A Novel

This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.

Buy this Book on

You must sign in to see if this title is available for request.
Send NetGalley books directly to your Kindle or Kindle app

To read on a Kindle or Kindle app, please add as an approved email address to receive files in your Amazon account. Click here for step-by-step instructions.
Also find your Kindle email address within your Amazon account, and enter it here.
Pub Date 30 Mar 2021 | Archive Date 19 Jul 2021

Talking about this book? Use #AnimalsbyWillStaples #NetGalley. More hashtag tips!


The debut novel from acclaimed Hollywood screenwriter Will Staples.

When rhino poachers kill two of his fellow rangers in Kruger Park, South African Defense Force veteran Cobus Venter reaches his breaking point. Quitting his job, he embarks on a vigilante mission to take down the animal-trafficking syndicate from the inside. Meanwhile, in Florida, insurance investigator Randall Knight is called to a private roadside zoo, where a new tiger cub of suspect lineage brought a virus that wiped out all the zoo’s tigers. The disease is just one species jump away from erupting into a deadly global human pandemic. What starts as a simple insurance claim leads Knight to discover a shocking new evolution in the business of illicit animal trafficking. Both men’s journeys take them from the darkest corners of Southeast Asia to the VIP gambling rooms of Macau, where they must stay alive long enough to stop a vicious international triad from ending wildlife as we know it.

Animals is set in the world of global animal trafficking and follows converging story lines into a dark maze of corruption and organized crime, and through the journeys of the main characters, the novel explores the factors driving the exploitation and ruin of the natural world.

Though the story is fiction, the characters, locations, and plot points are almost entirely rooted in fact. They are the product of hundreds of conversations with everyone from Jane Goodall to the CIA, to Damien Mander (an ex-mercenary turned animal activist). To experience the issue firsthand, Will Staples took a month-long research trip spanning three continents and seven countries. The journey was a profoundly transformative, life-altering experience.

The author’s goal with this novel is to expose this issue to as many people as possible. To that end, all his income from this book will be donated to nonprofit organizations dedicated to protecting wildlife.

The debut novel from acclaimed Hollywood screenwriter Will Staples.

When rhino poachers kill two of his fellow rangers in Kruger Park, South African Defense Force veteran Cobus Venter reaches his...

A Note From the Publisher

Will Staples is the creator of the Disney+ drama series The Right Stuff (based on the Tom Wolfe book). As a writer, he has also worked on Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, the upcoming movie Without Remorse (starring Michael B. Jordan), the upcoming movie Sweet Girl (starring Jason Momoa), and the Jack Ryan and Shooter TV series. He has also worked on numerous video games, including the Rainbow Six and Need for Speed franchises, as well as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (which beat Avatar’s record for the biggest entertainment launch in history).

Will Staples is the creator of the Disney+ drama series The Right Stuff (based on the Tom Wolfe book). As a writer, he has also worked on Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, the upcoming movie...

Advance Praise

“This is more than a story about the fate of wildlife—it’s a story about the fate of the earth. As an animal lover, I highly recommend this book.”

-Arnold Schwarzenegger 

“Will Staples is passionate about wildlife and conservation. Although this book is a fictitious story it is based on sound research and a real understanding of the issues discussed. Animals will help people realize the horrors of global wildlife trafficking—the cruelty, the corruption and, as we now know from COVID-19, the risk it poses to human health. Thank you, Will, for writing this.”

-Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace, 

“Great stories both engage and inform. They engross readers on an intriguing journey and awake their moral consciousness. Animals more than succeeds on both fronts. Will Staples deftly weaves his complex characters into a haunting thriller set in the underworld of animal trafficking and the result is a profound book that leaves the reader yearning to take action. What better compliment can one pay a novel than it moves your soul?”

-Tony Camerino, author of How To Break a Terrorist and Kill or Capture

"Screenwriter Staples…makes the tragedy of animal trafficking vivid in his impressive debut…Staples skillfully weaves multiple plot strands, including CIA efforts to combat terrorism, with well-developed characters. His extensive research pays off in this moving, multifaceted tale.”

-Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“One of the most confident and well-written debuts I’ve read in some time…told with a skill, authenticity, and heart exceedingly rare in new authors. Illuminating, haunting, and thrilling, anyone even remotely interested should give Animals a read…Highly recommended.”

-Strand Magazine

Animals is one of the most eye-opening books I have read in years…Staples writes a thriller that is both fascinating and educational…It is a book that shows the worst of humanity, as well as giving us hope that there are those out there who are doing all they can on behalf of the animal kingdom. This is an important book that we all need to read.”

-Mystery & Suspense

“With the encouragement of Leonardo DiCaprio, Jane Goodall, and other wildlife activists, screenwriter Staples wrote this first novel to reveal the gruesome truths about the trafficking of endangered animals for allegedly medicinal and certainly decadent purposes, a little-known yet catastrophic realm of organized crime. Staples’ gutsy in-the-field research shapes this webby ecothriller and its intriguing characters gone rogue in pursuit of justice…With hard-edge cinematic action and psychological depth, Staples dramatizes with jolting specificity horrific crimes against wondrous, precious animals as cartels and their craven customers ‘cash in on the end of the wild’ and threaten the ‘death of life itself.’ Staples’s gripping and awakening tale should have a resounding impact.”


Animals is a thrilling and cinematic exploration of the animal trafficking underworld and its surprisingly far-reaching consequences. Staples expertly weaves together memorable characters from every corner of the globe, whose storylines braid together into a tense page-turner.”

-Nicole Perlman, cowriter of Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel

“A savage, heartbreaking, and breathtakingly beautiful work that is as thrilling as it is important. Deeply researched and masterfully crafted, Staples pulls back the curtain on the terrifying underworld of global animal trafficking and takes readers on a journey into the heart of human darkness. This is a book that will sweep you up and hold you within its pages until it is done with you.”

-Peter Houlahan, author of Norco ’80 

Animals is an evocatively written, high-stakes morality tale on the trafficking of exotic wildlife by gangsters, terrorists, and opportunists. Will Staples has given us a fast-moving, twenty-first century glimpse at a voracious underworld whose greed and hubris are threatening the majesty of nature. This novel is a call to action.”

-Jeffrey Fleishman, author of Last Dance and My Detective

Animals is a thrilling, visceral tale underwritten by the cruel facts and extensive geography of an ongoing global tragedy—the harvesting and trafficking of endangered animal species. Staples expertly weaves the reader into the threats posed by man’s darkest appetites and the desperate, and essentially personal, battles of those that fight the criminal organizations feeding on them. This tightly plotted, fast-paced novel is a timely warning of the moral and physical jeopardy that ultimate loss of this war presents to ‘humanity’ and any legacy it might still aspire to.”

-Harry Farthing, author of The Ghost Moths

“This is more than a story about the fate of wildlife—it’s a story about the fate of the earth. As an animal lover, I highly recommend this book.”

-Arnold Schwarzenegger 

“Will Staples is...

Marketing Plan

National and regional reviews and author interviews

Thriller-fiction buzz mailing

Digital and print advertising campaign

Bookseller and library show marketing

Social media campaign

National and regional reviews and author interviews

Thriller-fiction buzz mailing

Digital and print advertising campaign

Bookseller and library show marketing

Social media campaign

Available Editions

EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9781094065885
PRICE $27.99 (USD)

Available on NetGalley

NetGalley Shelf App (PDF)
Send to Kindle (PDF)

Average rating from 17 members

Featured Reviews

Firstly, I’d like to thank Will Staples for taking the time to research this subject, and write this book. This is my special subject, and I don’t think it gets nearly enough attention in the world, and few people care to take a real interest in it. I try to get my hands on every single book regarding the subject, fiction and nonfiction.

