt in the critically endangered Chinese alligator worth at least $17,000 on the black market. The Madagascar Tree Boa, worth $2,500 and the False Gavial worth $4,500, are now extremely rare. Even zoos can't find them but Wong could. From his base in the Far East, Anson Wong procured and shipped some of the world's rarest reptiles around the globe.

Anson's downfall came after he became involved in the equivalent of the reptilian great train robbery, the biggest ever theft of precious reptiles. Wong gained access to 37 Ploughshare tortoises stolen from a breeding programme in Madagascar. These tortoises are prized for their extraordinarily, beautiful shell which ultimately has led to their downfall. The street value of each is around $52,500. There are now fewer than a thousand of these creatures left in the world and their population is probably insufficient to sustain continuity of the species. Today, Wong sits in a Californian prison, pleading guilty to serious indictments of trafficking in the most endangered species. He now awaits sentencing and can expect up to five years in prison: the first real exemplary sentence.

Losing battle

For many species, trade is on the increase. For example, between 1983 and 1992, trade in live reptiles in the United States alone increased nearly twenty-fold, and jumped from 28 per cent to 82 per cent of the global market. More than 2.5 million live reptiles were imported into the country in 1995, and in 1996 it exported or re-exported 9.5 million reptiles, primarily to Europe and East Asia.

Hundreds of freshwater turtles are exported daily from many parts of Southeast Asia.
© Chris R. Shepherd/
TRAFFIC Southeast Asia

A joint WWF/TRAFFIC report, Traded Towards Extinction, uncovered the flourishing illegal wildlife trade in Britain. It revealed that, on average, UK Customs seized more than 570 illegal wildlife items every day - a staggering figure of over one million items during the five year period studied from 1996 to 2000. However, over the same period the fines levied equate to just 9 pence per item seized.

Although the UK has some of the best trained Custom officers in the world, there are too few to stop the illegal trade. Once criminals get past Customs, selling some of the world's most endangered species is not even an arrestable offence under current UK legislation, Control of Trade in Endangered Species. "Under UK law you can be arrested for poaching a pheasant but not for selling a poached tiger, elephant or rhino," said Stuart Chapman, Head of WWF's Species Programme.

The demand appears to be insatiable. Today a whole new generation wants to collect. Taste and fashion change, people with smaller homes prefer undemanding pets which need little attention. The price tags speak for themselves. A baby python can sell at $300.

For other species, there has been a significant improvement. Increased enforcement of domestic trade bans and co-operation with the traditional medicine community has helped to significantly reduce the retail sale and use of tiger-bone medicines. The trade in some markets is now shifting to skins and other products beside bone. Nevertheless, some of the plant and animal species used in traditional east Asian medicine (TEAM) are still threatened with extinction, including the tiger, rhinoceroses, musk deer, as well as species of bear and some species of orchids. For these species, the main threat comes from poaching and illegal collecting.

Another worrying trend has been the apparent increase in paperwork fraud, with numerous traders importing CITES listed animals and plants, claiming they have been bred in captivity or artificially propagated.

Live mammals

Primates are the most commonly traded live mammals, usually for scientific purposes but also as pets. There are a number of trade restrictions in place for primates, with all apes listed on Appendix I or II of CITES. Approximately 25,000 to 30,000 are legally traded each year around the world, however illegal trade in primates remains an ongoing problem, particularly in chimpanzees and gorillas (CITES Secretariat, 1994; CITES Secretariat, 1997).

Orangutan. There are less then 30,000 left in the world.

For example, orang-utans are often picked up by sailors in Indonesia and sold through dealers in Thailand and Bangkok. Their population is estimated at less then 30,000 individuals, representing a decline of 30 to 50 per cent in one decade (WWF, 1997). They have an estimated black market value of up to US$50,000. A stuffed orang-utan was offered for sale in Britain in 1993 for US$25,000.

Live birds

Millions of wild birds are legally traded on the international market, the most common being finches followed by parrots. These high levels of trade have lead to many bird species, including virtually all parrot species, to be placed on the CITES Appendices.

