Mt. Hope Exotic Animal Auction draws good crowd

Charlotte Muenzenberger & Jennifer Ditlevson Published:

More than 1,800 buyers filled the Mount Hope auction barns in lat March at the annual exotic animal sale, which sold at least 3,500 caged animals, 900 sheep and goats and a large amount

of livestock.

"We had more people than usual for an April sale," said auction manager Thurman Mullet, commenting many sale attendees stayed for the entire weekend. "We had a good turnout."

The sale included various types of donkeys, reptiles, miniature horses, cattle, and camels, among numerous other species. "Ninety percent of consigned animals come from outside Holmes County,"

he said.

It would be impossible to list all the animals at the sale, but even without its usual supply of African stock, the auction still presented "a good run of animals," said Mullet.

The Farm at Walnut Creek and Rolling Ridge Ranch provided a few animals while breeders supplied the rest. "Most sellers have exotic parks or petting zoos. They make a living by breeding these animals," he said.

According to Henry Hampton, owner of the Farm at Walnut Creek, exotic animal owners create a valuable asset by expanding their own populations. Many people also trade male offspring in order to diversify the genetic pool.

Mentioning people typically go from raising rabbits and poultry to pheasants and quail, Hampton said the ownership progression eventually leads to more exotic species like alpacas, llamas

and camels.

Many parks rely on exotic sales to supplement current animal inventory, said Mullet, commenting before animals cross state lines, sellers must submit health papers.

Certain animals require health papers and licenses. "If you buy it here, you can (most likely) expect a visit from the state inspector," he said.

In the past, the auction has been scrutinized for selling cats and bears, but Mullet said most auction buyers have the expertise to raise exotic animals. When someone buys a baby wild animal, they understand some day it will grow up,

he said.

After working with exotic animals for 46 years, Hampton said he has bred and raised about 80 percent to 90 percent of his animals on the animal farm park. Learning husbandry from growing up on a dairy farm gave Hampton a head start on looking out for anything that could go wrong with the animals.

Two to three exotic animal care veterinarians address health issues during the two-day period. "We have worked with the same vets for the past 10-15 years," he said, remarking a night crew feeds the animals.

When animals reach the sale block, veterinarians and night workers hand over sale responsibilities to a local auctioneer, who markets animals in order of check-in time. "Each year, I work with the same people, but I meet new people, too," said Mullet, explaining the sale offers a chance to build business relationships. "For the most part it's a good experience."

Recent bad press about animal parks, has made owners more aware of threats to the business.

"We're concerned about the whole animal business. It's under attack. Some people have some ammunition and they can use it to justify restricting ownership of exotic animals from everyone," Hampton said.

To Hampton, exotic animal parks give people a chance to enjoy the unusual.

"They can smell and touch animals. It's not just looking for them," Hampton said. "It's an experience you don't get watching Animal Planet."

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