Steve's Herpetological Blog

An insight into the life of Steve, his research and the many books he reads


#StevesLibrary: Winged Obsession

There aren’t many books out there on the illegal wildlife trade, which is a shame as it is an interesting and often overlooked area of conservation. Some of you may remember back to last summer when I read Stolen Worlds, about the illegal reptile trade. One of the books I got for Christmas was Winged Obsession, by Jessica Speart, which tackles the illegal butterfly trade. This is an aspect of wildlife trade that I was somewhat oblivious to prior to reading Speart’s captivating and truly insane book on the topic. I don’t know what it is about a story that is so mad, it has to be true, but the fall of Yoshi Kojima is a true page-turner! He’s the equivalent of Ed Newcomer’s Joker. Newcomer may not have the technology and capital behind him like Bruce Wayne does, but he does become obsessed with trying to bring him to justice, stopping at nothing to do so. As a consequence of this, he puts his personal life on the line. I find this quite admirable, even if Newcomer does become enslaved by his own goal to convict Kojima.

What makes Winged Obsession so captivating? It’s hard to explain without giving too much away, which is something I try my best no to. There is no point in me telling you to go and read a book, if I’ve spoiled it for you. Kojima is an interesting character in that he boasted of selling thousands of dollars worth of butterflies (and other insects) around the world, but lived in squalor. He was also able to collect and source a number of rare and endangered butterfly species, which are currently listed on CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). CITES is a multi-national piece of legislation which is supposed to protect species from exploitation by their trade, clearly Kojima had different ideas about this. He recognised that he could charge more for rarer species, and in his own mind, was unable to be caught. This cocky attitude eventually led to his downfall. Aside from butterflies, Kojima was an eccentric person in a lot of ways. That’s another one of reasons that makes Winged Obsession a book that you just can’t put down.

Speart has a true gift in both journalism and storytelling, which is evident throughout. I’m looking forward to the day in the not too distant future when Speart catches wind of another story like that contained within Winged Obsession, and decides to write a book on it. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why there are so few wildlife trade related popular science books out there, there are only a limited number of people with the required skillset to write them. All of the ones I’ve read so far have been authored by extremely talented journalists (Stolen Worlds and The Feather Thief among them), Speart is no exception. If you’re interested in entomology, conservation or the wildlife trade then this book is for you!

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