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Animals Trafficking

Statistics on wild animals do not bring any data on Brazilian wild cats. We are therefore reproducing below the excellent report of Conservation International as the main reference on the subject.

The Woods are Silent

Every year, 12 million animals are taken out of Brazilian forests and woods. Little by little, smugglers channel them to street markets and road sellers throughout the country. Or to ports and airports in the U.S., Europe and Asia. This market has become so active that it currently ranks third among illegal trading activities in the world – moving billions of dollars annually, it comes right after drugs and arms. Brazil, one of the largest suppliers of this illegal network, accounts for at least 10% of this underground trading. And wild life is therefore suffering a slow and silent extermination, day after day.

“ Hi missus, gimme an “acarajé”. How much is it?

“That’ll be 2 reais. Want some hot pepper?”

“No, thanks. By the way, could you tell me where I could buy a “mico”(small monkey) or a Mackaw? “

“Well, son – just sit over there, at the bar, and wait a moment.”

It was raining slightly that morning and the sky of Salvador was uncharacteristically cloudy. Nevertheless, the Central Market (Mercado Modelo) was bustling. Idlers, craftsmanship sellers, peddlers, wandered all over the place and a loud group of “capoeira” dancers was attracting foreign tourists to watch.

But there was no time for distractions. In two minutes, posing as a seller of Nosso Senhor do Bonfim souvenirs, a man slyly approached him at the counter. “What kind are you looking for?”, he asked me, matter-of-factly. Dressed in white from head to toe (after all, it was Friday in Bahia), he went on reciting the list for immediate delivery: saguis, parrots, mackaws, turtles.

“I was fancying a mackaw, but the bird is too big and too noisy. Wouldn’t it be dangerous to take one?”, I tried.

“Nah, yesterday a friend of mine, who’s got the animals, delivered ten “araras-canindé” to a boat harbored here in the port. He’s always doing it”, the man said. “Just give’m a dosis of maracujina (a tranquilizer sold over the counter in drugstores), put’m in a cardboard box and the critters will never utter a cry durin’ the whole trip”.

The so-called friend charged 1000 reais for the bird. If you took more than one, you had a discount.

Illegal buying or selling wild animals – whether a bird in a cage, or live animals – is not restricted to smugglers or traffickers. Though prohibited by law since 1967, trading of Brazilian fauna species runs freely in street markets, popular markets, pet shops, on the riverside and along the roads in the country. You can check “inventories” on the web (see box in page 28) and order endangered species, as easily as if you were in a CD shop looking for a rare item.

The figures of this thriving market are impressive. It is estimated that illegal trading of wild animals (not coming from authorized breeders) throughout the world amounts to around 10 billion dollars every year. Environmentalist groups believe this sum may easily reach more than 15 billion dollars. A business only less profitable than drugs and arms trafficking, but more profitable than gems. In the underground world, goods are often “merged”. In Rio de Janeiro, three years ago, a large amount of cocaine was found inside boa constrictors. And in the U.S., 36 kilos of the drug traveled hidden in snakes coming from Colombia.

With one of the most diversified fauna in the Earth, Brazil is a prime target for this underground marketing, accounting for 10% of the total volume of transactions. That means 1 billion dollars moving into the hands of traffickers in the country. And to spur the covetous trade, 12 million animals – from delicate butterflies to rare blue mackaws, to ferocious pumas – are being sacked every year from our forests. Nearly 30% go to the foreign market, which also contributes to this slow but cruel wildlife extermination process.

On one end of the chain, uninformed people are breeding wild animals as if they were companion animals. And to boost the market, there are the private collectors, tannery owners, zoos, aquariums and research centers in Brazil and abroad. Other potential customers are the large chemical and pharmaceutical companies, that use animals in laboratory research and experiments. During the 60’s, Peru exported 500,000 primates from the Amazon region, for scientific purposes. And very often, such transactions involve the same institutions that are supposedly controlled by government agencies. “Some breeders and parks registered with IBAMA [Brazilian Environment Protection Agency] take part in these dealings”, says a former trafficker from S. Paulo. Many of these institutions, even when legally registered, often times profit from lax surveillance. That was the case at the Bwana Park, in Rio de Janeiro. Last month, IBAMA inspectors found 103 animals dead in this private zoo. Many were endangered species, like the spotted puma or the broad-nose cayman. The police are investigating a possible connection with drug and semi-precious gems trafficking, that use stuffed animals to carry the goods. But thousands of wild animals, sold to people who take them home although they do not have even the most basic information about proper care, end up dead.

Animals are brought from the North and Northeast. Belém, in the heart of the Amazon, and Feira de Santana, a crossroads of poorly controlled areas in Bahia, are the main distribution poles. The network involves peddlers, who work on the main roads, truck and interstate bus drivers, who carry the doped animals in cardboard boxes. Once in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, the animals are sent to markets, pet shops or even abroad. In bordering countries, such as Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru and Colombia, receivers take birds, primates, reptiles and felines, which are then sent with fake documents to North America, Europe and Asia. The terrible travel conditions make for an extremely high mortality rate. Of every ten animals traded, only one gets to its final destination.

As aggressive as deforestation, trafficking is rapidly reducing the variety of native species, says a WWF report. When out capturing animals, hunters mercilessly kill adult animals to keep the youngs, more valued for trading. Thus reproductive capacity and, as a consequence, the genetic load of the wild group decreases.

"The blue macaw is a sad example of what illegal trading can bring”, says a biologist from Rio de Janeiro, Flavia Murad Ferreira, who researches illegal trade in Brazil. In 1985, when it was found that there were only three remaining blue macaws in the wild in Curaçá, Bahia, traffickers moved fast and took away two. The last bird was never found again and this year the species (Cyanopsitta spixii) was considered extinct. Now, there are only six dozen blue macaws in captivity, in refuges around the world.

Desenvolvido por: Web Sites Factory