Animal Information

Animal Smuggling… the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly… HUH? The GOOD?

The border of the U.S. is a hot zone for wildlife smuggling, and while President Trump and his "wall" has vowed to stop illegal immigration from Mexico, it’s uncertain what he intends to do to prevent the issue of illicit wildlife.

The good? The good parts of animal smuggling are the laws against them. Added, we would not have the honor of being around many species of animals if it were not for the crimes of the past.

Click To Purchase

Such as bearded dragons. We have been told over many years that Tom Crutchfield and others like him are responsible for this amazing species being in our homes.

It would be nice to be thankful for this past but realize the importance of regulation and protection for our future.

Still, we have a huge amount of respect for Tom Crutchfield. He is the man who had such a passion for wildlife. Is this a case of Sockholms Syndrome?

Click the following video and check out the Locked Up Abroad episode titled “Snakes On A Plane” The Tom Crutchfield Story.

The term “exotic” doesn’t have a set definition, but it usually refers to a wild animal or one that’s more unusual than your standard dog or cat. The booming business in exotic pets is known as the exotic pet trade.

Click To Purchase

Some of this trade is legal, but many times animals are captured from the wild illegally to supply the demand for exotic pets.

According to the US Fish and WIldlife, Illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be a multibillion-dollar business.

We have read as much as 28 Billion. That is Billion with a “B”. This involves the unlawful harvest of and trade in live animals and plants or parts and products derived from them and includes Ivory.

The History

People’s obsession with exotic animals started early. While keeping birds in captivity for food has been common throughout history, records show that people in Egypt were keeping birds for use as pets in 4000 BC.

Click To Purchase

People in China went a step further during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) being the first to selectively breed fish for decoration. But it wasn’t until open water sailing became possible in the 15th century that people began to trade animals across oceans.

The 20th-century is when exotic pets further grew in popularity, and millions started being traded across the globe. Tropical fish and all the equipment needed to keep them became affordable enough for many people in the US in the 1940s. The trend that started in the Song Dynasty now had a foothold in modern American life.

Click To Purchase

From 1980 to1990 there was an explosion in the popularity of reptiles as pets and in their trade in the West. This has had a lasting impact as reptiles are some of the most sought-after exotic pets today.

In the early 1990s, the value of legal wildlife products imported globally was around 160 billion. By 2009, this had more than doubled to over 323 billion.

That would be about a 28 Billion dollar illegal plus a 323 Billion dollar illegal market.

323 Legal Trade

+ 28 Illegal Trade

351 Billion Dollars!

The world is dealing with an unprecedented spike in illegal wildlife trade, threatening to overturn decades of conservation gains. 


Wildlife crime is big business. Mostly run by dangerous international networks, wildlife and animal parts are trafficked much like illegal drugs and arms. By its very nature, it is almost impossible to obtain reliable figures for the value of the illegal wildlife trade.

Some examples of illegal wildlife trade are well known, such as poaching of elephants for ivory and tigers for their skins and bones.

However, countless other species are similarly overexploited, from marine turtles to cactus and other plants.

Not all wildlife trade is ILLEGAL.

Click To Purchase

Wild plants and animals from tens of thousands of species are caught or harvested from the wild.

These then sold legitimately as food, pets, ornamental plants, leather, tourist ornaments, and medicine.

Wildlife trade escalates into a crisis when an increasing proportion is illegal and unsustainable and is directly threatening the survival of many species in the wild.

Stamping out wildlife crime should be a priority because it’s the largest direct threat to the future of many of the world’s most threatened species.

It is second only to habitat destruction in overall threats against species survival.

For traffickers engaging in some of the world’s biggest black-market trades, Facebook Inc. is the enabler.

Cold Hard Facts

Social Media works as a tool for thousands of traffickers who sell illegal goods using Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. The technology connects with and negotiate sales with buyers, and even help receive payments.

Click To Purchase

Facebook, and other social media outlets, mainly rely on algorithms and artificial intelligence to manage harmful content.

But investigations by the Alliance to Counter Crime Online (ACCO) show time and again how these algorithms connect traffickers quicker than moderators can exclude them.

By nature, these platforms suggest friends and recommend groups, putting players in touch with one another, continually growing networks of users engaging in similar illegal actions.

Click To Purchase

Oversimplification of the interpretation of wildlife trade data jeopardizes the ability of policymakers to prioritize directing limited resources towards those species that truly require protection from unsustainable trade and wildlife trafficking. All of which threaten species with extinction.

Of the nearly 50,000 illegal shipments of wildlife and wildlife products confiscated at ports of entry from 2005 through 2014, more than one quarter began in Latin America.

According to a 2016 fact sheet from Defenders of Wildlife, a Washington, D.C.-based conservation organization. This included nearly 55,000 live animals and three million pounds of wildlife products.

Click To Purchase

In response to the growing level of illegal wildlife trade over the last several decades, the Service has developed the most advanced and robust wildlife law enforcement program in the world.

Stationing inspectors at ports across the country and providing enforcement training throughout the world, the United States is an international leader in combatting wildlife crime.

In interest to enforcement efforts, the Service has also worked to increase consumer awareness through outreach to tourists going abroad and consumers of exotic wildlife domestically.

There is a difference between farm-raised and wild-caught!

Does this mean that some types of importing is good and needed?

Wildlife trafficking is thought to be the third most valuable unlawful trade in the world, after drugs and weapons, according to the U.S. State Department.

Click To Purchase

Birds are the most common contraband. The State Department estimates that two million to five million wild birds.

From hummingbirds to parrots to harpy eagles. All are traded illegally worldwide every year. There are millions of turtles, crocodiles, snakes, and other reptiles also trafficked, as well as mammals and insects.

