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The Elephant (and lion, zebra, baboon, king cobra and giraffe) in the room
A quiet but sleepless pre-dawn and I returned once again to extraordinarily vivid and happy memories of experiencing African wild animals where they belong, just a few weeks ago. I’m not at all sure what stupid stroke of curiosity led me to leave such joyous memories for a web search of “wild animals for sale” and similar phrases but there I was, staring at ads from people offering to sell and as many from individuals wanting to buy just about every animal I had seen and many more I had not: shopping lists and classified ads for animals from Africa, Australia and every other corner of the planet.
On one exotic animal specialty site, Carlos writes “I am looking for a pure gray wolf cub” and Ryan wants “pygmy marmoset, kinkajou, or a fat-tailed dwarf lemur or anything similar” reassuringly noting, just in case would-be sellers might be worried: “Not an impulse buy. I have experience with exotics!” Meanwhile, Carly in Ohio wants “a female camel of breeding age” and John in Arkansas is seeking a zebra for stud service because obviously, as we all know, the Ohio and Arkansas camel and zebra populations have severely declined over the past few years.
Elsewhere we find Harley who provides the following shopping list: “zebras (preferably 2 males and 5 females), giraffes (1 male, 1 female), any ape species (pairs or trios or quads, no gender preference), cotton top, golden lion tamarinds, koalas, any otter species (preferably small to medium group), meerkat, prairie dog, lions (a small pride), any ocelots or servals.” And then there’s Esteban, who writes “I am looking for Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. They would need to be 3 ft. or more, anything less I could not use.”
On the seller’s side of the street, with just a few key strokes I find a pair of white rhinos being offered along with the also endangered sable antelope, plus white faced capuchin monkeys (babies at $8,500., adults for half that price), marmosets by the dozen, water buffalo, zebras (all three species, individuals of all ages), wallabies, wallaroos and kangaroos, camels, jackals (both striped and black-backed), serval (“we have four and only need three” so now’s your chance!), an eight year old castrated giraffe (“loves people and will take food out of your hand, $35,000.”), pit vipers and king cobras, sloths, caracal, Asian leopard cats, Geoffrey’s cats, a white tiger cub, long nosed fruit bats, lions cubs (“They are well trained, friendly and highly socialized. Looking for a good, loving and caring home.” Yea, right) and an eighteen month old baboon (advertised as “very trained, knows a handful of tricks” and who the seller insists “is not a pet and must go to an experienced monkey person”).
Sure, various permits are required by many states (not all) and cities (even fewer) for people wishing to either buy or sell, but where there is a will and a credit card I assume there is a way. And once you make the deal and find yourself with a completely inappropriate animal, a living being who you so callously brought to your home, cheer up for all is not lost. Chances are the animal is not long for the world. And then you can respond to another ad, like the one from John who writes on one of these sites, probably a pretty wise move in fact: “I am a taxidermist and am looking for exotic animals that have passed away and in good presentable shape.” What a very strange and in many ways disturbing animal we can be.