FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

Star Eco Station

Written By: Scot Butwell - Feb• 15•17

blue bird

This was a lot different than the Pet Store.

Instead of seeing the usual dogs, cats, fish, turtles, crickets, hamsters and guinea pigs, we saw an alligator, two foxes, a 100-pound boa constrictor, and an assortment of reptiles and birds rescued by the U.S. Fish and Game Department from human traffickers.

This was Star Eco Station, an environmental science museum and rescue station for exotic animals that is a haven of last resort for over 200 different types of illegally trafficked animals from around the world.

My favorite part was when D said, Hey Boss, and beckoned to me with his hand in the middle of our tour. He had wandered one room ahead and I was torn between staying with the tour or responding to his overture.

It felt like the Bubble Room scene from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when Grandpa Joe and Charlie fall behind the group and drink the “Fizzy Lifting” soda and float up toward a giant steel fan.

I was tempted to check out what D had discovered, but rule-following citizen I mostly am, I stayed put and listened to our tour guide before seeing what D had found so exciting: a frisky grey and and brown fox running around in its cage.

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I knew what D was thinking: Nick Wilde, the fox character from Pixar’s Zootopia, one of his favorite movies. There was another cage with a black fox who had an extremely frightened countenance. Both had bushy tails and were housed behind a chain link fence with a glass casing over it.

Every one of the animals had a back story, but I was so excited at seeing the foxes that I missed their names (Zeus and Sunny, D told me later) and how they ended up at the rescue station. However, here are a few of the stories from the other animals I did hear:

Someone in Texas shipped ten baby alligators in a Fed Ex box to Los Angeles by plane.

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The 100-pound boa constrictor lived in 20 pounds of his own feces because the owner was too scared of his pet snake to clean it.

An blue parrot plucked out all of its chest feathers due to stress from working on a Hollywood movie.

A two-foot turtle was found in a trash can at the airport.


Star Eco Station exists because smuggling exotic animals into the US via LAX is a lucrative business on a scale with international drug trafficking and thrives from the high demand for exotic pets and accessories from their body parts.

Sadly, I was too busy taking pictures to think about the cruelty perpetuated by humans against exotic animals, and our teenage tour guide could have driven home that point by talking more about the individual stories of the animals.


Like telling more of the various ways animals are smuggled into the US (crammed in suitcases, stuffed in cardboard tubes, taped to human bodies, stashed in Fed Ex boxes) and sharing what happens when the animals complete their dangerous journeys.

Later, I researched the topic and discovered illegally trafficking animals is a multi-billion dollar industry. Many of the exotic animals found by custom officials arrive dead on arrival or are so traumatized or injured that officials have no choice but to put them down.

The animals who survive the grueling transport conditions often die from inadequate care or are abandoned by their owners. Many get placed at the gates of zoos–who are unable by law to take donated animals–while others have difficulty adapting to a lifestyle of captivity, away from their natural habitats.

A raid by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) officials on a Texas warehouse discovered hundreds of dead animals, and more than 6,000 died afterwards who were too ill to be saved. 27,000 animals were seized due to inadequate care and living conditions.

Of course, the large majority of exotic animals end up skinned for accessories. Think fur coat, and it probably started out as an exotic animal, before becoming part of someone’s wardrobe.

I am sure D could have stomached these details, and it would have made him angry at the plight of exotic animals, and encouraged him to be more compassionate to all animals.

I felt these facts could have been shared by our tour guide or, perhaps, my poor listening was at fault. But I left thinking that I would like to go back to the eco station and to listen better to hear the stories of the animals.

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