The International Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference took place in October. Here, we heard that wildlife trafficking, at $23bn a year, is one of the world’s most lucrative criminal operations.
How are we to fight back against such exploitation? Keith Wilson attempts to provide a bold response to this question. Through a collection of hard-hitting images from 24 world-renowned photographers, he emphasises the burden of capturing and portraying the grim reality, as ‘evidence’ that will ignite an audience’s desire for social change.
The book feels like a call-to-arms. Using eye-catching typography and a colour palette reminiscent of its bloody and alarming subject matter, it demands attention. Wilson takes us on a harrowing journey, yet a defiant sense of hope permeates throughout. He intersperses tender blackand-white photography depicting sentiment and intimacy with stark, graphic images of animal parts as seen in their mass-industrial context on the black market. Other intermissions include a poem by Jane Lovell and a stunning fold-out section on timber, reminding us that ‘wildlife’ doesn’t start and stop with just animals.
Heralding the valuable work of female rangers in Africa, taking heed not to completely vilify poachers, and covering the less publicised plights of creatures such as the pangolin and silver fox – Wilson brings a novel and well-balanced perspective to the project. Having said this, the coverage of illegal animal product use in traditional Chinese medicine is slightly repetitive and the book may also have benefi ted from a comprehensive list of further resources for readers who felt inclined to take action.
Overall however, we are reminded through beautiful and thoughtprovoking photography, of reasons to love and protect our animals. Wilson dodges the common pitfalls of activist literature which can guilt-trip to an unappealing level. To this kind of animal welfare ‘propaganda’ we have become so conditioned that we almost feel immune. This book succeeds in remaining uncompromisingly brutal, while also inciting encouragement and inspiration through stories and ideas about how change has been, or can be, achieved.
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