Wondrous Wildlife
By Vern and Lori Gieger
Biodiversity—For Sale on the Streets

     In recent weeks we have received many phone calls regarding the wild birds for sale at the Monday market in Chapala as well as the Wednesday market in Ajijic. Yes, it is illegal to buy, sell, or even possess them. Understandably, many wish to help these poor little creatures, but buying and releasing them is not the answer and does not solve the problem. It simply encourages the people selling them to capture more; typically for every one that makes it to the market three have died. For various reasons even those that are bought and released have a slim chance of survival. As hard as it may be, the best thing to do is to not buy them.
     Mexico is one of the five most biologically diverse countries on the planet and number two in terms of ecosystem diversity. What alarms conservationists is the fact that 1,336 species of the country’s fauna and 612 species of flora are being pushed toward extinction by an advancing agricultural frontier, the introduction of exotic species, disease, pollution, and wildlife trafficking. This last threat is one that especially worries authorities in Mexico.
     To confront the problem, Mexico’s  Federal Attorney’s Office of Environmental Protection (PROFEPA)—with the support of CONABIO and international organizations such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service—have developed new training programs for officials, but they can’t do it alone, they need your support. They don’t have the capacity to deal with problems of this magnitude. The issue is complex due to the size of the Mexican territory (1.9 million square kilometers) and its rich biodiversity.
     It is not just wild birds for sale, it is everything, from squirrels to monkeys that show up for sale at various markets. Wildlife trafficking has and will continue to thrive as long as people are willing to buy exotic animals. Few people who purchase an exotic animal as a pet actually have the knowledge and resources to properly care for the animal, and are willing to make a lifelong commitment. 
     Oftentimes the results are tragic; they become displaced animals, unable to be returned to their natural habitat, and unwanted by the original purchaser who no longer desires to care for the animal. The future for many exotic pets is bleak at best. Many die a slow painful death via neglect, simply put, murdered slowly. Many people think that they can donate their unwanted exotic pet to their local zoo that is not the case; the majority of zoos will not accept them.
     Our planet’s endangered animals are vanishing at an alarming rate. Connect the dots and you discover a thin line separates a buyer from a killer. In other words, if you buy wildlife or a product made from them, you kill an animal. So please, don’t do it, when the buying stops, the killing can too. Ask yourself: do you really want those snake skin boots, or that fur coat? Unfortunately the most coveted are the most endangered. Illegal wildlife trafficking poses a threat to the survival of many of God’s creatures as well as the stability of our world and its people; it is the wildlife version of blood diamonds.
     Mexico does have good laws, but violators need to be reported.
     Basically put, it is a federal crime to do the any of the following without a permit from Semarnat: trap, kill, poison, keep in your possession, buy, or sell or transport any wild species of animal, that is endemic to Mexico, rare, under special protection, threatened, or endanger of extinction. Violations could result in imprisonment up to nine years, and up to two hundred fifty thousand dollars in fines, or even deportation. Not to mention attorney fees. Much more is at stake than just legal complications. Foreign residents must remember they are guests in Mexico.
     Anyone can report violations anonymously to PROFEPA - in Guadalajara. This can be done over the phone 01 333 824 6508 ext. 3020 (Lic. Miguel Arturo Vazquez Aguilar – Jefe del departamento de denuncias ambientales) or also via the internet by visiting their website. www.profepa.gob.mx. Get involved in the protection of wildlife. Support and Report.