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Forbidden Creatures: Inside the World of Animal Smuggling and Exotic Pets Paperback – 1 Sep 2011


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Review

""Forbidden Creatures" addresses an important issue with major environmental and ethical consequences--the alarming spread of animal smuggling. Let's hope it helps stem the tide." -Allison Chin, president, Sierra Club "This book is a wild romp through backyards and bedrooms full of exotic--sometimes dangerous--creatures. And it is an exploration of the human psyche: What drives some people to become outlaws just to satisfy their desire to subjugate nature's other beasts? Laufer has hit another home run."
--Mark Bauman, National Geographic SocietyIn praise of "The Dangerous World of Butterflies" "[A] compelling, all-angles examination. . . . Laufer delivers an absorbing science lesson for fans of the colorful bugs." --"Publishers Weekly""" "Recommended for scientists and lay readers who enjoyed Susan Orlean's "The Orchid Thief."" --"Library Journal" "Like "The Orchid Thief," "The Dangerous World of Butterflies" takes us deep into the dark heart of obsessed collectors and the passionate activism of people working to repopulate species like the Palos Verdes blue. Worlds within worlds: Laufer, a veteran reporter on cultural and political borders, understands how these worlds cross and collide. His book is a Venn diagram of the beautiful and bizarre." --"Los Angeles Times""" "[Laufer's] book is charming and his attention to detail, combined with a real gift for describing these fascinating characters -- like calling entomologist Arthur Shapiro "an endless litany of intriguing butterfly stories" -- made me want to read everything else he has written." --Andrew Ervin, "Washington Post""" ..".Laufer's "The Dangerous World of Butterflies" packs real entertainment wallop in a book filled with informed tidbits custom-designed for cocktail hour." --P. Joseph Potocki, "The Bohemian""" "A charming . . . meditation on butterflies and the people who love them." --"Kirkus""" ""The Dangerous World of Butterflies: the Startling Subculture of Criminals, Collectors, and Conservationi

"Forbidden Creatures addresses an important issue with major environmental and ethical consequences the alarming spread of animal smuggling. Let's hope it helps stem the tide." Allison Chin, president, Sierra Club "This book is a wild romp through backyards and bedrooms full of exotic sometimes dangerous creatures. And it is an exploration of the human psyche: What drives some people to become outlaws just to satisfy their desire to subjugate nature's other beasts? Laufer has hit another home run." Mark Bauman, National Geographic SocietyIn praise of The Dangerous World of Butterflies: "[A] compelling, all-angles examination. . . . Laufer delivers an absorbing science lesson for fans of the colorful bugs." --Publishers Weekly "Recommended for scientists and lay readers who enjoyed Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief." Library Journal "Like The Orchid Thief, The Dangerous World of Butterflies takes us deep into the dark heart of obsessed collectors and the passionate activism of people working to repopulate species like the Palos Verdes blue. Worlds within worlds: Laufer, a veteran reporter on cultural and political borders, understands how these worlds cross and collide. His book is a Venn diagram of the beautiful and bizarre." --Los Angeles Times "[Laufer's] book is charming and his attention to detail, combined with a real gift for describing these fascinating characters -- like calling entomologist Arthur Shapiro "an endless litany of intriguing butterfly stories" -- made me want to read everything else he has written." --Andrew Ervin, Washington Post ..".Laufer's The Dangerous World of Butterflies packs real entertainment wallop in a book filled with informed tidbits custom-designed for cocktail hour." --P. Joseph Potocki, The Bohemian "A charming . . . meditation on butterflies and the people who love them." --Kirkus "The Dangerous World of Butterflies: the Startling Subculture of Criminals, Collectors, and Conservationists by Peter Laufer is an eye-opening peek into the world of butterfly collecting. From true crime to heated debates between butterfly conservationists and butterfly farmers, this book reads like a novel." --Pittsburgh Post-Gazette"

From the Back Cover

What animals are being smuggled, from where and how and why do so many people keep illicit, dangerous pets? On the heels of his acclaimed The Dangerous World of Butterflies, investigative journalist Peter Laufer exposes the underworld of international animal smuggling and the network of hunters, traders, breeders, and customers who constitute this nefarious business. Taking readers to exotic and often lawless locales, he introduces us to people whose greed and mindless self-interest perpetuate what is now a crisis of survival for a growing number of wild species. Woven throughout with riveting stories from law enforcement officials and federal prosecutors, Forbidden Creatures looks at what kinds of animals are being smuggled, from where and why, and who is buying the big cats, long snakes, and great apes that may live in a neighborhood like yours."

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Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars 23 reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent read but I felt he came across as biased. 18 April 2011
By Thundergod - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read and purchased this book after seeing it attached to 'Stolen World' on Amazon. The author interviews some interesting people but when interviewing them seems to go to great lengths to make them seem rather bizarre when in some cases they seem perfectly responsible in what they are doing. He makes attempts to dismiss their efforts and successes often with glib commentary. As an example at Chimparty one would have to be clueless not to see that the lady being interviewed has done an admirable job maintaining such a large and difficult group of animals. Zoos often have more resources and staff and don't do nearly as well as she has done. Likewise her knowledge of these animals is a resource for their captive management. This is aside from her breeding and selling chimps which I do not support. But the rest of what she has done is an admirable effort that the author simply dismisses as his words ' a misguided, tragic figure, an unfortunate woman who may be as trapped and broken as her chimps'. Nonsense, she has been passionate, dedicated, respectful, and successful with a difficult species. She has done better than most zoos for goodness sakes. Is this even broached- No as that would make exotic owners seem positive.