However hundreds of thousands of wild birds continue to be illegally traded each year, with an estimated 250,000 birds smuggled annually into the United States alone. Birds smuggled include many endangered species such as Salmon-crested cockatoos. For many species, this commercial trade has now become a serious threat to their survival in the wild.

Salmon-crested cockatoo
© C.R. Shepherd/TRAFFIC Southeast Asia

Hyacinth macaws, for example, are prized for their brilliant blue colouring, large size, intelligence and rarity, these birds have a black market value of $15,000 to $20,000. Illegal trapping has caused the wild population to decline dramatically to less then 3000 surviving individuals scattered throughout Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay. In 1996 a well-known bird expert was convicted and sentenced to five years' imprisonment in the US for smuggling hundreds of rare birds. He is believed to be personally responsible for the demise of 5 to 10 per cent of the entire world population of Hyacinth macaws in the wild.

Lizards and butterflies

There are no estimates available on the size of the live reptile and amphibian trade, however it is thought to be huge (Risk and Policy Analysts, 1995). Unlike the trade in birds and mammals, this trade is largely unregulated, with comparatively few species listed on CITES.

For example, there are cases of overseas collecting groups going to Australia where the commercial export of live reptiles is banned, to collect reptiles such as Shingleback lizards. Shinglebacks are commonly found in illegal trade and can fetch up to $2,500 each.

Rare butterflies, beetles and other insects as well as spiders, scorpions, leeches and snails are all found in international trade both legally and illegally. Rarer species in which international trade is restricted, such as Birdwing butterflies from South East Asia can fetch up to $2,500 per pair.

Live fish

Over 500 million live tropical fish are traded each year largely for the aquarium trade (Le Duc, 1996), primarily from the Asian and Pacific regions. However, few fish species are listed on CITES and illegal trade in these species is rare.

However the main exception is Asian Arrowana which is listed on CITES Appendix II, and occasionally illegally imported into the UK. Others include the Asian Boneytongue or Golden Arrowana, which can fetch up to $S5,000 in the East Asian markets where it is kept as a good luck fish. They are classified as endangered (IUCN, 1996) and listed on CITES Appendix I. To prevent dealing in the wild fish, farmed fish are now tagged with an electronic microchip attached under the supervision of a government agent. The number of the chip is then recorded on the export licence.

Planet collectors

Unscrupulous collectors remain a major threat to the very existence of some plant species. For while most plants, including most orchids and cacti, available in commerce have been artificially propagated by nurseries, a large number still find their way into trade, taken directly and usually illegally from the wild.

Phragmipedium grouville(Orchid)
© Vincent Chen/TRAFFIC East Asia-Taipei

Rare, new, exotic and naturally uncommon species from the wild are sought out by specialist collectors. These plants are generally the least capable of sustaining heavy harvests, and species such as the giant pitcher plant have been driven to near extinction by rapacious collectors (Jenkins and Oldfield, 1992).

In Europe, wild plants traded in significant numbers include orchids, bulbs, cycads, cacti and other succulent plants, carnivorous plants and airplants. Over-exploitation from the wild has led to many of these plant species being placed on the CITES appendices, and blanket bans on the exports of wild specimens from countries such as Mexico. Nevertheless enforcement of these laws has proved difficult.

Dramatic declines in some species due to over-exploitation has lead to the whole genus of tropical orchids such as Paphiopedilum - slipper orchids from South East Asia, and Phragmipedium from South America to be placed on CITES Appendix I .

All species of the cactus family, and a number of other succulents are listed on CITES, with the most vulnerable species being listed on Appendix I. However wild plants of these species continue to be sold, often openly, throughout Europe, with some species capable of fetching hundreds of pounds each.

A large number of plants and animals commonly found in trade have been bred in captivity or artificially propagated. For some specialist collectors, there is considerable prestige attached to owning wild, as opposed to captive bred animals or artificially propagated plants.

