The Exotic Animal Trade: Background information when reading Everybody's Fool

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Everybody's Fool

by Richard Russo

Everybody's Fool by Richard Russo X
Everybody's Fool by Richard Russo
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  • First Published:
    May 2016, 496 pages
    Jan 2017, 528 pages

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Sarah Tomp

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The Exotic Animal Trade

This article relates to Everybody's Fool

Print Review

One of the side plots of Everybody's Fool by Richard Russo involves a town outsider illegally dealing in dangerous exotic reptiles. He rents an inexpensive apartment and hires one of the local residents to stay there during the day in order to receive packages, often marked as "perishable." The boxes are stored either in a highly air-conditioned bedroom or the refrigerator. The cool conditions keep the reptiles in a dormant hibernating state until they can be handled. Due to a culmination of events spurred by a massive heat wave, a venomous cobra escapes and requires the apartment complex to be evacuated.

The exotic animal trade — peddles large cats, primates, birds, and even bears, in addition to reptiles — is a multibillion-dollar industry across the world, with the United States being the second largest importer after China. In the U.S. laws vary from state to state, and are difficult to enforce, with surprisingly minimal penalties.

Marc Bekoff, Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Environmental Biology for the University of Colorado, calls it "an international enterprise that is responsible for unimaginable, inexcusable, and unforgivable pain, suffering and death."

The Nile crocodile Animals are removed from their natural environment—or in the case of captive breeding, never experience their ideal living situation. They are often malnourished and stressed. As a result, more than 75% of reptile pets die in their first year of captivity. When inexperienced and uneducated owners fail to provide proper care, humans may be at risk as well.

In the case of reptiles, besides diseases such as salmonella, which many carry, venomous and constricting snakes kill people every year. It has been reported that Nile crocodiles — predators that can grow to 21 feet and one and half tons — have been found in Florida. These animals are known to eat just about anything — including humans.

The Humane Society Of the United States runs a nationwide anti-poaching program focused on "supporting state and federal law enforcement agencies in their efforts to combat poaching and the illegal trade in wildlife." In addition, the HSUS' global affiliate, Humane Society International, runs a consumer education campaign called "Don't Buy Wild" which urges consumers to avoid supporting the cruel and unsustainable trade in wild animals and their parts.

Picture of Nile crocodile by Hans Hillewaert

This "beyond the book article" relates to Everybody's Fool. It originally ran in June 2016 and has been updated for the January 2017 paperback edition.

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