There are many of the main ingredients woven into the book: Kruger national park, Mozambican kingpins, rhinos, corruption, tigers, traditional Chinese medicine, CITES, zoos, agencies, you name it. In fact, I think there is enough subjects in the book for 2-3 separate books. I understand it though, being a subject so close to my own heart I would want to tell it all as well.

Despite that, I enjoyed seeing so many familiar issues tackles. I believe I am as concerned about these subject as the author is, and I hope as many people as possible will educate themselves by reading this book. It was a bit hard to keep up with all the people in the book, because there were so many, and it kept on going back and forth between many locations and people.

It’s possible to see that the author has spent hours and hours researching different angles regarding illegal wildlife trade. I would like to read more about the anti poaching unit and rangers that were in the beginning of the book. The characters felt real, and I really appreciate the work they do to protect precious wildlife.

I love it that so many people have given their input, like Jane Goodall, what could be better?! I’m happy that Damien Mander, someone I respect very much, has helped out the author with showing him around, taking him to special places. I could feel his presence in this book. I hope there will be more books like this in the future.

Was this review helpful?

The author’s research is much appreciated as it provides the canvas on which the novel can be painted . Great story.

Was this review helpful?

Riveting! This eco-thriller is made all the more terrifying by the research behind the work and just how much of the narrative is based in fact. He sought counsel from the likes of Jane Goodall and Leonardo DiCaprio - feels like this could be the next Blood Diamond, following how animal poaching and trafficking is a global practice and a bigger global threat. The book features an extensive cast of characters including an Asian police officer, a South Aftrican militant and anti-poacher, an exotic animal insurance agent, and a CIA operative looking for a terrorist connection. They each are forced to juggle their self-interests against those of the animals they're meant to protect, from rhinos and elephants to tigers and more.

Was this review helpful?

Wow! Anyone who knows me knows that animals are one of the things I'm most passionate about. I haven't read a book about animal trafficking before and this was pretty intense. I didn't think going into this that it would elicit such a strong emotional response from me but it did, I was so upset and infuriated because this stuff happens in real life. I really appreciate Will Staples for writing this book, bringing a voice to this issue, and you can tell he put his all into it. The amount of research alone this had to take is astounding. As far as the story goes it had me hooked from the beginning. Every chapter I read just had me wanting to keep going to find out what happens. I did find it a lot to follow at some times but it all came together nicely and the characters really felt like real people. I will definitely be recommending this to people I know!

Was this review helpful?

Thanks to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing providing me with a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.
This is one of the most eye-opening books I have personally read in years. It’s probably best described as a political thriller, with the main topics of the book being poaching and endangered species. Before the book even begins, the author gives us numerous pages of research that he did on the topic and he hooks you from that very Preface.
There is not a lot of major character development here, as many of the characters include Rhinoceros, Elephants, Sumatran Tigers and Pangolins. It is a book that takes us from South Africa to Tanzania, to China, Macao, and the jungles of Southeast Asia. While Staples writes a book that’s topic is not sexy, he writes a thriller that is both fascinating and educational as to the plight of these animals.
The book has numerous storylines that easily converge, as we follow a former soldier who was a park ranger at Kruger National Park in South Africa, a Chinese narcotics agent, and an insurance adjuster who is both clamoring for wealth as well as trying to protect these endangered animals.
The CIA are also drawn into this as there appears to be a link between poaching, endangered species, Traditional Chinese Medicine and the funding of terror organizations. And throughout the book we get an inside look at the Chinese triads that control this trade, along with being taken to remote jungle areas where tigers are bred for nothing more than being able to harvest their bones, bile, paws and even are used to make Tiger Wine. We also get an inside look at South African poachers who are decimating the rhinoceros and elephant populations all for horns and tusks that are turned into jewelry, and aphrodisiac powders. It is a world most of us know little to nothing about and which exists because it is next to impossible to stop.
This book may not be for the squeamish as the reader is exposed to the dark side of the this international trafficking, and distribution system and we also see how these animals are abused by these groups.
This is a thriller like few others that I have read, and the author is going to give all his royalties from the book to anti-poaching organizations, and NGO’s that fight the daily battles on behalf of endangered species throughout the world. It is a book that shows the worst of humanity, as well as giving us hope that there are those out there who are doing all they can on behalf of the animal kingdom. This is an important book that we all need to read.
This review was previously published at

Was this review helpful?

