The Black Market Trade 2008
My name is Patrick Brown. I’m a photographer. I’ve been working on a subject for the last five years about the illegal trade of animals in Asia.
The black market wild life trade is third behind the illicit drug, illicit arms trade. They don’t really know how big the trade is. All they know, it is huge.
The biggest ingredients in the cocktail is China. The Chinese people now have money to burn. They have gone from a generation of horse and cart to driving around in a Mercedes.
Things are placed on order almost now. I would like a tiger this week. And they will get a tiger this week.
This is mythology that has been imbedded for centuries and this is what this project is up against. Hundreds and hundreds of years of indoctrination.
The mythology of the animal trade is – if you want to break it right down, it’s simple. It’s that you are what you eat. You consume a tiger, or part of the tiger, you will inherit something of that tiger.
A rhino takes two hours to mate so somebody a few centuries ago said if you eat the horn of a rhino you will mate for two hours.
What a lot of people are doing now is soaking the rhino horn in Viagra, and because the horn is porous, it’s made of hair, it will soak up the active ingredients, hence the rhino horn works. So they can charge more money for the natural version then the synthetic.
Rhino horn is five times more valuable than gold once it gets to Hong Kong, Singapore, and especially in the Middle East. It’s a very lucrative piece of hair.
This bear farm had 290 bears and they rotate them in a three-week cycle.
Luckily, I have a very large surgical scar on my stomach and I was able to convince them that I had stomach cancer and I was dying. I was lying to the people who owned the bear farm.
They sedated one of the bears and then started to use an ultrasound to find its gallbladder.
Wheeled the bear back into the cage and the bear obviously came to maybe a few hours later and it was none the wiser of what had actually happened.
I had to drink it. I mean, that’s why I went there was to look for a cure. I couldn’t suddenly say, Oh no, I don’t want to drink this.
I just filled the glass up as far as I could with rice whiskey and drank it.
By me being there I’m not going to be able to stop it. The events had already taken place to get to that point.
But one thing I’m able to do is document it, bring it out of these areas that are quite remote and show to a greater audience.
When I started to see what was really for sale, I was starting to go, well, where are these animals coming from. I mean, these are quite diverse creatures. They are not just coming from close vicinity. These are coming from hundreds and hundreds of miles away. That’s when I realized that there was a network in place.
The phone rings. Contact. And all he said to me was, “Mr. Paddy, airport, now.”
They laid all the boxes out and they started to open them.
There was two adult pangolins and a baby pangolin and in there was dry ice to put them into a hibernation state.
They had to then get them all out because they were starting to overheat. They needed to get in to the wild as soon as possible because they were going to die.
Within five hours of the raid they were trucked away to a national park.
This bust was worth about two-and-a-half million US by the time it would have got to China.
They were able to throw money at this to get them on a cargo plane, obviously paying off customs officials along the way. It was a very, very professional job.
I was on a patrol with the Royal Forestry in Cambodia.
We go in at night, no lights, no talking.
The reason why they do these night insurgences is so the local villages don’t know where you’ve entered to raise the alarm to tell everybody to get out of there.
On the second day we came across some poaching activity and it led to a camp.
They captured four poachers who had the night before had caught a Slow Loris and some monkeys. First offenders, they’re sent off to an educational facility where they’re taught about what their actions are doing to the environment.
Repeat offenders, they don’t get a second chance. They go to jail.
The image that has the most resonance for me is the image of a poor innocent Muslim women in Northeast India who has been caught with a rhino horn that her brother and her husband had poached the night before.
So you get the horn. You photograph it, you identify it and you log it into a book. The only people that are going to check on it are the police.
That’s where corruption steps in. There’s just too much money to be made in rhino horn.
While I was in the back of the police vehicle, he has just divorced his wife on the way to sentencing.
The husband and the brother are basically, they’re now no longer connected relationship-wise to this girl. She’s on her own.
Another policeman has stuck his head in the window and said to the girl you’re up for the death penalty.
At that moment is when she realized that she was totally alone in this world. She’s a 26-year-old lady. Her life is going to take a turn that you and I have no comprehension of.
What is actually happening in Asia regarding the environment has a global effect. There is no ifs or buts about it. We can deny and stick our head in the sand as long as we want, but these are serious consequences. At the rate at what we are depleting the animal stocks if you want to call them that, it’s not going to be long before there is not much left, 10, 20 years.
The number one thing is tell your local politicians that this is important to you.
The only way action is going to be done is if world leaders realize that it’s important to their constituency.
If I had a choice of one emotion to be generated or one action to take place from the result of somebody seeing my work, it’s for them to go to their government and say, I am not happy with what is happening. I am not voting for you. You change things and I’ll vote for you.
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