J.R.'s Reviews > Winged Obsession: The Pursuit of the World's Most Notorious Butterfly Smuggler

Winged Obsession by Jessica Speart
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's review
May 19, 2011

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bookshelves: true-crime
Read from May 19 to 26, 2011

Like much in nature, butterflies are beautiful creatures we take for granted. Because of their inherent fragility, they are subject to many threats to their already brief lifespans.

A major threat of which the average person may be unaware is criminal activity. This book informs that global wildlife crime ranks just behind drugs and human trafficking in terms of profit—and a significant share of that crime and profit includes the illegal trade in endangered species of butterflies.

Like the passenger pigeon whose flights once blotted out the sun here, many of those butterflies are now extinct and there is nothing but a few obscure records to verify they ever existed.

Ed Newcomer came to the U.S. Field and Wildlife Service eager to protect animals. He didn’t expect his first assignment to make him a “butterfly cop.” But when he went up against Yoshi Kojima, alleged king of the illegal butterfly trade, he soon discovered what his supervisor already knew—the violation and not the size of the species is what’s important.

Newcomer’s undercover activities and Kojima’s wheeling and dealing make this as exciting and entertaining a read as a fictional thriller. The obsessive behavior of the two men adds fun to the mix.

Though Newcomer eventually gets his man (and also bags a group of pigeon-loving hawk killers along the way) and Kojima spends some time in prison, Speart makes clear he’s still in business and the illegal butterfly trade continues.

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