International Writers Magazine:
Market: Inside the Endangered Species Trade in India
An Earth Aware Editions: Manufactured by Palace Press International,
by Ben Davies and Adam Oswell.
US $ 29.95
your conscience behind, then pick your copy of the Black Market.
Most likely, initially, youll flip through the pages, attracted
by the large black-and-white images that will make you flinch and
put it away. After all Black Market, as is evident, deals with a
subject matter of the capture and horrific slaughter of a million
But within seconds,
its in your hands again, you find yourself leafing through the
Chimp Champ, Jane Goodalls introduction and youll agree
with what she has to say, "It is beautifully written in elegant
prose imbued with a sense of urgency and drama that make each page fascinating
and encourages one to the end, despite the often grim and discouraging
Listless bodies dangle in dozens, savagely gouged out eyes stare at
you while you attempt to read about this, wildlife trade, the second
most organised crime in the world, only after the nefarious cartel of
drugs and arms and ammunition. Yes, it is one of the biggest crime rackets
in the world and too little is known. And this is made easier by the
latest weapons of technology. Mobile phones and easier connectivity
via airplanes have provided smugglers with a better invisibility cloak
so to say. So what would you like? Beaks, eggs, bones, claws, penises,
kneecaps, horns, hooves, tusks, shark fins or simply a songbird? Dial
a tiger penis, get the right person, and you will have it delivered
to you within no time at all. Eat some of it everyday and "the
penis make you strong," according to the Chinese Jinbu or, quite
literally, "you are what you eat" culture. China may be the
end of many a road in this intricate labyrinth, but each country is
equally involved in this Culture of Killing. Americans fancy exquisite
pets, as do Europeans, women fancy fur and perfumes lingering from their
otherwise dainty selves, Chinese and Cambodians desire deadly delicacies
as much as the Vietnamese or the Thai. Orangutans embellish safari parks
or serve as cute, cuddly pets.
Demand is promptly met with, consequences are inconsequential. Crocs
folded perfectly and tied up in tape to escape detection, hundreds of
scaly anteaters stuffed in square cardboard boxes, bear claws pulled
out of their massive bleeding bodies, or bile carelessly extracted from
ill-fitted catheters, snakes pickled to be relished as wine, elephant
legs stumped into stools, turtles, frogs, rhinos, birds, butterflies,
there is no exception. When you think that you have had enough, that
it could not get worse, there is another gory revelation brought to
your notice. Bloody details stain your thoughts, lingering in your head
long after you have read them. Following lines seem a blur, till you
have gathered your thoughts and reread stuff. And if you close your
eyes, the beady brown eyes of an agonised chimp on the cover reflects
the iron of the cage into which it has been stuffed for god knows when.
Ancient History explains how for thousands of years, man has engaged
in animal trade for various reasons. "In 400 B.C., a Greek physician
is said to have transported a plum-headed parrot from India to teach
it Greek." Pregnant women were advised to place rhino horn below
their bed to alleviate birth pangs. That, however, was in the yesteryears,
when animal numbers were high, superstition prevalent and massacre out
of question. Today, numbers are no issue. Day after dreadful day, hundreds
of creatures are silenced to meet the growing demand. Jungles are being
emptied of their life. Silence shrieks, sharp piercing shrieks. And
Extinction is Really Forever. All this while international bodies such
as the CITES or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species of Wild Flora and Fauna meets and crafts Paper Tiger. "CITES
is only as good as its implementation," "If they fail, the
killing will go on."
Killing, in fact, has gone on for way too long, the Countdown to Extinction
explains. From over 300 species of elephant present on Planet Earth,
two survive, lingering on the thread of survival. Tonnes of elephant
tusk are exported every year, everything, almost everything goes unintercepted.
Demand for this white gold has skewed elephant populations
so much that in Indias Kerala, there is only one male to 122 potential
females. Trade did not cease despite the international ban on ivory
and governments are ready to call off the ban. Cambodias national
animal, the kouprey, died an unsung death by the 90s, explains Hunter
Weiler, an ex-poacher and passionate American conservationist. Chiru
or Tibetan antelope are fleeced and massacred to be woven
into fine shatoosh shrouds, draped over damsels. Whale sharks are no
better off. Its opening a Pandoras box.
And yet, poaching is just a cog in the wheel driving our wildlife to
extinction. Its easy to give up hope having read as much as this.
But, Black Market ends most appropriately with The Battle for Conservation.
Growing awareness of the repercussions of this deadly trade and the
need to preserve our wildlife is turning the tide in favour of wildlifers,
conservationists and humanity at large. A growing number of organisations
are attempting to thwart wildlife wars. Consignments are more regularly
intercepted at busy airports and deserted roadways, live animals are
kept at rescue centres till they are fit to be released back into the
wild. Hope and the will to fight are helping to save the last vestiges.
Black Market could not be more aptly timed, reminding both spectators
and warriors of their role in this relay.
Shah October 2008
Shivani is a freelance writers currently working with Greenpeace, India
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