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The Lizard King - The True Crimes and Passions of the World's Greatest Reptile Smugglers (Bryan Christy)

This is a discussion on The Lizard King - The True Crimes and Passions of the World's Greatest Reptile Smugglers (Bryan Christy) within the Book Reviews forums, part of the General Discussion & News from Members category; The Lizard King by Bryan Christy is a new book published in 2008 about notorious reptile smugglers. Don't get it ...

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Old 17th August 2008   #1 (permalink)
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Default The Lizard King - The True Crimes and Passions of the World's Greatest Reptile Smugglers (Bryan Christy)

The Lizard King by Bryan Christy is a new book published in 2008 about notorious reptile smugglers. Don't get it confused with Jim Morrison. I picked it up on ebay at a discount. It's a fascinating look into the methods used by international reptile and amphibian smugglers and the agents who try to catch them. It was interesting that the author talks about going to Martins Aquarium in Jenkintown when he was younger. I made quite a few trips to Martins in the past. The book talks about several big smugglers. The biggest was Michael Van Nostrand from Strictly Reptiles. The book is very current and addresses prosecution problems fish and wildlife agents have. It talks about the first arrests under the Lacy Act.
At times the author seems to be a little one sided. Many reptile and amphibian importers and serious hobbyists are represented as scofflaws. The author redeems himself in the end. Many of the outlaws in the book are still in the business and have reformed and are now doing legitimate business. Or are they?
As an occasional importer it helps me to understand the viewpoint of the fish and wildlife and customs agents. I read the book with a passion in one week. I've heard quite a few of the names mentioned in the book before from being a serious hobbyist for many years. Their are short references to salamanders and frogs but the book is mostly about snakes and lizards. It gave me some new insights into the hobby.



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Old 18th August 2008   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Lizard King - The True Crimes and Passions of the World's Greatest Reptile Smugglers

This sounds like a really interesting book! A side of the hobby I never would have thought would have a book. And maybe someday I'll get tired of nursing...




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Old 18th August 2008   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Lizard King - The True Crimes and Passions of the World's Greatest Reptile Smugglers

I am looking forward to reading this as well. I recieved an email promotion about it from amazon a few weeks ago. From what I understand the amount of illegal activity in the pet industry at any given time can be pretty amazing. Some years back I went to a herp show with an old friend who was briefly back in the area at the time. He had spent years working for some of the major dealers in Florida. As we were walking down the aisles he was casually pointing out many of the dealers and attendees and whispering to me about who smuggles what and so on. It was more information that I needed to know but interesting nonetheless.
Chip



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Old 19th August 2008   #4 (permalink)
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Default FL Press: Book Review: The Lizard King

