FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

Star Eco Station

Written By: Scot Butwell - Feb• 15•17

blue bird

This was different than the Pet Store.

Instead of seeing 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.

Hey Boss,” D said, beckoning me to follow him 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.

Rule abiding citizen that I am, I stayed with the group and listened to our tour guide before seeing what D had found so exciting: a frisky grey and brown fox running around in its cage.

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I knew what D was thinking: Nick Wilde, the fox character from  Zootopia, one of his favorite movies. There was a black fox with a frightened countenance in another cage. Both had bushy tails and were housed behind chain link fences and a glass casing.

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

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

I did not think too much about the cruelty perpetuated by humans against animals and, in retrospect, our tour guide could have driven home that point by talking more about the individual stories of the animals.


Maybe she mentioned 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 I was not listening to catch the details.

Later, I researched the topic and discover that 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.

Those who survive the transport conditions often die from inadequate care or are abandoned on rural roads by their owners. Many others get placed at the gates of zoos–who are unable by law to take donated animals–or have difficulty surviving away from their natural habitats.

These would have been great details to share, and it may have made D angry at the mistreatment of exotic animals, and perhaps influenced him to be more compassionate to all animals.

But my listening may have been the problem–not our teenage tour guide–and I left thinking that I would like to go back to the eco station and listen better to the stories of the animals.

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