One mans fight to save the worlds tigers
From the newsroom, the Washington Post. Robert Samuels from the Washington Post. Kathleen. Hi, this is the Washington Post. This is post reports I am routine powers. It's Thursday may ninth. Today. The man risking his life to expose the legal. Tiger trade what it means to be electable and afforest trying to save organs from their owners. Here. I am walking through the dumb sow market is the market is kind of a no man's land on corner of Thailand Laos, the number of Tigers in the wild has plunged over last century. So from Ron one hundred thousand to fewer than four thousand day. Meanwhile, the numbers in captivity have exploded to more than twelve thousand five hundred. So you're talking about they're more than three times a number of Tigers in captivity today than are in the wild. And that stirred question. How did this happen? Over the course of the last year Terry McCoy has been trying to enter that question and not brought him to Laos in search of three hundred missing Tigers as he walked through here. Z allot of wines, shoes backpacks and also see a place called exotic family ex family. It has a lot of different jewelry out. But he's talking to them. They start bringing out what they really exotic elements agreeing on the tire they Brown. Tiger balm. Bring tiger teeth in many parts of Asia hikers are believed to have special medicinal properties from just it's bone to its whisker whisker whisker even is thought to keep away. Centipedes if you burn it. And what that is done is created this gold rush for this animal. They started being farmed almost like cattle originally tiger firms were created to help stop poaching. The idea was that the farms would grow the. The population of domesticated Tigers satisfied the demand for tiger products and make it. So that Tigers in the wild could live in peace. But over time it just incited more. Poaching of Tigers. So in two thousand seven there was an international effort to shutdown tiger farms a wildlife convention called he's which was formed by countries from around the world passed a resolution to stop the tiger farming. But the problem is a lot of these nations that signed onto this accord don't necessarily want to stop it because there's such demand Ford, and there's so many business interests in play for these tiger parts. So a lot of it was just kind of countries would look the other way, none of these farms were closed down. There are laws to protect Tigers. But there's a difference between having a law and having it be enforced. Tiger farms. Went underground. They started calling themselves zoos and conservation centers. They were only conservation centres zoos in name alone. And a lot of this kind of went into the black market where you have all these captive Tigers that were raised in captivity and then killed in their parts smuggled how much did he say tiger teeth were? Call Geigy tease how much were. So you decided that you wanted to get up close and personal look at the tiger black market in Asia. And the way that you did it was by going with this guy. Karl Ammann show me all Tiga tease. I wanna compare. This is very tight as lots of data on these display who is he and how did you find him? So when I was first looking into this story, I heard that Laos was a place where they had operated with greater impunity than just about anywhere else. These. From at shit shit on water Dennis how hot? What is it? The items are all now because there are more. Tiger Balm tight if I'm here. They don't sell hot like this. That is the don't kill title. And just about the only person that I knew of who'd been inside one of these farms was man named Carl Mon has a lot of time to low meal. We would know what the mobile shot in Tigers in Laos of protected. They won't kill it. Also, it's not. If the world is going to save the tiger. It faces one of its most crucial tests in Laos. It is a global hub of the wildlife trade share sixteen hundred miles with the two largest markets of wildlife products in the world in Vietnam, and in China Laos over the last couple of years as made a lot of noise trying to vow that it was gonna close as tiger farms that it was going to stop the illegal trade in the shops that no new tiger farms are or breeding enclosures, we're going to open up Carl been investigating this for five or six years. He is business of making Laos and China look good until the pro. All the dead. Tigers all come from Vietnam. Nope. From China with bullshit diaghram drop the role the Novi don't put these. Is he talks us very like Groff Swiss German accent, he lives at the base amount Kenya. Where he's lived at his compound for decades where he raised two orphaned, chimpanzees and cheetah name Sassa. And and I was like I want to know more about this. So Karl Ammann is a animal black-market investigator. What is his actual job? So Carl I came to Africa as a hotel ear for the intercontinental and ultimately helped said up the rumble in the jungle between foreman and Mohammed Ali. But over the years, he got more and more interested in photography. And he started going deeper and deeper into the forest the alternately opened up this nature. Reserve is ecological camp in the MAs awry national park in