Could Brazil’s Environmental Law Reform Strengthen Animal Trafficking Networks?

SHARETweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+

Activists say that a controversial law recently passed by Brazil’s Congress could lead to increased deforestation in the Amazon. If the law puts less pressure on farmers to preserve forest land, animal traffickers could possibly take advantage of the situation.

On April 26 the lower house of Congress approved the new controversial forest code, which activists say is too lenient on farmers who clear woodlands for agriculture. Critics also say the code eases the rules on the amount of forest that farmers must preserve. President Rousseff must sign off on the bill before it becomes law, but there is a good chance that she will veto it, reports Reuters.

InSight Crime Analysis

While deforestation rates in the Amazon have dropped steadily since 2004, one concern is that an uptick in deforestation could work to the advantage of Brazil’s many organized crime groups involved in the wildlife trade. There are thought to be as many as 300 criminal gangs who steal endangered species from the Amazon for sale on the black market. Many of Brazil’s states most affected by deforestation — including Matto Grosso, Rondônia, Para, and Bahia — also see some of the country’s highest rates of wildlife trafficking.

The larger, mafia-like groups involved in the wildlife trade are more likely to operate at the frontier between untouched forests and developed farmland, where they have easier access to the infrastructure necessary to transport captured animals to large urban centers in the Southeast region. If deforestation begins to rise again in Brazil, this could give wildlife traffickers even more ground where they can comfortably operate.·

According to a 2001 study released by anti-wildlife trafficking NGO Renctas, 38 million wild animals are poached from Brazil’s forests every year. About 80 percent of these species are birds, including the Lear’s macaw, which can sell for as much $90,000 on the global black market. These types of profits explain why wildlife trafficking is considered one of the most lucrative criminal trades in the world.

SHARETweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+