Monday, 11 May 2015

Animal trafficking in Colombia

By María Camila García Bodoya (undergraduate Business Administration student)

Who doesn’t love baby animals?  Who doesn’t admire the colorful feathers of a Colombian macaw?  You see them on TV and you want one in your house. However, do you know what happens when you take them out of their habitat? Do you wonder how they arrive to your country?  Of course, you wouldn’t accept the idea of human trafficking in Yemen or you wouldn’t receive illicit substances from anyone. So, why would you like to keep an adorable exotic animal in your house, when it is not even from your country?  The activity you’ll be supporting by buying them is called animal trafficking, which is a global issue that is growing at an alarming rate.

Colombia is one of the countries affected by this activity because of its biodiversity. The saddest part is that the people who buy exotic animals aren’t aware of the many repercussions this activity has on the following: the environment, psychological wellbeing and human and animal health.  When it comes to the environment, nature has its own balance and it depends on several elements, like animals for example. When a species is hunted or taken out of its habitat, nature loses this balance. This also happens when a different species is introduced to a new habitat.  To make this point clear, you should know that in the Caribbean Sea, some of the gorgeous colored fish and coral reefs are disappearing because of an invasive species called the “lionfish”.

When it comes to the psychological aspect, animals suffer trauma because of the way traffickers catch them in the wild and deliver them to illegal pet shops in other countries. These methods are unpleasant and perplexing! The most common way traffickers catch animals is by getting them when they’re babies, so they kill their mothers and put them into boxes. Then, they have to travel a long way in small dark boxes on a bus and then on planes; one conservationist has said that in Bogota, one animal out of ten arrives alive because the others die of stress or malnutrition.

Another point is human and animal health. In general, animals tend to carry microorganisms that can be really harmful or lethal to human health – and this happens the opposite way as well. There’s the case of a Colombian child who got a lethal virus - which his doctor couldn’t help him with - from an ape that lived with him at his house.

In conclusion, despite the government's actions with the environmental police and law 84 of 1989, like drug dealers, animal traffickers are hard to track down and stop because they're part of a multi-million dollar industry. A sloth can be sold for 400 US dollars and a macaw for 600 US dollars. So, maybe the best way to stop the growth of animal trafficking is to generate awareness in consumers, through big advertising campaigns, conferences in universities or schools as well as educational TV programs.

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