The Burmese town of Mong-La, just across the border from China, is notorious for its prostitution, drug trafficking and wildlife trade. Hong Kong-based photojournalist Alex Hofford recently finagled his way in to the town to create a visual record of the animal-related crimes that openly take place. As he wrote for the Guardian, getting in was no easy task:
In order to reach it, you have to travel illegally by motorbike across an international border, along a bumpy dirt track that winds its way through rubber plantations and leafy jungle. It takes around 20 minutes, and along the way you pass impromptu checkpoints set up by local people, ethnic militia and the National Democratic Alliance army, before finally being admitted by Burmese government troops.
As Hofford's photos attest, however, once visitors do make it in the illegal animal goods are openly displayed.
For sale in the town, says the Guardian, is a veritable "Noah's ark of endangered animal products... including tiger skins, thick chunks of elephant hide and tusks, pangolin scales, clouded leopard pelts, flying squirrels, masked palmed civet cat, Asiatic moon bear skins, and Tibetan antelope skulls."
Earlier this year, the New York Times noted that "Mong La . . . is a glaring reminder of the challenges the Burmese government faces in taming the patchwork of rebel-held territories along its northern frontier." The Times also points out that crystal meth and "newly arrived virgins" are also readily for sale in the town, which is predominantly frequented by Chinese tourists.