A new report suggests that trafficking of wild and endangered species is common in Mexico and occurs largely online, where traffickers contact potential customers on social media like Facebook.
The Center for Biological Diversity said in a report Wednesday it had contacted people through Facebook groups in Mexico selling protected species like howler monkeys and toucans.
The center’s investigators received price quotes including delivery, even though the sellers acknowledged they did not have legal documentation for the animals.
“Through Facebook Messenger, Daniel G.15 — originally from Durango, Mexico — offered a keel-billed toucan for 12,000 pesos (US$600) and a black howler monkey for 18,000 pesos (US$900), with a shipping cost of an extra thousand pesos (US$50) for each animal,” according to the report.
Howler monkeys are listed as “in danger of extinction” by the Mexican government, and any sale or capture is prohibited.
Another vendor from Cuernavaca, just south of Mexico City offered to deliver orange-fronted parakeets for $500 each; they would be delivered in cardboard boxes packed in the trunk of a car.
“It is estimated that more than 78,000 parrots are illegally captured each year in Mexico,” the report noted. “Of these, 77% die before reaching the final consumer, which means the trade kills around 60,000 parrots annually.”
Another vendor offered a baby sloth, but, as the report notes “Sadly, between 80% and 90% of sloths that are trafficked die. Babies are taken from their mothers, often violently, and are then often malnourished, cramped in cages and physically abused.”
Meta, the Facebook parent company, said it has a policy of removing content and accounts that violate its ban on selling endangered animals, but enforcement appears to be spotty.
“Our policies prohibit the sale of endangered animals, and we remove content or accounts that violate our rules when we find them," Meta said in a statement. “To enforce our rules, we collaborate with national organizations and rely on community reports to help keep such illicit activity off our platforms.”
In Mexico, protected species of animals have been found being held for display at private residences, public markets and tourist attractions.
The Mexican government appears to have little investigative capacity and mostly relies on complaints posted on social media when people see the animals or when one of them escapes.
The agency responsible for enforcing those laws in Mexico, the Attorney General's Office for Environmental Protection, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
But in a tacit acknowledgement of how widespread the trade is, the office said Thursday that, acting on a tip from the public, it had seized an orange-fronted parakeet offered for sale at a public market in the central state of Queretaro.