Since 1973, the buying and selling of wildlife across borders have been regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), whose purpose is to prevent such trade from threatening the survival of 5,000 animals and 28,000 plant species. CITES enforcement falls largely to individual countries, many of which impose additional regulations on wildlife trade. In the United States, the Wild Bird.

Click To Purchase

Conservation Act of 1992 outlawed the importation of most wild-caught birds. In 2007, the European Union banned the importation of all wild birds. Ecuador and all but a few other South American countries ban the commercial harvesting and export of wild-caught parrots.

Click To Purchase

“We do not lack laws against the trade,” María Fernanda Espinosa, director of the International Union for Conservation of Nature in South America, said in her office in Quito, Ecuador’s capital city. “But there is a lack of resources, and that means it is not a conservation priority.” In all of Ecuador, as few as nine police officers have been assigned to illegal trafficking.

Latin America is vulnerable to wildlife trafficking because of its extraordinary biodiversity. Ecuador is about the size of Colorado, has about 1,600 species of birds; the entire continental United States has about 900.

Click To Purchase

Accurate data about the illegal trade in animals and plants are hard to come by. Brazil is the Latin American nation with the most comprehensive information; its Institute of Environment and Natural Resources cites estimates that at least 12 million wild animals are poached there each year.

When people succumb to the temptation to purchase “exotic” animals such as hedgehogs, macaws, lizards, monkeys, and even tigers or bears it often leads to pain and death for these animals. The exotic animal trade is also deadly for animals we don’t see: For every animal who makes it to the store or the auction, countless others die along the way.

Click To Purchase

The journey for many of these animals begins in places like Australia, Africa, and the jungles of Brazil. The few laws and penalties that do exist hardly dissuade dealers in light of the money that can be made from smuggling: Prices on animals’ heads range from a few bucks for a giant cockroach to tens of thousands of dollars for a hyacinth macaw.

When trappers take animals away from their natural habitats, the animals often change hands several times through intermediaries and exporters, and they endure grueling transport conditions.

Click To Purchase

Parrots might have their beaks and feet taped and be stuffed into plastic tubes that can easily be hidden in luggage, and stolen bird and reptile eggs are concealed in special vests so that couriers can bypass X-ray machines at airports.

Baby turtles have been taped so that they are trapped inside their shells and shoved by the dozen into tube socks, and infant pythons have been shipped in CD cases.

Click To Purchase

In one case, a man who was arrested at the Los Angeles airport had Asian leopard cats in a backpack, birds of paradise in additional luggage, and pygmy monkeys in his underwear. Their chances of survival? “We have a mortality of about 80 or 90 percent,” says a German customs agent. Exotic animals can suffer further at the hands of dealers who sell to pet stores and zoos.

PETA’s undercover investigation of U.S. Global Exotics resulted in a raid of the dealer’s Arlington, Texas, warehouse and the seizure of more than 27,000 animals who had been subjected to crowded living conditions, poor ventilation, and a lack of food, water, and basic care.

Click To Purchase

More than 400 iguanas (half of whom died) had been left in shipping crates for about two weeks without food or water because of a canceled order. Hundreds of dead animals were discovered during the raid, and more than 6,000 died afterward because they were too ill to be saved.7 For more on this investigation, please visit

Click To Purchase

Animals who do survive long enough to be sold are often subject to inadequate care.

Because caretakers are often unprepared or unable to provide for the needs of animals who are so far removed from their natural habitats, many exotic animals will likely die or be abandoned by their caretakers.

Click To Purchase

For instance, the head of South Africa’s Western Cape Environmental Crime Investigation unit estimates that 90 percent of exported reptiles die within a year.

Hedgehogs, who roll themselves into tight balls, can easily become injured if children try to “uncurl” them or if cats attack them. Sugar gliders are very social animals, and if they are not given enough attention, they may mutilate themselves or die from the stress of loneliness.

Click To Purchase

The American Zoo and Aquarium Association says that “zoos are being asked by irresponsible owners to relocate displaced and unwanted animals. However, because most zoos do not accept donations, there are thousands of exotic animals remain in unsuitable conditions.”

On the other hand, REPTILES magazine did an interview with author Bryan Christy about life after the release of his book The Lizard King. Within its pages, Christy tells the real-life story of former reptile smuggler Mike Van Nostrand and his once-nemesis agent Chip Bepler of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Click To Purchase

Reptile Magazine asked… “Some have argued that if it weren’t for reptile smuggling, some of the most popular pet species would not be available today, and because captive-bred specimens are more widely available, there is less need for wild-caught specimens, which takes the burden off wild populations. Yet laws were broken. What are your personal views regarding animal smuggling? “

Christy replied ” One of the best pets in the reptile world, the Australian bearded dragon, would likely not be here if it weren’t for smuggling. On the other hand, smuggling has hurt Cyclura populations.

Click To Purchase

Smugglers have broken into wildlife preserves in Madagascar and New Zealand to poach Geochelone yniphora, tuataras and other species right out of rescue facilities.

The impact of smuggling varies species by species. Prolific species can benefit, but most species are protected because they are not prolific.”

That is why we created Crazy Critters. We want to use the space and passion we have to create a forever home for wayward exotics in order to carve the invasive species issues we have in Florida. If those animals do breed while living their lives in naturalistic enclosures we help the environment in multiple ways. Once we can be approved for head-starting with the FWC, we can help by the release of native species.

Like what you read? Appreciate the information? We are a non-profit 501c3! Thank us with a contribution by clicking DONATE!

Let us know your ideas and comments below!