An Inside Look at the Exotic Animal Trade: Profiles by VICE

Most of the people that say "I want to buy a tiger" are what you can classify as impulse buyers, people who say, "If I raise it from a cub, it won't bite me, will it?" I can house break it if it grows up in
my house it will never eat my children If you're a bad guy and you want to make
money and have a much lower chance of getting caught, the wildlife trade is
perfect because you know what's the likelihood that some municipal police
officers going to know that the critter you have in your bag or that you have in
your car is a legal lizard or the world's most endangered lizard even if they are apprehended you don't
see people going away for decades for selling endangered species if you're selling drugs you may go away
for decades. Wildlife trafficking worldwide is estimated to be a 19
billion dollar a year business which puts it only underneath drug trafficking
human trafficking and arms smuggling it's as lucrative to deal in wildlife as it
is to deal in heroin cocaine or automatic weapons the president of the united states has made it a
priority in his administration to look at wildlife trafficking one, we need to
save these species and two, it's become a national security issue and it's a
worldwide issue that needs to be solved by many countries throughout the world to disrupt these criminal networks that
are profiting in pretty much the death of a lot of these iconic species in the wildlife trade the types of
people you run into are people just doing it for profit and if that means wiping out the species, they'll move on to something else then there's the people that do it
because of ego it's almost like the macho factor, can I
get the most dangerous the most venomous the hottest snake that's out there
sometimes they just want to be able to say look I have this extremely rare
animal that there's only X number left in the world and I have one sitting here
in my living room there's a lot of exotic species that are
held in the pet trade here in the united states some states make it illegal some states don't have regulations at
all in regards to exotics or animals that aren't native to the state Can be tigers, lions, cougars, leopards, sometimes individuals will own chimpanzees it's up to the states to regulate them
within the states A lot of these animals are incredibly
friendly but that doesn't mean they're safe these animals will kill you because they
like you "Hi, let's play" "oh, you broke" If you go in the cage with
one of these animals you are at risk If you stick your hands in the cages
with these animals, you are at risk if you're not in the cage and the cage is
secure you're safe Hi, Parker My name is Joe Taft and I am the founder
and director of the Exotic Feline Rescue Center the Exotic Feline Rescue Center houses
about 225 big cats including 140 tigers We take cats from
around the United States to the best of my knowledge we are the second largest
collection of big cats in the country we don't buy them, sell them, or breed

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We're strictly a rescue operation These animals are bred in this country
in captivity and they have been for many many generations and they proliferated
through private hands and went to people who had no idea or no ability to provide
them care you know we don't have many people who
say I am prepared to make a 20 year commitment to an animal that I know can
kill me and I know will eat me out of house and home we feed between three and four thousand
pounds of meat here every day and as we're putting that meat out, we'll pick up
between 800 and 1,000 pounds of bone out of the cages. Cubs are cute and
cuddly but they are something that you need to plan on caring for for a long
time This animal belonged to a retired circus
trainer and when he retired he walked an elephant into the barn and chained it to
the floor and pulled nine big cats into the barn and that's where they stayed in
circus wheel cages for 10 years Hi, Hi she lived her whole life in
a cage that was 5 foot by 7 and despite the fact she's got this big
habitat when she gets bored or stressed you see that little circle that she
paces that's part of the psychological impact
on what's happened to her We're going to ohio where we're going to
pick up a cougar it's an eight year old spayed, declawed,
female we don't know who the people are all we
have is an address and a phone call from the people that they want to give this
animal up Ohio had virtually no regulation about
the keeping of exotic animals until just recently not until after the incident in Zanesville
about two years ago there was somebody who had a large collection of
big cats for some reason this guy went out one night and turned all of his cats
loose and then committed suicide and all of those cats ended up being
killed because when you've got 60 lions and tigers running around at night unsecured that's the only thing you can
do As a result of that situation there was
a political backlash in Ohio Ohio has passed a lot of laws so it's going to be
interesting to see what we find today I don't know what…

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This situation
is that we're walking into right now it could be a sad case of he just can't
follow what Ohio is making them do and it could be, could be that he wasn't
doing what he needed to do anyways when When I started with big cats there were no regulations of any kind
involved from the point of view of the state it was no different than having a cocker
spaniel or a German Shepherd I just went to the local pet store said
hey I'll take one of those I lived with the leopard for almost 19
years, she had the run of my house she slept in my bed all of her life and
most of the people who were involved in it were fairly serious about it and then cats
started being bred in puppy mills and sold on the Internet sold cheaply, we have some Tigers that
were sold at an auction for $25 a piece These auctions take place in
states where they don't have a state law against the sale of endangered species
where they don't have state laws against the…

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The buying and selling of exotic
species of species that aren't found in that state and what typically then
happens is that state is then used as a loophole to launder illegal big cats or
illegal wildlife with legal and what a lot of people don't understand is how
those species got into the United States how are those animals bred There is a large amount of people
here in the united states that feel like they want to have something that's rare Her name is Zoe? tough time for you huh? It is, It is, this really sucks yeah all because of that guy in
Zanesville huh today we found a couple of people who
have taken very good care of an animal for a long time in a very secure cage now you have to understand a lot of this
is quite unusual for us you want to get her back in here? The owner
thought he was going to be able to pick the animal up in his arms and put
him in our cage, that didn't work out well It was a dangerous situation that's
the kind of situation I do not ever like to see if that would have been a wild
cougar than you'd have a lot of people that were either dead or in the hospital we got the animal back in her original
enclosure and then we had to immobilize her "That was scary" "Yup" "That was fucking scary" The drugs we're using are ketamine and
dexmedetomidine "Quit shaking there Zoe" "oh, sorry I was just…" this will be better for her because once
she's inside the cage having not really known anything else she's likely to have a very difficult
time on the transport back this will keep her calm and in a more or
less sleepy state the whole way back She's fighting it but she might go down "Nice shot, Dave" we did get her immobilized eventually "okie dokie" And then we moved her into our cage "Alright, just shove her in the best you can" OK "I don't want you in that cage, she's too awake" "Ok, Let's get this gate down" Too many people get these animals
because it's an ego thing because they want to say that they control a big cat
that they have a big cat for a pet and these animals get huge and I don't care
how sweet they are that is a potential danger we pull cats
out of places that are neighborhoods there are kids and stuff nearby that's a pretty scary thing I think she's going to make this
transition really well now that she's surrounded by tigers and leopards she'll
be able to see the neighbors, herr neighbors will be able to see her and
that's gotta be quite overwhelming for her, I mean, she could see three dogs
from where she was, three dogs and a cat this family also had a bear looked very
healthy very well-cared-for very clean they have done a good job with their
animals and they live someplace where there were no laws regarding the keeping
of exotic animals I mean they weren't criminals they weren't
mean people, still, people that keep lions and tigers and other big dangerous
animals need to be under some kind of regulatory system.

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There are more big cats in private hands than there are
in the wild now, and you know at some point you've got to say to yourself what's the quality of life here and if
you have one of these creatures you need to consider more than just the
pride of ownership it's a being, it's a life, you want a
feline get you a house cat.

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