About the Book
Laufer examines the exotic animal trade - legal and illegal - and the types of people who keep "big cats, long snakes, and great apes" as pets.
Why I Read It
I picked this up at BEA last May. The first thing that attracted me was the cover - that yellow snake is actually a shimmery, reflective color when you see the book in person. I'm fascinated by people who keep exotic animals so the topic of the book intrigued me as well. And since BEA is coming up next week I thought I'd better finish reading the books I brought home last year before I bring home another stack. :)
The subject matter of this book is absolutely fascinating to me. I'm a huge fan of TV shows like Fatal Attractions and Python Hunters and many of the stories in the book were ones I recognized from those types of shows. Having a big dog is about all the pet I can handle so the idea of owning a tiger, a chimpanzee, or a 200 lb snake is rather beyond my comprehension. Still, I do understand the appeal.
Laufer looks at the exotic animal trade from a variety of perspectives in order to understand what it is that drives people to capture, breed, sell, and/or own these very wild creatures. He also examines the unique position of wild animals bred in captivity:
They're not wild. They're not domesticated. They're not feral. They're not tamed. Perhaps we need to create a new classification: captive bred, untamable, and latently wild. It's awkward but descriptive. (p95)As I said, I'm very interested in this topic so I found the book quite intriguing. At the same time, I felt that Laufer's writing was somewhat choppy. I also got the impression that each chapter was written more as an essay than as a chapter, which resulted in a lot of repetition at the beginning of the book; this did improve as the book progressed though.
If you find the idea of exotic animals living with people to be an "interesting" situation then you will likely enjoy this book. Read it for the topic not for the writing and you won't be disappointed.
The debate between the exotic pet lovers and those opposed to their relationships with their animals polarizes participants and observers. Like abortion, capital punishment, and the viability of Sarah Palin as a presidential candidate, there seems to be precious little middle ground or room for compromise among the participants. (p105)