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BURGER, M.: The Dragon Traders. A Collective History of the Reptile Trade in America and the Age of Herpetoculture

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2018, softcover, large format, 473 pages, many illustrations. While the title of the book may be rather billboard-style, its contents reach far beyond. Michael Burger does not only provide a description of the animal trade, but goes in fact back in history to the beginnings of the commercial presentation of reptiles. Crocodile-farming and the display of rattlesnakes were early sources of income, but soon enough indigenous animals were no longer spectacular enough and exotic ones had to be obtained for display. This marked the birth of the international animal commerce. The interest in reptiles subsequently took an ever-firmer hold in the private sector, where exotic wild-caught animals eventually lost their appeal to rare captive-bred morphs. In an effort to satisfy the demand (which is a rather strange word to use for living beings) breeding installations became ever more professional, of which the one run by Mark and Kim Bell (“Megabreeders” in the text) is a good example. Michael Burger is entertaining in his style of writing, and the detailed photographic material is of good quality, illustrating the subject from early croc farms via the first zoos with reptile displays and the first terrarium fairs right to modern breeding installations. Individual species that have played major roles in this development are discussed in greater detail. Aside from historic illustrations, Burger also provides selected reproductions of early publications, rendering his book a thrilling reference.

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