Rachel Nuwer (@RachelNuwer) is an award-winning freelance journalist who reports about science, travel, food, and adventure for The New York Times, National Geographic, Scientific American, and more. Her multi-award-winning first book, Poached: Inside the Dark World of Wildlife Trafficking, is out now.
What We Discuss with Rachel Nuwer:
- What drives the global demand for resources cruelly derived from endangered wildlife.
- Why poachers and smugglers are willing to risk their own lives to meet this demand.
- The pros and cons of solutions proposed to stem the tide of this illicit trade — from legalizing it for sustainable sourcing to synthesizing alternatives.
- Why governments are shy to throw the book at the worst offenders, and how the most clever, wealthy, and well-connected usually (but don’t always) bypass legal repercussions for their trafficking transgressions.
- What we can do here and now to promote policies for preserving these species before they vanish forever.
- And much more…
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Fair warning: if you love animals and worry about the future of the planet, this one’s going to be a bummer. But the good news is that our guest has witnessed firsthand the horrors contained within the pages of her first book — Poached: Inside the Dark World of Wildlife Trafficking — so we don’t have to. In spite of dredging up a number of uncomfortable truths, this is an important episode because it illustrates a problem that can only be fixed if more people know it exists.
On this episode, we’re joined by award-winning freelance journalist Rachel Nuwer to discuss why there’s a global demand for pangolin scales, rhinoceros horns, elephant ivory, bear gall bladders, tiger meat, tree frogs, seahorses, and other rare species — wholly or in part — for applications ranging from sham medical remedies to jewelry to delicacy dining to pets. We’ll also discuss how this illicit market is supplied, who benefits from trading these species into extinction, why governments are lax in enforcing laws meant to prevent this, and what we can do to help drive policy in the right direction so future generations can enjoy the company of these creatures before they’re gone forever. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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Miss our two-part conversation with the Caravaggio of currency counterfeiting? Catch up by starting with Episode 488: Frank Bourassa | The World’s Greatest Counterfeiter Part One here!
Thanks, Rachel Nuwer!
If you enjoyed this session with Rachel Nuwer, let her know by clicking on the link below and sending her a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- Rachel Nuwer | Website
- Rachel Nuwer | Twitter
- Rachel Nuwer | Instagram
- Rachel Nuwer | Pulitzer Center
- US Government Sells Wu-Tang Clan Album Once Owned By Martin Shkreli | NPR
- Pangolin: The Most Trafficked Mammal You’ve Never Heard Of | CNN
- I Ate and Drank Cobra in Vietnam’s Snake Village | Vice
- We Ate Rat Salad | Vice
- We Asked People in Vietnam Why They Use Rhino Horn. Here’s What They Said. | The Conversation
- Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora | CITES
- BBC Learning English
- Montenegro Details | Tobacco Control Laws
- Scientists Created Fake Rhino Horn. But Should We Use It? | The New York Times
- The Strange and Dangerous World of America’s Big Cat People | Longreads
- Online Reptile Trade Is a Free-for-All That Threatens Thousands of Species | Scientific American
- These Otters Are Popular Pets in Asia. That May Be Their Undoing. | The New York Times
- Mike Tyson Sold His Pet Tiger of 16 Years and Got a Dog Instead | Distractify
- Colombia Has a Hippo Problem, Thanks to Pablo Escobar | NPR
- Man Caught Smuggling 35 Songbirds at JFK Airport | The New York Times
- L.A. Man Accused of Smuggling King Cobras in Potato Chip Cans | Reuters
- Illegal Wildlife Trade | US Fish & Wildlife Service
- Why ‘Tiger King’ Is Not ‘Blackfish’ for Big Cats | The New York Times
- The Hard Truth About the Rhino Horn “Aphrodisiac” Market | Scientific American
- African Elephant Poaching Rates Correlate with Local Poverty, National Corruption and Global Ivory Price | Nature Communications
- Extinction: Elephants Driven to the Brink by Poaching | BBC News
- Stopping Elephant Ivory Demand | WWF
- Chinese ‘Ivory Queen’ Sentenced to 15 Years in Jail in Tanzania | NPR
- How the Case against Alleged Poaching Kingpin Boonchai Bach Fell Apart | National Geographic
- Alleged Ivory and Rhino Horn Trafficking Kingpin Extradited to the United States | IFAW
- ‘El Chapo’ Is Sentenced to Life Plus 30 Years in US Prison | NPR
- Trade Sanctions for Three Countries Over Illegal Ivory | National Geographic
- Two Years after China Bans Elephant Ivory Trade, Demand for Elephant Ivory Is Down | WWF
- Can We Sustainably Harvest Ivory? | Current Biology
- Trophy Hunting In Africa – If You Don’t Know, Now You Know | The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
- Africa’s Wildlife Conservation Should Stop Trophy Hunting | Quartz Africa
- Sex Workers Used to ‘Hunt’ Rhino | News24
- Kaziranga’s Ruthless Rangers Have Reduced Rhino Poaching by Simply Gunning Down Poachers at Sight | Quartz India
- The War on Rhino Poaching Has Human Casualties | The Atlantic
- Rhino Dehorning Explained: A Conservation Approach to Save the Rhino | Wildlife ACT
- Is Farming Rhinos the Only Way to Save Them? | Delayed Gratification
- Is the End of ‘House of Horror’ Bear Bile Factories in Sight? | The Guardian
- Five Things You Need to Know About Bear Bile Farming | Animals Asia Foundation
- Synthetic Bear Bile Could Improve Effectiveness of Human Heart Transplants | The New Economy
- Thank You for Smoking | Prime Video
- Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone | Wikipedia
- The ‘Lawless’ Playgrounds of Laos | Al Jazeera
- Special Economic Zone (SEZ) | Investopedia
- Kris Buckner | Who Does Counterfeiting Really Hurt? | Jordan Harbinger
- Tim Ballard | Putting a Stop to Child Sex Trafficking | Jordan Harbinger
- Chinese Youth Embrace New Attitudes Toward Pets and Wildlife | National Geographic
Rachel Nuwer | Inside the Dark World of Wildlife Trafficking (Episode 545)
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Special thanks to Starbucks for sponsoring this episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:04] Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:07] Rachel Nuwer: There was this guy, a few years ago in China, he was like some big Chinese medicine guy, like head of whatever organization. In some speech, he was like, "Oh, you know, the bears don't mind. It's like a tickle for them. It feels good." And then there was just like this crazy amazing social media backfire, like memes of him getting f*cked in the ass by a bear and saying like, "It tickles." People who are with it, get it, obviously, but I think there's just willful ignorance about the state of these animals.
[00:00:42] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, astronauts and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional organized crime figure, national security director, or a rocket scientist. And each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
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[00:01:30] Today, on the show, seahorses, pangolin scales, rhino horn, elephant tusks, cacti, bear gallbladders, tree frogs, just a small sample of the wildlife items bought and sold on the black market everyday across the planet. My guest, Rachel Nuwer went undercover to see it all firsthand today. We'll take an inside look at who is killing endangered species for a meal, a bullsh*t healthcare, or just for decoration or even sports. We'll see just how truly bizarre the illicit wildlife trade is, how damaging it can be, and what's being done about it. And fair warning, this episode is pretty depressing. So if you want to listen to another episode of the show, that's possibly a little bit less of a downer. Maybe the one about forced human organ harvesting, or maybe an episode that's merely about a hitman or some terrorism because this, this one is dark. But seriously, if you love animals, this is going to be a heartbreaker. Maybe no kids in the car for this one.
[00:02:23] If you're wondering how I managed to book all the great authors, thinkers, and creators every single week, it is because of my network. I'm teaching you how to build your network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. And by the way, most of the guests on the show, they subscribe to the course. So come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong. Now, here's Rachel Nuwer.
[00:02:44] So cacti and frogs are now seemingly as valuable or more valuable than gold day, eh?
[00:02:50] Rachel Nuwer: Ah, you know, we're getting there. It depends on the gold, I guess, and the cactus.
[00:02:54] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, but it sounds like tree frogs are the next Bitcoin, basically.
[00:02:58] Rachel Nuwer: Don't tell anybody that I don't want to tree frog rush.
[00:03:01] Jordan Harbinger: You know what? That's actually a really good point. Like all jokes aside, when I read the book — and by the way, I'm fully ready for this to be like the most depressing episode that I've done.
[00:03:10] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah.
[00:03:10] Jordan Harbinger: The details we're about to discuss, they are horrific. And I did an episode on human organ harvesting from live people done by—
[00:03:17] Rachel Nuwer: Oh my God.
[00:03:18] Jordan Harbinger: —the Chinese Communist Party run hospitals. And so like, this is even worse, I'm telling . Like, if you have a soul and you like animals at all, this episode is going to be kind of rough.
[00:03:29] Rachel Nuwer: I want to apologize to listeners in advance.
[00:03:32] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, it is kind of like that, right? Like economic development drives things like logging, environmental damage, pollution. There's no surprise there. We've been learning about that since kindergarten. And that's if you're 40 right? Or 50, but what's seemingly worse is this menagerie or buffet of topics, pun intended, I guess that we're going to use — that we're going to talk about here today. Because in many places in Asia, for example, eating endangered species is a status symbol in large part, because it's rare. And can you tell us about this? Because that makes this whole thing even worse somehow, because it's not like, "Oh, I need this because it's cancer medicine," and you're like, "Eh, you're wrong?" It's like, "No, no, there are two of these and you're eating one of them." And you're like, 'What?" And they're like, "Yeah, you're welcome. Welcome to our corner of the world."
[00:04:19] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah. I mean, that's really one of the saddest parts of this whole illegal wildlife trade thing. It really is for a lot of people about rarity. I mean, I guess in the same way, you'd think of things here, like, "Oh, you have this like really expensive car that only a few people can have," or like this really rare, I don't know, record, whatever. If it's rare, that means if other people do have what other people don't have that makes you special.
[00:04:42] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, like the guy who bought the Wu-Tang album and he's the only one — and it was like Pharma Bro who bought it.
[00:04:46] Rachel Nuwer: Oh my God that guy. Right. Oh, that guy's awful. Anyway—
[00:04:50] Jordan Harbinger: He's in prison for being a horrible person, but we can't really — and part of what your work talks about is we can't even put the people in prison who are hunting pangolin because it's just this whole industry and it's this whole food chain literally, or pyramid of people. Some of whom are just trying to survive in many ways. And others who are just have no morals and aren't going to care until they're dead. They're going to eat this stuff, whether we like it or not.
