According to THE NATIONAL NETWORK AGAINST THE TRAFFICKING OF WILD ANIMALS (RENCTAS), what Colombia is for cocaine, Brazil is for the traffic of animals, the third most lucrative illegal business in the world after drugs and arms. RENCTAS estimates that animals are a fifteen billion dollar a year industry and that Brazil is the principal supplier at 37%. In the Amazon city of Belem, one can obtain products from endangered species like the manatee, the river dolphin and the Amazon turtle, and live animals, especially tiny monkeys and a great variety of parrots. According to statistics, 38 million creatures, from beetles and butterflies to lizards, monkeys and felines, are taken out of their habitat, the greater part of the Amazon rainforest, which is the source of the greatest diversity of flora and fauna on our planet. But this bestial traffic is not the only thing that threatens Amazonia, it is also affected by an atrocious rate of deforestation in the last five years of the twentieth century of 2 million hectares a year. Also contributing to the devastation are intentional fires and development projects, such as 8 thousand kilometers of highways, gas pipelines, hydro-electric stations. Among the planned megaprojects is the construction on the Xingu River of what will be the third largest dam in the world, in order to increase by 15% the electric supply of the country, although there exists great opposition from people of the region, since forests and rivers will be devastated and, with them, the wildlife. In addition ethnic groups will be displaced. As Brazil is the depository of a quarter of the world’s plant species – several have been used for thousands of years by indigenous people to cure a range of sicknesses – the shamans asked the government to “create means of punishment to inhibit the theft of our biodiversity”, and they proposed “a total moratorium on the commercial exploitation of traditional knowledge of genetic resources”, until a more equitable system can be created.
The deforestation in Latin America is having a powerful impact on the future of animals and birds. The lack of conservation culture among our peoples, with their custom of trapping and hunting birds and mammals to sell in markets and on the highways as pets or for food, will soon result in the disappearance of several species. Steve N. Howell and Sophie Webb, authors of A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America are sure that, within 20 years or less, the scarlet macaw and the yellow-headed parrot will be creatures of the past in Mexico.
In Africa, according to Bird Life International, 10% of the native birds are at risk of disappearing because the use of the land of many key areas – that are not protected by international laws – are changing due to deforestation and an increase in agriculture. According to the publication, “bird species are found to be in a state of substantial decline in Africa, among them 218 of the 2,313 species recognized as threatened.”
African lions can disappear from central and western Africa in the next decade because their population has been split and in some places is too small, only 50, for survival. From Senegal to Chad only 2000 are to be found. The largest concentrations consist of two groups of 200, one in Camaroon, and the other along the frontier of Senegal, Mali and Guinea. “In this century lions will not be extinct, but will only be found in a dozen national parks”, says Hans Bauer, of the University of Leyden. According to him there are between 10 and 30 thousand lions in all of Africa.
The colony of Adelie penguins in Antarctica is endangered, now that icebergs and sheets of ice kilometers wide have been isolated in the Ross Sea. This has increased the distance between where the peguins mate and where they feed. According to Gerald Kooyman, of the Scripps Oceanic Institute, in Cape Crozier there are less than 130 thousand pairs of penguins. Scientists are sure that some 1,200 emperor penguins have not been able to feed their young.
The exploitation of natural resources in Indonesia is out of control. According to the UN, after Brazil and the Congo, this country has the third largest tropical forest in the world. Since the fall of Suharto, illegal logging has increased, with the participation of politicians, police and the military. The province of Central Kalimantan, one of the most harrassed, is not only the habitat of valuable fauna, but also that of the Dyaks, descendants of the original inhabitants of Borneo, who have been disposessed of their lands by muslims from Madura,an island near to Java. In the conflict 500 people have perished. The orangutan (whose name in Indonesian means “man of the woods”), exists only in Borneo and Sumatra, and has been decimated. Out of a previous population of hundreds of thousands, and in the decade of the nineties, of 27 thousand, there remain only 15 thousand. An endangered species, its chief enemies are the destruction of its habitat, hunting and illegal trafficking. Without drastic protective measures it is estimated that by the middle of the 21st century the orangutan will be extinct.
With the excuse of “scientific research”, the Japanese whaling fleet, equipped with harpoon guns that fire grenades at a velocity of 105 meters per second, has gone to the Northern Pacific in order to kill hundreds of Minke whales and 60 “large whales”. In support of the killing, the Japanese government, that is opposed to the whale sanctuary in the Antarctic and a moratorium on hunting the cetacean, is promising a cookbook with delicacies like fried testicles and frozen whale blubber. DNA tests on whale meat sold in Japan prove that it comes from the humpback whale and the gray from Mexico.
All species of the Marine Turtle in the world are at risk, facing so many threats from fishing nets and water pollution, as well as turtle hunters, who pursue them for their skin, their meat, their shell and their eggs. In Baja California, up to 30 thousand green turtles (Chelonia mydas) are killed every year. Although it is prohibited to do so by the Mexican Law of 1990, and by the US Endangered Species Act of 1978, for government consumers (politicians, the military and police) it makes no difference. So sorry is the situation of the Marine Turtle that the number of mature females returning to nesting beaches in the state has gone down from 1,280 in 1990 to 145 in the year 2000. The arrival of Semana Santa is also the arrival of turtle killing.
Last year British scientists warned that humanity will be responsible for an extinction of plant and animal species similar to what occurred sixty million years ago when the dinosaurs were wiped out. The extinction of birds and mammals is estimated to be between one hundred and one thousand times quicker than that caused by a million years of history. “There is little doubt that we find ourselves at the edge of the sixth wave of extinction in the history of life on earth. The only difference from the others is that this is not caused by external events but by ourselves.” According to a report of the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation, “half of the regions with the greatest biodiversity are degrading; fragmentation of habitats and loss of forests threaten many migratory species.” They also warned that the monarch butterfly is a species threatened by construction on the coasts of California and the logging of the oyamel forests in Mexico. The vaquita marina (small sea cow), which exists only in the Sea of Cortes, is a victim of by-catches, and on the verge of extinction.
At the dawn of the twenty-first century, everything seems to indicate that humanity is losing the war for the conservation of the earthly paradise and that future generations will live in a devastated Eden. The global war against animals continues its unyielding course: the extinction of species. The only way to save ourselves from the disaster is by committing ourselves, governments and human beings, to having a sustainable future.