Criminal masterminds. It may be that bludgeoning is the most humane way known to kill pythons on a large scale, but that does not mean Switzerland is wrong to think the practice unacceptable.
Reptiles aside, if you care at all about the evolution of wildlife law, mark this moment. Buy The Lizard King!
The Lizard King: The True Crimes and Passions of the World's Greatest Reptile Smugglers
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No notes for slide. For one U. Fish and Wildlife Service agent, stopping the dealings of a notorious snake trader became a personal crusade. You just clipped your first slide! Clipping is a handy way to collect important slides you want to go back to later. As reptile keepers have you ever considered yourself part of the problem? Do zoos, who profess to be concerned about conservation and driven by a desire to save species from extinction, really know where some of their specimens have come from, and how genuine is their paperwork?
Certainly some major US zoos did not know or did not ask. How does the mantra go: "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true", well that line could easily continue with "or it is illegal". Are they really captive-bred? Is the paperwork genuine? If it looks genuine, does it originate from a country flagged up by CITES as having a history of corrupt officials prepared to sign anything for a price?
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It is really true that there are people out there who can get you anything you want, for a price, and in The Lizard King you will be amazed to learn that 'anything you want' even includes tuataras straight off their remote New Zealand islands. Apparently CB is not always shorthand for 'captive bred' sometimes it is "shorthand for 'smuggled with paperwork'.
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They are found in India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, all of which protect them and ban them from trade. But captive bred specimens come out of UAE by the dozens, hundreds even, with captive bred paperwork to support their now legal trade to anywhere in the world. This answer is: Zero. Christy shows how CITES inadvertently protects, even aids the very people it was set up to stop, and fails the animals it was designed to protect.
All it takes is a corrupt official with an impressive letterhead. As you read The Lizard King you may find yourself looking at yourself and wondering if you are partly to blame for providing the market that smugglers seek to supply, as Van Nostrand commented, where do you think all the original bearded dragons and frilled lizards came from, since Australian banned their export decades ago. Yes they are many generations captive-bred and legal now, but what about their great-great-great-great grandparents? How did they get the breeders in the first place? Yet we turn a blind-eye and continue to keep, breed and trade in both these species.
Some of the people we meet at the start of The Lizard King, the 'mules' such as the Argentina tortoise courier Tomas Medina, are clearly just in it for the money, although fortunately for him, unlike drug-smuggling mules, he was not expected to actually swallow his illegal cargo. But what of the big boys, the main players, the major reptile importers and exporters, wholesalers and store owners, I am sure some profess a love of reptiles, some may even start out loving reptiles, having caught or kept cornsnakes as youngsters, but when the filthy lucre becomes the attraction these people become capable of almost anything and seem to loose their genuine appreciation of reptiles as fascinating creatures, seeing them more as a means to buy a larger house and boat.
This does not include all reptile dealers of course, there are many who make their livings legally, so it is important not to tar everyone with the same brush, but it must be tempting to accept that once in a lifetime money-making offer of a rare species, no questions asked. The Lizard King is not a novel, it is a true account of the sordid business of reptile smuggling and the people trying to combat that trade, but one cannot help feeling it would make a great movie, somewhere between Miami Vice, although the law enforcement officer would have to loose the gator, and Lethal Weapon, doors do get kicked in and guns are drawn.
It is interesting to conjure who would play Chip Bepler and Mike Van Nostrand, although Jack Palance might make a passable Raymond Van Nostrand in his later years, world-worn and jail-savvy. The problem is that anyone of us who keeps reptiles might have a walk-on part in the story and considering how popular reptile keeping has become, that is worrying.
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