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March 02, 1969 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1969-03-02

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There is not a nmore mnean,
stupid, dastardly, piti ful, selfish,
spiteful, enrious, ungrateful
animal than the Public.
----William Hazlitt




the lif


:e of the



Ferndale, Mich.
SEVERAL YEARS ago in the big Eastern
cities thousands of people began buying
thousands-of baby alligators under the com-
pulsion to tame a living nucleus of nature's
wildness in the privacy of their living rooms.
But their sense of adventure soon turned
into irritability. Baby alligators grow up to
be more than conversation pieces.
Many were flushed down the toilet. Most
drowned but a few survived the gagging pres-
sure of the water pumps and lived.
Do you know how mean an alligator can
be after living on skinny rats and sour gar-
bage in the darkness of a sewer? A repairman
who climbed down into the dank dungeons
one day found out. He was eaten alive.
DESPITE ALL THE risks, the wild animal
business is still big business. Wildlife traffic
into the United States alone last year totalled
28 million animals-75,000 of them mammals.
More than $1.5 million worth were boated
in by the International Animal Exchange, the
world's biggest importer of wild animals. The
organization's headquarters are here in Fern-
Owned by the four Hunt brothers-Don,
Tom, Brian and Mickey-International Ani-
mal Exchange sells animals to virtually every
country in the world except Russia and
Don (Bwana Don) Hunt, 37, the oldest,
heads up the African end of the business from
the lavish Mount Kenya Safari Club in Nia-
robi, Kenya. Don got his nickname and his
stake in the mining of animals by starring
on a Detroit television show "Bwana Don in
Importing wild animals is immensely
profitable because of the mortality rate in-
volved in capturing and shipping them. The
more you can keep alive, the more money you
AFTER PAINFUL years of running deli-
cately-structured giraffes to death or letting
leopards choke on long lassos, Hunt has now
reduced his mortality rate to below that of
any competitor.
Of course, there is still the animal ele-
ment. Adult great apes must 6e driven off or
killed before their babies can be netted
(adults are too irascible for domestication).
This means that five or six may die for every
one that reaches port.
And for birds, which Hunt buys from
native trappers, the ratio can go as high as
50 to 1.
For bigger and meaner animals, like ele-
phants or rhinos, Hunt uses dart guns. "We
try to minimize the use of tranquilizers.
though," explains Mickey, 26, the youngest.
"We don't yet know enough about the dosage
and an overdose can easily kill them.
"Animals that are hit, also tend to get
excited and resist more, if the dosage isn't
It is this unbridled and little understood
animal psyche, which Hunt is exploring and
exploiting, that sometimes works to defeat
He once spent five months studying the
habits of the striped bongo antelope, a rare
and skittish animal which sells for $20.000.
Finally he managed to catch the antelope
without injuring it. But before he could so-
cialize it to the norms of captivity, the bongo

died of cardiac arrest brought on by sheer
"THE IMMEDIATE instinct of a captured
animal is to kill itself," says Don Brennan,
who helps Tom, 31, and Brian, 29, coordinate
the import business in Ferndale.
"And if you just crate them up and ship
them that's exactly what they'll do, by any
means possible. I've seen zebras just let loose
at a zoo run up against a wall and break their
The taxidermined skin of the bongo ante-
lope, including the velvet covering from over
the pronged horns, hangs on the wall in Bren-
nan's office. Tom and Brian are in Asia and
Africa discovering new ways of expanding the
The phone rings. Long distance from To-
"You want two moose calves right now?
Moose calves are born in July and they'd be
pretty big to handle by now. The moose is a
pretty dangerous animal. Okay, we'll see what
we can do."
to order. Ferndale links -them to animals .all
over the world. But most come from Africa.
Once captured they are kept in a local cor-
ral or transferred to a collection center at
Even in Hunt's compounds monkeys from
different tribes or bison from different herds
do contact fatal diseases when enclosed in
the same pens.
This is a period of adjustment, a month of
learning to eat according to the dictates of
zoo dieticians. Cloven-hoofed animals have to
spend another two months in quarantine at
Mombassa, Kenya's main port.
From there they go to the head-to-hoof
parasitic baths of Clifton, N.J., If they are
coming to the United States and if they have
survived sometimes careless handlers w h o
drop them or forget to feed them.
Some of the Hunt animals end up in the
200-odd zoos in the U.S. where they become
bored . and moody because they often have
nothing to do except play with their o w n
A monkey inventing new kinds of locomo-
tion, like dropping from the ceiling on his
head, or masturbating into his straw bed, is
a pathetic neurotic.
"There is something biologically immoral
about keeping animals in enclosures where
their behavior patterns, which took millions
of years to evolve, can find no expression,"
criticized Dr. Desmond Morris, curator at the
London Zoo, in a recent article.
"ANIMALS DO NOT live by nutrition
alone," he wrote.
Yet Dr. Morris believes that zooswmit h
real animals, even though they suffer from in-
creased rates of heart disease, cancer and ul-
cers and are psychologically deformed, are
better than zoos with artificial replicas. And
so do the Hunts.
They also believe in saving those animals
threatened by extinction. "It's our first in-
terest after making money, which is, of course,
the name of the game," says Mickey.
In 1963 Don organized "Operation Chee-
tah" in Somalia where poachers had almost
eliminated the cheetah. He obtained permits
to catch 100 cheetahs, which he did by run-
ning them down in a souped-up jeep, grabbing
them by the tail and wrestling t h e m into

