Date of this Version
This is a hasty and in many ways superficial review of the motivations that started us in the business of importing new, strange, beautiful, and hopefully useful wildlife. It is a capsuled account of the high cost of ill-advised introductions and of near misses that were avoided thanks to a few individuals who viewed such transplants with skepticism and even alarm. And I have touched also on the highlights of the legislative base from which we now operate in efforts to safeguard agriculture and other values from ravages of exotic wildlife; wildlife that may succeed too well with us and behave not at all as they do at home. But our best efforts still leave room for caution and concern. With the arrival of the age of jet air travel we have traded one problem for another. In the closing years of the last century our vulnerability centered on a lack of legal authority to control imports. And yet a built-in safeguard may have partly concerned the deliberate travel of ocean liners and the complexities involved in transporting live animals by that means. Today we are less than a day removed from any part of the globe, and the ease and success of moving wildlife by air has greatly increased traffic in many new, unusual and even poorly understood species. The cage bird business has grown explosively. Not the least of our problems now center on inadequate staff to inspect the flood of shipments. And inspections can be involved because working with the bird life of the world (and its fish life, too) can be a job for highly accomplished taxonomists of which there are none too many. Even in the most practiced hands there are problems of identification to flabbergast the experts.