The Rutherford Report—Jungle Exotics: From Ants to Elephants

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“Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way.”

—John Muir
Jungle Exotics: From Ants to Elephants

About 26 years ago two animal trainers came together to transform a 60-acre ranch nestled in the Cajon Pass into a compound for animal actors.

Like so many business ventures, Jungle Exotics—which today boasts more than 1,000 credits in TV, films, and commercials—started with a chance encounter.

Co-founder Joe Camp was working at a plant nursery in Orange County in the 1970s when a friend asked him for a ride to a class being held at a Riverside-based company that provided animals for movies.

Camp, who earned degrees in Zoology and Economics from Rutgers University, would get out of his car and play with some of the animals at the facility while waiting for his friend’s class to finish. One day someone noticed his ability to connect with the animals and offered him a job.

“I have always had a fascination with animals; it’s something that was passed down by my father and grandfather,” he said. “They offered me a chance to be in the business, and I couldn’t resist.”

While there, Camp met Tammy Maples, who was working there full-time as an instructor and animal trainer. The two got to know each other, and in 1988, they purchased the former Price Ranch in Devore to start their own animal business.

Today the ranch is home to scores of animals, including dogs, cats, coyotes, wolves, tigers, and more, that are rented out for various productions. However, the Jungle Exotics team also works with a wide range of other creatures. For example, when a client needed jaguars for a shoot, Jungle Exotics worked with the Brazilian Army, which keeps live jaguars as mascots, to provide and train the animals.

“We don’t have hundreds of animals here, but we have the ability to go about anywhere and find the animals we need,” Camp said.

Over the years, the company has worked with everything from ants to elephants, racking up credits on movies and TV shows such as The Hunger Games, Austin Powers, Castle, CSI Miami, and more.

A majority of the dogs and cats at the ranch are rescued from animal shelters in the Southern California area. The animals undergo obedience training to get them prepared for their debuts.

“It’s not really about teaching them tricks,” he said. “It’s getting them to understand that being on set is a pleasurable place to be.”

Jungle Exotics is conscientious about the animals it rescues or purchases to come live at the ranch.

“You have to remember that these animals are coming to live with you and become a part of your business family,” Camp said, noting the ranch was home to two wolves that lived to be 19.

The business is overseen by a variety of agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the American Humane Society, as well as the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health.

For more information about this San Bernardino County business, visit
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