The Extinction Market

Wildlife Trafficking and How to Counter It

October 2017 9781849046909 256pp


The planet is experiencing alarming levels of species loss caused in large part by intensified poaching and wildlife trafficking driven by expanding demand, for medicines, for food, and for trophies. Affecting many more species than just the iconic elephants, rhinos, and tigers, the rate of extinction is now as much as 1000 times the historical average and the worst since the dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago. In addition to causing irretrievable biodiversity loss, wildlife trafficking also poses serious threats to public health, potentially triggering a global pandemic.

The Extinction Market explores the causes, means, and consequences of poaching and wildlife trafficking, with a view to finding ways of suppressing them. Vanda Felbab-Brown travelled to the markets of Latin America, South and South East Asia, and eastern and southern Africa, to evaluate the effectiveness of various tools, including bans on legal trade, law enforcement, and interdiction; allowing legal supply from hunting or farming; alternative livelihoods; anti- money-laundering efforts; and demand reduction strategies.

This is an urgent book offering meaningful solutions to one of the world’s most pressing crises.


‘Vanda Felbab-Brown’s compelling study, The Extinction Market, provides a thorough account of the challenges in tackling a complex phenomenon. … Felbab-Brown combines academic rigour with sensible pragmatism and is not afraid to challenge accepted policy or propose ideas of her own. … The outlook for wildlife is far from positive, but this book provides the tools needed to devise conservation solutions for the future.’ — The World Today

‘A nuanced, detailed and thoughtful analysis that not only offers lessons for conservation policy, but uses conservation as a mirror to further inform global drugs policy.’ — Survival

The Extinction Market is an especially needed contribution to comprehend the tightly interwoven licit and illicit economies based around biodiversity hotspots and endangered wildlife.’ — H-Environment

‘This sobering book . . . should be read by anybody serious about conservation and those campaigners against the abuse of drugs will find it of interest too. Vanda Felbab-Brown has done her research thoroughly and written an important book.’ — Celia Haddon, Journalist

‘What does the desperate effort to stave off mass extinction have to learn from the ineffectual effort to limit the global drug trade? Humility, for one thing. Vanda Felbab-Brown teaches this and other lessons with clarity, detail, and passion. Yes, we can “save the tiger.” But only with hard work and clear thought. This book is the place to start.’ — Mark A.R. Kleiman, Professor of Public Policy, NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management

The Extinction Market is a model of sharp insight into a complex problem that is delivered in clear and compelling prose. International supply chains for prohibited products are a modern plague. In contrasting two of the most important (drugs and wildlife), Felbab-Brown usefully challenges comfortable assumptions in both domains.’ — Jonathan Caulkins, American drug policy researcher, H. Guyford Stever Professor of Operations Research and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University

‘Vanda Felbab-Brown’s eloquent book maps out the scale of today’s global illicit wildlife trade and how to combat it. This book offers solutions and learning: it is an important addition to current international policy and academic debate on how to stop the “extinction market”.’ — Dr Alex Vines OBE, Director of Area Studies and International Law, Chatham House and Senior Lecturer, Coventry University

‘Dr. Felbab-Brown’s clear-eyed assessment of the benefits and drawbacks of law enforcement and policy approaches to combatting wildlife trafficking, and her call for sensitivity to the poor and marginalized people who live closest to targeted wildlife, should be required reading for government policy makers, law enforcement officials, and conservationists trying to halt this terrible scourge.’ — Bob Dreher, Senior Vice President for Conservation Programs, Defenders of Wildlife, and former Associate Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

‘A very unique and valuable contribution to the understanding of wildlife crime. The author’s extensive research in the drug trade enables her to identify the similarities between wildlife and narcotics trafficking as a foundation for developing solutions. She then analyses the efficacy of various enforcement strategies commonly employed in drug control to combat wildlife crimes, and their impact on local communities.’ — Greg Warchol, Professor at Northern Michigan University, Department of Criminal Justice

‘The damage being done to our planet and its species accentuates the urgency of this critical examination of the successes and failures of policy responses to illegal wildlife trafficking. Felbab-Brown provides a unique overview on how to counter this growing illegal industry, from community-based natural resource management approaches to anti-money-laundering efforts and demand-reduction strategies.’ — Daan P. van Uhm, Assistant Professor in Criminology, Utrecht University, the Netherlands


Vanda Felbab-Brown is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. She is an expert on nontraditional security threats, including insurgency, urban violence, and illicit economies. She is the author of Aspiration and Ambivalence: Strategies and Realities of Counterinsurgency and State-building in Afghanistan and Shooting Up: Counterinsurgency and the War on Drugs.

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