Another complete miss on his part is the benefit of animal outreach programs to the general publics general awareness of wildlife in general. If all we had where public instituions with wildlife the public would be woefully underinformed and unfamiliar with animals and this would hurt allot of the very causes alleged animal rights groups support. Shamu may not have the life of his wild cousins but can anyone reasonably argue that the captive whale doesn't increase public awareness of wild populations.

The author is completely dismissive of the very real environmental toll loose house cats have on native populations of wild animals particuarly songbirds. He poo poos the mention of this from Shawn Heflick. Later mentioning his vet(obviously misguided as well) tells him a housecat should be outdoors. The damage housecats do across the USA to various species far exceeds that of the pythons in the everglades.

In conclusion while the author does a decent job highlighting the relatively rare occurrences of exotics causing problems and attempts to be even handed in allot of places. In the end his work is pointedly one sided and to dismissve of logic and the reality of how animals exotic and not impact our world.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Insightful 30 Aug. 2013
By Julie H - Published on Amazon.com
I loved this book. I work with these animals that are used, abused then disregarded as if they did not matter. I think more people need to be aware of this issue. Today, these animals can be found everywhere from extravagant Las Vegas magic shows, to shopping malls, to roadside zoos, and even in people's backyards, basements and garages. Like guns, drugs and other illegal items, law enforcement agencies are continually forced to confiscate animals from unlicensed individuals who attempt to keep them as pets. Additionally, many private collections exist in licensed facilities throughout the world - though licensing doesn't always guarantee the proper or humane treatment of animals. There are estimates as high as 30,000 captive Great Cats, Bears, Wolves and other large carnivores living in substandard conditions throughout the US. In fact, after illegal drugs and weapons, the exotic animal trade is the third largest source of illicit profits in America...and in the world today! There are more tigers living as "pets" in just the state of Texas than currently exist in the wild all over the world. We need more books like this to educated the public of this grown trend and how dangerous it is for humans and how these animals are paying the price with their lives.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No journalistic detachment from subject 21 Dec. 2012
By Zach - Published on Amazon.com
Peter Laufer's "Forbidden Creatures: Inside the World of Animal Smuggling and Exotic Pets" is an unsympathetic view of people who own "big cats, great apes, and long snakes". Based largely on first person interviews, Laufer, a PhD in journalism, is actually more balanced in concern to reptiles than mammals. Written from his perspective (he uses "I" frequently), it is obvious that he doesn't understand pets in general, exotic or ordinary. Indeed, he often worries whether or not his family should possess a cat or a dog. He finds some solace in his cat's ability to leave or enter the house via a cat door and freewill.
Laufer continually returns to the theme that people who possess "big cats, great apes, and long snakes" want to "dominate" the animals. Chapter 15, "A Conscientious Merchant", is supposedly about Charles Thompson of Snakes'n'Adders, who deals with a variety of herps and helps a young couple in Laufer's presence with an "aggressive" cornsnake that was recently purchased. Needless to say, it was the couples' first snake, and they did not know how to approach and handle it properly, and the cornsnake was as tame as you would expect. Laufer, however, manages to incorporate an unrelated story of animal (reptile) cruelty and an apocryphal tale (related second hand from his wife) of a keeper who would peruse the community bulletin boards searching for children's accidental surplus baby mice to feed to his kingsnake. The mice would then become "a stripped skeleton". Laufer's misunderstanding of basic biology assures that he will never answer his own question of "What do you do with it?"
Though Laufer continually uses direct quotes from interviewees, he (subconsciously) cherry-picks his quotations and sources and reveals a bias of his academic, San Franciscan surroundings. His portrayal of big cats, great apes, and the people that deal with them are universally unflattering. His treatment of herpetoculture is more even, though he does manage to lump all reptile people under the same umbrella as people who keep burms and retics. He writes at length about invasive burms in the Everglades, and does a good job of presenting both alarmist and skeptical views on the issue. However, he thoroughly fails to appreciate the scope, diversity, and considerable history of all the invasive animals in Florida and unfairly singles out the reptile trade as the issue of concern.
"Forbidden Creatures" is a worthwhile read if only to remind those immersed in herpetoculture that a large segment of the general population remains ignorant (and fearful) of reptiles. That ignorance can be educated, well-researched, and powerful (in the case of Laufer specifically and journalists and politicians in general), should give all within the herp community pause. Laufer's fixation on "dominance" of animals clearly can't account for us who enjoy finding herps in the field, taking care of the captive reptiles within our possession, and fostering and rescuing of herps as needed. Do read "Forbidden Creatures" but don't reward the author by buying it. Check it out from the public library instead.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it! 20 Oct. 2013
By JeffKnowsStuff - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Along with "The Orchid Thief" ,"The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid" ,and other books of this genera, I find this subject fascinating. Intriguing look into the psyche of those addicted to their exotics, their dysfunction, the moneymakers and the unfortunate animals most importantly!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smart and a breeze to read 6 Sept. 2013
By Adrienne M Stork - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very interesting book about a highly unreported subject. Reads like a novel and full of strange and interesting characters. As they say, truth is always stranger than fiction! Highly recommended.
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