Kenya. And he sold it made a boatload of money and got rich office. It's awesome. He's now in his forties. And he's taken a trip down the Congo river one day in one of these famed Zaire riverboats chugging along, and he sees then in that moment in Africa that he had no idea existed. There were hundreds of murdered chimpanzees apes along the riverbanks. And what this was was a new sort of market of bushmeat the him so angry and so furious that he became obsessed with this. And he took these ventures in these investigations to places that nobody else was going to more or less all by himself and develop this very sort of specialized, but also what some call. Not necessarily ethical means of being able to expose and being able to investigate wildlife ecological destruction. What does that mean? So most conservationists say it's not ethical for someone investigating this to by wildlife products. Because that just fuels the market Carl doesn't he doesn't make eating Norse that because he's he's the only way people are going to trust someone like me or one of these investigators that we have to we have to buy it. We have to get into this. And he's willing to get his hands dirty in a way that other conservations are not he calls himself, the bad cop of the sort of conservation movement and Carl someone is kind of on the fringes of it. He works by himself. And what he does is that he then hires and and gets these sort of local contacts, we cultivates over years and quips with hidden cameras, and then pays them and sends them out to go start buying the stuff. So you decided to travel with Carl Amman to Laos pretend days. What was that lake risky? Take holes. Comes up. You know, the thing was car was happy to have me be around. But car was there for a mission. He's there to gather evidence to try to present to the thirties of what is happening to Tigers in in southeastern Laos specifically, and so all of that involves actually going to these shops where you can buy these kinds of goods and also going to tiger farms. Right. Yeah. So the idea this trip was that we would start in the north and then venture out the central oust out in the east and along the way we would go to tiger farms or standing right now outside of what appears to be a new tiger farm a secret tiger farm that is down at dirt road inside we found dozens of Tigers history. We found lines. We found bear right now Carl and fill of comeback to fly drone over it to see if they can get even closer look to see what's going on inside fi drone fly dry. Owns. So even bring drones with him. Yes. A call went in as a quote tourist. But obviously the story of him as a tourist would crumble upon even minor inspection. He had drones with them. He had like all this evidence about like tiger farming with him. But that said the idea was take those drones flying illegally over these farms because we knew we'd have a permit. You never permit to fly drones. He's like I'm just gonna fly the drone. I was like, okay. I got someone to watch this guy Joe now. And and so we were just doing that over these tiger farms, and ultimately, the idea was to the other side of the country and find these men that Caro has been tracking for five years who are some of the most in Taurus, tiger farmers in the country. And finally meet them face to face. And meanwhile, we're gonna search for clues as far as what happened to three hundred missing Tigers that vanished from one of these farms in twenty seventeen contact guy in coach. On the night of. Car. Would you tell them about the three hundred Tigers as just champions more? The you know. The you know. If there's any indication that sometimes this before five contained us came across the board with Tigers in it. If anybody heard about it. So what happened? So these three hundred Tigers vanished one of these farms, and the people who would know the most about what had occurred. There was one of the co owners namesake own Gaza. Von sokaia Savan is considered to be one of the most prolific tiger farmers in Laos. He was the co owner to one of the largest tiger farms in southeast Asia, if not the largest, and he'd also kind play both sides he had established government connections. He had helped craft Laos his plan to save Tigers. While the same time commanding one of these large tiger farms, so one of his top lieutenants was this man named Nicole Galvez said and said was believed by Carl Monto to have killed more. Tiger. Than anyone else in Laos. He was a person who is really the tiger far manager. He was a person who cared for the Tigers raise the Tigers tended to them and ultimately killed them. And they both worked this place called Venus account, Venus cone was the largest hiker farm at one point in southeast Asia. And they had four hundred Tigers. When you think about there's only fifteen thousand Tigers in the entire world. Four hundred Tigers a lot of Tigers and three hundred Tigers at disappeared. When the Lao government said, we got close places and been researching this trend investigate this and one of Karl's investigators had spent years cultivating, the comb this farm manager as confidential source. Did you find these notorious farmers? We did we ultimately went to this new resort. And he found both of them. They