AWI Quarterly

Playing Russian Roulette With Wildlife Imports The Winner Gets Monkeypox?

Prairie dogs belong on a prairie. It is suspected that captive prairie dogs for sale as pets led to the recent outbreak of monkeypox. USFWS

Jeffrey Doth of International Exotic Wildlife in Houston, Texas is in trouble again. In April, Doth shipped approximately 800 small mammals of nine different species from Ghana to the United States. A number of these animals were carriers of monkeypox.

Follow the trail…. According to the analysis of Dr. Ostroff of the Centers for Disease Control and others, Gambian giant rats were imported legally from Ghana to Texas and then sold to a distributor in Iowa who, in turn, sold them to a distributor in Chicago (Phil's Pocket Pets of Villa Park). There, the Gambian giant rats were housed with prairie dogs and apparently transmitted the disease to them. These prairie dogs were ultimately sold as pets. The disease spread could be enormously vast, however, as Dr. Ostroff notes: "These animals were then widely distributed within the United States and some were even re-exported to Japan."

In addition to the monkeypox debacle, Doth's rap sheet includes getting caught twice for illegal international smuggling of wildlife in a two year period. Then, while supposedly under house arrest in Texas, he went to Florida to receive a wildlife shipment, but he didn't have the proper state license or permits—and the transport boxes happened to contain cocaine in addition to reptiles (see Winter 2002 AWI Quarterly).

One wonders what trouble Doth will get into next.


AWI Quarterly Summer 2003 Volume 52 Number 3

 Summer 2003 Volume 52 Number 3

In 1995, USA Today reported that three-year old Jacob Swartz of Quinlan, Texas was mauled by a cougar. His six-year old sister, Erin, also suffered injuries. This was not some random, unpreventable attack in the woods; the cougar was the family pet who escaped while his pen was being cleaned. The cougar was shot and killed. Though big cats, like the cougar on our cover (photographed by Frans Lanting/courtesy of Minden Pictures), may start out as cute and cuddly cubs, they eventually grow into their wild and potentially dangerous natural selves. Increasingly, people are keeping wild animals as pets: lions, tigers, bears, bobcats, reptiles, amphibians, and rodents from across the globe. It is outright dangerous to keep exotic animals as companions; they can hurt their human attendants, escape and harm other domestic and native animals, and carry diseases such as monkeypox that can be transferred to humans. Exotic animals in poor facilities such as roadside zoos can pose similar dangers as their keepers are ill-equipped to care for these animals appropriately.

The WTO threatens a nation's ability to refuse importation of products of animal cruelty, such as banning trade in eggs from hens trapped in battery cages. Compassion Over Killing

Good news! The recently-concluded IWC meeting established a Conservation Committee and rejected attempts to resume commercial whaling. Jim Nahmens/

Become A "Free Trade" Expert in Ten Minutes!

ust in time for the swirl of activity in Cancun, AWI is pleased to announce a new addition to its colorful and informative brochure series—"Free Trade." The leaflet details examples of the wide-ranging negative impacts of free trade agreements on animal protection and conservation legislation across the globe including the European Union's efforts to prevent importation of furs from animals caught in steel jaw leghold traps and the notorious case involving canned tuna fish and American efforts to keep dolphin-deadly tuna out of the American marketplace. This handy brochure explains how trade agreements work (and don't work) and how conflicts arise with hard-won animal protection laws. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for your free copy or download it by clicking here.

Stealing from the Solomans

As anarchy reigns in the South Pacific nation of the Solomon Islands, about 200 dolphins were cruelly captured for export to amusement parks in Mexico and possibly Asia. Despite an international outcry by animal protection and conservation organizations, 28 of the dolphins (13 females and 15 males) endured a terrifying day's journey to Parque Nizuc, an aquatic park in the resort city of Cancun, Mexico. The water park boasts an attraction allowing visitors to swim with the dolphins, which one review describes as including the indignity of a "foot push," a phrase describing a "ride on a pair of dolphins who lift you and push you through the water with their snouts."

