Wildlife trafficking in Mexico is growing, environmental group says

Wildlife trafficking in Mexico is out of control, new report says
Sea cucumber, photo: Canva

“Wildlife trafficking in Mexico is out of control,” the Center for Biological Diversity said in a report that revealed the lack of penalties, political will and unregulated wildlife markets. The environmental group said on Wednesday that it had filed a complaint about the lack of wildlife trafficking regulation to Mexican state prosecutors.

Mexico does have laws against the trade of protected animals, but there are little to no penalties when laws are broken, according to the American environmental group. 

Researchers visited local markets, examined social networks, and interviewed experts and officials. Toucans, monkeys, bears, jaguars and other animals are openly sold on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, the report found, adding that because traffickers create false online profiles, the trade is more difficult for authorities to control.

“It’s shockingly easy to buy a wild animal illegally in Mexico. All you need is a social media account and a bit of money. Once animals end up in the illegal pet trade, the odds of them being mistreated and malnourished are high,” Alex Olivera, senior Mexico representative at the Center, said.

“As more and more imperiled animals are plucked from their habitats for trade, it gets harder for these struggling populations to recover in the wild, where they belong,” he added.

Mexico is one of the world’s most biodiverse countries and home to around 10% to 12% of the world’s animals. But according to the report, illegal trafficking has an irreversible effect on the country’s ecosystems.

In recent years, the number of native species such as the vaquita, totoaba, howler monkey, scarlet macaw and sea cucumber has fallen drastically due to demand from China, the report said.

It added that Mexico used to have a special prosecutor’s office to fight internet wildlife trafficking, but the government stopped funding the office in 2019.

“Budget cuts to the environmental agency responsible for verifying, monitoring and inspecting the sale of wildlife in Mexico have allowed the problem to continue to grow,” the report said.

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