Cheetahs do not usually breed in capativity.
But months were spent tutoring the cats in
the disciplines of zoo life, trying to arouse
their sexual instincts while curbing t h e i r
frenzy to escape.
THEN THEY WERE stnt to zoos.
Some other Hunt animals have g o n e to
game parks like the Lion Safari of West Palm
"The people are in cages (cars) when they
drive through to look at the animals" explains
"One very surprising fact is that within 20
years America will be producing more lions
than Africa," he adds.
Hunt animals do not go to pet shops, even
though a majority of the animals imported
into the United States do go to stores for sale.
The going price on a baby jaguar, for in-
stance, is $2,000.
Mickey operates two "Bwana Don" pet shops
in Detroit. But the only wild animals inside
are $59.95 mynah birds - guaranteed to talk
and bought from a secret supplier in India -
and a caracal.
The caracal, a lynx-like cat with d a r k
pointed ears and a lisping snarl, paces nerv-
ously in a wire cage above a "Do not tease"
sign. Brought from Africa, the caracal alter-
nates with a cheetah or baby lion as drawing
cards for the domestic puppies.
"WE USED to sell cheetahs and baby lions,"
says Mickey. "But people would get tired of
them and mistreat them or sell them for their
"Now if someone wants to buy a wild ani-
mal he has to prove to me he's a lover of wild
animals and will take care of them."
Buses filled with grade-school children visit
the "Bwana Don" shops daily. "They can be
pretty noisy," complains Mickey. "But. they
seem to have so much fun that I hate to can-
cel the visits."
Indeed Mickey's enthusiasm f o r children
has extended to a newly-conceived miniature
zoo to open June 1 on Bob-Lo Island in the
Detroit River.
THE MINIATURE ZOO, which will offer
giraffes, zebras, cheetahs, tigers and lions in
typical zoo fortifications will also feature a
one acre Garden of Eden barricaded by a four-
foot fence.
Inside on green asphalt kids will be able to
frolic with cows, sheep and domesticated lions
and tigers in a Biblical fantasyland.
"I think if children can understand and ap-
preciate animals first they'll be able to under-
stand people a lot better," says Mickey.


Let's talk duck
CHRIS WANTED to name him Ed. But I came up with Everybody
Duck which is usually the kind of thing I come up with in my
family and we settled on that.
We bought Everybody at a feedstore just before last Easter when
he was two days old. Just between you and me, I've always been a
chickie man myself but Chris was determined that she would have a
duck so that's what we got.


He lived in the kitchen for a month or so. Then when the weath-
warmed up and his real feathers developed, we moved him outside
a nice dry box under a tree.

