Over the course of writing his latest book, Forbidden Creatures, journalist and author Peter Laufer went to some truly strange places, and met some truly strange people. Driven by an egotistical and eccentric desire to dominate and get noticed, exotic animal keepers, traders, and smugglers occupy a nether region of the world that is sometimes public, sometimes underground, but always dangerous. The animals they trade — from juvenile chimpanzees who turn into vicious housemates, to pet store snakes that are released and wreak havoc on an ecosystem — were never meant to be “pets” in any sense of the term, and their illegal trade and captivity always has tragic consequences for the animals, but also often for the humans involved as well. In this interview, we discuss the tangible implications of the exotic animal trade, as well as the more philosophical issues surrounding the keeping of “pets” and issues of wildness and domesticity.
Peter Laufer, PhD, is the author of more than a dozen books that deal with social and political issues, including the widely praised The Dangerous World of Butterflies, Mission Rejected, Wetback Nation, and Iron Curtain Rising.
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