[ Poison Dart Frog - Digital Art Photo by BRM ]
After a couple years working with Charlie's zoo and exotic exports, I went on my own. It took a lot of money for stock purchasing and operations to do parrot and mammal exports - but working with just 'herps' (reptiles & amphibians) and tarantulas, I could keep down all costs and simplify the export business. And I would no longer have to brandish a sawed off double barrel shotgun as I went around the bush buying reptiles - the amount of cash I had to carry would be greatly diminished.
The nature and the methods of the business both changed when I started doing things my own way. I organized the system to minimize stock losses by reducing the handling and holding of the herps. When I got an order, I would contact specific contractors who had their own well trained trappers for certain animals. They would know how many of a species to bring in and when. Working with a half dozen contractors, I had the reptile price list covered, and could coordinate the collecting and shipping in such a way as to receive everything being shipped out over a period of a couple days - minimizing the stress the animals went through. The importers loved getting such healthy and fresh stock.
[ Hog Island Boas & Marine Fish on the Same Collecting Trip! ]
About this time there was pressure brought to bear on the country's wildlife department to do surveys and draw up regulations for wildlife exports. Typically, the people in the Honduran government that had the responsibility to do this were political appointees - they had no special qualifications, background, or even interest in what they were doing. I've seen this situation all over the world. I went to the government and volunteered my input - but it was not welcome, as I was seen as the 'enemy'. They could care less if I had the knowledge and experience they needed to make rational decisions about the regulations. They also dismissed my point about the benefits to conservation and the helping of the country's poor through a rational management system for renewable resources. The fact that native people do not destroy their forests and wildlife when they have economic benefits from managing those resources was a concept either beyond their comprehension or, as I suspect, the government officials were only worried about their own economic situation. Three quarters of the Honduras population lived in poverty in the countryside. My purchases of tarantulas, snakes, lizards, etc. provided hundreds of the poor with most or all of their cash money. They used that reptile money to purchase for their families the shoes, medicine, clothes, and food stuffs they desperately needed. The government provided nothing for those villages in the mountains where the reptiles came from. There was no schools, doctors, roads, and certainly no welfare system - I was the closest thing they had to that!
Have things changed since the '70's? In today's world we find two types of 'conservation effort'. There are organizations that address the root of the problem concerning the conservation of tropical resources (rainforests, tropical reefs, etc. and their ecology) by using sensible methods of stopping habitat destruction. They are informed enough and honest enough to recognize poverty and government indifference as the root of the problem. People constantly confuse causes and symptoms - that is how doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and advertising agencies get rich - as well as many of the so called 'conservation organizations'. Most of the health problems in the 'civilized world' are symptoms of unhealthy diet & exercise choices. A great deal of money is made by today's medical businesses that promote 'Snake Oils' (modern legal drugs) - not by educating the public to the real causes of their discomforts. Preying on the public's ignorance about health issues and conservation issues is very big business. All you need to know is how to keep the public ignorant of the truth and play people's emotions to make the big bucks in the conservation game (or any other political game). After conservation organizations spent fifteen million dollars of donated money on 'saving' the Orca from 'Free Willy', he is confined to swimming around in a cage in Iceland - still unable to find acceptance by his own kind. It was a high-profile emotional issue that played well for raising funds - but those funds might have been used more wisely to purchase a huge chunk of rainforest that would help the survival of many species, not just one animal! By the way - the word 'conservation' means; "wise use". Millions of dollars are rolling into conservation coffers to 'Save the Manatee' in Florida. Basically all the conservationists can manage to do is piss off the Florida boaters and count the propeller blade marks on backs of the Manatees . Couldn't they use the money to put the Florida Manatees in a special reserve and keep them out of harms way? But once they are safe - how do you keep asking for millions of dollars? And they really lay it on about them being an endangered species? There are hundreds of thousands of this species swimming in the waters of Central and South America. Another lie from conservationists that see a 'cash cow' in Sea Cows - and on and on it goes. With so many rip-off conservation organizations doing so well - the 'American Sucker' is certainly not an endangered species.
Getting back to the 'good' conservation organizations - they have worked diligently to educate responsible governments as to the methods of habitat protection and integrated methods of renewable resource development that always involves the native peoples. It is that simple - always was. The truth shall set you - and everything else, free. Free of the ignorance, greed and mismanagement that have made most of those 'species endangerment' issues in the third world countries get worse and not better.
The Honduran government was under more pressure to 'protect wildlife' than it was to help feed the poor, so the exotic animal business was going under. I had some domestic pressures to deal with too - so off to Miami!