Thoughts on Book: Stolen World

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Thoughts on Book: Stolen World

Postby alichamp » Tue Mar 08, 2016 6:13 pm

I've just finished reading "Stolen World: A Tale of Reptiles, Smugglers, and Skulduggery" by Jennie Erin Smith (2011).

Great book, but I have to say that I will not look at zoos or the reptile 'business' (and according to this book it is definitely a business) the same again! It describes reptile legends of previous decades in the US who travelled the world (or sent minions) collecting reptiles from remote places, posting them around the world, selling them to other reptile collectors, zoos, and (booming in the 1990s) the pet world. Of course, the rare and endangered species were highly sought after and made the best money.

What I find so hard to reconcile is that the reptile 'collectors' from decades ago professed to love reptiles, they loved adventure and finding and collecting reptiles, but they would post such huge numbers that most of them died! Even the rare and expensive ones!

And then, they would sell them to zoos at the time who had no idea how to care for them, and heaps of THOSE ones died! I know it was different times and everything, but just makes you appreciate that now there is so much more knowledge (most likely from trial and error with such unfortunate outcomes for the errors), and appreciate the efforts and care for the animals demonstrated by those who are doing it great now. I know there are still problems, of course, and perhaps I am coming from a particular viewpoint because our laws in Australia are so strict for these things.

At the same time, of course we now have zoos, animals and breeding groups around because of those reptile smugglers. So I do give a bit of a nod to those guys for what is possible now ... but also hard not to think of all those poor reptiles that were pinched, boxed without care, shipped hoping for the best, and sold to whoever had enough money.

A few quotes:

"... President Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act of 1973... It came with a list of species, including foreign ones, barred from commercial trade. A few years before, the Lacey Act had been resurrected and reinvigorated ... [and] now prohibited illegal imports ... The Lacey Act's penalties, formerly misdemeanours, became felonies. Earlier in 1973, the United States had signed on on to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. CITES, as the treaty was known ... made no exceptions for live plants or animals." (p. 43)

"[19 year old] Steven Levy landed in Fiji on September 1974... His job was ... go to Fiji, get iguanas and boas, wait for [Henry] Molt, move on ... It did not take long for the youth of Navuloa to mobilise for Levy, and they climbed every tree for miles ... Molt, all business, was thrilled with Levy's haul: forty-two iguanas, forty-six boas. They sought a carpenter and commissioned from him wooden boxes painted with the words 'Natural History Specimens' [for shipping]." (P. 49)

"On one return through Sydney [late 1980s] the suited-up [Eddie] Celebucki bought his bottle of scotch and walked through security, only to set off a metal detector. 'I had reptiles in my pockets and a six-foot diamond python balled up in the small of my back', he said. 'They're running the wand over and hit the python', Celebucki said. 'The guy's squeezing it - it's in a little tight bag. The guy said 'what is this?' and I didn't know what to say, so I said, 'it's a tumour'.' Celebucki was allowed to proceed. On his next pass, however, Celebucki's luggage was discovered to contain fifty mangrove monitors and six pythons, and Australian authorities arrested him." (P. 129)

"That August [1998], a large package from Indonesia was returned to the main FedEx office in Phoenix, radiating a foul stench. Some brave soul at FedEx cut open the parcel to find nine dead snakes, partially liquefied from the heat." (p. 119).

Has anyone read this book?
Man, what a ride! I'd be interested to read any thoughts from others in the reptile world who can add to this history.
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Re: Thoughts on Book: Stolen World

Postby splashy07 » Wed Mar 09, 2016 3:57 pm

Yes, was quite a read. A friend of mine lent it to me last year. I lived through those times and saw quite a bit of the bad stuff first hand. Was the reason I refused multiple job offers in the trade. I would love to give a free copy to everyone at the expo this Sunday....

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