With his book Trading to Extinction, Thailand-based photographer Patrick Brown created a unique visual record of the industry of illegal wildlife trade. In 115 compelling black and white photographs, the book explores the shocking business of a multi billion-dollar industry and offers a rare insight documenting a period of more than ten years. It tells the tale of a cruel industry fuelled by money, as well as the international efforts to bring it to an end.
The book starts its journey into this annihilating world with a personal introduction by Ben Davies. "Unless we stop over-exploiting the land and the animals that live on it, we could one day find ourselves inhabiting a giant dustbowl emptied of all its wildlife," he writes. The collection of photographs is devastating and comprehensive, working in a continuous narrative. One shows a chained up macaque for sale in Cambodia. It is missing a foot due to the trap used to catch it and all of its teeth were removed, so tourists could have their photo taken without fear of being bitten. In another picture, a bear is being tranquilised and then removed from its cage in order to have the bile extracted from its gall bladder. A lot of images document markets selling animal products - a man sits behind a pile of dead snakes, turtles and other reptiles at a market in Dali. They are being sold for medicinal purposes. Another spread shows a crocodile being brutally hauled out of a cage to be put on display in the lobby of a restaurant in Guangzhou - the opposite page shows a kitchen hand dragging the crocodile over to the chopping board. The still life of a dinner table displays the blood, bile and beating heart of a snake in Vietnam – it was cut open while still alive for these parts to be removed. The images are shocking and evoke sadness, but because they have been taken in a journalistic, informative style, they are also clarifying.
Trading to Extinction portrays the sad truth of this illicit business, which encircles the world, from the remote forests of Asia to the trafficking hubs of Beijing, Bangkok, London, Tokyo and New York. But there are efforts to end it. Towards the end of the book, photographs depict teams of the Forestry Department patrols, or handcuffed poachers with boards around their neck bearing the details of their names, ages, nature and date of their crimes, then arrested poachers behind a barbed wire fence.
Davies says of Trading to Extinction: "If I have one hope for this book, it is to raise awareness and to encourage individuals and governments to take action [...] We must put an end to this trade before it is too late."
Trading to Extinction is available from Dewi Lewis Publishing.