[00:05:15] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah, exactly. I mean, the people who are being put in prison are the guy hunting the pangolin, but you know, that's not who we need to be targeting. We need to be targeting the people who are running the business and especially the people who are driving that demand by paying a lot of money for that pangolin.
[00:05:32] Jordan Harbinger: So finding wildlife restaurants in Vietnam and China — you talk about this in the book, and there are stories like this. I even ate a cobra in Vietnam a long time ago, which was, I'll tell you about that second. It was horrible, it was gross.
[00:05:45] Rachel Nuwer: Oh man.
[00:05:46] Jordan Harbinger: I kind of like have nightmare about it. But how open/overt is this? Mine was in early two thousands. We had to drive really far to get there because there weren't — it wasn't near Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City. It wasn't something that you could get at a stall on the side of the road. You know, it was kind of like this really specialty place and they had snakes. They didn't have pangolin, at least, nothing on the menu looked like that.
[00:06:09] Rachel Nuwer: Interesting. Well, you know, I got to say, I think you were taken on a ride, so to speak because if you know where to look, it's like really easy to find this stuff right in the city. Yeah. I mean, I don't know who like booked the trip for you, but maybe they just want to—
[00:06:21] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, it was one of those, "Hey, let's ask the taxi driver where we can get a cobra," and then 40 minutes later, we're probably three blocks away from our hotel. Yeah.
[00:06:29] Rachel Nuwer: Exactly. Yeah, I mean, in Vietnam, especially if you know where to look, you can get anything, especially, if you know who to call. You know, I had a friend of mine call ahead to all these fancy restaurants to ask about a pangolin and they're all like, "Yeah, we can get you a pangolin but you know, you need to come in so we can like, see you and you put a deposit down," and things like that.
[00:06:49] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Because they're like $700 each, right?
[00:06:52] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah. They're super expensive. And I mean, it is super illegal. So, you know, they want to see who they're working with. She said these guys sounded pretty frightening but we went to one of those restaurants together that she had called. Well, yeah, we didn't order a pangolin. It was just like a typical restaurant. Like there were families there, there were people on dates. It felt not threatening at all. So it's not like this is some like dark alley kind of thing, which is what I had in mind before I went to these restaurants. It's really just like openly done at nice looking places.
[00:07:21] Jordan Harbinger: It makes sense that it would be at nice restaurants though, 20/20 hindsight, right? Because if I'm a rich guy, who's going to spend $1,500 in a country where that's half your annual income. I don't want to eat it in a basement of a restaurant where there's like cockroaches running around or the chefs chasing mice out of the kitchen and chopping up a live fish in front of me — I guess maybe that doesn't bother some people, but like I want to eat it in the nice place that has a view of the river, where I'm going with my family and my business partners.
[00:07:51] Rachel Nuwer: Exactly.
[00:07:52] Jordan Harbinger: You know, I don't want to go somewhere disgusting. I'm paying for the ambience as well as the pangolin unfortunately.
[00:07:58] Rachel Nuwer: Exactly.
[00:07:59] Jordan Harbinger: The place where I went in Vietnam again, 20 years ago — gross, I wouldn't do it again. But that they didn't want to let us in. Which was like, oh, this is a legit. They don't want to let us in. And the taxi driver was like, "No, no, no, no, no. Hey, dah, dah, dah, they asked me about this and I've been driving them around all day. They're just idiots from America and the Netherlands." That's what I assume he said. My Vietnamese is a little rusty, but you know, he knew we were legit because we were young and we were just like dumb ass is singing Backstreet Boys tunes in the back of his taxi with this driver and stuff like that and drinking.
[00:08:32] And I remember they brought the snake out for us and it was a big ass cobra. They put it on the floor and there's a guy in like flip flops and shorts holding it by the tail, which this guy has stones. Like, I've never seen. And then this Japanese guy comes over and tells us — you know, he's the only guy who speaks English, like in the whole restaurant. And he's like, "This is a good cobra because it's aggressive." That's what he said.
[00:08:56] Rachel Nuwer: Oh my God. He would know for sure.
[00:08:58] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, yeah, right.
[00:08:59] Rachel Nuwer: Thanks, dude.
[00:09:00] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Thanks man. I mean, it looked pissed and aggressive and we were like, oh, and then we instantly felt kind of bad because we're like, this is a big snake. You know, this is a big snake that they caught in the jungle.
[00:09:09] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah, totally.
[00:09:11] Jordan Harbinger: When we were hiking through the jungle, we saw the snakes in cages and I'd say, "Why do they have the snake in the cage?" And they would say, "Oh, either they're going to eat it and/or they let it run in the house and catch mice. And then they put it back in the cage." It wasn't always a cobra in the cage, but we saw them like on these—
[00:09:26] Rachel Nuwer: It's like the cat of Asia.
[00:09:27] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I think so. Like we would be walking on these jungle paths in the middle of the jungle and they'd be like these elevated wooden planks. So you can hike on because it's really moist and you don't want to step on the jungle floor cause of all kinds of critters and they'd have snakes, like in these cages near a lot of the houses or even cages full to the brim with rats.
[00:09:44] Rachel Nuwer: Right. Yeah. Definitely saw those rats.
[00:09:46] Jordan Harbinger: That was weird, right? Like a cage with 50 rats in it. And you're just thinking, "Why are you catching these?" And they'd say, "Oh, they're going to feed them to snakes," which I guess they raise and breed them.
[00:09:56] Rachel Nuwer: Actually, I ate a rat in Vietnam. It's pretty tasty. I got to say.
[00:10:02] Jordan Harbinger: Really? I'm surprised because you think — when I think of rats, I think that the rats that are around where you live in Brooklyn, you wouldn't eat those.
[00:10:08] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah, exactly. I don't think I would. Yeah, those aren't like free-range organic rats.
[00:10:13] Jordan Harbinger: No, no. They're eating like plastic cups.
[00:10:15] Rachel Nuwer: This is like a country rat. Exactly.
[00:10:18] Jordan Harbinger: So I told my friend, by the way, at the end of this meal that — because they caught the snake, put it in a bag, weighed it, and then they brought out different pieces of it. And like you described this in your book, but they will take the heart out while it's alive — again, this is why this episode is disgusting. They'll take the heart out while it's cool. They pour blood from the snake into this bottle of vodka.
[00:10:40] Rachel Nuwer: Yup.
[00:10:40] Jordan Harbinger: They take the heart and they put it in a shot glass, and then they pour the blood vodka in the shot glass and they say, "Quick! Who's the oldest male?" which was me. And they say, "Do this shot of—"
[00:10:50] Rachel Nuwer: Did you do it?
[00:10:50] Jordan Harbinger: "—snake-heart vodka." I did it. I did it.
[00:10:53] Rachel Nuwer: Oh my God.
[00:10:53] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It's disgusting.
[00:10:56] Rachel Nuwer: It's so nasty. I'm judging you.
[00:10:59] Jordan Harbinger: You should be in. And honestly, I remember telling my friend at the end of the meal, I'm like, "If karma is real, I'm going to get some weird ass tropical disease that I'll have for the rest of my life, from like the angry snake spirit that I just ingested after killing it like brutally. And now I'm a podcaster. So this punishment is — the karma is real.
[00:11:16] Rachel Nuwer: Nice, nice, the podcast parasites.
[00:11:18] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I've got the bug. But it really is like only more barbaric from there if that's even possible. You know, traditional Chinese medicine, the more rare and wild, the more valuable. Correct me if I'm wrong, right? But this is traditional Chinese medicine, or at least this sort of like eating a cobra for virility, rhino horn, all these things that we'll talk about, there's no science here.
[00:11:39] Rachel Nuwer: So yeah, there's almost across the board, there's no like medical efficacy that's been proved for these things. There's a few weird exceptions. Like bear bile actually does have some properties that is really helpful, but you can actually just synthesize the active component of bear bile. Like you don't need to, you know, stick a catheter into a bear's body and like milk it's bile, you can just make it in a lab.
[00:12:02] Jordan Harbinger: I suppose. Good to know.
[00:12:04] Rachel Nuwer: It's good to know. Yeah, if you're open to using it, but unfortunately, so many people like want the real deal.
[00:12:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I mean, there's that sort of bias that natural things are, right?
[00:12:14] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah.
[00:12:14] Jordan Harbinger: Because sometimes they are.
[00:12:15] Rachel Nuwer: Natural things are natural and natural things are like more potent and powerful. I mean, in the case of the bear, I would argue against that because you know, you're working with like a diseased animal. You're going to be getting like pus in your bear bile and cancer cells and, you know, sick bear bile.
[00:12:30] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Yeah. Especially the way they treat the bear. And we'll talk about that towards the bottom of the show.
[00:12:34] Rachel Nuwer: Sure.
[00:12:35] Jordan Harbinger: Rhino horn is kind of where this all seems to start right now. They make knives out of it. It's supposed to cure cancer. It's supposed to cure hangovers, but the rhino horn is just made out of keratin, like our fingernails, right?
[00:12:46] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah, exactly. So rhino horn, the primary ingredient is keratin. So, you might as well just chew your nails and then you can get the same effect from it. It has been used for thousands of years. So, in Yemen it's made under these dagger handles, but in China it was shaped into these cups and like Kings or whoever would put their liquids in the cup and supposedly it would like fizzle if there was poison in the cups. So it was used as like a poison detecting agent. Traditionally, it's also used as what's called a cooling agent. So if a kid has a fever or something, you can give them rhino horn and it's supposed to bring down their fever. Again, though there's no medical efficacy for any of this stuff. And the whole like cancer thing and hangover thing, those are new fangled uses for rhino horn. So things that probably just like smart marketers have made up like, "Oh, hey, like it'll cure your dying relative with cancer." Just basically like being a predator and going after people who are most desperate or targeting people with the biggest egos. You know, like bring rhino horn to your party with your business guys and show off how rich and wealthy and powerful you are for having this super illegal expensive stuff, and it'll cure your hangover.
[00:13:55] Jordan Harbinger: These guys have not discovered cocaine, apparently, if you want to show off to your rich friends.
[00:14:02] Rachel Nuwer: Well, they actually give a sh*t about cocaine. You know, you'll get executed if you have cocaine. Nobody cares if you have some rhino horn.
