It is hard to describe the array of confiscated animals and animal parts that fills the shelves of the National Wildlife Property Repository, a federal warehouse on the fringes of Denver, Colorado. With multiple representatives of every species imaginable, it seems at first a bit like an ark, but a perverse one: perhaps fittingly so for our precarious ecological situation.
These animals did not walk up the gangplank as in familiar representations of the biblical scene. They arrived lifeless, inanimate: not really animals so much as things. They are arrayed not two-by-two or seven-by-seven, but scores upon scores, even by the hundreds. A fur coat may look like just one leopard, but in fact a dozen were skinned to make it; if you look closely, you can see where one dead creature ends and another begins. Tortoises, snakes, birds, deer (and pieces thereof) line industrial storage shelves from floor to ceiling; even when I climbed up the rolling step ladders, I couldn’t see over the top.