What is a live dolphin worth? In the Solomons, rumors abound on the price these animals fetched—from $60 to $400 to the individuals who wrenched them from their life at sea. If they survive transport and "training," this investment can suddenly be worth $30,000 to $45,000 to the amusement park industry. Potential customers from Thailand and Taiwan purportedly have visited the holding area in the Solomon Islands, possibly to purchase the remaining animals. Because the sale of dolphins is such a lucrative enterprise, the dealers involved aren't particularly concerned if some of the animals die—which they have. Some of the dolphins reportedly died while in the holding pens awaiting shipment; one, horribly, after being attacked by a crocodile. Mexico's environmental agency confirmed that at least one dolphin already died at Parque Nizuc.

AWI is distressed that the Mexican authorities allowed the import to take place. The Solomon Islands is not a Party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which governs the global wildlife trade, and it is unclear what evidence was used by the authorities in the Solomon Islands to justify scientifically that this ill-advised capture and trade will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild.

This is a perfect example of the potentially devastating consequences when avaricious wildlife dealers are able to exploit loopholes in the oversight system and profit handsomely at the animals' expense. This wouldn't be possible without the exorbitant fees uneducated tourists are willing to pay to the aquatic parks that enslave the dolphins. Most of those paying to swim with these dolphins are Americans seeking a transcendental experience without a clue that their pursuit of vacation pleasure is financing such suffering.

Please write to the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources in Mexico and respectfully request that he revoke the permits for the dolphins sent to Parque Nizuc and confiscate the animals. Letters should be addressed to:

The Honorable Victor Lichtinger
Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales
Periférico Sur No. 4209, 6° piso
Colonia Jardines en la Montaña
14210, México D.F., México
Fax: 011 52 56 28 06 44

Also contact the relevant authorities in the Solomon Islands and urge the immediate release of the remaining dolphins. Letters should be addressed to:

The Honorable Nelson Kile
Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources
P.O. Box G13
Honiara, Solomon Islands
Fax: 011 677 38730, Email:

AWI Fights for Primates in the Courts

Chico, a 25-year old chimpanzee, spends his days in solitary confinement at a roadside zoo in South Carolina. As a result of his deprivation, he engages in stereotypic rocking, pacing, and head bobbing, indicators that Chico is psychologically ill. Aberrant behaviors such as this would not be seen if he were in a natural environment. Chico is not alone. "It is still common practice in research institutions to keep nonhuman primates singly housed in subminimal sized cages with little to do but engage in stereotypical locomotion or behavioral pathologies resulting from boredom and frustration," said Viktor Reinhardt, AWI's Laboratory Animal Advisor, who was the clinical veterinarian in a primate research facility for more than a decade.

More than 100,000 non-human primates, intelligent, social beings, are confined in zoos, experimental laboratories, and dealer premises across the country. Each of these individuals deserves to be housed in an enriched environment with the opportunity to share it with at least one companion. In 1985 Congress concurred with this perspective and adopted an amendment to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) mandating "a physical environment adequate to promote the psychological wellbeing of primates." This would include providing the animals with companions, sufficient space to engage in species-typical locomotion, elevated resting structures, foraging devices and manipulanda (toys).

On July 22, the Animal Welfare Institute joined the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and three individuals in bringing suit against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for its failure to adequately implement this vital legal mandate. Four years ago, the USDA had developed a detailed, scientifically sound Policy providing comprehensive information on how to promote psychological well-being of primates (see AWI Quarterly, Fall 2002). If finalized, this report would be of practical help to USDA inspectors who must enforce the law and to primate facilities licensed or registered under the AWA. However, USDA has shelved this Policy.
AWI's lawsuit would require USDA to make a final decision regarding its Primate Policy within 30 days. As world-renowned chimpanzee expert and friend of AWI, Jane Goodall, noted, "It is a disgrace that after all these years Congressional intent has been brushed aside at the expense of these magnificent beings."

AWI is grateful for the legal representation provided by Wendy Anderson of ALDF and the law firm of Meyer & Glitzenstein.

Syndicate content