Animals is a heart-wrenching and hard to read . . . as well as hard to put down, compelling and fascinating novel if you care at all about the wild creatures of the Earth, their fate, and in turn the fate of the planet they inhabit. It’s about poaching. Specifically it’s about poaching for profit—the large scale slaughter of endangered species such as African White Rhinos and elephants for their horns and tusks to feed an insatiable—and growing—Asian market for their supposed aphrodisiac qualities.
The protagonist of the novel is a South African white man named Corbus Ventner, a park ranger sworn to protect the diminishing numbers of trophy animals. After a shoot out with some rhino horn poachers in which two rangers and several of the poachers are killed, Ventner embarks on a perilous mission to Southeast Asia to try and stop the ruthless and powerful criminals financing the slaughter of animals and people in Africa. He eventually meets up with an American insurance claims adjuster named Randall Knight. He’s found evidence that an exotic tiger breeding program has created a virus which has the potential to kill all the tigers in the world . . . but also has the potential to spread to humans . . . with catastrophic results.
At the same time, author Will Parks—who created the Disney series, The Right Stuff— pulls together a couple of other plot strings, such as the CIA making a connection between organized criminal gangs financing terrorism through poaching activity, commercial breeding of rare, endangered species of wild tigers on an industrial scale and cross-breeding of different species to produce even more exotic animals in this eye-opening and disturbing look into the plight of the world’s most vulnerable endangered animals. It’s a look all of us should take . . . then ask ourselves WHY?

Was this review helpful?

Amazing, heartbreaking, infuriating, frustrating, hopeful.
I love animals and detest those that would exploit, hunt, traffick and otherwise be pure pieces of shit about those humans that do any of the above.
This book is incredibly well researched, which makes it both wonderful and awful at the same time.

Was this review helpful?

This is a book unlike any other I’ve read. It’s unforgettable, and while about animals, gets into the nitty gritty about some of the unscrupulous people and practices of the wild animal trade. It’s clear that the author, Will Staples, has done his homework and it shows.

The book’s cast of characters includes wildlife rangers protecting animals in Africa’s Kruger National Park, an animal insurance agent who prides himself on being someone who can smell a lie, a narcotics detective whose son has cancer and might turn to Traditional Chinese Medicine if his condition doesn’t improve, high level gang members involved in narcotics and trafficking, and a CIA agent with money laundering expertise trying to move up the ranks by proving a link between endangered species and money tied to terrorism. Caught in the crosshairs are animals like the white rhino, big cats, elephants, pangolins, and more.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves animals and to anyone who wants to see behind the scenes of animal trafficking with eyes wide open.

Thanks to Blackstone Publishing and NetGalley for the provided e-ARC and the opportunity to read this book. My review is honest, unbiased, and voluntary. #NetGalley #AnimalsbyWillStaples

Was this review helpful?

Being an animal liberation advocate, I just knew I had to read this book. I’m well versed about many animal issues so I was surprised to learn some new things from Will Staples. His research and passion shines through. This book is packed with important information but it never gets boring - it’s definitely a page turner.

Great character development, excellent pacing, and a superb balance of educational content versus thrilling action.

Thank you, Will Staples for donating the profits from this book to anti-poaching efforts.

Thank you to Will Staples, Blackstone Publishing, and #NetGallery for an eARC of #AnimalsbyWillStaples in return for an honest review. Review will be posted on NetGallery, Goodreads, Instagram, Facebook, and online retailers.

Was this review helpful?

Will Staples explodes the world of endangered species trafficking in debut novel, ‘Animals’

If you get past the uncomfortable reptilian-texture wrapper on the hardcover of Will Staples’ novel, “Animals,” know this, it only gets worse — and that’s the way the author wants it.