Packaged to death

As the fashion for keeping reptiles and other exotic pets continues to grow, a terrible price is being paid by scores of animals for this latest trend. Many species are transported in unbelievably cruel conditions and most die in transit. Species, like Goliath frogs, the biggest frogs in the world, are packed and concealed so tightly that they absorb their own faeces through their skin and thus poison themselves. With such huge profits for the taking on each animal, dealers can afford big losses during transportation. Badly packed, starved, dehydrated, frozen in holds, the journeys are nightmare for many creatures. In Germany, customs official uncovered numerous baby pythons concealed in single cardboard packages for CD disks. Their mortality when smuggled in this way is around 80-90 per cent. It is estimated that 9 out of 10 smuggled animals go undiscovered.

Perhaps one of the cruellest examples of smuggling is that of tortoises. Masking tape is placed around the opening of their legs and heads. The animals are locked inside their shells for the duration of the journey with virtually no air to breathe. As such, their mortality is extremely high.

Scarcity, gender, age, breed habits or the effect on the delicate ecology of ecosystems are irrelevant to the animal trader. If it moves and has market value, it is taken. As a result, the world's biodiversity is being impoverished by this ruthless and unscrupulous trade.

As Dr Steve Gartland, consultant to WWF in Cameroon, warns: "We have taken the timber, we have taken the ivory, we have taken the ebony, we have taken the oil palm. There is virtually nothing left to take. What is left? The frogs, the toads, the small mammals. We are now cleaning them out, and when we've cleaned them out we will go and turn out the lights."

Maya Pastakia is Assistant Editor of this website

Web links:

TRAFFIC reports on many endangered animals and plant species. Here are some links to species featured on their website:


Tibetan Antelope:

Musk deer:


Reef fish: and

Butterflies and beetles:

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES):

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species:

© People & the Planet 2000 - 2008

Kathy Chadwell (354)
Tuesday March 18, 2008, 10:31 pm
I myself was very much unaware of all this until a wonderful gentleman put in a friends request with me at myspace.
If any of you are on myspace and would like to add Animal Underworld.


Tim Redfern (581)
Wednesday March 19, 2008, 12:05 am
Kathy, thank you so much for
this post! I really appreciate
it that you didn't expect us
to go through a 286 page pdf file!
LMAO! But, how did YOU do it?!
Hugs and Kudos, my friend!

Arlette S (141)
Wednesday March 19, 2008, 12:39 am
Thank you Kathy. So sad that there are still humans who think to be special if they own a rare animal or plant.

Michael Sandstrom (306)
Wednesday March 19, 2008, 2:29 am
Thanks Kathy, keep up the good work, am still trying to "learn" myspace and youtube and fan whatever :-)

Alf I (246)
Wednesday March 19, 2008, 5:58 am
Well done Kathy. Any business that involves animals is just that. A BUSINESS! Zoos are no exception.

Teresa Fazackerley (395)
Wednesday March 19, 2008, 6:12 am

Cher C (1429)
Wednesday March 19, 2008, 6:57 am
noted Kathy but I couldn;t access the site, this is the message I got...
Your account profile indicates you're located in a country where Questia does not have the publisher's permission to allow you access to this particular publication. Less than 5% of our publications have this restriction so we encourage you to search for an alternative publication or update your profile to correct any error in your country of residence.

Thnx Kathy!!

. (0)
Wednesday March 19, 2008, 10:04 am
Good job Kathy all the suffering these animals go through just for money and most of them end up dieing. You done your home wrok and and brought a lot of light to my eye's of how they work in the under world.Thank Kathy noted.

Brenda P (146)
Wednesday March 19, 2008, 12:18 pm

Joanna D (216)
Wednesday March 19, 2008, 12:25 pm
I can't get to this site because:
Your account profile indicates you're located in a country where Questia does not have the publisher's permission to allow you access to this particular publication. Less than 5% of our publications have this restriction so we encourage you to search for an alternative publication or update your profile to correct any error in your country of residence.

I don't understand the message (has anybody the same problem? I'm in UK)but doesn't matter

Trudi Reijnders (242)
Wednesday March 19, 2008, 1:51 pm
Have the same problem as Cher and Joanna,could not get to the site.
Thank you for your comments,Kathy.This way you're showing those that cannot access what it's about.

