Black Market: Inside the Endangered Species Trade in Asia

By Ben Davies
Ten Speed Press, 2005
ISBN: 1932771220
176 pages
$29.95

Faithful readers of the AWI Quarterly are already familiar with the illicit trade in wildlife, the suffering these animals endure and the threat it poses to their species, but this book is still worth reading—its stories must be heard. Gut wrenching accounts of the trade in wildlife parts and products are told in each tragic tale. As one story after another unfolds, the enormity of the disaster wrought on these ill-fated, endangered species becomes overwhelming.

Consumer demand for aphrodisiacs, traditional medicine, delicacies, pets and trophies fuels a hefty business derived from endangered wildlife, and the trade is rampant in Asia. All measures of animals are victimized: tigers, leopards, elephants, rhinos, bears, apes, monkeys, antelope, sharks, anteaters, birds, turtles, snakes and bats. Exploiters have found uses for all of them. The lucky ones are killed outright, while others spend their lives in cramped cages—or in the most ghastly cases of all, the most-demanded pieces of the animals' bodies are removed while they are still alive.

This book contains over a hundred graphic and stunning depictions of the tragic consequences of the wildlife trade. The manner in which the photographers have captured the humans involved is intriguing. The immaculately dressed collector stands proudly between two massive elephant tusks, the likes of which are not typically found on any living elephant today. Yet in juxtaposition to the photographs of smirking killers are snapshots of the brave individuals who routinely risk their lives in an effort to stop the trade. Sadly, images of the enforcement officers are usually surrounded by the contraband, a grim reminder that despite heroic efforts, animals are still dying at an alarming rate.

by Cathy Liss