Poached: Inside the Dark World of Wildlife Trafficking

Da Capo. Sept. 2018. 384p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780306825507. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780306825514. NAT HIST
In her ambitious debut about wildlife trafficking around the world, science journalist Nuwer (National Geographic, Scientific American) leads readers through the tangled, and painfully human, webs of animal poaching industries. From bears farmed for their bile in China to pangolins hunted for their meat and scales throughout Asia and Africa, the animals themselves feature in these stories, but not so much as their human exploiters. Written for the curious, who "[enjoy] a bit of an adventure" and "love animals," the title delivers on both counts. However, although Nuwer has a background in science, she does not always treat the animals in question in a scientific manner—they are an important part of the story, but little to no time is spent on information such as scientific names or native habitats. For readers who appreciate these details, the book, for all of its charm, falls short. At times reminiscent of Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief, with its action and intrigue, this work offers a better understanding of the poaching ecosystem where no two animals are treated or hunted the same.
VERDICT In spite of its omissions, Nuwer's intimate look at different poaching industries is educational and overall heartfelt.
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