[00:14:08] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That's an unfortunate twist, right? Don't do this thing that in many ways doesn't hurt if you use it in moderation, that's on the black market that we could probably control a lot more. Use this thing that requires us to kill animals that are endangered and smuggle them illicitly across the border. All the same harms of cocaine, except no real end use at all and much harder to obtain and requires more, somehow even more suffering.
[00:14:35] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah. I mean, it's a real shame. Just that there's been so much value placed on species. You know why.
[00:14:42] Jordan Harbinger: Countries front, like they're doing something about this, but it seems like they're really not. Can you take us through that a little bit? Tell me about that. Because it sort of sounds like there's all these conventions and things, laws, and then when it comes down to enforcement or implementation, it's just kind of like, "Nah, we just wanted to go to Geneva."
[00:15:00] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah. It's really piecemeal, you know, like some countries do things. The US is good about it, but it's like, it's good, but there's so much more that we could be doing. It's like a few million here and there for a problem that's threatening the continuation of thousands of species. Then there's other countries that say they're doing things and they just really aren't. So it's all across the spectrum. So there's this convention. It's called CITES and it's Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of flora and fauna. So basically it's a treaty to regulate trade of endangered plants and animals, almost every nation on earth is a signatory to it, but it's really a trade treaty. It's about what can be traded. It's not a conservation treaty. It's not like, you know, protecting species. It's more like, can we like sell these things or trade them sustainably? And a lot of people that have sway over CITES are in the industry. You know, it's not just like scientists, it's people like in the ivory industry or whatever. So there's a lot of conflicting interests. There's a lot of like backroom deals that go on at these conventions about what will and won't be listed. And then there's just like people who, you know, make up like fake passes to have species traded on fake permits. There's tons and tons of corruption and corruption really is what greases the wheels of the illegal wildlife trade. So yeah, like CITES is good on paper, but in actuality, like it's far, far, far from perfect.
[00:16:24] Jordan Harbinger: There's an obvious conflict of interest for having the officials who are responsible for combating the trade actively using the product themselves, or having to keep superstitious world's dwellers and rich people happy in their country. And it also reminds me of there's this UN body and it has something to do with transportation. I forget the name, but basically they're responsible for like Seaway transport. And so whenever they get together to discuss like, "Hey, these ships are using a ton of petroleum and they're polluting a ton and they like have no — there's nothing on the smoke exhaust to make the pollution less damaging." They're like, "Oh yeah, we need to commission a study that by 2050 fully evaluates the scope of how much pollution we are actually doing." And then they're like, "In 10 years, we'll convene the committee to select how we're going to do that." It's just bullsh*t.
[00:17:13] Rachel Nuwer: Exactly. Yeah. It freaking sucks. I mean, CITES is the same. It just moves super slowly because of just a bunch of bureaucrats. You know, things don't get done.
[00:17:21] Jordan Harbinger: Like bureaucrats that have a vested interest in making sure that nothing ever actually happens, but then they can go to the UN and go, "Look, we got so much done last week. See you in five years," right?
[00:17:32] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah, definitely. I mean, when I was reporting my book, I heard from several sources who I trust that the Vietnamese CITES delegation members of that actually use rhino horn and believe that it works. So, you know, like how are you going to get anywhere when that's the situation?
[00:17:47] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, it's almost like somebody who's a drug dealer saying, "Yeah, we definitely need to clamp down on this stuff," as they like go into their stash and rip a line at the meeting.
[00:17:57] Rachel Nuwer: Totally.
[00:17:58] Jordan Harbinger: These stories of you grinding up the rhino horn and drinking it when you were doing the undercover work, you're just doing it at the table. It sounds so nonchalant. And I'm just imagining what the reaction would be if I'm at a bar or a restaurant and I'm like, "You know, I'm a little tired," and I just sprinkle on a line of cocaine and I'm like, right? And, "Oh, ignore that."
[00:18:18] Rachel Nuwer: Literally, like that. I believe when this happened. So yeah, I'm sitting in this restaurant in Hanoi and this guy whips out his rhino horn in a cookie tin of all things and is just like grinding it up in front of all the customers, in front of the waitress. And that really brought it into focus for me, like good God. Just the impunity with which this stuff happens in places like Vietnam. Like, how are we ever going to win?
[00:18:43] Jordan Harbinger: Sort of like trying to ban smoking in a country where everyone smokes and they don't believe it's bad for you cause they tell you that it's healthy for your spirit animal or whatever. It reminds me of — a long time ago, I think, maybe a decade or so, Montenegro was the first country in Europe to ban smoking. I've been to Montenegro and I'm thinking like, "I met 14, 12-year-old kids that were smoking in Montenegro."
[00:19:05] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah.
[00:19:06] Jordan Harbinger: And I remember them telling me that when they were in school, they could smoke in—
[00:19:10] Rachel Nuwer: Oh my God.
[00:19:11] Jordan Harbinger: —depending on the teacher in Montenegro. I'm like when they banned smoking, it just doesn't make any sense to me. Maybe they did, but I just can't wrap my mind around that being the first country to ban smoking.
[00:19:22] Rachel Nuwer: Wow, that's like a really good jeopardy question, actually, if we have known that.
[00:19:26] Jordan Harbinger: No, it's random, it's kind of like the last place.
[00:19:29] Rachel Nuwer: I wonder how the smoking ban is doing now.
[00:19:31] Jordan Harbinger: I do too. Like maybe, maybe it worked, maybe they were just like, "Hey, stop this, it's disgusting."
[00:19:37] Rachel Nuwer: The rules are the rules.
[00:19:38] Jordan Harbinger: The rules are the rules, but Montenegro's not the rules of the rules kind of place.
[00:19:41] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah. I mean, neither is Vietnam. I'll tell you.
[00:19:44] Jordan Harbinger: We talked about this a bit earlier about making rhino horn or pangolin scales synthetically. I know we kind of can't really do it yet, but it also occurred to me that maybe we can't solve a pseudo scientific problem, like a superstition problem or a belief with science, because it's all based on belief. We can't really make something and say — I guess you can say it's just as effective as the real thing, because it has no effect whatsoever. But if we believe that this comes from the animal and then it's not necessarily the material, but like the spirit of the animal is in the rhino horn. You can't just say this is synthetic. They made a synthetic spirit in there because the whole thing is bullsh*t and belief based in any case. Right? So you can't kind of like fake your way through that.
[00:20:25] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah. I mean, it's such a complicated thing. So where do you even begin? Yeah, first of all, people assign value to the animal itself, to the wild animals. So like, that's the first thing you need to know. Like, people don't want a fake product, even if it's genetically the same, they want a product that comes from a wild animal. Like you just got to know that getting into this. Second thing is that they actually already are. Lots of fake rhino horns over there. There are water buffalo horns. And that's like, what 90 percent of the market is in Vietnam. It's actually just water buffalo horns that people buy as rhino horns. But the people who have the money and the power, they get their real things. So they're commissioning people to take a photo of the dead animal and bring back what they call wet horns, which is a horn, like with flesh still stuck to it. So they know it wasn't like some like BS lamb horn or like water buffalo horn. So yeah, there's already fake things over there. People have talked about creating synthetic rhino horn and flooding the market. But again, it just like, if people want the real thing, they're going to get the real thing and that's just going to confuse law enforcement. So instead of encouraging this by making fake things and legitimizing this practice by being like, "Here, you know, here's this other thing you can use." But still doesn't work because none of this stuff works. It's better to just try to ban it and to change people's minds.
[00:21:41] Jordan Harbinger: So it sounds like you're saying legal trade might actually increase demand.
[00:21:46] Rachel Nuwer: Exactly. You know, it's kind of like confirming like, oh, this works, you know, it must work because the government just legalized it.
[00:21:53] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:21:53] Rachel Nuwer: They're assigning value to it. So it's better to just try to get like into people's heads and change the zeitgeists of like how people assign value to things and what they believe in.
[00:22:05] Jordan Harbinger: Let's talk about exotic pets as well. This is something that we've seen in movies and like, I assume Tiger King has made this worse as well. Now that we've seen that you can have baby tigers for two months until they get too big and they kill you.
[00:22:21] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah, exactly.
[00:22:22] Jordan Harbinger: Who's getting rare pets besides Mike Tyson.
[00:22:25] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah. And Joe Exotic. Yeah, like weird collectors. And I got to — unfortunately I had to stereotype here because it's true. It's mostly guys.
[00:22:33] Jordan Harbinger: Well, yeah.
[00:22:35] Rachel Nuwer: And you know, there'll be like a reptile guy or an insect guy or a bird person. And people kind of stick within their little niche and some people just get completely obsessed with collecting and hoarding, like certain types of animals. Unlike the wild meat and traditional medicine thing, this is a big, big problem here in the US, also in Europe, in Japan. And it is becoming more popular in places like China and Thailand and South Korea, as wealth goes up.
[00:23:07] Jordan Harbinger: What type of pets are we talking about? Right. There's tigers, of course. But what else? You mentioned birds, snakes, and reptiles. Are these dangerous ones? Are they just random people who collect, like they have every type of turtle.
[00:23:19] Rachel Nuwer: It really just depends. You know, it's hard to like generalize because everybody's different, but it kind of comes back to the thing we talked about earlier where it — when you're a super hardcore pet person, the rarity becomes like the appeal. So, you know, you want like the rarest snake, or you want like that lizard that was like, just discovered in a tiny island off the coast of Vietnam. So it's really about having like the coolest of the cool, like the rarest of the rare and showing off that way and like being special through the animals you own. With the tiger stuff, it's kind of interesting because there also is like this strange element of macho that comes in, especially for men. Like, "Oh yeah. I've got this big tiger and I can subdue it, and therefore, like, I'm powerful because I'm like the owner or the master of this big beast."
[00:24:06] Jordan Harbinger: Except they totally can't. Like Mike Tyson famously kept his in a car sometimes. And it would like wreck the whole car because it's a f*cking tiger.
[00:24:15] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah, exactly. It's a predatory killing machine, like honed by evolution. Yeah, exactly.
[00:24:23] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. He said it would shred the leather in the car — I'm going off memory here — but it would like shred the leather in the car, of course. And he said sometimes it could just literally take the roof off the car from the inside of the car.
[00:24:34] Rachel Nuwer: That sounds like a lot, but like, yeah. I mean, depending on the car, maybe.
[00:24:38] Jordan Harbinger: I mean it's some luxury vehicle.
[00:24:39] Rachel Nuwer: He's driving like a convertible or something.