Uncomfortable is about the most tame adjective you can use to describe this haunting, impossibly important debut. Marrying three continents worth of research, including hundreds of conversations from those of Jane Goodall to the CIA, with the talent of a big-league screenwriter and video game scriptwriter (“Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation,” “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3”), Staples has the wheelhouse to produce a cinematic story delving deep into the underground world of global animal trafficking. And this is where he takes us, on a fictional journey with converging storylines, characters and locations that are grounded in fact.

When Kruger National Park ranger Cobus Venter is stymied by the restrictions of his job following the death of two colleagues in a shootout with rhino poachers, the veteran soldier quits and goes rogue — taking the law into his own hands to eradicate the international concern at the source. Crossing paths with American insurance agent Randall Knight, who has uncovered ground zero of a global pandemic resulting from exotic animal breeding, and Audrey Lam, a member of the Hong Kong Police Narcotics Bureau searching for the people who spiked with strychnine the rhino horn powder that nearly killed her seriously ill son, Venter’s efforts take him into a maze of corruption and organized crime where gambling, bribing and catering to the exotic tastes of the affluent are business as usual: “The whole world was for sale, Knight observed, and no amount of shopping at Whole Foods, of clicktivists’ retweeting statistics, or protests at liberal universities could stop the invisible iron fist of economics.”

The challenges before Venter, Knight and Lam are statistically damning, but challenging also is the reader’s journey into this world of corruption. Staples’ descriptions of tiger wine, the way bile is extracted from live bears and exports such as “pink tiger bones,” which involves “sedating the tiger, then skinning and deboning it alive so that the heart still pumped blood as the bones were harvested,” are the stuff of nightmares.

Which is exactly where Staples wants to take us — from ignorance to concern.

“I admittedly knew little about the world of animal trafficking when I began this project,” Staples writes, “but I ended up having what amounted to a front-row seat for the Sixth Extinction.”

The screenwriter is also putting his money where his text is: “My goal with this novel is to expose as many people as possible to this issue. To that end, all my income from this book will be donated to nonprofit organizations dedicated to protecting wildlife.”

In buying the book he’s asking us to do the same, which is a win-win. It’s a damn good story, and we all get a chance to help write the ending.

Was this review helpful?

This is a tough book to read for an animal-lover. I’ll say that right from the start. It dives deeply into the world of wildlife trafficking and can be very disturbing. It is fiction, but the things that happen in the book do happen in real life. The author did extensive research on the phenomenon and used that information to write this book. So, what you read is very close to what really happens to the animals. If this disturbs you, that is the intention. The more you know, the better you will be able to make informed decisions that will help wildlife.

Sadly, the animals suffer the worst in the world of the illegal wildlife trade. This book follows a fictional game ranger, Cobus Venter, who witnesses rhinos killed in South Africa. He loses his partner to poachers and vows to find those ultimately responsible. His mission takes him all over the world, following the evildoers who trade in illegal wildlife and wildlife parts. The descriptions of what happens to the animals can be gruesome, but it is reality. I think this book is the author’s way of sending out a wakeup call to the world that we need to be aware of this issue and we need to do something to stop it before our endangered wildlife species are wiped out.

In the fictional world, Cobus leaves his home and follows the trail of traffickers who trade in such things as tiger cubs and rhino horn. By the way, rhino horn, although it has been given special status in some traditional medicines, is made of keratin, which is the same substance making up your fingernails and animal hooves. It has no known medical benefits that have been proven by science. It is simply a legend that it can cure cancer and other illnesses. It is not an aphrodisiac, as some believe, but that is what drives the demand for such rare things.

Taking a page from current world events, the secondary character, Randall Knight, is following up on a sick tiger cub whose illness could lead to another pandemic. The stories intertwine, with some of the same people being investigate by both of our heroes.

