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  Story About Permits
From: Ted.Held at hstna.com on 2004.02.10 at 13:36:18(11136)
List members might be interested in my second-hand recounting of how the
inspectors were fooled one time by wily collectors in the old days. Since I
heard it from the mouth of the perpetrator, I think the facts are true. In
fact, at least one nameless member of this list will probably remember the
incident more intimately than I do.

Anyway, years ago an old acquaintance of mine and some friends went on a
collecting trip to Latin America and arrived in Miami with many rare and
desirable specimens of plants (mostly orchids as I remember), fish,
reptiles, and whatnot. These were serious minded collectors with a
scientific bent, not callous dealers. The trick was that they knew the
inspectors would have no idea about the identity, rarity or threatened
status of any of this stuff. So they deliberately collected some specimens
of exotic-looking snakes with flashy colors that were not rare or
threatened. When the inspectors browsed through their collections they were
naturally drawn to the flashy snakes. With feigned reluctance, my friend
and his fellow collectors allowed the inspectors to confiscate the snakes
while the officials let through all the actually rare stuff, some of which
I am sure would be excluded today.

My point is not to encourage rampages in the remaining wild places or to
suggest ways to circumvent international law. Rather, I offer the incident
to illustrate that the trade in rare plants and animals is not something
that can be properly appraised by amateur attempts to screen materials at
international airports by untrained inspectors earning modest salaries. So
those charged with trying to keep the lid on reprehensible imports of
fragile life forms have elected to make import of any living thing so
difficult that the traffic in actually threatened species will be stopped
at the same time. Their hearts are in the right place. My guess is that the
bad guys today are even smarter than my friend was and their motivations
are, of course, completely different. Maybe with time the regulations which
restrict our honorable hobby will conform better to reason. In the meantime
I counsel compliance with procedures.

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