[00:24:41] Jordan Harbinger: I don't know. They're pretty damn strong animals, I guess if you break the window and then you could probably — I don't know. I don't know how strong a tiger is. It's wild. I guess I understand the appeal there, but it also seems totally psycho to have this. Then again —
[00:24:54] Rachel Nuwer: It is.
[00:24:54] Jordan Harbinger: —most of the people that you kind of famously see with tigers and alligators and things like that are like drug cartel type of people who are heavy-duty machismo guys.
[00:25:03] Rachel Nuwer: Exactly. It's just a way of showing might and showing power. And there was a policeman I interviewed about the tiger thing. He specializes in all things, exotic animals. And yeah, he said, oftentimes he would be like going and do a drug bust. And then it's like, holy sh*t, there's like an alligator in the basement or a tiger in the bathroom. It's definitely something associated with like mafia drug types.
[00:25:27] Jordan Harbinger: How do we stop the importation of these types of pets? Because this seems trickier. I can fly with a lizard and no one's going to go, "Wait a minute. Is that the new one? They just discovered the Galápagos Islands." I'm just going to say, "No, it's a newt. I bought it for my kid," right?
[00:25:41] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah, totally. I mean, that's a huge problem. So yeah, like the US has laws where — again, we're a signatory of CITES. So anything CITES' regulated, we're supposed to have a permit for. Then the US also has the Endangered Species Act, you know, anything on that needs to be regulated. We also have something called the Lacey Act, which basically means that we respect the laws of other countries. So if a lizard is illegal or protected in Indonesia, you can't bring it into the US even if the U S doesn't happen. So that all sounds great on paper, but then you got to think that, you know, we only have a handful of fish and wildlife agents who are the ones in charge of inspecting all these shipments and like imports — and, you know, they can't be expected to know like every single species in the world. So yeah, it is really easy to smuggle animals in or to label them one thing when they're another thing or, you know, to like strap them to your body and fly with them. So it's a big problem.
[00:26:38] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest, Rachel Nuwer. We'll be right back.
[00:26:42] This episode is sponsored in part by Canva. Making content is an essential part of what I do to keep the show going, but it hasn't always been a seamless creative process. We need thumbnails for YouTube and designs on the website and social media. None of the above are anything I want anything to do with, generally. But ever since we found Canvas Pro, we can design anything like a pro on any device. That's the thing I don't need a freaking workstation for this. Canvas Pro is a design platform that empowers you to create and share stunning content in just a few clicks. Jen's already used Canva to create custom thank-you cards, Jayden's two-year-old birthday invitation and a snazzy looking invoice for the show. Whether you're a design professional, or you're just getting started, designing with Canvas Pro is amazingly fast and it's fun. The best features are the thousands, in my opinion, are the thousands of professionally made templates that are easy to customize with simple drag-and-drop features. Or you can start a design from scratch using fonts, photos, videos, all readily available within Canva. So basically, you can be a total hack like me and still get it,.
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[00:27:55] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by LifeLock. Traveling on summer vacation is a great way to disconnect, but sometimes you just need to use public Wi-Fi, for example, to take care of a little email, post some photos of your pets on social media. Unfortunately, cybercriminals can spy on unsecured, public Wi-Fi networks to see your browsing history, read emails, even see your passwords. And I know this because I used to do that sh*t. Every day, we put our information at risk on the Internet and in an instant, a cybercriminal can steal what's yours. Sometimes even harm your finances and your credit, all right, I never did that. Good thing, there's LifeLock. LifeLock helps detect a wide range of identity threats, like your social security number for sale on the dark web, which I have found. If they detect your information has potentially been compromised, they'll send you an alert. You have access to a dedicated restoration specialist if you become a victim.
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[00:28:56] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Simple Mobile. At Simple Mobile, you get the no contract advantage. You can get a powerful nationwide 5G network all without a contract. 5G capable device and SIM required. Actual availability, coverage, and speed may vary. 5G network not available in all areas. 5G upload speeds, not yet available. Simple Mobile, out with the old, in with the simple.
[00:29:17] And now back to Rachel Nuwer on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:29:22] I vaguely remember reading about, "Passengers called the security on the man because they heard birds chirping," or they're like, "A snake crawled out of his leg pant on the plane."
[00:29:33] Rachel Nuwer: Yes, I love those stories. I mean, it's horrific like thinking about the suffering those animals are going through, but like, those stories are so freaking ridiculous. But yeah, people will have like snakes in their pants or like bird eggs and like these crazy contraptions on their chest.
[00:29:47] Jordan Harbinger: I can't imagine flying with like 400 snails in my underwear and back, or like birds, live birds strapped to me that are like muffled or like you said, snakes where they're like duct taped to the guy and I'm thinking like, oh my God, for like a 14-hour Vietnam-LAX flight.
[00:30:08] Rachel Nuwer: I know, right? Like this flight's already long enough without having to like, worry about the snakes in your pants.
[00:30:14] Jordan Harbinger: Good Lord. Especially even if it's not a poisonous snake, it's gross. But imagine you're like, "Wow, this is — I've got like a coral snake taped to my ankle."
[00:30:21] Rachel Nuwer: Oh my God. Exactly. I mean, but it just goes to show like how much money is to be made in this illegal trade. Like that's why people are going through all this trouble so they can make money.
[00:30:30] Jordan Harbinger: Reporting on wildlife smuggling, like we're doing right now, supposedly can increase demand. So I was almost on the fence about doing this because it seems like Tiger King increased the demand for tigers, unfortunately, because they kind of glossed over the whole thing where it was like, "Hey, they are miserable. And the reason they tear people's arms off, one, it's their nature. But two, they've been imprisoned by these people." And like Joe Exotic kind of there's a lot of well-founded suspicion that he just kills them when they get too old if he can't sell them.
[00:31:00] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah, for sure. I mean, yeah, he was prosecuted for killing three tigers. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
[00:31:07] Jordan Harbinger: So does reporting on things like this actually increase — I mean, you report on this too, so I assume you've come to the decision that reporting on increasing awareness is better than letting it go undiscussed.
[00:31:17] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah. I mean, I feel like people are going to find out things anyway, like you can't hide information. Like you can find out the value of rhino horn. Like when rhino horns first started being a thing, a bunch of NGOs are like, "Oh, we're not going to say how much rhino horn is worth," but it's like, "Okay, well, you can just Google it and it pops up." So you might as well just say it so the people can see how significant an issue of this is. That said there is certain types of information you really don't want to get out there. So a lot of times poachers and traffickers or whatever, we'll go through the scientific literature for a new species that were discovered, and they will find out through what scientists report, like where to go to poach that animal. So scientists have had to get a lot more cautious about not revealing the location of where they found some new species and, you know, I would never do that myself just to avoid that.
[00:32:06] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. So the poachers are literally going through scientific journals and going, "Oh, this uninhabited island off the coast of like—" like you said before, "Vietnam. They found a new species of bird there. Let's charter a boat and kill these and then bring them back or bring them back alive."
[00:32:23] Rachel Nuwer: A hundred percent, yeah, a hundred percent like that happens. It's happened multiple times, like tipped off by the scientists. It's really sad.
[00:32:31] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, because if you're a scientist, you're not probably think — you're just like, "Oh my gosh, look, we went to this tiny place. You'd never believe what we found there. This is amazing." You're not thinking, "Oh, people are going to go murder as many of these as possible to make money."
[00:32:43] Rachel Nuwer: Exactly, yeah, but unfortunately that's the world we live in.
[00:32:47] Jordan Harbinger: Good Lord. So this isn't quite depressing enough yet. I want to talk about the hunting of a long time ago, a buddy whose parents were Serbian diplomats, and I think like Kenya showed me his tusk collection, which was really hard to look at in person. And really, it was impressive in the literal sense of the word where you just go, "oh my God, this thing is huge." It was so big. You had to carry it with both hands. You couldn't carry it for a really long time. I mean, it probably weighed like 40 pounds. It's just one tusk. It was enormous and he had a bunch. And this was just a kid who was like bored and decided to collect these things. So I can imagine how freely available these must've been and then I guess '90s or early 2000s.
[00:33:30] Rachel Nuwer: Dear Lord. I mean—
[00:33:31] Jordan Harbinger: And still are.
[00:33:32] Rachel Nuwer: —technically like he shouldn't have been able to collect those in the '90s because international trade of ivory was banned in 1989. So yeah, you might want to ask your friend about this.
[00:33:41] Jordan Harbinger: Well, again, diplomats, right? So no one's inspecting anything that he's shipping.
[00:33:46] Rachel Nuwer: Right.
[00:33:46] Jordan Harbinger: He can buy it wherever. And he's got diplomatic immunity. "Go ahead. Arrest me for buying this. Screw you. I have diplomatic immunity, whatever."
[00:33:53] Rachel Nuwer: He sounds like a really, really nice guy.
[00:33:56] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Charming, right?
[00:33:58] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah. That is a big problem. Like, there's been all these cases of like North Korean diplomats and Chinese diplomats caught with all this ivory. And again, like you said, it's just like, "Come at me, bro."
[00:34:08] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. When I say friend, by the way, I mean a guy I met in Serbia. I don't mean a guy that I'm still in touch with.
[00:34:13] Rachel Nuwer: Dude, yeah, okay.
[00:34:14] Jordan Harbinger: And furthermore, when he showed me this, he was probably 20 and had it for 10 years. So it's not like he went out and bought it. or his stupid parents probably got it from him.
[00:34:23] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah.
[00:34:24] Jordan Harbinger: Or it was a gift, you know, like, "Hey, your son might want this really cool thing. That's endangered. That he can't do anything with."
[00:34:29] Rachel Nuwer: Like an elephant tooth, hurrah.
[00:34:31] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Yeah. So in 10 years, over half of Africa's elephants have disappeared and it took forever to get this ivory ban. And then they're trying to make it sustainable. What percentage of elephants are just gone now?
[00:34:43] Rachel Nuwer: It depends on like where you start from in time, but like a good statistic that I like to cite because it brings it into focus for modern audiences is between 2007 and 2015, 30 percent of savanna elephants. So the iconic big elephants we think of disappeared and poaching was a major driver of that, of course. We're looking at — I suck at numbers off the top of my head, but I believe about 400,000 elephants remaining in Africa, savanna elephants.
[00:35:12] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. I mean, it sounds like a lot and not a lot at the same time, right? When you think about the whole concept about it.
[00:35:17] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah, if you think about — and also considering that, you know, there used to be millions and now this is what we're left with and they're, yeah, dwindling.
