March 29, 2011
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Hundreds of police raided illicit markets to crack down on the lucrative trade in wild animals and rare flowers, arresting 15 traffickers across Mexico this weekend in one of the biggest swoops of its kind.
Rich in flora and fauna, Mexico is a major hub for animal trafficking where locals buy lizards, macaws and tropical fish in city markets and smugglers move endangered species across the country's border with the United States.
In three days of raids, authorities netted 4,725 wild plants and animals -- 113 different species -- including 762 parrots and other types of birds and 67 reptiles.
The operation also found more than a dozen threatened mammals like wild boars, white-tailed deer and three tiny puma cubs in a cardboard box in a warehouse in southern Mexico.
"This is the first operation like this on a national scale," Environment Minister Juan Elvira said on Monday. "We recovered 3,500 trafficked orchids, that's a record."
Animals and plants sold on the black market cost just a fraction of the price of legal breeds, and more than 90 percent of them sold unlawfully die in transit, authorities said.
Interpol estimates the global illegal trade in live species and animal parts to produce luxury goods, medicines or folk remedies like aphrodisiacs is worth up to $20 billion a year.
TAKE ACTIONPetitions by Change.org|Get Widget|Start a Petition »Officials could not put a value on the animals and plants recovered but said the aim was to reverse the harm caused by taking protected species out of their natural environment.
"We recovered 377 parrots from Oaxaca state. These little animals can be sold for up to $50 each so we're talking more than $18,000 in just one case," said Hernando Guerrero, the head of Mexico's environmental protection agency PROFEPA.
Traffickers approach poor indigenous farmers, many of whom do not know what the species are worth, and pay them a few pesos to collect them from the jungle, said Elvira.
"They are taking advantage of this population," he added.
Most of the species are sold locally but the United States is also one of the largest markets for banned pets and animal products, making Mexico a busy corridor smuggling species from across Latin America and other parts of the world.
Mexican drug lords have been known to collect animals like big cats as trophy pets or hide narcotics in wildlife cargo.
In June, a Mexican was caught in the capital's airport after arriving from Peru with 18 tiny endangered monkeys stuffed in socks and strapped in a girdle around his waist.
(Editing by Todd Eastham)
Source: Reuters Environmental Online Report
Source: Scientific American
Three Alaskans have been indicted on charges of trafficking in hundreds of pounds of walrus tusks taken from a remote Eskimo village in exchange for such items as cash, guns and marijuana, prosecutors said on Thursday.
April 28, 2011
By Yereth Rosen
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Three Alaskans have been indicted on charges of trafficking in hundreds of pounds of walrus tusks taken from a remote Eskimo village in exchange for such items as cash, guns and marijuana, prosecutors said on Thursday.
The case against the three individuals, which also includes accusations of illegal sales of walrus bones and polar bear hides, marks Alaska's biggest case of illegal trafficking in wildlife contraband in years, said Yvonne Lamoureux, an assistant U.S. attorney.
Jesse Leboeuf and Loretta Sternbach, both of Glennallen, Alaska, and Richard Weshenfelder of Anchorage pleaded not guilty on Thursday. They were arrested earlier this week.
The indictment, unsealed on Wednesday, said they began trading last summer for the animal parts from Savoonga, an impoverished Yupik Eskimo village on a remote Bering Strait island.
In addition to offering cash, firearms, ammunition and drugs in exchange for the ivory and hides, the defendants also traded away snowmobiles, prosecutors said. The three also are accused of conspiring to sell the ivory and animal parts over the Internet.
Federal laws forbid commercial trafficking in raw animal parts from protected species, such as Pacific walruses and polar bears. Polar bears are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and the Pacific walrus is a candidate for listing. Bothanimals are considered imperiled by the decline of Arctic sea ice.
Leboeuf was charged with seven counts of trafficking in animal parts and three gun violations and he faces a maximum of 65 years in prison if convicted. Sternbach is charged with seven counts of trafficking in animal parts and two firearms offenses and faces up to 55 years in prison.
Lamoureux described them as a dangerous couple who shared a house full of guns, marijuana, coca plants and other contraband.
Weshenfelder, who prosecutors say remained in Anchorage and helped arrange sales, is charged with conspiracy to traffic in animal parts and faces a maximum sentence of five years.
The arrests capped a nine-month investigation in which authorities seized 1,000 pounds of raw ivory -- believed to have come from at least 100 walruses -- and other contraband such as whale baleen and teeth and polar bear hides.
In a similar case in Oregon, state police there said on Thursday they had arrested six men and three women charged with racketeering in connection with an alleged wildlife poaching operation.
The nine defendants in that case are accused of illegally killing some 300 deer since 2006 in central Oregon. State police said they seized 1,600 pounds of illegally processed game meat, plus 18 rifles and 108 sets of antlers.
(Additional reporting by Dan Cook in Portland; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Steve Gorman)
Source of walrus photo: http://www.historicalstockphotos.com/details/photo/1716_walrus_tusks.html