Posts Tagged With: Smuggling

When Cats and Dogs Aren’t Enough


This is Little Mo. She was just a few months old when poachers killed her mother and stole her from the wild. These ruthless wildlife traffickers wanted Born Free Foundationto sell the cheetah cub as a ‘pet’ in Somaliland, East Africa.

Mo is one of millions of countless big cats, and other endangered animals who are part of the exotic pet trade.

US Exotic Pets

The illegal trade is a $15 billion dollar business in the United States alone, with breeders and dealers selling animals over the Internet or in trade magazines. It is estimated that approximately 20,000 exotics live in “backyards” all across the US.

While some exotic pets have been bred in captivity, many are plucked directly from their natural habitats. The stress of being violently removed from their homes causes some animals to die before they ever reach a private residence.

pet tiger

Amazingly, the Endangered Species Act does not prohibit domestic trade in captive-bred wildlife. A grave oversight, considering that although tigers are endangered, more tigers reside in private residences in Texas, than in all the wild.

People purchasing these animals believe them to be cute and manageable until of course they grow, their wild instincts still intact, and become uncontrollable.  In 2013, there have been 1,969 incidents (anything from quarantine violations to deaths of animals and/or people) in the US alone.

Middle Eastern Trend

Of course this is not just problematic in the US. Big cat pets in the Gulf region is a growing trend. It is seen as a status symbol. Yemen is becoming the hub for this lucrative trade in the Arabian world. Although the numbers are not available, it is believed this is the reason for the dent in the wild cheetah populations in Somalia.

man riding lion

Several clips have surfaced on the Internet showing the absurdity and ignorance of owning these big cats; i.e. a  riding a lion and a group of men with a leashed cheetah.

Worldwide Smuggling

Authorities around the world suspect they’re intercepting under 10% of all wildlife smuggling, with many saying it’s actually only 1%.

african greys rescused

3 of 108 African Grays released into the wild after a failed smuggling attempt in Bulgaria.

The vast size of most wilderness areas and the limited number of enforcement officers virtually guarantee poachers and smugglers free access. The only way to get a definite conviction is to catch them in the act.


11 otters found alive in unclaimed baggage in Bangkok.

Although smuggling of endangered species is an international violation of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), the penalties are stipulated by individual countries and vary greatly. CITES protection does not apply to exotic animals who are born in captivity.

Root of the Problem

As with rhino and elephant poaching, the root of the issue is to stop the demand. So it is with exotic pet ownership.

*Do not purchase endangered species.

*Do not patronize circuses and roadside zoos who use or showcase exotic animals.

Please read and sign the petition to : Ban exotic pet ownership in the US

Born Free FoundationWhat happened to Mo the cheetah?

She was rescued by the Born Free Foundation. She’s living the good life, with a spacious area and her medical and nutritional needs cared for.

After slowly introducing her to other cheetahs, she is happily living as part of a new family unit.

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Ivory Honors God

Slaughtered elephant family

Slaughtered elephant family

A HUNDRED RAIDERS ON HORSEBACK CHARGED OUT OF CHAD INTO CAMEROON’S BOUBA NDJIDAH NATIONAL PARK, SLAUGHTERING HUNDREDS OF ELEPHANTS—entire families. Carrying AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, they dispatched the elephants with a military precision. And then some stopped to pray to Allah. Seen from the ground, each of the bloated elephant carcasses is a monument to human greed.  From the air the scattered bodies present a senseless crime scene—you can see which animals fled, which mothers tried to protect their young, how one terrified herd of 50 went down together, the latest of the tens of thousands of elephants killed across Africa each year.  (National Geographic)

Elephant poaching is at a record high, unfortunately not a surprise. But what IS surprising is what is fueling this demand;  ivory to be carved for religious art pieces.  Crucifixes, amulets, prayer beads, buddhas-all made from elephant tusks.


Ivory crucifix

Roman catechism states “It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.”In Vatican city, you can buy ivory crucifixes blessed by a priest. Want a baby Jesus or a patron saint? They’ve got those too. Last year Lebanon’s President Michel Sleiman gave Pope Benedict XVI an ivory-and-gold thurible. In 2007 an ivory Santo Niño was given to Pope Benedict XVI.  For Christmas in 1987 President Ronald Reagan was presented with  an Ivory Madonna by Pope John Paul II.

The CITES treaty (Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), was adopted as a way to globally safeguard our wildlife.  Conveniently, the Vatican has NOT signed the treaty, so it’s not subject to the Ivory ban.

In the Philippines, Ivory is synonymous with religion. The very word ivory also means a religious statue. The priests say smuggling elephant ivory is an act of devotion, part of ones sacrifice to the Santo Nino (holy child).

Worried about getting an item back to the US? They will gladly and openly give you advice how to smuggle it back into the US.  According to Monsignor Garcia in the Philippines “Wrap it in old, stinky underwear and pour ketchup on it”. “So it looks shitty with blood. This is how it is done.”

ele monk

Kruba Dharmamuni, the “Elephant Monk”, keeps Asian elephants at his temple in Thailand, where he’s been accused of starving an elephant to use her ivory for amulets. © Brent Stirton/National Geographic

This is not an issue specific to Catholicism. The Buddhist monks make thousands of dollars from amulets of ivory sold in temple gift shops. The elephant is revered in Buddhism, as in all of Thailand. To be respectful of the Buddha it is believed  one should use precious material; if not ivory then gold. But ivory is thought to be more precious.

Muslims use ivory for prayer beads,  Christians make Coptic crosses and other items. The Philippines, Thailand, China, and Egypt are all involved in the bloodshed.

The global religious market is the driving force behind the massive slaughter of the elephants. Blinded to the blood dripping off their crucifixes, the elephant continues to die in order to “honor God”.

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