“The world does not belong to us, we belong to the world. We are the guardians of its natural resources, we do not own them.” (Obradors)
The state of wildlife and its natural habitat throughout the world is getting more complicated. Despite the laws passed and the international agreements in place to protect it, its gets harder and harder to do so because so much money can be made from doing just the opposite.
After more than 20 years of having dedicated ourselves to this activity, we believe that there is still much effort to be made to preserve the natural habitat and threat of extintion of wildlife. Seeing the torture and suffering of these defenceless beings is what motivates us to continue our work; to work with more determination, passion and love.
At the 2010 South American conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade in Brazil, the facts and figures presented highlighted the level of devastation:
• Over 20 million specimens are smuggled out of South America every year.
• Only one out of every ten animals survive the moment of capture and the journey, which may last several thousand kilometres.
• To keep the animals quiet during their journey to Europe and the United States, the most common destinations, they are subjected to horrifying torture.
• The animals smuggled out of the country end up in a variety of different destinations: zoos, private collectors and even pharmaceutical laboratories. The poison of some Amazon snakes and frogs contains valuable active ingredients that are used in drugs for problems like hypertension. One gram of snake poison can fetch up to $1,200 USD.
Illicit animal trafficking generates between $7.8 to $10 billion USD worldwide each year, making it the third largest illegal trade, after the drug and arms trades. Whilst traffickers make unbelievable profits, they also put our planet’s wildlife at great risk, and cause damage and instability to our planet’s unique ecosystems.
Between 1970 and 2000, the populations of different species declined by 40%. During the same period, the human population increased by more than 50%. After habitat destruction, the biggest contributing factor to the decrease in wildlife populations is the animal trade.
Some species are getting closer and closer to extinction. Unfortunately the threat of extinction makes species more valuable on the black market, since they are deemed rare and their capture is prized. This situation is threatening the existence of many species that are vulnerable or in danger of extinction.
Many animals that are taken from their natural habitat are abandoned elsewhere when owners no longer want them. Without appropriate habitats or rehabilitation, many of these animals will starve or fall victim to the elements since the majority of them were removed from their natural habitats as infants and do not have the instinct necessary to survive. Just as worrying, those who do survive can have detrimental effects on the environment, including overpopulation and the introduction of foreign diseases that can kill entire populations of their own species or of others.
The mortality rate for trafficked animals is estimated to be between 80-90% due to the horrific conditions they are transported in. This is especially true for endangered species that must be moved without detection. Animals often change hands several times through unscrupulous middlemen, each of whom has his own way of passing these animals through control areas.
• Turtles are trapped inside their shells. Tape is used to cover the holes where their limbs and head would normally protrude from.
• Parrots have their beaks and feet taped up. Macaws have their breastbones broken to prevent them from squawking. Some birds even have their eyes pierced so they cannot see the light that would set them singing.
• Many animals are drugged during flights to prevent their detection. They are often crammed inside tiny, overcrowded cages, where they are exposed to significant stress and many forms of disease.
Animals who do survive long enough to be sold are often subject to poor care and living conditions. Some animals require companions of their own species, and living in isolation and away from their natural habitat may cause them to develop psychological disorders, exhibited by pacing or self-mutilation.
As a consequence of deforestation, the loss of habitat and illegal hunting, thousands of wild animals in Bolivia end up being sold on the black market. They become victims of maltreatment and abuse at the hands of unscrupulous dealers and people who keep them as pets in inadequate conditions; thereby threatening the existence of many species, species which may already find themselves vulnerable or at risk of extinction.
In 1992, the same year that CIWY was founded, Bolivia passed Law 1333, making wildlife trafficking illegal. However, anyone visiting an open-air market in Bolivia will find live animals and animal derivatives, such as llama foetuses, jaguar pelts and armadillo shells, all for sale; the sale of which is illegal according to the law.
April 27, 1992
|TITLE XI, SECTION V
|ARTICLE 111 - Anyone who incites, promotes, captures and/or markets the product of hunting, possession, collection or transport of animals and plants or their derivatives without authorisation or that are declared in closed season or protected, thereby putting them in risk of extinction, will suffer the penalty of imprisonment for up to two years and have the species confiscated, to be returned to their natural environment, if advisable, and will pay a fine equal to the value of the species.|
One of the principal issues surrounding the illegal animal trade in Bolivia is that Law 1333 is not adequately enforced. Unfortunately the law is not compatible with Bolivia’s penal code, meaning that although some criminals are caught, they cannot be punished. Furthermore, there are not enough government employees working in control and inspection, meaning confiscations are rare.
Complicating the law’s enforcement is a reluctance by the authorities to prosecute individuals breaking the law. Bolivian authorities also cite a lack of time and financial resources as the root of this reluctance. However where there is political interest there is action, even within limitations. Unfortunately animal trafficking in Bolivia garners very little political interest.
In the long term, the lack of enforcement will have serious consequences. Poachers continue to hunt and capture more and more animals, including species at risk of extinction. Furthermore, according to the United Nations criminals from other illegal trades have and will continue to move into wildlife trading, since the risks and consequences are much lower and profits are equally as high.
Obviously, the legal system is not strong enough to tackle this serious problem. Defenceless animals that have already been affected by the trade need to be looked after. In addition, more work needs to be done so that no more animals are harmed by this trade. In the absence of a governmental body dedicated to this illegal activity and its consequences, CIWY has stepped in.
Friends of Inti Wara Yassi (FIWY) is our sister organization in the UK. They have been a major source of support since their founding in 2008. Find out more about FIWY here.
Quest Overseas organizes gap year trips for British and international students. Since 2001, Quest has worked with CIWY to bring much needed volunteers and funds. If you are interested in the programs they have with us, find out more here.