Jennie Erin Smith is the author of Stolen World: A Tale of Reptiles, Smugglers, and Skulduggery.
From her Q & A at the Christian Science Monitor:
Q: Why were reptiles a hotter commodity for smugglers than other animals from around the world?--Marshal Zeringue
You have this huge variety of species, and there's a collector's market. And they can survive several days or even weeks without water. A lot of them just shut down a bit when they're kept cool.
It's not good for them, but it's not usually fatal.
And they can be moved, and they don't make any noise. If you think about it, they're more smuggleable than, say, primates because you can conceal them. And you can move them on your person in a pinch. There was a California case where a man tried to smuggle Fiji iguanas in a prosthetic leg.
Q: Zoos began going gaga over reptiles in the 1960s. Why did that happen?
They became obsessed. You had this competition from the South where there were these roadside zoos. There were as many as 900 traveling carnivals, and as the country became richer in the postwar years, many started stationary exhibits. You could go watch a rattlesnake pop a...[read on]