just started a new venture on the other side of the country that there were calling zoo. But which Carl suspected was really a front for smuggling Tigers. And we ultimately go out there. And I just remember we rive to this resort and nightfall was coming and we were in the middle of nowhere allows. And there was this hail. And at the top of the HALE was where the Tigers were. And that's also where there ordin Nicole who make who made a career out of butchering and killing Tigers. That's where he was. He was well, and we could hear the Tigers roaring dozens of them and just reverberated triggers in you this primal instinct run in Hyde. And Kara was slinging, of course. Cam over shoulder heading up the hill defined that man and the Tigers. To confront these notorious tiger farmers and point out that what they're doing is legal and you're doing this in the middle of the night without any. I mean that was. I mean that was that was those the risk. So we go up there. And we see this ramshackle structure. I don't know what to call it. That's all mesh fencing and blue tarp and corrugated iron roof in all around us are these the sound of this roaring tiger. And we go closer and closer and closer nujis- can immediately smell it. Just this acidic sharp smell that burns your nostrils, so strong when you have thirty five dozens of Tigers just crushed into this one small space and inside. There was a narrow hallway going through on either side of this hallway you to see these crawling Tigers back and forth. You would kill me. I know. And the size of them is something you really don't understand until see them that close. Right. I'm standing side of one of these farms less shoes, and you can hear dozens of Tigers hauling. Supposed to be fed in about a half hour right now. They're clearly hungry. There's a lot of pacing back and forth, and these extraordinarily small cages for these very big animals. I mean, you just look at these animals, you just can't believe how big they are. And then we go outside. And then there is where Carl saw him, Nicole, McComb, go so human. Man. He tracking for five years. His man. We'd heard describe how he kills Tigers in the most macabre of details. Right. They're sitting at a table doing nothing more than drinking beard smoking a cigarette wearing dirty black pants and flip flops and cargoes to him. And he sits down, and even though he knew that it would be dangerous and that he knew that he didn't wanna be found out as more than two or brings out his camera. And he starts asking these questions about like, what are you doing here? What are going to what's gonna happen? These tigers. Why are you reading these Tigers? What is this place and the man did nothing more than really just kinda laugh at the questions and didn't really answer them. And the next day. I asked Karl about that. And I said car even tracking this guy for five years and finally meet them. What was that like, and is answer was really interesting. He said, you know, I feel less strongly about this guy being a miserable human than some of the other conservationists what he said, and what he meant by that was the fact that at least this Nicole man was who he was and that seeing him in meeting with him. He wasn't didn't strike Karas taciturn menacing gangster that he might have expected. He struck him as impoverished, and this is a truth of a lot of wildlife destruction in this world is a lot of these people who initiate this are doing what they can survive. Did you find these Tigers, ultimately, Nicole said, you know, more or less that those Tigers were killed and trafficked and Tigers are gone now at least that's what Karl beliefs so coming out of this trip. He was able to collect the enormous amount of foot aggressive in video evidence that the illegal tiger trade continues to happen in Laos. Right. He had drone shots and photos and hidden camera footage. What did he do with it? So he took all this evidence to the local officials local official of his international organization called site. He's. It goes in their charges in there. And he says I have all of this proof. On the sir to noontime. He said in closing now we have. And ultimately. The answer was more or less like we can't do anything with this information. You have to send it to the people in Geneva, the top bosses back there and Karl like, but I'm here. I've all this stuff. And so ultimately, he does take all this information. And he does put it in Email, and he does send it off to the people in Geneva, which he's done many times before and the answer was nothing. They didn't respond to his Email. So after this whole trip and all the expense that he paid to gather all this evidence on the risks that he took it didn't actually change anything. No. But isn't the truth of it? I'm thirty three years old in my lifetime this world as undergone an incredible transformation. When you think of the fact that the last thirty years in Germany, seventy five percent of the insects in their nature preserves evangelist sixty percents of wildlife populations over the last forty years or so have dropped this is a world confronting end of wildness. And the reasons that we're confronting this. Is it so hard to change it? You are confronting these issues