[00:35:24] Jordan Harbinger: Why are people still investing in things like ivory? I mean, they're not snorting it or putting it on their wiener or whatever they're doing with rhino horns. Why is Ivory's still seen as like an auspicious investment?
[00:35:35] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah. Great question. I mean, it's just like something that has been valued culturally for a really long time in Asia. Just like we like gold or diamonds. It's a beautiful material. I mean, everybody's really lovely when it's carved and there's a whole carving industry there. Like artists who have their entire livelihood about like making these crazy carvings out of ivory. But yeah, it's just a material. Like we can use something else. There's fake ivory or there's anything else basically.
[00:36:05] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It seems like the problem with it, I think also why one of the reasons we can't stop it, I would guess is there's probably not a ton of jobs for young people in many African countries. Right? So if you can just get a rifle from your friend that you can rent or buy, you can now start shooting elephants and essentially sawing the tusk off, which is kind of like they're animals that grow a giant tusk of cocaine out of their face times two, in an area where there's no jobs or little jobs. And all you have to do is run around the countryside. It's like hunting is sort of a — if you don't mind that whole animal killing thing, it's probably a nice activity that you enjoy, right? You're hanging out outside, or you can camp. Then you step into the illegal protected environment, which is probably a little sketchy and dangerous. You shoot an animal, you saw the tusks off, and you race back home and now you've made like your annual income or at least several months of income off of this. And it seems like there's no way we can stop this at the root.
[00:37:10] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah, exactly. I mean, well, one thing to clarify, a lot of the people who are doing the poaching in Africa are part of like organized criminal gangs. So it's not like some nice young man gets an idea and pull this off by himself because you got to know who to traffic it to and things. There's a surplus of desperate young people in Africa. That's totally right. There's not enough jobs. There's not enough money. And it is like things like rhino and elephants are walking around with like gold or cocaine or whatever on their face. People are going to be all sentimental, like, "Oh, these sweet animals." Also elephants kind of suck to live with. They are mean. They will kill you. They'll literally kill you. They'll rip your house down. They'll like mess up your crops that you've been growing for a year. So these aren't easy animals to live with to begin with. So yeah, not a lot of sentimentality there, but yes, also true that, you know, we're never going to run out of people who are desperate enough to risk their lives and their freedom to go out and poach an animal. So again, this is why we need to really go after the big bosses, the criminals running these enterprises and making this happen at an international level. And just change people's minds because if people stop paying money for this stuff, people wouldn't bother going to kill rhinos and elephants and anything else.
[00:38:25] Jordan Harbinger: Is there any sort of political will to prosecute, let's say a rhino or elephant hunting? Like, are there prosecutors working on this and what kind of job are they doing?
[00:38:34] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah, I mean, it really depends on the country and every country is different. Like Tanzania has prosecuted, what's called the Ivory Queen who was this Chinese lady who was running like this huge trafficking ring and like shipping things back to China. I think she just went through an appeal and she's still in jail. On the other hand, places like Kenya, there's been like major traffickers who have gotten out of jail and gotten out of being really prosecuted and in trouble because they just have so many connections. And, you know, you can like just pay your way out of things. Same in Thailand, like there was a guy named Boonchai Bach, who was arrested a couple of years ago and everyone's like, yay, like this horrible person's finally arrested. And then he just got out. On the other hand there was this guy, Kromah. He was arrested in Uganda. He's like a big ivory trafficker and rhino trafficker. And he was actually extradited to the US. And he's now here in New York awaiting trial because they also got him on drug trafficking charges and money laundering. And now that he's here in the US like, you can bet he's going to be prosecuted.
[00:39:39] Jordan Harbinger: That's kind of a good — I mean, I suppose that's good news. Although it seems almost like—
[00:39:42] Rachel Nuwer: Totally.
[00:39:43] Jordan Harbinger: —it's like El Chapo, right? Where he just walks out of prison four times. And finally—
[00:39:47] Rachel Nuwer: Right.
[00:39:47] Jordan Harbinger: —despite the biggest protestations of the Mexican government, they extradite him finally. And it's like, "Oh, now he's really in jail." And it just took like decade longer, 30,000 extra people had to die before this guy—
[00:39:59] Rachel Nuwer: Dear Lord.
[00:39:59] Jordan Harbinger: —was finally caught.
[00:40:00] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah, exactly. I mean, yeah, it's like not every trafficker in the world can be extradited to the US. That's not going to work, but at least this is like progress in the right direction. US and African authorities, working together to actually get this done.
[00:40:13] Jordan Harbinger: Why doesn't the UN sanction the biggest defenders, right? I mean, if we know which countries are just letting people walk out of jail, why aren't they like, "Hey, now you can't do something — you can't participate in this, or you can't import other things that you actually do care about if you're just going to let people slaughter animals wholesale against international conventions."
[00:40:34] Rachel Nuwer: Totally. I mean, CITES does have the ability to like sanction countries. So Laos, for example, has had sanctions against it because it's just like a sh*t show over there. There was like threat of sanctions against Thailand and then they actually like freaked out and cleaned up their ivory market because of it.. But, you know, again, there's just like a ton of politics going on. So nobody's going to threaten to sanction China because everybody is like relying on China for money or connections or whatever. So, you know, if you're like a big enough player, you can avoid punishment, whether you're a trafficker or whether you're a country.
[00:41:06] Jordan Harbinger: That makes sense. Right. Because, and we know from trying to enforce international conventions against big countries like China and the US for that matter. It's kind of like, "Oh, hey, you can't do this." "Oh, well then we're just — you know what? Maybe we're not going to invest in your tech sector now."
[00:41:21] Rachel Nuwer: Exactly.
[00:41:22] Jordan Harbinger: "Good luck with that." And they're like, "Ugh, fine."
[00:41:24] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah, exactly. I mean, especially like with the world being so globalized, everyone's just inextricably linked, but yeah, it's too bad. I mean, luckily China is kind of like getting around certain things. They banned ivory domestic trade. It was at the beginning of 2018 following the US example. So, you know, they're slowly moving in the right direction, but definitely the situation is not perfect.
[00:41:46] Jordan Harbinger: What about farming, exotic wildlife? What if we grow — this is horrible in a way, but what if we like have a snail farm for the rare snails that they want? What if we—
[00:41:55] Rachel Nuwer: Why do you keep going to snails?
[00:41:56] Jordan Harbinger: I go to snails because it's horrifying for me to think that we would grow an elephant for slaughter or a rhino for slaughter, but we could have a snake farm. You like rare snakes, fine. This dude is going to breed snakes and you can sell them, or we grow the rhinos. And then we, if it's even possible to, humanely remove the horn or part of the horn, and you can have that horn instead of just killing this thing and letting it bleed to death in the middle of a wildlife, protecting it because you want the whole thing.
[00:42:22] Rachel Nuwer: Right. Going back to that thing, I said earlier that people really want wild animals. People see farm animals in, people in Asia, I mean, as like these docile, weak, like soft things that have been spoonfed their whole life. They haven't been out in nature, like having to eke out a living and like fight for survival. So, therefore you're not getting that wild, powerful essence of that creature. So farmed animals automatically are like, they're not as desirable as the wild thing. There's also economics involved. So it's often times cheaper to just go out and hunt an animal and get it from the forest and having to raise it from an egg or from a baby and feed it and take care of it. So there are things like tiger farms and bear farms and snake farms across Asia. But these places are notorious for just bringing in wild animals that have been poached, then passing them off as farmed and just continuing to drive demand for these animals.
[00:43:14] Jordan Harbinger: That makes sense. Right. So they, what it does is then gives them a legit cover to say that it's, "Oh, no, this is a legal one. Here's a slip of paper."
[00:43:22] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah, "I totally raised this from a baby," even though it has like clear signs of being from the wild with like scars and parasites or whatever.
[00:43:30] Jordan Harbinger: That makes sense. So it just makes it harder to find. It's like human trafficking, that one of the arguments against legalizing sex work in a lot of ways is, "Hey, look now, how are we going to tell who's legitimate and who's not? If there's a legitimate place and it has three illegal people in it." Now, we have no way to enforce it where instead the whole thing is banned. We just find any evidence of it as illegal.
[00:43:51] Rachel Nuwer: Right.
[00:43:51] Jordan Harbinger: This proxy hunting thing is kind of unique. I never heard this before. Tell us about this. This is kind of weird way that people have circumvented some of these regulations.
[00:44:01] Rachel Nuwer: You mean like the Asian hunters who were like getting the trophy hunting exports.
[00:44:05] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, there was like these Czech hunters then that the prostitutes got involved. That was such a weird story.
[00:44:10] Rachel Nuwer: So this is kind of like 2010s, 2015, but yeah, so trophy hunting is legal in a lot of countries in Africa and you have to pay big money for it. You have to go through all this paperwork and people realize though that you can then legally export the trophy. So whether that's like the tusks or the horn of the rhino, and this really started to happen with Vietnamese and Thai criminal syndicates, they figured out that, yeah, we can do this. And then we can just export the horn back to Vietnam. But the issue was, they were operating in South Africa and in South Africa you can only hunt one rhino a year. So you need to find more like "hunters" to come and shoot the rhino to get the horn out. And for a while they were bringing in poor Vietnamese guys from villages to do this, but that was kind of a pain. And then they realized that, "Oh, you know, instead of importing Vietnamese "hunters," we can just use Southeast Asian prostitutes from around like Pretoria and Johannesburg and pretend like these like tiny women are hunters and get the horns out that way." So this was going on for a while. Then this Thai guy got caught and prosecuted for it and sentenced to 40 years in prison in South Africa. So that kind of shut down the Asian side of the syndicates. But then it was just taken up again by a lot of Czech hunters and Eastern Europeans. To be honest, I don't know that it's really happening as much anymore, but it was a huge problem a few years ago.
[00:45:43] Jordan Harbinger: With poachers, I know one of the problems, one of the main problems with poaching is that a lot of the poachers are corrupt wildlife officials. So the people who are supposed to be enforcing the poaching bans are the same people who are doing the poaching or tipping off the poachers to tell them where the animals are—
[00:45:57] Rachel Nuwer: Exactly.
[00:45:58] Jordan Harbinger: —in the reserve. But there are plenty of, it seems like I've actually met a couple of people who are like these ex-veterans, the veterans who just kind of go and protect animals. And these are some of these guys who are like special forces sharpshooters and things like that. And there's a lot of amazing people you wouldn't want to be on their bad side, protecting animals. Have you run into any of these folks?
