When Shuhood Abader went to Kimon de Greef with the manuscript he had written in prison about his experiences as an abalone poacher, he was a man with empty pockets and a soul filled with broken glass. Theirs is a winning combination. De Greef is a peerless writer of the Cape Peninsula who began researching abalone poaching in 2012 for a master’s degree, and Abader was a poacher with kamikaze zeal.

Abalone from the Western Cape is trafficked for huge profits by underground cartels. For 15 years Abader trawled the jagged coastline, risking his life for the expensive ornamental hermits that fetch thousands of dollars a piece in China’s luxury seafood market. The syndicates the poacher divers supply have in the past 25 years smuggled out more than 50 tons of the animal with rich and luscious flesh. In the process, they denuded the coastline to a fretwork of barren rocks. The narrative in Poacher reads like a saga about urban terrorism on steroids, powered by an instinct for survi...

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