WE FED EVERYBODY corn twice a day and brought a plastic
swimming pool to fill up the rest of his life. And he seemed a genial,
if eccentric, addition to our family.
I don't think he ever fully perceived he wasn't human because
he demanded that we treat him
with respect, dignity, and reserva-
tion due the only d u c k in the
neighborhood. If we abused him
or spoke to him in mocking quacks,
he sulked under the apple trees
and pretended he could lay an egg.
My, mother always got up very
early last summer because she had
somehow taken my father's sud-
den death personally and she said
the mornings were always the
hardest. I would hear her from in-
side of my sleep as s h e walked
outside to talk with the duck.
It was eerie and wonderful how
they seemed to get along. "Good
morning, Everybody, how's my
duck?" And the damned duck
would tear across the yard quack-}
ing a mile a minute answering her.
He e v e n quacked out sentences
occasionally and it was like he was my mother's best friend.
I could hear her walk around the yard with the duck right be-
hind talking pleasantly together about the summer, the weather, and
what my mother hadn't planned for the day.
IT SEEMED to me that my mothermade more sense when she
talked things over with Everybody than when the bright young min-
ister visited our house and tried to explain away her tears.
When the fall came, I took Everybody up to Uncle Bob's farm
and my mother went back to 'college to learn to teach. She still cries
though when I go home but sometime soon maybe I'll find a good
book about reincarnation.
The evol Utio on of the,
specious rtight to kil

Where do sheep go

when they die?

THE SHEEP are silent at four in the morning as they stand in the
freezing truck awaiting the opening of the slaughter house.
The dark air crackles. Tinder-filled oil drums are ignited and
men stand in their warmth. Lights flash on. Men don white, bloody-
stained jackets and enter mammoth refrigerators for their day's work,
Day breaks at Eastern Market.
UP A RAMP go the, sheep, then down another for the stick
in the leg, the bleed, and the slice through the neck.
Then they are hoisted on hooks - the hook going between the
leg muscle and ankle bone of the two rear legs, and they are slid along
rails through cold rooms heaped with damp sawdust.
The sheeppasses from man to man - each man on the disas-
sembly line making another expert cut along the rear and belly until
the last man grabs the heavy fleece and peels it off the sheep's back
like masking tape off a plaster wall.
All is divided. The head goes one way, the innards another. The
fleece disappears up a conveyor belt, and the glistening pink body' of
the sheep continues down the rail to join a flock of others.
A G-man stamps a purple seal on a haunch. T h e n big men,
sweating even in the cold, carry the meat to a truck and swing it on-

UNFORTUNATELY, one of America's most
cherished rites de passage is the one for the
farm boy around his 11th or 12th birthday. Al-
most with ritual he is' taken out by his father
into the forests to learn to kill.
Earlier he has spent months learning how to
aim, how to steady the rifle on the shoulder, how
to sight a moving buck or a fleeting dove. But
no one can teach him how to decide to pull the
trigger-sometimes, not even himself.
I could never kill anything. Stepped over ants
or flicked mosquitos off my arm instead of swat-
ting them. Ridiculous? Perhaps, but oftentimes
very comforting to think about.
AS A BELATED initiate into the rural life,
I accompanied a friend into the blackness of a
grey forest in Arkansas in November, equipped
with guns and bullets. We were out to get a buck.
He was a beautifully colored, muscular animal.
A ten-point buck about ready to loose his crown
only a hundred yards away, staring at us with
defiance, propped upon a tiny butte undoubtedly
guarding a hidden fawn or doe. He stared at us
and my friend looked at me with an embarrassed,
"Well, it's your turn now."
Didn't even bring the sight to my eye. I just
let the gun hang at my side and looked at his
white chest and tennisball-size black eyes, staring
at me. Both of us just looked at him until he
went away. I was never quite as afraid of my
rifle again-I would never use it.
Can't quite understand why men like to kill
life and then display their prowess by hanging
part of the corpse in their living rooms. We treat
these living compatriots with an inanimate, al-
most greedy indifference, and culture a child-
like pride by so robustly displaving our dominance

in the primitive, unreasoning animal mind man
is simply something to be feared-something like
a storm, irrational, untimely, unthinking and
IT IS FUN to hear the warriors prostelytizing
that hunting is necessary, to keep the ecology in
line. That is only because we have already upset
the natural ecology. If there are too many deer
or dove-it is because we have bred them to be
killed just so they can boost our virility and
nurture our sadism.
Were we to end all killing, eventually natural
ecology would return and the survivors would
be the healthiest, the most beautiful. But man





"RX Mt.

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