Ali Hirst (286)
Wednesday March 19, 2008, 2:38 pm
I got the same message as Cher but have read what is posted here. Noted and Thanks Kathy for all you do

Sc M (49)
Wednesday March 19, 2008, 5:21 pm
This is why the laws need to change and we need our congress reps and senators to sponsor a bill to stop all imports of exotic animals, birds, etc.

Kathy Chadwell (354)
Thursday March 20, 2008, 12:38 am
It was working, we must of broken it:)
I invited Animal Underworld myspacer Alan Green to come visit this story and to hopefully start a page here. I think he'll get a very excited crowd of care2 members wanting to meet him:) I gave him my page address here and asked him to contact me if he starts a page here, I will let everybody know. Let's keep our fingers crossed:) I know he could run this story much better than me.

Kathy Chadwell (354)
Thursday March 20, 2008, 1:15 am
Now this was written in 2006, let's hope something has been done about it. I doubt it has but...
July 19, 2006...4:31 pm
Ape Meat Sold in U.S., European Black Markets
Bushmeat is the term coined and commonly used for the meat of terrestrial wild animals, killed for subsistence or commercial purposes throughout the humid tropics of the Americas, Asia and Africa. Bushmeat species include apes, other primates, ungulates, rodents, birds and some invertebrates. The act of hunting bush meat is very common in sub-Saharan Africa’s dense forests, where endangered gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos, as well as other primate species live.
For quite sometime, it has been believed that bushmeat consumption widespread to only western and central Africa. This ignorance prevails because bushmeat is thought to be a form of subsistence hunting isolated to the poor of Africa, as a cheap form of food their families and villages. However, new evidence from Justin Brashares, a professor of wildlife ecology at the University of California, Berkeley and his team, show that they have found the,

“…illegal meat in markets in Paris, Brussels, London, New York City, Montreal, Toronto, and Los Angeles.

The team documented 27 instances of gorilla or chimpanzee parts being sold. They found that most illegal meat is carried in suitcases and also is shipped in parcels and large containers coming through JFK and Miami airports. Inspectors say they can only catch about one percent of the total coming into the country, sadly.

As culturally sensetive as I try to be I can’t believe there are some people that think busmeat is a delicacy. They must be outstandingly jaded. I won’t even touch the argument that the transport of this meat is less than sanitary… but what about the one that primates harbour pathogens that also affect humans? Ebola for instance is epidemic in chimps and gorillas, and spread to humans during the butchering and hunting of such animals. One of the many hypotheses that attempt to explain how HIV crossed over to humans is that the virus passed into people by this hunting and/or butchering of an ape, most probably a chimpanzee or gorilla. Hunting and butchering produces blood splatters that easily create infective aerosols.

All in all, you aren’t disgusted at this, then I don’t know what to say… I’ll just leave with some images of bushmeat from photographer Karl Ammann.

“An early bush-meat picture with a very representative story behind it. That morning we were pulled out of a bush taxi at a road junction to record a statement with the police. Our taxi went on with the rest of the passengers, and we had to wait for the next one the next day. We then met a hunter while walking along the road. He told us that he had killed a female gorilla that morning. The police chief of Moloundou—a town farther south—had sent him the rifle requesting him to ‘get some gorilla meat.’ He shot the female gorilla that morning and sent the gun and the carcass back on the daily bush-taxi run. He was allowed to keep the head and one arm for his efforts. He proved this story by taking us to his kitchen, where I took this picture after he lifted the basket that had covered the head.”

“Gorilla hands are considered a delicacy and are served to the guest of honor at official functions. The Dutch Catholic bishop of Bertoua told me that even after more than a decade in the region, he was still regularly served gorilla hands and feet—even after he consistently rejected them.”

“This person, on the way home from shopping at one of the Libreville bush-meat markets, carries a ‘bagged’ male mandrill. Libreville, the capital of Gabon, is headquarters to many Western conservation nongovernmental organizations. It is the one major town in central Africa where the meat of a wide range of endangered species is still openly on display.”

“This chimp orphan is being kept captive as a plaything for children.

