North America shelters a growing population of so-called ‘exotic animals’. If the phenomenon is not recent, it now fuels a considerable black market. Jungle backyards compose a non-negligible (yet often neglected) part of some modern ecological landscapes. This article explores problematical situations emerging from these shared humanimal lives. It presents the first results of a multi-species ethnography and examines the prevalence of what I call beastness – an antique commerce amid humans and animals that reveals not only utilitarian purposes, but also relational entanglements. Such a commerce feeds a sizeable economy and exerts major selective pressures (both biological and cultural) on organisms and their environment. For instance, there are more captive tigers living in the state of Texas alone than wild specimens running free anywhere else on the planet. From a strictly statistical point of view, the average tiger is no longer the tiger we imagine. Not wild anymore but neither quite domesticated, some animals – pioneers, in a sense – shuffle traditional taxonomical and ontological conceptions. Through biographical material, I reflect on adaptive responses as well as on zoological potentialities developed by this always-evolving bestiary. Providing serious case studies to further debates dealing with bio–eco–conservation, I discuss the influence of informational and communicational processes crystallized by some of our contemporary crossed becomings.
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