By John Schriffen
In the bustling streets of a Colombian village, colorful exotic birds, monkeys and sloths, all animals that were once wild, are being sold as pets, and business is booming.
The wildlife trade is now the third-most-lucrative criminal enterprise in Colombia after drugs and weapons. An estimated 60,000 animals were trafficked last year alone, including a growing number of sloths.
What's more, traffickers are fueling a growing economy that is thriving outside of Colombia. The global market for wild animals, and that includes the United States, is estimated to bring in $20 billion per year.
In what is now considered the biggest exotic pet seizure in American history, 27,000 animals, including several sloths, were rescued from a pet distributor in Arlington, Texas, in 2009. Undercover video shot by PETA members showed that the sloths were kept in filthy cages that lacked the necessary equipment for the animals to survive in captivity, including heat lamps and humidifiers. The bodies of several sloths were later found in the facility's freezer.
It was a sad reminder, zoologist Lucy Cooke said, of the most common misconception about sloths.
"They did not evolve to be somebody's house pet," Cooke said. "Sloths make lousy pets. That's the truth of it." More....