New York State officials are battling the lucrative, largely clandestine trade in New York native animal species, reports the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. “What they found was alarming,” said state environmental commissioner Pete Grannis, referring to investigators who worked undercover for two years. Twenty-three people were arrested and 400 animals were seized as evidence.
The newspaper called a press conference on the case, featuring animals, an awful fuss for species that, for most people, are near the bottom of the likeability scale: Turtles, salamanders, and snakes. “It’s wasn’t too many years ago that if you asked 95 out of a 100 people about the value of a timber rattler, they’d go grab a shovel and say ‘Chop it up.’ Awareness of the value of these creatures has been a long time coming,” said Richard Thomas, an environmental investigator who posed as a reptile aficionado and photographer.