Killing for Profit: Exposing the Illegal Rhino Horn Trade – Review

Killing for Profit: Exposing the Illegal Rhino Horn TradePoachingFacts rating: 5 of 5 stars

Killing for Profit is not an easy read for a number of reasons. For many, the topic of dead animals is a difficult one to bear and the thought of rampant greed and corruption creates a feeling of fury and helplessness. While author Julian Rademeyer leads the reader through these true crimes and events from the start of the modern African rhino horn trade, he does so without prejudice and inspires the reader to draw conclusions or to take steps on their own to seek out solutions to the illegal wildlife trade and, most importantly, to participate in the process and stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

Taken chapter by chapter Killing for Profit allows the reader to dive into their choice of segments of the illicit trade in wildlife parts. It begins with a brief history of the rhino horn trade then goes into substantial detail about a failed attempt by conservationists to understand the trade and forcibly stop poachers (Operation Lock). The fraudulent trophy hunts and the disgusting canned hunting groups participating in the big cat bone trade may bring into focus for many people the depths to which people will go in order to turn a profit. Killing for Profit then examines snapshots of the lives and work of the mid-level traffickers, the regional syndicates, cross-border smugglers, and finally the people at the top orchestrating the logistics of international smuggling, bribery, and wholesaling.

The format of the book leans heavily on its investigative journalism background, favoring direct quotes and chapters full of evidence-based facts. This formula allows the reader to be informed and draw their own conclusions, but provides little in the way of a smooth narrative or convenient “sound-bites” to encourage joining an entrenched position on the topic of wildlife crime. Although some readers may feel compelled to set the book aside and not come back to it, it’s easy enough to skip to a specific chapter of interest and jump straight in. Ultimately this book is of incredible importance to understanding and raising awareness of the rampant corruption devastating many countries around the world. Therefore it’s important that even those who have a difficult time with the subject matter or the format read at least a couple of chapters that stick out to them to understand that this crisis can be ended.

Although Killing for Profit makes no definitive statements about how to go about ending the poaching crisis, or the larger decline in wildlife populations, it should become clear to the reader by the end of the book that there are already several solutions, and trade restrictions, in place which need only to be strengthened through resolve and strong leadership from effected regional and national governments through the support of their citizens. It should also be clear that education and awareness, stamping out corruption, uplifting the disadvantaged and impoverished individuals and families who are exploited by criminal syndicates, and cracking down on known criminals are essential steps in preventing the illegal wildlife trade and insuring the future of keystone species, vital to tourism revenue in southern Africa.

Although it’s listed as having 346 pages, the book is actually quite short. Approximately 25% of Killing for Profit is dedicated to back matter (the handy information at the end of a book), with color photos of many of the people and incidents referenced throughout the book, a glossary of terms and sections for abbreviations and acronyms, references, journal, newspaper, and magazine articles, reports and press releases, and an index with links to each page number where that indexed entry is referenced. These resources will be particularly useful for students and academics writing essays or conducting research as well as for anyone who is interested into delving into the facts of the poaching crisis and illegal wildlife trades in Africa and Asia.

Further Reading:

For more on the poaching crisis, history of the ivory and rhino horn trades, as well as the types of individuals involved in poaching and wildlife trafficking, on our website.

Although there is a book titled Operation Lock and the War on Rhino Poaching and written by John Hanks, one of the individuals involved in the operation detailed in Killing for Profit, we cannot verify the statements and claims that are made, so we cannot recommend Operation Lock, available on Kindle, to readers or scholars at this time.

Those looking for nonfiction or investigative journalism covering similar themes will appreciate Jacques Pauw‘s Rat Roads: One Man’s Incredible Journey, The President’s Keepers: Those Keeping Zuma in Power and Out of Prison, and Dances with Devils: A Journalist’s Search for Truth as well as Johann van Loggerenberg‘s Rogue: The Inside Story of SARS’s Elite Crime-busting Unit and Joshua Horwitz‘s War of the Whales: A True Story.

Elephant expert Dr. Caitlin O’Connell’s non-fiction works and mystery thriller series will also be of interest to various audiences. Another conservationist and expert on elephants, Cynthia Moss, has textbooks and other non-fiction offerings great for students, academics, and any reader wanting in-depth information on elephant behavior.

Kimberli A. Bindschatel also has a fiction thriller series with an emphasis on poaching.

Readers looking for lighter reading relating to life with African wildlife are sure to enjoy the nonfiction memoirs from Lawrence Anthony, Kobie Krüger, Daphne Sheldrick, and Gareth Patterson.


This and other PoachingFacts reviews are also available on GoodReads.com.