“Crocodiles like this one have the misfortune of being transported alive in this tied condition. Fresh meat earns a higher price than smoked meat at the bush-meat market.”

“A fetish seller in Yaoundé displays snakeskins, many gorilla skulls, and an elephant jaw. A fetish is an object or an animal that is believed to have powerful magic that can help humans.”

A hunter returning from a morning’s outing with a typical ‘bag’ of guenons. This productivity level will decline fast as soon as commercial hunting takes off.”

“A Pygmy butchers a silverback gorilla. They shot the ape on the way back from an elephant hunt after they lost a wounded bull elephant.”

Kathy Chadwell (354)
Thursday March 20, 2008, 1:16 am
Prohibited and Restricted Items -
Prohibited and Restricted Items

Absinthe (Alcohol)
Ceramic Tableware
Cultural Artifacts and Cultural Property (Art/Artifacts)
Dog and Cat Fur
Drug Paraphernalia
Fish and Wildlife
Food Products (Prepared)
Fruits and Vegetables
Game and Hunting Trophies
Meats, Livestock, and Poultry
Merchandise from Embargoed Countries
Plants and Seeds
Textiles and Clothing
Trademarked and Copyrighted Articles
CBP has been entrusted with enforcing some 400 laws for 40 other government agencies, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These other agencies have a need to know what people bring into the United States, but they are not always at ports of entry, guarding our borders. CBP officers are always at ports of entry—their primary mission is to safeguard America’s borders.

The products we need to prevent from entering the United States are those that would injure community health, public safety, American workers, children, or domestic plant and animal life, or those that would defeat our national political interests. Sometimes the products that cause injury, or have the potential to do so, may seem fairly innocent. But, as you will see from the material that follows, appearances can be deceiving.

Before you leave for your trip abroad, you might want to talk to CBP about the items you plan to bring back to be sure they’re not prohibited or restricted. Prohibited means the item is forbidden by law to enter the United States. Examples of prohibited items are dangerous toys, cars that don’t protect their occupants in a crash, or illegal substances like absinthe and Rohypnol. Restricted means that special licenses or permits are required from a federal agency before the item is allowed to enter the United States. Examples of restricted items include firearms and certain fruits, vegetables, pets, and textiles.

Game and Hunting Trophies
If you plan to import game or a hunting trophy, please contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before you leave at (800) 358-2104. Currently, 14 ports of entry are designated to handle game and trophies; other ports must get approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to clear your entry.

Depending on the species you bring back, you might need a permit from the country where the animal was harvested. Regardless of the species, you are required to fill out a Fish and Wildlife Form 3-177, Declaration for Importation or Exportation.

Trophies may also be subject to inspection by CBP for sanitary purposes. General guidelines for importing trophies can be found on APHIS Website under the APHIS Import Authorization System (IAS) ; ( Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service ) or by writing to USDA, APHIS, VS, NCIE Products Program, 4700 River Road, Unit 40, Riverdale, MD 20737-1231; or by calling 301.734.3277.

Also, federal regulations do not allow the importation of any species into a state with fish or wildlife laws that are more restrictive than federal laws. If foreign laws were violated in the taking, sale, possession, or export to the United States of wild animals, those animals will not be allowed entry into the United States.

Warning: There are many regulations, enforced by various agencies, governing the importation of animals and animal parts. Failure to comply with them could result in time-consuming delays in clearing your trophy through CBP. You should always call for guidance before you depart.

Dog and Cat Fur
It is illegal in the United States to import, export, distribute, transport, manufacture, or sell products containing dog or cat fur in the United States. As of November 9, 2000, the Dog and Cat Protection Act of 2000 calls for the seizure and forfeiture of each item containing dog or cat fur.

The Act provides that any person who violates any provision may be assessed a civil penalty of not more than $10,000 for each separate knowing and intentional violation, $5,000 for each separate gross negligent violation, or $3,000 for each separate negligent violation.

