Science journalist Rachel Nuwer plunges the reader into the underground of global wildlife trafficking, investigating the market for rare animal parts that has created a worldwide poaching epidemic and threatens the continued existence of countless species.
Poached describes all kinds of heart-wrenching and harrowing moments, but Ms. Nuwer often strikes a lighthearted tone, finding eccentric detail to splash in ... The result is more a frenetic slideshow of the trade than a rigorous, comprehensive analysis. But by focusing on the humans at all points of the trade, Ms. Nuwer is able to offer something rare: a window onto the feelings and beliefs that drive it.
... meticulous and ambitious ... Nuwer’s net is necessarily wide, drawing in species from rhinos, to wildcats, to bears harvested for bile, to rare reptiles captured by ravenous collectors. The statistics can be numbing: from 2007 to 2014, 30 per cent of the remaining savannah elephants disappeared, slaughtered for their ivory. Only about 415,000 remain today ... Nuwer’s book is both an intrepid first-person investigation and a detailed economic study. The tension between these two approaches can feel meandering. Still, there are a few glimmers of hope, in the guise of the conservationists and journalists who work so that endangered animals can be preserved before they, too, are fated to become the stuff of legend.
Poached gives readers an up-front look at the vulnerability of endangered animals that are worth more dead than alive. Nuwer commands attention as she relays accounts pangolin scales being sold on the black market, Kenyan officials burning millions of dollars of ivory and rhino horn in attempt to discourage their trade, and a cobra’s heart being ripped out for consumption. But these anecdotes aren’t just for shock value. Nuwer also documents the political, cultural, and economic factors driving wildlife trafficking ... Sometimes Nuwer gets into a little too much detail, but her takeaway is abundantly clear: This business has major consequences ... Nuwer...show[s] how obsession, especially when profit is involved, can be a dark force.