in countries that are deeply impoverished a lot of times and their governments don't have the logistical or the expertise to tackle these issues a lot of times, and we're in a world, that's more. Consumed more worried about drug trafficking, and stopping terrorists and stopping human trafficking. All of these issues are so much more important than ultimately, the ecological destruction that's ongoing. And isn't that the truth of it that this man is something of a? Don Quixote figure shouting into the wind. And is anyone gonna listen to them? Terry McCoy is reporter for the post you can find photos and videos from his investigation in Laos at post reports dot com. There has been a lot of conversation by pundits about the electable ity and who can speak to the mid west. But when they say that they usually put the midwest in a simplistic box and a narrow narrative. And too often their definition of the mid west leaves people out. I think it's been in all of our minds sort of as the field has expanded. And Senator Harris brought it up and said, I don't agree with what everyone says is electability, and I have this different idea of what that looks like Chelsea jeans is covering the twenty twenty election for the post, and lately she's been hearing a lot about this idea of electability. How electable certain candidates are. It's something that she hears from democratic voters and from democratic candidates this week, come la- Harris gave a speech at a dinner for the end of lease EP. And she talked about what it means to be electable. She made the speech in Detroit. And Michigan was obviously one of those states that went to Donald Trump in two thousand sixteen in large part by dint of white blue collar voters who had voted for Obama in eight and then flipped Trump in sixteen. And so I think that the notion that she's kind of combating this widespread thought that there is this midwestern voter who is white a blue-collar worker and can kind of go either way democrat or Republican and that they're the key Brown democrat to win the twenty twenty election. You have to be the person to appeals to them to be able to potentially take down President Trump. Right. And that that's the way the Democrats are gonna win those battleground states handed Trump the election last time, and she staying I think we're looking at this wrong. I don't think that's the only voter that matters in those areas that can deliver a win. And she saying we're boxing ourselves into this one person who isn't necessarily Representative of that area of the country. What other candidate? Said about this. It's funny. It's it seems like everyone's sort of trying to define electability for their purposes. I think you know, Harris put it in terms of race. She says that it's not the white blue collar voter. But there are minority voters that get left behind in this conversation. It leaves out people in this room who helped build cities like Detroit. Meanwhile, people like people to judge kind of redefining electability in terms of qualifications. He says why would we have people from congress be most electable win congresses? And really functioning why not have somebody who's run a functional city in balanced budget. Reparation is no less of a preparation, then spending years soaking in the ways of Washington now, it's more traditional to come out of the congress or the Senate can also be very senior member of the conference or the Senate and have never in your life manage more than a few dozen different when you've been leading city, and I think that's the kind of experience it's most relevant to the job today at the end of the day. They're all trying to define electable as themselves. But I think it's a conversation that everyone sort of grappling with and it does feel like this is a conversation that's very much rooted in gender as well. Right. That like Hillary Clinton lost? She lost because she didn't have that electability to her. But what does that mean that in the fact that she was a woman, I think you can make many criticisms of Hillary Clinton that have nothing to do with that the woman, but it it still does feel like there's some skittishness about right now going up against Donald Trump is a woman electable, definitely. And you know, I think part of what defines electability for. People ironically, given that it's may of two thousand nineteen and we're talking about this is what has happened before, you know. So it's funny to see people trying to project as they are because what else minutely defines elect ability usually is hindsight. Like, all of a sudden, Donald Trump is the electable guy because he's got a message, and he can appeal to these different groups. Well, would you have said that in may of twenty fifteen you know, maybe not. And I think the other part of that is because it's so rooted in what's happened before. And you haven't seen a woman win. There's no electable woman profile. There's no one to look at and say does she fit the template? So all of these women, whether it's Warren Harris club char, Jill LeBron are all sort of having to create their own template and combat all these things that have come up with Clinton in the past. And all these arguments against a woman president, you know, that