Fish and Wildlife
Certain fish and wildlife, and products made from them are subject to import and export restrictions, prohibitions, permits or certificates, and quarantine requirements. We recommend that you contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before you depart if you plan to import or export any of the following:

Wild birds, land or marine mammals, reptiles, fish, shellfish, mollusks, or invertebrates.
Any part or product of the above, such as skins, tusks, bone, feathers, or eggs.
Products or articles manufactured from wildlife or fish.
Endangered species of wildlife, and products made from them, generally may not be imported or exported. You will need a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to import virtually all types of ivory, unless it is from a warthog. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has so many restrictions and prohibitions on various kinds of ivory—Asian elephant, African elephant, whale, rhinoceros, seal, pre-Endangered Species Act, post-CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), and many others—that they urge you to contact them before you even think of acquiring ivory in a foreign country. You may contact them at (800) 358-2104.

You may import an object made of ivory if it is an antique. To be an antique the ivory must be at least 100 years old. You will need documentation that authenticates the age of the ivory. You may import other antiques containing wildlife parts with the same condition, but they must be accompanied by documentation proving they are at least 100 years old. Certain other requirements for antiques may apply.

If you plan to buy such things as tortoiseshell jewelry, or articles made from whalebone, ivory, skins, or fur, contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Law Enforcement, P.O. Box 3247, Arlington, VA 22203-3247, or call (800) 358-2104 or visit ( U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ) . Hunters can get information on the limitations for importing and exporting migratory game birds from this office as well. Ask for their pamphlet, Facts About Federal Wildlife Laws.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated specific ports of entry to handle fish and wildlife entries. If you plan to import anything discussed in this section, please contact CBP. CBP will tell you about designated ports and send you the brochure Pets and Wildlife, which describes the regulations CBP enforces for all agencies that oversee the importation of animals.

Some states have fish and wildlife laws and regulations that are stricter than federal laws and regulations. If you are returning to such a state, be aware that the stricter state laws and regulations have priority. Similarly, the federal government does not allow you to import wild animals into the United States that were taken, killed, sold, possessed, or exported from another country if any of these acts violated foreign laws.

Lynda L (96)
Thursday March 20, 2008, 7:09 am
I can't imagine what people are thinking taking in a wild animal and NOT expecting it to do what it's nature dictates..then they blame the animal//so sad.. Incredible article however!! VERY informative..good work.

LL A (33)
Thursday March 20, 2008, 11:14 am
Noted and Bookmarded for review!!!!

Dorothy T (27)
Friday March 21, 2008, 4:17 am
I have been reading a lot on black market for rare and exotic pets.Thanks for all your very informative reporting here Kathy.Now I will have to see if I can get a copy to read as I can only go a few pages on the site.

L. T (34)
Saturday March 22, 2008, 4:22 pm
Thanks Kathy and noted for future use too. If only people would stop, think and do some research before they buy exotic animals. Less demand would possibly help more animals to stay free. We need to put a limit on urban sprawl (human growth) because the animals and other species are running out of land to roam free as nature intended. We are the cause of the imbalance in our world.

. (0)
Saturday March 22, 2008, 11:58 pm
Shocking, why can't they stop it?? Just put your self in one of those animals places, the horror they must go through. Unbelievable what humans do for money. More education is needed and stringent test at the border. but then there are always the exceptions! There should not be any exceptions!!
Then there is this:
This store gives me the irritates, he sells Sugar glider cages, pouches, etc The cages are far too small for sugar gliders and they just don't belong in a pouch on a teenagers neck to be taken everywhere. They are nocturnal animals. But humans are awake during the day. so they don't make good pets. They suffer enormously because of this. And when the kids are sick of them they just leave them in a too small cage, to die a lonely death. they are very sociable animals and must have at least one other Sugar glider for company. It should be outlawed to own one of them too!!!!

Thanks for the hard work with this story, Kathy.

. (0)
Sunday March 23, 2008, 12:00 am
you deserve one Kathy, but:

You cannot currently send a star to Kathy because you have done so within the last week.

Jenna R (0)
Monday March 24, 2008, 1:20 pm
Thank you Kathy for writing this! After I read the book I started the myspace page for it. I had no idea about many of the facts in the book and I thought that many other people had no idea either. Thank you for putting a link so people can read the book online! I think that this is a very important piece of literature!!!
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