Animals is one of the most eye-opening books I have read in years. It’s probably best described as a political thriller, with the main topics of the book being poaching and endangered species. Before the book even begins, the author gives us numerous pages of research that he did on the topic and hooks you from that very preface.
There is not a lot of character development here, as many of the characters include rhinoceros, elephants, Sumatran tigers and pangolins. But it’s a story that takes us from South Africa to Tanzania, to China, Macao, and the jungles of Southeast Asia. While the topic is not sexy, Staples writes a thriller that is both fascinating and educational as to the plight of these animals.
The book has numerous storylines that easily converge, as we follow a former soldier who was a park ranger at Kruger National Park in South Africa, a Chinese narcotics agent, and an insurance adjuster who is both clamoring for wealth as well as trying to protect these endangered animals.
The CIA is also drawn into this, as there appears to be a link between poaching, endangered species, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and the funding of terror organizations. And throughout we get an inside look at the Chinese triads that control this trade, along with being taken to remote jungle areas where tigers are bred for nothing more than the harvest of their bones, bile, paws, and even are used to make Tiger Wine. We also get an inside look at South African poachers who are decimating the rhinoceros and elephant populations all for horns and tusks that are turned into jewelry, and aphrodisiac powders. It is a world most of us know little about and which exists because it is next-to-impossible to stop.
Animals may not be for the squeamish, as the reader is exposed to the dark side of this international trafficking. But this is a thriller like few others that I have read, and the author is going to give all his royalties from the book to anti-poaching organizations, and NGOs that fight the daily battles on behalf of endangered species throughout the world. It is a book that shows the worst of humanity, as well as giving us hope that there are those out there who are doing all they can on behalf of the animal kingdom. This is an important book that we all need to read.
Thanks to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing providing me with a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.