[00:46:17] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah, I definitely know those guys. They're great. Yeah, a lot of the people like that, they go into protecting wildlife because it's kind of therapeutic for them. After doing all this killing or whatever in the Middle East, it's kind of redemptive, I think. That's my understanding from speaking with a few of them.
[00:46:36] Jordan Harbinger: Why can't we just — this might sound callous, but well, I think you'll understand where I'm coming from. Why can't we just shoot poachers when we see them? Like there's due process and things like that for a reason. But also if I see somebody on a wildlife reserve with a rifle that doesn't work for me, and I'm part of the people protecting the reserve, what, why do I need to go and try to arrest these guys? Why can't I use my sniper skills from the Marine Corps to just end these guys?
[00:47:00] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah. Unfortunately, a lot of people in the west do call for that, but ultimately, like it's pretty bad optics because it tends to be like white, rich Americans calling for us to kill poor black people in Africa.
[00:47:12] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That's not a good look.
[00:47:13] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah. It's not a good look at all. You know, there's quite a few reasons why it's just not a great idea. First of all, there are countries in which there's shoot to kill, like shoot on-site policy. Like Botswana has this, but it has not stopped poaching. People find a way. And it winds up, landing people in really icky situations. Like there's a poor indigenous guy who's he went in the national park to like gather some twigs and then he shot. It's just like, there's too much room for error. And just like shooting people. Also, like, you know, do we really want to be executing people for trying to hunt wildlife? These are ultimately human beings. Like where do we draw the line?
[00:47:55] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:47:55] Rachel Nuwer: Do we start like executing people who like to rob Walmart or whatever?
[00:47:59] Jordan Harbinger: Sure — I mean, no.
[00:48:02] Rachel Nuwer: Awesome. I mean, ultimately it also comes down to these desperate people. Like they have no other option. Like we all would probably do the same thing if we were in their place. Like instead of killing poor Africans. Maybe we should figure out ways to help alleviate poverty and figure out like developmental situations for them. You know, put our resources in that way and also put our resources into stopping the criminal bosses at the top.
[00:48:28] Jordan Harbinger: I know a lot of the rangers, they don't have handcuffs, they don't have weapons. They don't have proper clothing. There's stories in your book about where they get killed because they're simply outgunned, right? They've got one rifle, no handcuffs, two bullets or a handful of bullets. And they're up against people with like long range, modern weaponry.
[00:48:45] Rachel Nuwer: Again, it just depends on the country and the place but there are a lot of rangers who just like, yeah, they're like really inadequately funded and adequately trained and adequately supported and they're trying to do their jobs, but they wound up getting murdered on the job. So it's really, really sad. And yes, there are tons of poor, desperate poachers, but there's also poaching gangs that are way better equipped than them because of all the money from the trade, because their bosses are supplying them with those types of equipment.
[00:49:14] Jordan Harbinger: What about dehorning rhinos to protect them? This is an interesting solution that you had written a little bit about where they simply dehorned the rhino. There's no point in poaching them because they don't have a horn at all.
[00:49:25] Rachel Nuwer: Right. So, yeah, you would think that would be like a really easy solution because rhino horn can be trimmed off like fingernails, but you can't like trim the entire thing off. Just like you can't trim your entire nail off. You'd have to slice into the flesh and bone.
[00:49:37] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:49:38] Rachel Nuwer: So oftentimes like poachers will go and they'll track a rhino all night and they'll finally find it. And if it doesn't have a horn, like they're going to be so pissed off. So, they're just going to shoot it anyway. So they don't go down this wild goose chase after this hornless rhino. And then they'll often just hack off like that little nub because there's still some horn there again. So you can make money, even if it's just a little bit.
[00:49:59] Jordan Harbinger: Ugh, man. All right. Well—
[00:50:01] Rachel Nuwer: There's no easy answer.
[00:50:03] Jordan Harbinger: I know there's some private rhino collectors that are often good at keeping them alive. Right. Because instead of a national park, that's like defunded and just there for appearances so that when they go to the UN meeting, they can say we have a giant national reserve. You got some private collector who owns a significant number and they're like, "Hey, these are mine. I'm going to have a team of 20 guys out there with cameras and drones and stuff." And they're going to be more effective at making sure you don't get in.
[00:50:30] Rachel Nuwer: Right. Yeah, so rhino farmers or owners, whatever you want to call them in South Africa are actually kind of responsible for bringing rhinos back from the brink of extinction. Like decades ago, rhinos were like down to like some abysmal number. I don't remember numbers off the top of my head, like very low number. And then South Africa decided like, "Okay, you know what? We're going to privatize wildlife. So you can like own wildlife as a resource." Unlike say Kenya where all animals belong to the state. So, you know, if there's like an elephant eating your crops, like too bad, it belongs to the state. You can't do anything. So yeah, there's these rhino farmers who now have more rhinos in private collections than there are in the wild. Some of them are pretty wealthy. They do it out of love for the rhino or whatever, and they can pay for better protections, but like the biggest rhino farmer there, he's starting to run out of money because you know, you can't do much with these rhinos. You can't sell their horns. You can't, I don't know, make a ton of money from them and you're paying like a million dollars a year to protect these animals because of this crazy new poaching threat. And it's just not sustainable.
[00:51:39] Jordan Harbinger: Right, there's not like a rhino milk market.
[00:51:41] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah, exactly — they're mammals.
[00:51:44] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I was going to say, maybe you popularize that and it's like, oh man, these things are worth way more alive than they are.
[00:51:49] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah. Rhino milk, everybody. Get on it.
[00:51:51] Jordan Harbinger: Rhino milk, double your protein
[00:51:53] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Rachel Nuwer. We'll be right back.
[00:52:01] This episode is sponsored in part by Nuun. When you work up a sweat from say, practicing your TikTok dance or for doing 10,000 steps a day, like I do — the steps to be clear, not the TikTok crap — you lose vital electrolytes and minerals that your body needs in order to keep moving and recover efficiently. Nuun Sport is optimized for hydration and mineral replenishment before, during, and after a workout. Drop a fizzy tablet into your water bottle to support your hydration anytime, anywhere. So it's handy at concerts and festivals. Nuun Sport is made with only one gram of sugar and carefully sourced premium ingredients that are certified non-GMO, gluten-free, and vegan. I'll bring it on a plane. Remember those? Because then you're not drinking kind of like that, just water all the time. I mean, who wants to just drink water. Available in 13 delicious flavors, including fan favorite cherry limeade, which has an extra boost of caffeine for days, when you stayed up way too late dehydrating if you know what I'm saying.
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[00:55:07] Don't forget we have worksheets for many episodes. If you want some of the drills and the exercises talked about during many episodes of the show, those are also in one easy place. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. Now, for the conclusion of our episode with Rachel Nuwer.
[00:55:24] What's a rhino go for these days? Like if I'm a rhino aficionado in South Africa and I'm like, "Oh, I want a rhino in my giant yard to protect it." What do you think they go for?
[00:55:33] Rachel Nuwer: I haven't been rhino shopping recently, so I can't tell you, but I know that like back when I was reporting my book, the price had just plummeted. Nobody wants these things. They're like a huge liability. It's like just having like a target walking around your property.
[00:55:47] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I suppose that security costs are a major factor, right?
[00:55:52] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah, exactly. Like some of these guys have a helicopter out every night. That's extremely expensive.
[00:55:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. You kind of have — this is a habit for the casual billionaire or the guy who has a hundred million dollars and like his kids are grown and he's just bored. Right?
[00:56:08] Rachel Nuwer: Exactly, yeah, exactly. I mean, a lot of these guys though are actual, legitimate, wildlife lovers. They have property and they have a menagerie of animals, like running free out there and they just like rhinos.
[00:56:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Good for them. I can't imagine though, that there's a ton of. Let's talk about bear bile. This is somehow like, even worse than everything else we've discussed so far.
[00:56:30] Rachel Nuwer: Bear bile is pretty bad. That's the bad one.
[00:56:32] Jordan Harbinger: I saw bear gallbladders for sale all over North Korea. And they were really expensive.
[00:56:38] Rachel Nuwer: Oh my God. You were in North Korea?
[00:56:40] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I went — I used to run tours there and things like that and they do sell—
[00:56:45] Rachel Nuwer: What? Wow!
[00:56:45] Jordan Harbinger: They sell bear paws. Like you can go to a restaurant. That's not even like a nice restaurant by any stretch, but I guess it's, maybe it's nice for there, but you go in and there's like a display case at the reception area and they'll have like—
[00:56:56] Rachel Nuwer: Oh, man.
[00:56:57] Jordan Harbinger: —souvenirs and trinkets, but they'll also have like a bear gallbladder that's dehydrated or like a whole paw just like in a box.
[00:57:05] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah. I mean that checks out because it's actually the North Koreans who taught the Chinese how to farm bears. I guess it's just like a North Korean thing.
[00:57:13] Jordan Harbinger: What is bear bile farming? This is like the most disgusting part of the show. So if you have kids in the car, this is the part where you turn it off.
[00:57:21] Rachel Nuwer: Okay. So there's two different types of bear farms, but basically all bear farms tend to have these bears in these tiny like, they call them like crush cages. It's basically like terrible metal bars and you just can barely even move. So these animals are kept in there their entire life. And they're also usually poached from the wild when they were cubs. And, you know, they break their teeth off from chewing on the bars. They get these huge, deformed nail growths from not being able to walk. They get obese, they rub their fur off. It's really like the worst existence you can imagine possible.
[00:57:55] Now, on top of that, they're being kept for their bile and you have to get the bile out of the bear. So there's two ways to do that. The Chinese way, which came from North Korea is to embed a permanent catheter into the gallbladder that you can literally turn on and off like a tap. So you can "milk" the bile. It's absolutely disgusting. Like the catheter area gets infected. The other way, that's more common in Vietnam is to get like this very long needle and just kind of stab around. The bear farmer will often lick the end of the needle because he can tell if he got the bile by whether or not it tastes like bile. Either way, it's just absolutely horrendous and disgusting. And you know, the bile is polluted by pus and cancer cells and like, whatever else these really sick, unhealthy bearers are dealing with. It's supposed to be like this all around health tonic and cure all these ailments. And there are some scientific studies showing that bear bile does have some properties, but again, you can synthesize this and have it come out on like a much cleaner, standardized way then, you know, torturing animals.
