Wildlife Trade

The killers

For more than 10 years, photographer Patrick Brown and author Ben Davies have followed the global wildlife trade and its gruesome pursuit of profits

May 16, 2012
The killers
Photos: Patrick Brown. Inside Scotland Yard's animal protection unit, an officer displays a tiger's head seized during a raid in London.

Day by day, hour by hour, our planet’s rarest creatures are being hunted, trapped and slaughtered to feed a global black market in wildlife products. Patrick Brown and I have been documenting the illegal endangered animal trade in Asia for more than ten years – covering its dealers, stockpiles, trafficking routes and markets. We have travelled across Asia to document the devastating impact of wildlife trafficking and the decade-long project will culminate with the publication of Trading to extinction later this year.

The market in the town of Thakhilek, Myanmar, just across the border with Thailand, has many shops that sell wildlife products
Parts of a crocodile for sale in a wild game restaurant in the city of Guangzhou, China
Bats gathered from the forest surrounding Medan, Sumatra, on display at a roadside restaurant in Indonesia

It is a shocking tale of cruelty, crime and human greed. As with drug trafficking, money fuels the animal trade. Its tentacles wrap around the world, from the remote forests of Asia to the trafficking hubs of Beijing, Bangkok, London, Tokyo and New York.

A poacher who kills a rhino and removes its horn in India gets $350. That same horn sells for $1,000 in a nearby market town. By the time it reaches Hong Kong, Beijing or the Middle East, one kilogram of horn is worth $95,600. Tiger bones are worth up to $700 per kilo.

This trade is flourishing, but the fightback has begun. An extraordinary worldwide movement is bringing people together in a bid to save our most endangered species before it is too late. Trading to Extinction will tell their stories.

At the Chitwan National Park, Nepal, a Royal Forestry Department officer holds a rhino skull. The stockpile of items is five years old and the value is an estimated $750,000

The images will be accompanied by my personal introduction which takes the reader on a journey into the seedy world of the illegal wildlife trade, as well as efforts to stop it.

The funding received by Trading to Extinction will help to produce a campaigning tool and get copies of the book into the hands of people who can make a difference.

By raising awareness of the speed and ruthlessness with which our endangered species are vanishing, the issue can be confronted head on. It is a problem that needs the world’s urgent attention.

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