MÉRIDA, MX.- Yucatán is considered by the Federal Attorney’s Office for Environmental Protection (Profepa) as a high consumer of wildlife specimens, since among its inhabitants there are people who collect desert tortoises or snakes, some of them with legal origin and others coming from black markets.
In an interview, Jesús Lizárraga, in charge of Profepa in Yucatán, explained that in the state an important segment of people have been identified collecting exotic wildlife species, and among the most common are desert tortoises and various types of snakes.
“These are people who may have a permit from Semarnat, but who monitors them or restricts them from buying illegal specimens? That is where our difficult task of discernment comes in,” he pointed out.
He explained that in the last few years, in coordination with the National Guard, seizures of various specimens have been made at the Mérida International Airport.
In the last seizures, for example, they have found eight pheasants, two parrots and a turtle, although in the whole year they have seized 35 specimens.
“This is a smaller quantity compared to the previous year, because during the pandemic the traffic of species did increase”, he pointed out.
He clarified that the trade of wildlife specimens is regulated, that is to say, it is not one hundred percent prohibited, but it requires the fulfillment of certain requirements before the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat).
“That is to say, for example, the person who sells must be registered with the agency and the animals must also be in good condition and it must be corroborated that they come from certain established and authorized places,” he added.
Even, if people who send and receive the animals have a permit, it is also corroborated that the transfer of the specimens is ideal, that is to say, that they are transferred in dignified conditions that do not imply any suffering.
“It must also be said that there is an irregular trade, an illegal trade, since many of the people who sell them are not registered and therefore, we do not know how the animals’ conditions are,” he said.
In the revision operations, the National Guard detects if there are specimens and calls Profepa personnel, who corroborate and verify if there is corresponding documentation and also if it is valid and official.
They also corroborate where the animals come from and if they come from authorized establishments; at the same time they verify the conditions in which the animals come from and how long they have been in the containers, for example, a period of more than 24 hours is already a hazard.
The official explained that most of the time, when the animals are illegally transported, they are transported in parcel boxes that are called ‘toolboxes’ or others, so when it is verified and observed that they are animals, it is confirmed that it is an illegal act.
Under this modality, Indian pheasants, snakes, turtles, flamingos and other bird species have been found.
” Last year we even found a Bengal tiger cub and a jaguar”, he pointed out.
In this dynamic of seizures, they have found that it is not that they are species that leave Yucatán, but he said “they are using the state as a trampoline”, that is, they arrive from other points of the Mexican Republic, so that from here they are transported to other places, such as Quintana Roo or abroad.
“Sometimes the animals arrive and are here for a temporary stay to go to other places, but fortunately they are detected,” he said.
The animals that are seized are first evaluated by a team of veterinarians and then, if any require treatment, they are given treatment so that they can then be transferred to Centenario, Animaya or other Environmental Management Units (UMAs) or private properties endorsed by Semarnat.
“Then, if it is a specimen of natural distribution and from the region, they can be released, otherwise they are taken to these management units because if we release species that are not from the region, we would be introducing species and this would affect them,” he commented.
Regarding the application of fines, he said that those who illegally traffic species can be subject to fines ranging from 50,000 pesos to 300,000 pesos, in addition to a complaint before the Attorney General’s Office (FGR).
Jesús Lizárraga explained that in these cases it is very difficult to file a complaint because when the authorities identify the specimens, the responsible persons does not appear or the ones who come to look for the animals are minors.