As a Viet Cong officer this guy was taking shots at Americans in 1975. Now he is exchanging shots of booze with me in 1995.

I have a great deal of respect for these people - they are very smart and hospitable. How did we ever get into a conflict with them?!!!

"Follow the money".


TBT - (1995) "The Trouble With Pythons"

Twenty years after the war ended in Vietnam, our two countries reestablished diplomatic and commercial relations. When that happened I immediately obtained a visa in the Mexico City Vietnamese Embassy to go to Vietnam as a marine tropical fish consultant.

My survey of the reefs there was not encouraging - fishermen with explosives and drag nets, unchecked pollution and silt runoff, etc. had taken a heavy toll on the coral habitat needed by our species of interest to the aquarium trade. However - the central market places in the many cities I visited teemed with live reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates of interest to the international pet trade. Of course these regional market venders were selling them for food to the locals - not for pets!

"When one door closes - two doors open." My Vietnamese translator (Huang Phan) and I jumped on that opportunity and put together the country's first authorized exotic animal export company -'Green Nature'. I knew that for the past 20 years Vietnamese reptiles had been smuggled to Malaysia by the notorious Anson Wong and then shipped out to the rest of the world - so I had to watch my back (especially big trucks) as we sought out his suppliers and took over his business in Vietnam. In third world countries the competition often gets squashed - literally!

The real 'gold mine' in the trade at that time was baby Burmese Pythons. In the Mekong Delta there are python farmers producing thousands of baby pythons every year. Breeding and raising pythons has been a business in Vietnam for hundreds of years. Mature pythons are processed for food from the meat, belts & boots from the skins, bones for medicine and the fat is used for cosmetics. Everything is used. We paid the python breeders a better price and in advance for the babies to beat out Anson Wong. I never did find out what price he put on my own head!

By 1996 we were shipping thousands of baby Burmese Pythons to the U.S. (along with a big assortment of other reptiles) for the pet trade - mostly to Miami. And here is another example of 'unintended consequences'. Success in business is linked to meeting demand. Success in action is to take positive steps towards a realistic goal. We did not for-see the future release or escape of pythons into the Everglades when we shipped them to South Florida. But we do for-see success in their management in Florida if they are commercially culled. They are another valuable renewable resource to be intelligently managed.

Natural systems are all self organizing and always changing. People who recognize such universal truths work with nature and make adaptations to maximize the beneficial and minimize the detrimental in these transitions. On this planet there has always been and will always be 'invasive species' and 'climate change'.

Success at survival - adapt!

My Vietnamese partner Phan Hoang at the Green Nature facility in Saigon.