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Tuesday, 13 November, 2001, 00:27 GMT
Wildlife smuggling rises in Brazil
Two jaguars, BBC
Brazil's rich wildlife is a magnet for smugglers
Wildlife trafficking in Brazil has reached unprecedented levels, with an estimated 38 million wild animals stolen from the country's forests every year, according to a new report.

Brazil's National Network Against the Trafficking of Wild Animals (RENCTAS) says local traffickers made up to $1bn dollars a year from the sale of rare animals to foreign collectors.

Trafficking in wildlife is a threat to life itself

Jose Serra Filho
Environment minister
Birds represent up to 82% of sales, while mammals represent 14% and snakes 3%.

Wildlife smuggling is now, according to RENCTAS, the country's third most profitable activity after arms and drug smuggling, which generate between $10m to $20m in illegal revenue.

Widespread poverty, lack of education and the temptation of high profits despite often great risk are all cited as primary reasons for Brazilians entering the animal trafficking industry.

Lucrative market

Brazil's vast Pantanal wetlands provide smugglers with a rich source of rare animals and plants.

The survey provides detailed maps of the smugglers' routes in and out of the hotspots, and notes that only a miniscule amount of animals, some 0.45%, are successfully intercepted by Brazilian police.

Locally, birds such as parakeets and parrots can fetch up to $100 on street markets and town fairs.

A blue-cheeked Amazonian parrot, BBC
Only 10% of animals survive being smuggled to collectors abroad
However, the international markets remains by far the most lucrative for would-be smugglers, where an extremely rare Lear's macaw can fetch up to $60,000 and a Jaguar's skin up to $20,000.

The biggest buyers include the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. RENCTAS said that only 10% of such animals survived the trips overseas.

The Brazilian Government, which received a copy of the report, said that it planned to extend an operation initiated in the Minas Gerais state to encourage Brazilian consumers not to buy smuggled animals that found their way on to local street markets.

"Trafficking in wildlife is a threat to life itself," said Brazilian environment minister Jose Serra Filho.

See also:

25 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Tourist souvenirs harm wildlife
04 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
Golden primate makes a comeback
25 Jan 01 | Americas
Brazil to re-examine Amazon project
28 Sep 00 | Sci/Tech
Growing threat to rare species
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