Inside America's Black Market for Rare and Exotic Species
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You wouldn’t want to be a member of the captive-bred wildlife population in this country, even in a zoo. Chances are, as investigative journalist Green carefully charts out, you would wind up in a small enclosure, there to be shot for “sport.” Exotic animals fascinate and delight us, and we are willing to pay to see our favorite charismatic fauna, the tigers and elephants and pandas. We enjoy the bizarre as well, the white-tailed gnus and the addax. We also like them young or very old, and zoos have found themselves with an overabundance of middle-aged animals: “There is, in short, no place for them, and they are of real worth only when disassembled.” Skins make rugs, paws are nibbled as delicacies; whole animals find themselves in everything from exotic-animal hunting operations to ratty, vermin-infested roadside/nightclub venues. Feel the urge to shoot a Nubian ibex? Got a couple grand? Done. Green (along with the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity, which examines public service and ethical issues) is able to flourish his pull-no-punches style because he has done the legwork, following the arcane and nearly invisible paper trails that cast a harsh light on such venerable establishments as the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and the San Diego Zoo, who rid themselves of unwanted, unprofitable inmates by selling them to unscrupulous dealers. Green makes it clear that heaven-sent sanctuaries like the Primate Rescue Center exist, though for each one of them there are legions of horrific places run by ethically impaired yahoos. Green also makes it clear why: captive-bred wildlife falls between the legal cracks, with the US Dept. of Agriculture only handling egregious animal welfare infringements and US Fish and Wildlife interested in international trafficking and the Endangered Species Act. No one is responsible for the captive breds, and few show any concern. What Green is talking about here is zoos” long-term commitment to the welfare of the animals they breed. But that commitment doesn’t pay, it costs, and profits—not ethics—drive the zoo business. (8 pages b&w photos) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-891620-28-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1999