really have nothing to do with them. It's funny because it feels like this is a debate that happens every presidential election about who is the most electable, and who would be the most appealing, but. Actually, don't think that's the case that it used to be you just thought about I wanna vote for the person who I like the most to seems to to benefit me the most. But now, there's this calculus of I one of it for the person who I think would appeal to the most other people where did that come from? You know, like many things I think Donald Trump's sort of changed the way people think about things because if you hit outlined electable, it wasn't Donald Trump before twenty sixteen suddenly you're he is. So I think now partially I think on the democratic side. There's this desperation to beat him. That has everyone playing amateur psychologists saying what most people going to like is it Joe Biden. But wait what if it's not Joe Biden everyone's trying to figure out what the mainstream candidate looks like because they want to find the one that's gonna appeal the most people in beat Donald Trump. And I feel like this is what I hear a lot from democratic voters rate that like it doesn't matter who I want to be president. It's like I just need to. Game out who is the most likely for other people to want to be president. And then I need to vote for that person. And but in a perfect world like isn't that what the primary processes for like everyone just votes for who they like. And then the person who comes out with the most votes at the end of that process ends up as the as the nominee rather than everyone trying to game out who will other people vote for the national vote for that person. Then what other people don't but for my person? And right. And it's so interesting because the early polling whatever, you know, stock you put in that among democratic voters to where asked do you want a nominee who aligns with liberal values and pulls the party left or do you want someone who can beat Donald Trump? It's really split. You hear from a lot of people that they they want the person that can beat him and was interesting about that is that I cover Senator Harris events more often than anyone else. And a lot of people. I talked to those events say, you know, my first choice would be Elizabeth Warren. But I don't think she can win. If your first choices Elizabeth Warren a perfect primary in a vacuum. You're voting for Warren. And it's so interesting because I think that that has sort of borne out lately for her in the polls where she seeing a little bit of a jump where all of a sudden, she gets a little momentum. And then everyone starts to say, oh, maybe she can win. Then all those voters come back. But it's so interesting to watch the psychology play out this primaries is very much about who everyone else's voting for. It's very middle school. I think in that way. Chelsea Jane's covers politics for the post. And now when we're thing about a different kind of florist in Richmond Virginia if you soup the look people actually come in with orchids, and they leave with orchids. The differences the orchids. They arrive with the rule sort of spent and flow it out and maybe a bit flaccid. On the ones they leave with a role Perkin blooming. My name is Adrienne Higgins. And I've been writing about horticultural Mattis fall about thirty years, and I've never ever heard of this on this immediately put up my journalistic antennae. So I found the sky called Chadwick who had created this orchid florist in the heart of Richmond's historic district. So we started out selling Arkan no shooter had we sold them. Then recipients would come back and say mister could you could you care for this orchid bring it back into boom format, and I thought well, I guess I could he will take in your kid between blooming cycles. And what that does is it relieves you of all the not just as the practical matters of how to keep you'll orchid. Going, but also the sort of emotional ones. Many people are attached to the plants or they just don't wanna throw a living thing and for two dollars a month. Sure. I'll keep this plant going. So the orchid would stay in their house during its blooming time, which would be anywhere from one to three months depending on its duration. And then they sent it back to camp, and we would grow it for another year until it blooms again. So it's usually on three months off nine months on three months off nine months and that schedule continues indefinitely. The something about this plan. The people don't want to let go of the think the very guilty about watching decline and die. It's more than just how grow off the, you know, the garden is where we as human beings touch nature, and we live in a world where it's more important than ever to be connected to the biology of planet and gardening is the way in. Adrienne Higgins is the gardening columnist for the post. That's it for today show. Thanks for listening. Check out our website at post reports dot com to find links to the stories featured in today's episode and to sign up for dealing newsletter which goes out every afternoon with a heads up on the latest show. I'm Martine powers. We'll be back tomorrow with more stories from the Washington Post.