Wildlife Traficking and Child Labour
Last weekend, we participated in a police intervention at the district of Sauce, San Martin. In this intervention, a woolly monkey, a capuchin monkey, a sloth and a tortoise, who were all being used for photo tourism, were rescued. The animals were handled by children, who were asking tourists for 5 soles per photo. Four out of the seven children we had identified were caught by the police. After they were caught, the kids started crying out loud, seeking attention from the tourists, who became worried about the children and started criticizing the police intervention. The police were very kind to the children but didn’t surrender to the pressure of the crowd. The children were brought to the police station where they gave their data and their parents were called. The childrens’ parents were fined 39 500 Peruvian Soles (about 12,000 USD), which is the lowest fine according to Peruvian law for the trade or wildlife ownership. The police also warned the parents that the child labour is illegal in Peru and made them aware that they would be punished much harder themselves if they tried to punish their kids for being arrested. The children were not sanctioned by the police. Instead, the police just had a talk with them about the situation and they were warned not to keep or use wild animals.
This intervention highlights a very important phenomenon: the use of children in the wildlife trade. In our last visits to Sauce, most of the people handling the animals were adults, but when they saw that the authorities were acting on this illegal activity, they started bringing their children to do the job, hoping the police would not arrest underage children.
We’ve been finding this situation in lots of places; children are travelling long distances, sometimes with their mothers and sometimes alone, to bring newly hunted animals to the wildlife traders and markets. People don’t report these children and the authorities don’t want to intervene, since they’re aware of the social consequences and criticism associated with police interventions toward minors. When the children and mothers are arrested, they tend to cry, saying that the animal is the child’s pet and we know that, even though having these animals as a pet is also illegal, a lot of the authorities will not confiscate the animal. For this reason, the use of child labour is becoming one of the most common tactics of the wildlife trade.
We congratulate the police team in Sauce, especially the commissar Julio Erik Reátegui Álvarez for his professional and correct procedure in this sensitive situation. In order to support the efforts of the commissar against the wildlife trade in Sauce, we have now given 2 days of environmental education talks in the schools of Sauce, explaining to the children that wild animals are not pets or tourist attractions and that the children themselves also have social rights that can’t be violated.
We ask all tourists and citizens, whenever they see children travelling or working with wild animals, not to ignore the situation but to call the authorities so that they can intervene. This is not just for the animals sake, but also for the welfare of these children, who are being exploited against the law.
Since January we have been involved in the rescue of 177 wild animals from illegal trafficking! The anti-trafficking operations we organized with the authorities have led to the arrest of seven wildlife traffickers.
These anti trafficking operations included raids on five markets in Pucallpa, which resulted in the arrest of four traffickers, the rescue of live animals and confiscation of close to a hundred kilograms of bush meat. Two other raids took place in the Vado Market in Yurimaguas, Loreto, where more than 150 animals were rescued and two traffickers were arrested.
Those detained by police are currently under investigation and both administrative and criminal proceedings have been opened against them. Thanks to recent changes in the Peruvian wildlife laws immediate sentencing is possible for the first time and penalties have been increased to 3 to 6 years in prison and a minimum fine of S/.39,500 (about $11,000).
NPC's undercover work helped identify the trafficking centers and during the raids we helped identify illegal activity and have aided in care of the rescued animals.
None of this would have been possible without the work of the authorities of Ucayali and Loreto. These regions are national centers of wildlife trafficking in Peru, with hundred to thousands of animals trafficked every day, smuggled from the rainforest to coastal cities and out of the country. These kinds of operations are an absolute necessity to combat these practices that are driving many species to extinction. We hope that under the new wildlife law raids will be much more frequent until wildlife trafficking will be stamped out.
End of Year Report 2015
We are pleased to present NPC's annual report, which highlights our most important achievements of 2015. From important studies on the ecology of Peru's endemic primate species, to the continued success and expansion of our Community Based Conservation Network, to an intensified focus on battling the illegal trafficking of Peru's fauna, it has been a very busy year!
