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A Story of Conspiracy, Greed, and the Battle to Save a Magnificent Species

by J.A. Mills

Pub Date: Jan. 6th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0807074961
Publisher: Beacon Press

Conservation consultant Mills examines the failure of conservationists to stop the commodification and farming of endangered tigers.

In certain parts of the world, tigers and other exotic species are valued for their uses in traditional medicine, food, luxury clothing and taxidermy products. In recent years, there has been an explosion in the farming of these animals. The author fell in love with tigers after her first sight of one in the wild. However, despite her passionate descriptions and some cute nicknames for certain key players, this is not a romantic adventure story. It is a memoir of her two decades investigating the illegal trade in endangered animal products and her efforts to end it, dealing with farmers, politicians, medical professionals, sanctuary owners and warring conservationists. Mills argues that creating legal markets for farmed tigers and other exotic species only increases the illegal trade in higher-status wild animals and that if we want to prevent extinction in the wild, we must eradicate consumer demand for these products. She describes successes in convincing the traditional Chinese medicine community to back conservation and in using celebrity advertising directed at consumers. She also shows the daunting political and economic obstacles and the failures of conservationists, including herself, that led to the current situation: There are now more tigers on farms than in the wild in China, and there are thousands of privately held, untracked tigers in other nations, including the United States. As is often the case with stories of underfunded activists fighting against industrial and political interests, this is a frustrating and tragic story, but Mills offers neither false hope nor despair. The author provides a list of resources for readers inspired to take action, in addition to a substantial set of notes.

A telling inside view of 20 years in international tiger conservation work, including the successes, failures and the work that is still required.