[00:59:09] Jordan Harbinger: It's really gross and horrible to even think about it. You write about this in the book where I think you had seen bear farms with your own eyes. So this is not like urban legend bullsh*t, right? This is like—
[00:59:20] Rachel Nuwer: I mean, I didn't go to one of the industrial scale ones. Like in China, they have these giant bear farms with like hundreds of bears in this horrific condition. In Vietnam, it's more like a mom and pop thing. And Vietnam actually outlawed bear bile and bear farming a few years ago, but people still do it. So, yeah, like I went to a mom and pop one. I'm like at some guy's house. Basically, he takes me through his kitchen to his backyard. And then there's these three or four bears in these horrible cages. And it's just like stinking and like, it was disgusting.
[00:59:51] Jordan Harbinger: It's got to be, I can't imagine even growing up around something like that, I can't really imagine dealing with it. Like, look, people get desensitized to eating chicken and they kill the chicken themselves. And it's like kind of gross. But to have something alive that you know is in pain, that is always in pain just right behind your house.
[01:00:09] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah.
[01:00:10] Jordan Harbinger: I can't quite wrap my head around.
[01:00:12] Rachel Nuwer: The really messed up thing about this whole thing is like a lot of times the farmers say that their bears are like their family members. They're like, "Oh yeah, we're friends. Yeah, we love each other. They're like my kids." You know, I said Vietnam Banned bear farming. And there's a group called Animals Asia that runs bear sanctuaries, but they can't just go seize people's bears. The people have to voluntarily turn them over. But oftentimes when they go to get these bears that people are voluntarily turning over, they'll be like crying. It's like they're giving up their dog or something. So I think there's just like a complete disconnect that these animals are suffering and like our sentience and can feel pain and aren't freaking happy living in the backyard in a cage.
[01:00:54] Jordan Harbinger: I just can't get there mentally.
[01:00:58] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah.
[01:00:58] Jordan Harbinger: Unless you have a sociopath brain or something like that. You know that this means stabbing your liver and accidentally with a needle until I hit your gallbladder, and then shoving a tube in there for five years while you can't move the entire time ever.
[01:01:13] Rachel Nuwer: That's disgusting.
[01:01:14] Jordan Harbinger: Like, you know that stuff. You f*cking know it. Like it's a lie to say that you don't, unless you are dysfunctional.
[01:01:20] Rachel Nuwer: It's like willful ignorance. I don't know. There was actually this guy a few years ago in China, he was like some big Chinese medicine guy, like head of whatever organization. And he was coming under fire because — you know, there's actually a lot of people in Vietnam and China and other countries there that are like pro animals. They're super into animal welfare. And they're like, "This is horrendous. We need to stop this." So he was coming under fire and in some speech, he was like, "Oh, you know, the bears don't mind. And it's like a tickle for them. It feels good." And then there was just like this crazy, like amazing social media backfire, like memes of him getting like f*cked in the ass by a bear, saying like, "It tickles." I mean people who are like with it, get it, like obviously, but I think there's just willful ignorance about the state of these animals.
[01:02:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I mean, I suppose. You ever seen that movie Thank You for Smoking?
[01:02:13] Rachel Nuwer: Yes.
[01:02:14] Jordan Harbinger: So it's like the guy who gets kidnapped by those activists and they stick a thousand nicotine patches on him and he's basically going to die, but he somehow pulls through and he's like, "Smoking saved my life." And then he knows that he's full of sh*t. It's just his job to lobby in life for the tobacco company. It sounds like that. I would love to hear — let's lighten it up a little, but also we can't really too much because it's still so horrifying, but I want to hear about the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone, because this is like the laugh-cry portion of your book, where it's still so horrible, but your situation and circumstances are ridiculous.
[01:02:47] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah. So the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone in Laos is as freaking weird as it is . There are these special economic zones all over the country, which basically means like you're in Laos, but you're actually like in a place operated by China. They've leased out the land so that China can just run casinos there and Laos can make money off of it. And most of these places are just dens of crime. Like the state department issued like, or sorry, Interpol issued like a wanted—
[01:03:15] Jordan Harbinger: Read Notice.
[01:03:16] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah. Thank you. For the guy who runs, the one I visited in Laos shortly after I was there, you know, it's basically just like a drug laundering operation, like where you go for like child prostitutes and where you go for wildlife things. I wanted to go to one of these places just to see what's up for the book. There was supposed to be a tiger farm there I wanted to visit. But somebody told me, someone who had done an investigation there, that there's only two kinds of Western women. There's either backpackers or prostitutes sex workers. And I was just like, "Huh. Okay. Well, I don't really want to dress up like a backpacker because I'm kind of old and I've done that and it doesn't sound very fun. So I'm going to dress up like a sex worker.
[01:03:55] Jordan Harbinger: I feel like you'd have more access though also as a sex worker.
[01:03:57] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah.
[01:03:57] Jordan Harbinger: Like if you're a backpacker, they don't show where the other.
[01:04:00] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah. They're like, "She doesn't have any money, she's a backpacker." So yeah, I like I got all these skimpy clothes. Most of them, to be honest, I already had.
[01:04:08] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. You got them out of the closet.
[01:04:10] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah, exactly. I just went to my closet. I bought a spy watch, which was super cool. It was like this blinged out like rhinestone watch that functioned as a watch, but was actually like a hidden camera and recording devices. It's very cool. And I recruited my husband and our gay best friend to come with me. And they dressed like the sleazy looking douche guys and like these like wife beaters with like gold chains. We were really ridiculous looking, but you know, we were there and nobody really paid us any attention. We got to walk around. I was afraid. Like people would be like following us and sh*t, but people just didn't care. We went to the tiger farm. It was really sad. It looked like a jail for tigers. Like just imagine like long cages and just like animals crammed into these cages, like yowling in frustration. There were some bears there that were equally sad. Everywhere when there was this ivory, rhino horn, pangolin scales, all just openly for sale. Like you didn't have to ask or go into some room. It's just like out there. Kind of like what you were saying for North Korea. We did go to a restaurant because I wanted to see if we could get like tiger meat. There was tiger bone wine for sale, but they finally put their foot down and we're like, "No, we're not showing you, white people, our special menu," but, you know, while we were there, there was like a bear paw that was walked out to another table. So it was definitely happening.
[01:05:33] Jordan Harbinger: What was the bear paw like? I mean, seeing that, I assume it wasn't just a dehydrated one in the box like I saw.
[01:05:40] Rachel Nuwer: I mean, it literally just looked like a freaking bear paw, like on a plate, like a big platter with some juice around it. Honestly, it was so obviously a bear paw, like there was just, I don't think the fur was still attached, but it might as well have been because it was just like, "Oh, that's a bear paw."
[01:05:56] Jordan Harbinger: That's really — did you smell it or anything? I mean, was it cooked, like it was cooked?
[01:06:01] Rachel Nuwer: I don't remember the smell, but I'm sure there was like a smell. That restaurant was disgusting too. Like the food was not good.
[01:06:07] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Oh God, wow. This special economic zone was interesting, right? Because it was in Laos, but wasn't — you mentioned like they only accepted Chinese currency, which is really weird.
[01:06:18] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah, exactly. I mean, the clocks were set to Chinese time, even though we're in Laos, the currency was all Chinese. Like everybody was Chinese. It was this ridiculous situation where I had hired a Lao translator. So he spoke English and Lao. But then I had to hire another translator who spoke Lao and Chinese. So it was like this ridiculous telephone game where I'd asked my translator, then he'd say it in Lao. And the Lao guy would say it in Chinese. It was like this three-step process to ask anybody anything, because nobody there spoke Lao. Everybody's Chinese.
[01:06:51] Jordan Harbinger: So Lao was into different time zone and China didn't know that.
[01:06:54] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah.
[01:06:54] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. So people just pop over from China. And they're basically still in China.
[01:06:58] Rachel Nuwer: They're just still in China, but like there's no rules. So you can go there and hook up with a 13-year-old or like go gamble or like get a bunch of meth or, you know, eat a pangolin.
[01:07:10] Jordan Harbinger: What kind of people were there?
[01:07:12] Rachel Nuwer: So weirdly, there weren't that many people. I was expecting it to be packed but it wasn't. It was like kind of sad. It was almost like a ghost town.
[01:07:20] Jordan Harbinger: That's good though, right?
[01:07:21] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah. I mean, it's good. But I feel like maybe we were just there in a lull because a photographer went later and said there was a lot more people. We went into the casino, which was super weird because they didn't serve alcohol. They're like, guys get the memo.
[01:07:33] Jordan Harbinger: Like you're serving pangolin, but you won't let us drink while playing poker.
[01:07:38] Rachel Nuwer: There's no freaking whiskey, yeah, exactly. And that was the other thing. There was no poker, there were no slot machines. They were only playing one game called like tiger dragon or something. It was like the most disappointing casino ever. But anyway, there was a bunch of guys in the casino, like kind of single guys, chain smoking. I saw a couple of families but really that was about it.
[01:07:58] Jordan Harbinger: That's such a strange place. Are there these special economic zones? Is it only that one? You said there were elsewhere, but where, how do you find them?
[01:08:06] Rachel Nuwer: In Laos. I mean, there's another one in Laos called Boten. This one was called Kings Romans or the Golden Triangle. Yeah, they're just there so you can just go.
[01:08:16] Jordan Harbinger: Do they advertise these? Like Indian Casinos do in United States or they're like, "Hey, come to Soaring Eagle. Hang up."
[01:08:23] Rachel Nuwer: There's like a really weird commercial for the one I went to and it makes it look like fun, like family luxurious theme park with a beautiful zoo. And like, you can go see the animals or go to the pool, but the advertisement is not accurate.
[01:08:39] Jordan Harbinger: This is so weird. So you think it's primarily money laundering because that would explain how it's empty but it's still there.
[01:08:45] Rachel Nuwer: I mean it definitely is. Like that's why Interpol and the state department and stuff, or after this guy. The dude who runs the one I visited is from Northern China, but he had a bunch of like connections and made all these investments in Macau. But now he just has this like CDC place in Laos and like a bunch of like drug deals with like Thailand and sh*t.
[01:09:06] Jordan Harbinger: So it's kind of after they call it Golden Triangle, because isn't that the name of the area in Afghanistan, where they farm poppies and sell heroin.
[01:09:14] Rachel Nuwer: I don't know if that's enough. I mean, there probably is one in Afghanistan, but there's definitely one that's like literally where these places like Laos, Thailand, like Southern China area.
