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Soon Anson was soliciting Morrison with the planet's scarcest, most valuable Appendix I reptiles: Komodo dragons from Indonesia, tuatara from New Zealand, Chinese alligators, and Madagascan plowshare tortoises, rarest of the rare. Using a corrupt employee in the Fed­Ex facility in Phoenix, Arizona, Anson express mailed protected species—including a Southeast Asian false gharial and Madagascan radiated tortoises, both Appendix I—to fake "drop" addresses. He flew Komodos directly to Morrison from Malaysia, hidden in suitcases wheeled by his American mule, James Burroughs. He sent Madagascan radiated tortoises, their legs taped inside their shells, bundled in black socks and packed at the bottom of legal reptile shipments.

Morrison marveled at Anson's dexterity. He could broker turtles out of Peru without ever touching them. He contracted out poaching hits on a wildlife sanctuary in New Zealand. He owned a wildlife business in Vietnam. And he boasted an ability to enforce his deals using Chinese muscle.

Significantly, he exploited the CITES captive-breeding exception, claiming that wild animals he exported were captive bred. Under one ruse, Anson shipped large numbers of Indian star tortoises through Dubai, claiming they'd been bred in captivity there. When investigators checked on the facility, they found a flower shop.

Anson assured Morrison that they had nothing to fear from Malaysian authorities. Wildlife smuggling in Malaysia is policed both by customs and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, or Perhilitan. Referring to his American courier, Anson told Morrison, "I have the second man of the customs bring him out of the airport and drive him to my office."

In one instance Anson offered Morrison 20 Timor pythons for $15,000. Morrison said he was interested but worried that the snakes would lack CITES paperwork. "They'll definitely be coming with papers," Anson said. "I will have a fall guy and he will get arrested. Plus the goods will be confiscated, and the goods will be sold to me by the department."

Then Anson offered Morrison horns of Sumatran and Javanese rhinoceroses, both forbidden Appendix I animals. He talked openly about getting shahtoosh, the "king of wool," from the Tibetan antelope. He had access to extraordinary birds, including the Rothschild's mynah, whose wild population was estimated to number fewer than 150. He bragged about his Spix's macaws, a bird now believed to be extinct in the wild, claiming he'd recently sold three. The black market rate for a Spix's macaw was $100,000. His expanding list of astonishing illegal rarities included panda skins and snow leopard pelts.

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