“There he is, your Komodo dragon…”

I was recently back in Seattle  for Thanksgiving break, and lo and behold, what should come on but The Freshman, starring Marlon Brando and Matthew Broderick.  In case the reader is not familiar with this film, here is a synopsis from IMDB:

“Clark Kellogg is a young man starting his first year at film school in New York City. After a small time crook steals all his belongings, Clark meets Carmine “Jimmy the Toucan” Sabatini, an “importer” bearing a startling resemblance to a certain cinematic godfather. When Sabatini makes Clark an offer he can’t refuse, he finds himself caught up in a caper involving endangered species and fine dining.”

I won’t give away much more of the plot (although the movie is 26 years old…), but Clark (Matthew Broderick’s character) is asked to illegally transport a Komodo dragon*, a species that at the time of this film was endangered (now IUCN listed as Vulnerable).

[*Actually a monitor lizard in many parts of the film, since unrestrained Komodo dragons can be quite good at killing things…or never moving.]

Probably one of the funniest parts of the film to me is Clark’s phone call to his mom, appalled, “I have stolen an endangered species!  An endangered species!”.  Mom replies, “An endangered species!  You can’t steal an endangered species!”

I was watching this with my mom, and we laughed.  About the situation, but also, sadly about the fact that we had not become incensed and panicky over an issue like that in a long time.  I was wondering if this was because we are bombarded by lots of bad news about the environment and now have a background level of pessimism.  Or if just generally so many more bad things happen now that someone moving around an endangered species wouldn’t be that big of a shocker?  

I eventually decided that yes, these two things are probably somewhat true, but actually also that we are better at finding information to solve problems than we were in 1990. Of course, this doesn’t mean that they all get solved, but we have better tools and awareness.  If we find ourselves feeling incensed and panicky, we can spend more time solving and less time panicking on a landline to our moms.

In the course of thinking about this blog, I found several websites with information about illegal wildlife trafficking (see below). Many of these provide information about the “big three” (elephants, rhinos, tigers), but there are many others to consider, including the illegal trade of fish, bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian species.




Many of us won’t come across illegally traded animals (except maybe in movies), but these websites provide great information for taking action or just spreading the word, especially in those moments if you are feeling incensed, or panicky.


The Freshman, who in today’s climate would probably have just driven for Uber to make some extra cash (Photo: uproxx.com).


A real Komodo dragon, best seen in Indonesia, at a distance, with binoculars (Photo: britannica.com).


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