The criminals who perpetrate these horrors on wildlife are all contributing to the demise of rare and endangered species worldwide. With this book, Staples is calling attention to an issue that we all need to be concerned about. It’s time we did something to stop this travesty and save our wildlife before it’s too late. This book will open your eyes and make you want to do something to make a difference.

Was this review helpful?

Will Staples, the screenwriter perhaps best known for his work on the videogame Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and the upcoming Amazon Original Without Remorse, makes his first foray into novel writing with Animals. Clearly a passion project for Staples, Animals revolves around a rotating narrative of characters impacted by and participating in exotic animal exploitation.
Animals is a gritty, dark, well-researched exposé of global animal trafficking that would appease any John Grisham fan. And, yet, despite the detailed attention paid to the logistics of animal trafficking, Staples’ portrayal of women, and particularly Chinese women, leaves something to be desired.

Staples tells the intertwined stories of a park ranger-turned-vigilante, an insurance agent profiting in the world of zoos, a government agent determined to make the connection between foreign terrorism and animal trafficking, and a mother who turns to alternative medicine to treat her dying son. Staples creates a fascinating, terrifying illustration of the underground crime world of animal trafficking and exploitation. Details of the trade are artfully interwoven without becoming dry or tiresome. One debate on endangered species between two main characters, held over a serving of bluefin, is particularly poignant. Staples is clearly passionate about the subject of animal exploitation. Unfortunately, he is not nearly as impassioned about the representation of women in Animals.

Though the representation of female characters in Animals is certainly no reason to disavow an otherwise competent work, it is an important note to keep in mind. Audrey, a mother whose sense of normalcy has degraded along with the health of her son, is notably the most hollow of the four primary perspectives in Animals. Her character shift is extreme and never seems fully justified. Perhaps she would be more believable if more time was dedicated to her development and less to the multiple descriptions of pubescent teenage girls. In one particularly uncomfortable passage Staples writes of a character, “...struck by the juxtaposition of the attractive, mature-looking teen and her room with its toy-themed bedding”. In another Staples describes a brothel where “skinny teenage girls [linger] in their shrink-wrapped cocktail dresses and ice pick heels”. And yet, despite a few descriptive pitfalls, Animals is, admittedly, a pretty great read.

Animals is the perfect introduction to the ins and outs of the animal trafficking industry. Staples provides great insight and is able to effectively capture the perspectives of the many players in the business. Animals is an intense, fast-paced thriller that is sure to leave readers with a better understanding of animal trafficking and, ideally, a new motivation to fight this horrific industry.

Was this review helpful?

This was shocking, horrific and excellent. The author did a massive amount of research about animal trafficking and how this digusting practice is intertwined with private zoos, traditional Asian (pseudo-)medicine, human trafficking and funding of terrorism. He traveled around Africa and Asia and consulted with the CIA and animal activists such as Jane Goodall, among others. I learned a lot about this subject while enthralled with the story and characters.

This fictional story was riveting. We have a CIA agent, an American animal insurance provider and a South African activist who, from different points of this complex trafficking web, find their paths ultimately converge.

The subject matter is an important one that is not publicized or written about in the news as much as it should be. Entire species are being eliminated due to poaching by the ultra-rich, as a thrill activity and by the poor, as a means of survival.

My understanding is that the author (who is a very successful screenwriter) is writing a screeplay for Leonardo DiCaprio, about animal trafficking. He wanted to spread the word about this little-understood topic, so I think that's why he published it as a novel. I'm really looking forward to the movie, too. All proceeds of the book are being donated to support animal welfare and anti-poaching activities.

Thank you to Netgalley and Blackstone Publishing for an ARC of this book.

Was this review helpful?

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book is well written and the characters are described well. This is the first book mentioning poachers that I have read about. This book is told by several people and it is very good. I would recommend reading this book to anyone and everyone. This book is in stores for $27.99 (USD). This is a great book to read. It'll make you want to save the animals.

Was this review helpful?

Readers who liked this book also liked: