By Jeanna Cullinan
Honduran authorities stopped two men accused of trying to smuggle 118 exotic parakeets from Nicaragua to El Salvador, concealed in fruit boxes.
Authorities at the El Amatillo border crossing into El Salvador were alerted to the presence of the birds by the noise they were making. The men, one Nicaraguan and one Salvadoran, were arrested, and could face a sentence of four to nine years for the crime of wildlife trafficking if convicted.
The birds were suffering from dehydration and the overcrowded conditions, and 10 had already died of suffocation. The survivors have been transferred to a United Nations zoological park in Honduran capital Tegucigalpa, where vets are battling to save them.
According to the authorities, the animals would have been worth the equivalent of $79 in Honduras, while in El Salvador they would have been sold for $100.
El Tribunal reports that Honduran authorities have been trying to crack down on the hunting and trafficking of endangered wildlife since 2007, but this has been hampered by unguarded points on its borders where eco-traffickers can cross unnoticed by border agents.
Ecotrafficking is a highly profitable business in Latin America, with rare and exotic species of flora and fauna being trafficked across the continent, sometimes by organized criminal groups.