We hope you will enjoy learning more about it.
Support our spay/neuter program for dogs
NPC is seeking funding for the implementation of a spay/neuter programme in the villages of the Peruvian Tropical Andes Biodiversity Hotspot.This region is considered to the most biodiverse region on Earth, as well as one of the most threatened. and is home to many endemic and highly threatened taxa of flora and fauna, including the Critically Endangered yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Lagothrix flavicauda), the Long-whiskered Owlet (Xenoglaux loweryi) and spectacle bear (Tremarctos ornatus).
Local people keep dogs for company, but also for security reason and very often they leave dogs in very remote areas to guard their fields. Sometimes they leave them in the fields overnight to guard cattle. These dogs are fed the minimum necessary and hunt to supplement their diet and to amuse themselves when their owners are away. Except from the direct hunting problem, unhealthy stray domestic animals can be very dangerous vectors for diseases transmission into the forest, contaminating and infecting populations of wildlife with diseases they have little or no immunity against. These diseases can become real epidemics wiping out wild populations of certain species without anyone knowing about it. Therefore it is extremely important to keep domestic animals population as low and as healthy as possible.
There is also a very important moral issue. The main way people in the area avoid too much breeding is by killing the females as soon as they are born, usually by drowning in a sack. Therefore, in typical villages, there are very few females and a lot of males. Apart from the horrible ways in which the new born females are disposed of there is also the problem of to many males. When just one female is in heat fights between the dozens of males become very fierce and many are wounded severely, sometimes dying later from injuries or infection.
The idea of this project is to offer free sterilizations, basic veterinary care and education about how dogs and cats should be kept, to the people living in villages surrounding our research station. We have vets associated with the project that are willing to do the work voluntarily or for a nominal fee, therefore costs will be kept to a minimum, just materials and transport. We estimate that 300 - 400 pounds would be sufficient for the first 30-40 dogs, or enough for two or three villages. Prices will decrease slightly if we can get funds for a larger amount of operations which we could be offered to people in growing number of villages, depending on the amount of funds available.
Godzilla “El Niño” and Peruvian Children
“El Niño” is a natural phenomenon that occurs every three to five years, bringing torrential rains, flooding, landslides and drought. Climate change, warming of the oceans and the loss of the ozone layer increase the frequency and intensity of this phenomenon. It is believed that this year’s “El Niño” could be the worst ever recorded and for this reason has been named the Godzilla “El Niño”. With the consistently high and rising levels of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon, the danger of flooding and landslides is ever increasing. In the last two years, dozens of people have lost their lives and hundreds have lost their homes as a result of these natural disasters. Central Bagua Grande and parts of Moyobamba, the capital of San Martin state, were flooded this year due to the effects of climate change, even without any influence from“El Niño” or Godzilla.
At the moment we are carrying out an environmental education campaign, visiting rural villages in Amazonas and San Martin, educating school children about the importance of primates and forests through games,
videos and storytelling. This year we are also including activities specifically focusing on the threat of the “El Niño” phenomenon. The majority of the villages that we plan to visit during this campaign have so far been un-reachable due to torrential rains that have made many roads impassable.
Although a state of emergency has been declared in both Amazonas and San Martin, the national campaign “Preparate Peru”(Prepare yourself Peru) has had little impact in rural areas. Local people know little about what this year’s weather will bring but schools are being closed for December as a precaution. However little more is being done to prepare rural cities and villages.
We must understand that the lives of thousands of rural Peruvian children are in very real danger. Highways are closed, harvests ruined, houses destroyed, water contaminated and areas without power mean a large loss of life and increase in future poverty.
It is common to hear people say that “El Niño” is a natural phenomenon, or an act of god, and that they just need to put up with it, but it is important to understand the magnitude of destruction that is about to occur and that it is a consequence of the continued destruction of ecosystems. It is the result of bad government policies that promote deforestation. It is time to demand that governments value life and protect it; that they stop treating nature as a resource to be exploited; and their rural citizens are not treated like expendable people.