MIAMI HERALD (Florida) 03 August 08 Reaping reptiles: Sorting through the sordid secrets of the illegal animal trade and its purveyors (Nancy Klingener)
THE LIZARD KING: The True Crimes and Passions of the World's Greatest Reptile Smugglers. Bryan Christy. Twelve. 239 pages. $24.99.
In South Florida, we love our weird crime stories. And we love our weird animal stories. And we're happiest of all when the two categories intersect.
A few months can't go by without a story in the newspaper about some guy's getting busted at the airport with birds in his underwear or snakes in his socks. ''That's funny,'' we think, as we email those stories to our friends in less interesting places.
But those busts are the rarely visible public evidence of a vast, illegal, lucrative trade, exotic animal smuggling, which Bryan Christy recounts and reveals to great effect in his new book.
The lizard king of the title is Mike Van Nostrand, owner of Strictly Reptiles, a Broward reptile wholesaler whom federal authorities long suspected of smuggling exotic animals in violation of U.S. and international wildlife laws. The hero of the book is Chip Bepler, a special agent with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service who made it his mission to nail Van Nostrand for crimes that were, in the view of most feds, not all that important.
Since we're talking reptiles, and the book's primary setting is South Florida in the 1970s and '80s, Christy has great material, and he handles it well, rarely straying over the top in his characterizations. With this cast, you don't need to exaggerate.
There's Van Nostrand's father Ray, who turned a childhood fascination with animals and an entrepreneurial spirit into a family empire before getting caught up in the drug trade and eventually turning informant in a vast federal investigation nicknamed, naturally, Operation Cobra. The drug trade was an easy step for someone comfortable dealing with reptiles, Christy writes, ``just something a little dangerous that you picked up and sold -- familiar territory.''
Christy does a nice job introducing us to the less colorful but dedicated people on the law enforcement side of the game, such people as Bepler and then-Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris McAliley, who fought against limited budgets and differing agency priorities to pursue cases that many of their colleagues viewed as victimless crimes.
Ray Van Nostrand wasn't the only one to see the affinity between exotic reptiles and the drug trade. After prosecuting a turtle poacher in the Keys, McAliley learns that the ``profile of a wildlife smuggler exactly matched the profile of a drug smuggler; plus there was an added victim: the animal itself.''
For the smugglers, the wildlife trade was attractive for similar reasons. The money was good, and the penalties were far smaller than in drug cases. So were the chances of getting caught. The enforcement attention, everyone knew, was elsewhere. In the major-cases section of the U.S. Attorney's Office, McAliley found ''a very plain reality: a smuggled parrot had no chance against a drug-filled Panamanian tanker.'' Still, she, Bepler and a few others persisted and zeroed in on Van Nostrand's operation, with some unexpected but timely help from Dutch police who were onto one of his key middlemen, a Dutch national.
Christy jumps around quite a bit in time and place, from Ray Van Nostrand's childhood in New Jersey to Malaysia and Indonesia, where Mike Van Nostrand travels to procure rare and valuable animals. Christy also salts the book with occasional chapters supplying history and context for our fascination with reptiles and attitudes toward their import and sale. Yet he keeps his main thread -- Bepler's pursuit of Van Nostrand -- from getting tangled in the facts.
He also resists the temptation to go too far into the details of the ancillary federal investigations that play into the book's events. The urge must have been strong, because the anecdotes in such investigations are so juicy, but for the casual reader, more diversions would have bogged down the story in too much detail.
Christy was obviously helped along with terrific access to most of the case's major players; he even has the notes from Mike Van Nostrand's attorney at Greenberg, Traurig, a former Customs agent whose intake assessment of his new client was as follows: ``We are helping this creep who imports lizards captured in a small valley in Tanzania so he can sell them to kids who put them in cages.''
If the judicial resolution to the book's central case feels a bit anticlimactic, you can hardly blame Christy. That's what happened in the case, and that's how it really works in life, if not on screen. Besides, the real-life action is more than dramatic enough to propel this fascinating story.
If You Go: Bryan Christy appears at 8 p.m. Aug. 14 at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables. Free. 305-442-4408.
http://www.miamiherald.com/entertain...ry/626007.html



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Old 20th August 2008   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Lizard King - The True Crimes and Passions of the World's Greatest Reptile Smugglers

There are also a couple reviews on Amazon too- including one by Bill Love (corn snake expert and author of what I think is the best corn snake care book).



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Old 2nd September 2008   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Lizard King - The True Crimes and Passions of the World's Greatest Reptile Smugglers

I really liked this book. Like Michael said, its a quick and easy read, but it really is quite interesting. It talks about some of the primary figures in the reptile industry. It even mentions Alfred Ojeda (not in any relation to smuggling), who if you are from the Northeast you are probably familiar with. One of my favorite things stemming from this book is the fact that now on the Strictly Reptiles website it makes reference to being the "Lizard King." Overall if you have any interest in reps and amps you will probably find this book interesting and a fun read.



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Old 2nd September 2008   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Lizard King - The True Crimes and Passions of the World's Greatest Reptile Smugglers

I was sick over the weekend (still am) so I used my rare downtime to do some reading. With the exception of a few pages I read the whole book in one day. While much of it is very disheartening it is still a great read. It makes one realize that not everything is always black and white when it comes to herps, ethics, and the law.
Chip



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Old 6th February 2010   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Lizard King - The True Crimes and Passions of the World's Greatest Reptile Smugglers (Bryan Christy)

I just finished it tonight. It read like a novel, a real page-turner! I didn't think I'd like it, because I'm not into that whole spy-thriller-genre-thing, but I really enjoyed reading this. I highly recommend it.
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Old 6th February 2010   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Lizard King - The True Crimes and Passions of the World's Greatest Reptile Smugglers (Bryan Christy)

Bryan Christy is often at the Hamburg, Pa. reptile show and the New York Metro reptile show. His web site is pretty interesting. He's not always one sided. Caudata.org is listed as one of the links on his site.



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Old 1st September 2012   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Lizard King - The True Crimes and Passions of the World's Greatest Reptile Smugglers (Bryan Christy)

I rate this as one of the better books I've ever read, after the hobbit of course!



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