Trafficking of species in the Amazon forest, endless story

Big blue and yellow macaws of the Amazon, green parrots, turtles, snakes and jaguars: animal trafficking does not forgive to any species in the Amazon region, not even those in extinction.

Brazil and Peru have the largest extension of the Amazon, followed by Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana, Venezuela, Suriname and French Guiana. The Amazon stands out as one of the most biodiverse ecoregions in the world.

In the Amazon wildlife species are trapped in the forest by natives (often motivated by traffickers to hunt endangered species and selling their pelts and other products) gold diggers, farmers, ranchers and cowboys, who complement their income through this illegal activity.

The remote Amazonian borders between countries are the ideal place for traffickers to export wild animals. Research has shown that sometimes the dealers make a “wash” of species through zoos  or the so-called “scientific / conservation” institutions or commercial breeding (legal or not), which provide false certificates attesting that the animals were born in captivity, which allows them to be imported or exported.

There is often limited capacity to implement regulations to reduce the illegal wildlife trafficking. In the absence of political will and funds to protect wildlife, there are few incentives for sustainable use and conservation efforts. Venezuela is the tenth most biodiverse country in the world, making it one of the favorite destinations for international traffickers of exotic species.

In recent years, tour operators and environmental organizations have reported an increase in the activity of smuggling of animals, especially in three areas: Puerto Ayacucho, the banks of the Cuyuni River (Bolivar state border with the Essequibo territory) and the East coast.   Poachers wipe out species in the Mountains of Perijá in western Venezuela.

Colombia ranks second in the trafficking of animals and species in the Amazon region as revealed by the head of the unit of crimes against the environment, Captain Mabel Hernandez. This traffic is like a pyramid beginning with indigenous peasants caught the species, then a broker will contact international traffickers and ultimately they who sell to customers,” says Captain Hernandez.

Among the most preferred species are ornamental birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects and cats, that are sought after as pets, for use as a basis for medicines or for their fur.

The 22.3 percent of endemic species in Ecuador, a small country of 256,370 square kilometers that has in its Amazon territory  large part of its biological treasures, main “suppliers” of the illegal wildlife business that threatens the preservation of delicate ecosystems.

Last year, authorities confiscated 1,521  species: 574 of fauna and 947 of  flora, a 93.9 percent were orchids, according Green Watch, an organization responsible for monitoring of species in the country’s roads “It’s a small country with good access roads, weak controls, high levels of corruption and a high diversity of species and then it is a country where there are many unique issues of great interest to collectors, it’s a perfect place (for trafficking), “said the representative of the environmental group Traffic for South America, Bernardo Ortiz.

According to recent estimates, about 38 million of wild animals, of which 80% are birds-are captured illegally in the forest in Brazil and nearly 90% die during transport,” said Rauff Lima, spokesman from the Renctas NGO.

The Federal Police seized 250,000 animals on average per year and the Brazilian Institute of Environment captures another 45,000 in checks that were multiplied throughout the country, figures stable since 2008. At the Center for Wildlife selection of Rio de Janeiro, the veterinarian Daniel Neves handles each year between 7,000 and 8,000 recovered animals, usually sick or hungry, victims of smugglers.

Illegal trade in flora and fauna at the airport of Lima, Peru is one of the major problems facing this terminal, after drug trafficking. To avoid the controls, smugglers appeal to unusual tricks. Operations to combat the trafficking of species are in coordination with the authorities of the Special Operations Brigade (BOE -in spanish-) of Customs, who review comprehensively the luggage of all domestic flights, which is not always allowed in international lines.

In 2011, they tried to sell, according with the registration of the Ecological Police, nine thousand 998 preserved butterflies and 792  animals, including parrots, monkeys, iguanas, frogs and Amazon parrots.

Since 1975, Bolivia agreed to the terms of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, and since 1992 has banned the possession and trade of wild animals within the country.

But the lack of interest from the authorities to prosecute this case, transforms these laws in useless tools . Today, Bolivia is one of the countries with the highest incidence in the traffic of Amazonian species.

This trade that affects both animal and plant species is performed in an uncontrolled and unsustainable producing significant environmental damage. But besides a direct condition for species subject to this trade, which normally are overexploited, presents additional problems such as invasive species or death of other species by accident.

Gustavo Carrasquel | ANCA 24

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About ANCA24canada

Environmental, Ecologists and Conservationist news from the Americas
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