Newsweek: Wasteland

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After the fall of the Soviet Union, its resources were up for grabs:  oil, timber, gold, minerals — even Siberian tiger pelts.  A tiger with two cubs had just been poached when I arrived near Vladivostok, and police set up a sting operation to capture the suspected poaching ringleader.  I was at an undercover cop’s house when Sergei burst in unexpectedly, and I had to pretend to be the buyer from America.  Sergei unfurled a tiger skin and I inspected it.  My translator pointed to the bullet hole, and came up with the best improvised line I’ve heard.  “Normally, we get our tigers in India,” he told Sergei.  “They poison them there, so we don’t have these ugly bullet holes.”