Sight Magazine – Mexico’s ‘runaway’ illegal trade is threatening wildlife, a report says


Mexico City

A US environmental group said Wednesday it had filed a complaint with Mexico’s prosecutors, arguing that the illegal wildlife trade allows species to be threatened in one of the world’s most biodiverse countries.

“The wildlife trade in Mexico is out of control,” the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity said in a report that points to lax penalties, a lack of political will and unregulated markets, despite laws banning trade in protected species.

Howler monkeys are seen in a tree in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve in Campeche July 12, 2014. PICTUREE: Reuters/Bernardo Montoya/File photo.

Despite being protected by law, animals like toucans, monkeys, bears and jaguars are openly and increasingly being sold on platforms like Facebook and Instagram by Meta Platforms Inc and TikTok by Chinese company ByteDance, according to the report.

A Meta spokesperson told Reuters that company policy prohibited the sale of endangered animals and that it was working with national organizations and user reports to remove infringing content or accounts as soon as it discovered them.

Neither the Mexican Ministry of the Environment nor Byte Dance immediately responded to requests for comment.

Researchers scouring social networks, visiting local markets and interviewing experts and officials said the proliferation of false online profiles is making trade more difficult for authorities to regulate.

Mexico is one of the few “megadiverse” countries in the world, harboring about 10 to 12 percent of the world’s known species. However, according to the study, the illegal trade is having an irreversible impact on the country’s ecosystems.

Populations of native species such as totoaba, vaquita marina, howler monkey, scarlet macaw and sea cucumber have declined in recent years due to demand from China and organized crime involvement in the business, which is estimated to be worth $100 billion annually.

Howler monkeys are sold as exotic pets, while vaquitas, the world’s smallest porpoises, are among the planet’s most endangered mammals, often being caught in nets by fishermen searching for totoabas, whose swim bladders are used in traditional Chinese medicine .

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According to the report, a Mexican special prosecutor’s office had tackled online wildlife trafficking by early 2019, but the office was shut down to save money under President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s administration.

“Budget cuts at the environmental agency, which oversees, monitors and inspects sales of wildlife in Mexico, has meant the problem has grown,” it said.


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