Colombia rescued 46,000 illegally trafficked animals in 2012

More than 59,000 wild animals are illegally captured each year in Colombia and smuggled to Bogota, a city that has become a hub for the exotic species trade.

In 2012 alone, Colombia's environmental police rescued 46,637 illegally trafficked animals, a trade that brings in about 64 billion pesos (about $35 million) a year, according to a report by Colombian daily ADN.

Vendors paint the animals in bright colors and declaw them to make them more attractive to buyers, the ADN report highlights. Colombia's birds, snakes, and other exotic species are usually sold as pets, luxury food items, aphrodisiacs, or remedies in alternative medicine.

According to ADN, the most frequently trafficked animals outside of Colombia include the orange-chinned parakeet (at least 400 rescued per year in Bogota), much in demand due to its ability to imitate speech, the "icotea" freshwater tortoise (350 rescued a year), and the yellow-crowned parrot (some 320 rescued per year).

In one indication of the sheer size of Colombia's illicit wildlife trade, Bogota's main wildlife rehabilitation center reports receiving some 350 animals each month. Only about 15 percent of these are successfully reintegrated back into the wild. The rest stay in captivity, donated to zoos or parks.

Not only do the illegally trafficked animals supply a domestic market within Colombia, they are also smuggled to Europe, the United States, and Asia. Worldwide, illegal animal sales garner some $20 billion a year, according to estimates by Interpol.

InSight Crime Analysis

Exotic animal trafficking is the world's third largest illicit trade after drug and weapons. In Colombia, the trade is particularly well established thanks to the biodiversity of areas like the Eastern Plains and the Amazon, which provide smugglers ready access to animals which fetch a high price in the global black market.

Animal smugglers also rely on the same well-established movement corridors used to transport drug shipments, as a 2009 report by Reuters highlighted. Drug traffickers supplement their profits by taxing animal smugglers in exchange for using the same smuggling routes, or may even use the animals to help hide the drug shipments.

Not only are animal and drug smuggling routes often the same, but drug leaders often use exotic beasts as power symbols. One Zetas leader, borrowing a page from Pablo Escobar's African hippos, allegedly housed two lions and a tiger on his ranch, where it was rumored he fed the animals with the bodies of his rivals.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
Prev Next

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Former Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla -- a decorated war hero and a longtime US ally -- finds himself treading water amidst a flurry of accusations about corruption and his connections to drug traffickers. López Bonilla is not the most well-known suspect in the cases against...

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...