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NEW YORK, New York—January 7, 2013—On the first day of 2013 a New York Times cover story exposed a 

bizarre criminal enterprise in which a Laotian crime syndicate hired Thai prostitutes and flew them to South 

Africa to pose as big game hunters.  This charade was part of a scam to exploit loopholes in the current 

South African hunting rules that would allow poachers to kill dozens of endangered rhinos, slaughter them 

for their horns, then export the horns to Asia as trophies ostensibly shot by the Thai prostitutes.  The horns 

would then be sold at prices up to $30,000 per pound for use as spurious medicines in Asia. 

All five of the world’s rhino species are on the verge of extinction because of this trade, based on 

superstition, which offers profits as great as the drug trade but with virtually none of the risk to the 

perpetrators. It sounds unbelievable, but it’s real. 

On the same day as the New York Times article the Turtle Conservancy (in association with Eric Goode and 

the Maritime Hotel and the Bowery Hotel) released a controversial video, The Trophy Hunter, which deals 

with the global extinction crisis and the wildly profitable trade which is one of its principal causes. This 

docu-drama made by Josh and Benny Safdie and Glenn O’Brien shows a film crew interviewing a Chinese 

collector of exotic items, including rhino horn, ivory and rare turtles. 

In response to questions and controversy over whether the film is real or fake, filmmaker Josh Safdie says 

"Fiction has created an uphill battle, and convincing people that this is a real, critical issue has somehow 

become ‘controversial.’ Little did we know, the controversy here would be the severity of the truth. We’re 

just telling it like it is: humans are the most dangerous animal on this planet. No matter how far you twist 

something, truth is always sadder and stranger than fiction.” After drugs and arms, the illegal wildlife trade 

is the world’s most lucrative illicit enterprise. While the damage it does is irreversible, the risk of 

apprehension and the penalties for such crimes are minimal. Watch The Trophy Hunter and understand why 

150 to 200 species go extinct in the wild every day. 


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