HomeNewsAnalysisMexico City’s Roaring Trade in Wildlife Trafficking
ANALYSIS

Mexico City’s Roaring Trade in Wildlife Trafficking

ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME / 4 JAN 2021 BY ALESSANDRO FORD EN

Seizures of rare fauna in the Mexico City area, including the rescue of more than 15,000 animals in a recent operation, have raised important questions about the modus operandi of wildlife trafficking in Mexico’s capital, long regarded as a key hub for the trade.

A multi-agency raid of two properties in Mexico City’s district of Iztapalapa led to the seizure of more than 15,000 wildlife specimens in November, of which 11,000 held protected status, according to a press release by Mexico’s Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA – Procuraduria Federal de Proteccion al Ambiente).

The large seizure reflects a massive increase last year in the capture of illegally trafficked animals in Mexico. In 2020, PROFEPA captured more than 33,000 animals in just three operations, according to Ernesto Zazueta, president of the Association of Zoos, Breeders, and Aquariums (Asociación de Zoológicos, Criaderos y Acuarios de México – Azcarm), who spoke with Milenio about the recent seizures. In 2019, a total of about 5,000 animals were seized, he said.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Environmental Crime

The latest interdiction is also striking when placed alongside two smaller seizures. On November 20, a man was detained in the capital transporting an alligator and a boa constrictor on a scooter, El Universal reported. Also in November, another man was detained at Morelos subway station in Mexico City for illegally carrying a menagerie of exotic animals in several boxes, including African pygmy hedgehogs, Dutch rabbits and chinchillas.

Meanwhile, PROFEPA stated in September that it was searching for a woman seen walking a Bengal tiger cub through a bustling shopping center in the capital.

These disparate events reflect a general increase in wildlife trafficking in Mexico City in 2020, with Excelsior reporting in March that the capital was seeing greater levels of both rare wildlife trafficking through the city and retail sale of rare wildlife within the city, primarily in the districts of Xochimilco, Gustavo A. Madero and Venustiano Carranza.

InSight Crime Analysis

The wildlife trade in the capital can be divided into three categories: local breeders, physical markets and transport for international demand, Arturo Berlanga, executive director for Mexico at AnimaNaturalis International, told InSight Crime.

Local breeding either operates through clandestine hatcheries or occurs at official wildlife conservation management units where, facing little supervision, employees may illegally breed animals or legally breed them and illegally sell them to local markets, Berlanga told InSight Crime.

The local markets are predominantly stocked, however, by horizontally structured supply chains of “capturers, collectors, transporters, distributors and sellers”, according to Juan Carlos Cantú, Mexico program director at Defenders of Wildlife, a non-governmental organization. Procurement takes place “in the southern and southeastern neotropical zone of Mexico, going up the Pacific basin to Sonora and through the Gulf basin to Tamaulipas,” Cantú told InSight Crime.

SEE ALSO: Coronavirus Has Not Slowed Looting of Latin America’s Maritime Species

Mexico City’s two largest wildlife markets are Sonora Market and Morelos Market, both operating as year-round regional distribution centers for exotic live animals. They are complemented by the smaller Fish Market, which also sells rare reptiles, and San Juan Market, which sells exotic meat and has drawn comparisons to wildlife markets in China. Buyers tend to be locals or at least nationals, though the occasional tourist may make a purchase.

As for international markets, they use Mexico City as a transport nexus, predominantly to East Asia, though the US and Europe do constitute a significant minority of the demand, according to Berlanga. It is here that organized crime groups have often to concentrate, trafficking sea cucumbers and totoaba maws, as well as jaguar parts poached from Mexico’s southeastern jungles.

Finally, even when PROFEPA is able to rescue animals and transfer them to safe havens, it has often lost track of them. “Of the 1,319 animals that [PROFEPA’s Delegation in the Metropolitan Area of the Valley of Mexico] secured in 2019, the data for where 281 of them ended up is missing,” Berlanga said.  And for 157 of them, there is “no record of either where or why they were seized or where they were placed,” he said.

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Related Content

ELITES AND CRIME / 29 MAR 2018

Two former police officers in Mexico’s most dangerous state for journalists have been convicted of murdering a newspaper owner, a…

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 2 FEB 2011

When war broke out between the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) and the Sinaloa Cartel in 2008, it was the bloody…

GULF CARTEL / 24 MAY 2011

The governor of Tabasco state, Mexico, announced that a group of Guatemalan former special forces, known as Kaibiles…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Strategic Communications Manager Job Description

12 FEB 2021

InSight Crime is looking for a full-time strategic communications manager. This person needs to be able to work in a fast-paced world of daily news, high-profile investigations, national and international…

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …