Wildlife trafficking is estimated to be a $19 billion per year global business, surpassed only by black-market sales and trafficking of drugs, humans and firearms.
In the United States, regulation of private ownership of exotic animals is determined by each state, allowing for loopholes and oversight. Animals are bought and traded through auctions, backyard breeders, illicit online sales and more. The industry is growing right in our backyards.
VICE travels to Ohio to rescue a cougar, then to Texas for an exotic livestock auction and undercover visit to a gaming ranch where the animals are sold and hunted for up to $15,000 a piece.