[01:09:24] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. You're right. That is the most famous one in Southeast Asia, yeah.
[01:09:27] Rachel Nuwer: But I'm sure, there's more than one.
[01:09:30] Jordan Harbinger: It seems like there's a few Golden Tri — oh yeah, there's a lot. Okay. There's a lot. Golden triangle Southeast Asia named for its opium production, Golden Triangle at Yangtze, China named for rapid economic development, Golden Triangle in India, Golden Tri, which is just like a tourist thing in some cities, Jakarta business district, Kuala Lumpur, it looks like a commercial quarter. There's a few — geez, there's a bunch even in Europe. Okay, so this is just like a super common name.
[01:09:57] Rachel Nuwer: Wow. Okay. All right. Well, I went to like the original Golden Triangle. I don't know. I feel like the one in Southeast Asia is like the most notorious or classic one, anyway.
[01:10:07] Jordan Harbinger: It sounds like most of these are just like places where you get good food in the UK, but there is one in Mexico that's controlled by the Sinaloa cartel.
[01:10:15] Rachel Nuwer: Cool. All right, noted.
[01:10:16] Jordan Harbinger: So it's kind of one of those names where you roll the dice and maybe people will take it to mean something prosperous for a good reason and other times it's up to no good.
[01:10:23] Rachel Nuwer: Right, right, right, right, right.
[01:10:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. So, wow. This is so fascinating, the sort of crime angle to it, but of course it's all sort of predicated upon human suffering, animal suffering, money-laundering, trafficking of all things. I mean, what a lot of people, I think don't realize, and we did a show on money laundering early a few years ago in this show, all of these trafficking networks for animals, and let's say drugs, they're the same trafficking networks that are used to smuggle the 12-year-old person that ends up being a sex slave in the Golden Triangle Casino.
[01:10:59] Rachel Nuwer: Exactly. And I mean, it's the same with wildlife products, like agents regularly find like rhino horn mixed in with the heroin or coke or whatever.
[01:11:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. You find cocaine and then you go and find the people who are doing this and suddenly you find 12 missing people, right, as well.
[01:11:17] Rachel Nuwer: Exactly. Exactly.
[01:11:18] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. So dismantling one network can help dismantle the rest. And so that's why this is — a lot of people who go, "Hey, look, we have bigger fish to fry." I kind of understand that when you're talking about something that might be solved — like, look okay, the snails, you know, Jordan get off the snails but like all right, fine snakes who cares. They're not in danger — but it's like, wait a minute if we dismantle, if we sniff that lead, because we can find those people and they're doing something where they know they're going to get a misdemeanor or fine. If you pull that thread, you're going to find other criminals.
[01:11:52] Rachel Nuwer: Exactly.
[01:11:53] Jordan Harbinger: And you're going to find other crimes like that guy might be a snake mule or a snail mule or a bird meal on the plane. But his boss is trafficking drugs and weapons and kids, right?
[01:12:04] Rachel Nuwer: Exactly. Yeah. I mean, criminals just want to make money. Like they don't care like what it is and wildlife just happens to be one of the easier ways because nobody's looking for it.
[01:12:12] Jordan Harbinger: Do you think that the younger generation in countries like Asia or Africa might be, or the United States for that matter, I'm sure that it exists here, do you think that the younger generation might be getting over — you mentioned there's wildlife groups and things like that — are they getting over some of these traditions that say, "Hey, I need to snort rhino horn or is it is alive as ever"?
[01:12:33] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah. There's definitely evidence that like younger people generally are moving away from this, which is super heartening. The question is like, do we have enough time to like, we can't just like, wait for people to grow up. Things are disappearing now. There are exceptions. Like I met this architect who was like my age, maybe a couple years younger when I met him, super educated dude, like went to college, lived in a nice house, really sweet guy, but also did rhino horn and tiger bone because like his doctor said it was good for him. And he just was deferential thing like, "Well, my doctor says yes." So yeah, I think it just depends on the person, but generally yes, like younger people are moving away from this. This is more of an older generation thing.
[01:13:15] Jordan Harbinger: Thank you very much. This is fascinating. Like I said, horribly, horribly depressing. Is there anything that we can close on that gives us some hope or a positive outlook or is it just like, "Go to bed sad now, thanks for listening"?
[01:13:27] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah. I mean, it's easy to feel despondent and despair over this stuff, but you know, like vote for people who give a sh*t about it. Our representatives can like help do things about it by funneling money and resources where it needs to go. Let your voice be heard, share information about it. We can only actually fix the problem if we know the problem exists in the first place.
[01:13:49] Jordan Harbinger: Thank you much for coming on the show and for reliving some of these sort of horrifying experiences. We'll link to the book in the show notes as well.
[01:13:57] Rachel Nuwer: Awesome. Thank you.
[01:13:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. And thanks for your work. It must've been interesting and kind of scary going undercover as a sex worker, because you don't—
[01:14:04] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah.
[01:14:04] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, what if they're just like, "You can't leave now. We need a white girl.
[01:14:08] Rachel Nuwer: Exactly, yeah, that one was nerve wracking for me. I was definitely having nightmares ahead of time, but it worked out. Thank God.
[01:14:15] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Imagine it's like the kind of thing where you get out of there and you're in the car and you're just like crying while you change out of your whole clothes.
[01:14:22] Rachel Nuwer: Yeah, exactly, my whole clothes, which I still have.
[01:14:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Well, you got to, I mean, look, they come in handy, apparently.
[01:14:29] Rachel Nuwer: Brooklyn, for sure, or in laos.
[01:14:31] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Two places have more in common than we might think, I suppose.
[01:14:34] Rachel Nuwer: Exactly. It's a small world.
[01:14:36] Jordan Harbinger: Thank you very much.
[01:14:38] Now, I've got some thoughts on this episode as usual, but before I get into that, you're about to hear a preview of my interview with the world's best counterfeiter.
[01:14:47] How long does it take to print $250 million?
[01:14:51] Frank Bourassa: Five months. It needs to be worthwhile. It's going to need to be perfect.
[01:14:56] Jordan Harbinger: 12,500 kilos or over eight Toyota Camrys or six Ford F150. That has multiple metrics sh*t tons of cash. You must have been f*cking stoked, man, because you knew you were going to put $20 bills all over all of that, and then just never worked again.
[01:15:19] Yes. By design, there are people specifically looking for you all the time. This is all they do. You can tell them whatever you want. They're not dummies. I mean, this is as high as it goes. It is top of the line.
[01:15:32] For more on how Frank Bourassa printed his own fortune and got away with it, check out episode 488 of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:15:43] I told you this one was dark. The thing with the animals, man, it always just, it really gets to me. You know, who doesn't care about animals, right? It doesn't love animals. Well, I'll tell you that people probably who go to Africa and saw off a rhino horn while the thing is still alive or use poison or rip off fetuses for the tiny horns. This happens. It's so sick. It's so sad. I asked her earlier why we can't just shoot poachers on site. The problem is that many poachers are actually corrupt wildlife officials. So some of the same police that are going after the crime are the ones committing the crime. It's just really, really a horrendous situation with almost no end in sight. A lot of the Rangers who do actually care, they don't even have handcuffs. They don't have the right clothing. They don't have any weapons. They get murdered all the time because they're unarmed a lot of the time. It's just a horrific situation.
[01:16:29] And can we dehorn rhinos to protect them? I touched on that during the show as well. Maybe we could legalize it and satisfy demand. And this is something that is being batted around, but there's something called the reverse stigma effect, which is that legalizing something can actually grow demand because then the thing is not frowned upon anymore, that activity, right? You really don't know if you're going to end up increasing demand. Whatever you legalize, something that was previously illegal, not only do you reverse the stigma in many cases, but also we can't even evaluate the real demand. And I'm going back to econ 101, 102 here from university days. But if something is illegal, demand is largely restricted by that illegality, right? So since people know it's illegal, they don't want to buy it. If you decriminalize something or do you make something legal, you can actually increase or at least allow the demand to grow. So the demand could be a lot bigger and we just don't know. You won't find out until supply meets demand. Remember those graphs you saw in econ 101. Until supply meets demand and those lines could intersect well after the rhinos are extinct because of that rising demand. Right? So if demand is restricted because of illegality and then you remove the illegality, sometimes demand shoots up to where the demand for rhino horn actually outstrips the number of rhinos.
[01:17:43] And that's what people are worried about, you know? Yes. Maybe it'll make it easier to police. Maybe it will make it harder, but certainly we don't know if it could make the whole problem so much worse. So in conclusion, don't buy the ivory, don't get the tiger selfie in Thailand or Oklahoma for that matter, because when you do, you're contributing to the problem. And by the way, yes, I know I made a lot of cocaine references to illustrate some of the points here in this episode. No, don't worry. I don't have a problem. I can stop anytime I want. Now, really though, thank you so much for listening to this episode and making it through. I know it was dark.
[01:18:12] The book is called Poached. We'll link it in the show notes. Please use our website links if you buy books from any guests. That helps support the show. Worksheets of the episodes are always in the show notes. Transcripts in the show notes. There's a video of this interview that goes up on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. There's also a brand new clips channel with cuts that don't make it to the show. Highlights from the interviews you can't see anywhere else. jordanharbinger.com/clips, that's where you can find it. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, or you can hit me on LinkedIn.
[01:18:40] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships, using systems and tiny habits over at our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Dig that well before you get thirsty. I'll teach you how to do it. And most of the guests on the show, they subscribed to the course. So come join us, you'll be in smart company where you.
[01:18:59] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who's interested in wildlife, hunting, poaching, conservation, please share this episode with them. Hopefully, you find something great in every episode. Please do share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[01:19:33] All right, another podcast, I can always recommend my friend, Dr. Emily Morse. She's on a mission to help you prioritize your pleasure and liberate the conversation around sex. For 15 years, she's been answering your questions. Like how do I talk to my partner about trying something new in the bedroom? Or how do I increase my sex drive? And there's a whole lot more of that I just kind of didn't want to put in this promo, because it's a little bit saucy. Sex with Emily is the number one podcast about sex dating and relationships and has been for quite a while. You know that question you've been wondering about or too afraid to ask, on Sex with Emily, nothing is off limits. Her no-shame approach has made Dr. Emily a trusted source to guide you no matter where you are on your sexual journey. Find Sex with Emily, wherever you listen to podcasts or go to sexwithemily.com/listen.
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