Mysterious Book Report No. 442

by John Dwaine McKenna

Animals, (Blackstone, $27.99, 292 pages, ISBN 978-1-09-406588-5) by Will Staples, is a heart-wrenching and hard to read . . . as well as hard to put down, compelling and fascinating novel if you care at all about the wild creatures of the Earth, their fate, and in turn the fate of the planet they inhabit.  It’s about poaching.  Specifically it’s about poaching for profit—the large scale slaughter of endangered species such as African White Rhinos and elephants for their horns and tusks to feed an insatiable—and growing—Asian market for their supposed aphrodisiac qualities.

The protagonist of the novel is a South African white man named Corbus Ventner, a park ranger sworn to protect the diminishing numbers of trophy animals.  After a shoot out with some rhino horn poachers in which two rangers and several of the poachers are killed, Ventner embarks on a perilous mission to Southeast Asia to try and stop the ruthless and powerful criminals financing the slaughter of animals and people in Africa.  He eventually meets up with an American insurance claims adjuster named Randall Knight.  He’s found evidence that an exotic tiger breeding program has created a virus which has the potential to kill all the tigers in the world . . . but also has the potential to spread to humans . . . with catastrophic results.

At the same time, author Will Staples—who created the Disney series, The Right Stuff— pulls together a couple of other plot strings, such as the CIA making a connection between organized criminal gangs financing terrorism through poaching activity, commercial breeding of rare, endangered species of wild tigers on an industrial scale and cross-breeding of different species to produce even more exotic animals in this eye-opening and disturbing look into the plight of the world’s most vulnerable endangered animals.  It’s a look all of us should take . . . then ask ourselves WHY?


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