By Laura Herrera
The immense variety of birds and second-most diverse amphibian population makes Colombia a tempting target for animal traffickers. The illegal wildlife trade moves between US$7.8 billion and US$10 billion a year worldwide, according to a 2011 report from NGO Global Financial Integrity.
In Colombia, 64,507 animals were seized by law enforcement agents from traffickers in 2012, according to the National Police.
“The total number of confiscated animals may represent only the tip of the iceberg,” said Iván Lozano, zoologist and director of Bioparque La Reserva. “Estimating values for this trade is difficult, mainly because the sale prices on the domestic and international markets are very different.”
Inside and outside the country, these wild animals are coveted as pets, “pieces” for collectors, sources of protein for human consumption and raw material for the manufacture of clothing and accessories made from animal skins.
In the case of frogs from the Dendrobatidae family, there is interest in studying the powerful venom of these small, vibrantly colored amphibians to manufacture drugs.
Networking and marketing strategies
The network of animal trafficking is complex and involves people selling exotic animals along roadsides to organized crime groups.
“There are different modalities: trafficking as a means of survival, trafficking on an average scale – when these animals are marketed in the main cities of the country – and trafficking on a large scale, when the animal is taken abroad,” said Lt. Cl. Wilman Chavarro, director for Protection and Special Services of the National Police (PVC).
The main international destinations are the United States, Europe and Asia, according to the National Police.
“Most of the trafficked animals leave the country through ports and land borders, not through the El Dorado airport in Bogotá,” said Julio César Pulido, director of Environmental Control for the District Department of the Environment (SDA) in Bogotá.
In the nation’s capital of Bogotá, organizations buy and sell wild animals in public markets and in bus terminals. Pulido said business takes place without the animal present, making it difficult for police to make arrests. More....