Exploring the Exotic Pet Trade between Germany and South Africa.

This project explores the trade in Bitis, a genus of venomous vipers, from a new angle by using the ‘zooming-in, zooming out’ method to reconstruct the path of a traded exotic pet between South Africa, a comparatively capital-poor, but biodiversity-rich country, to Germany, capital-rich, but biodiversity-poor country. 'Zooming-in, zooming-out' is a mapping strategy that traces a cultural formation from and within multiple sites and multiple perspectives. It has predominantly been used in organisational research and management studies but offers the tools to reconstruct connected enterprises through an object (in this case the exotic pet) they trade by focusing on the inclusion of context, relations, and socio-material activities. For this project, the different dimensions of the trade are researched by trialling ‘zooming-in’ as a method to wholistically reconstruct previously un-assessed trade routes, its participants, and its inherent dynamics; and testing ‘zooming-out’ as a method to examine vulnerabilities emanating from these reconstructed routes.

The project is led by Janine Heim, PhD researcher, at Maastricht University. Janine is supervised by Dr Donna Yates, Maastricht University, and Dr Annette Hübschle, University of Cape Town. Janine is a member of the Transform Project Trafficking transformations: objects as agents in transnational criminal networks is a European Research Council starting grant to study how objects influence criminal networks, with a particular focus on objects such as antiquities, fossils, and rare and collectable wildlife.