China has become the largest importer and the main market for endangered species, said Rodrigo Medellín Legorreta, a researcher at the Institute of Ecology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
The “illegal trade in wild animals and plants is the fourth most important illegal activity in the world”, only after the white slave trade, arms, and drug trafficking, he stressed.
According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), about 7,000 animals and plants have been subject to illegal trade in the world. Among the most trafficked species are the jaguar, gray wolf, turtle, axolot, pangolins, birds, tigers, and bears.
“Poaching to supply the illegal wildlife market is depleting the populations of many endemic species in Mexico,” says the agency.
This situation represents a “severe threat to the richness of ecosystems in Mexico”, since the country concentrates 10 percent of the biodiversity of flora and fauna species worldwide, according to official information.
For Medellín Legorreta, illegal wildlife trafficking has a direct and irreversible impact on ecosystems and becomes “a threat to everyone, not only eroding biodiversity, but also the social fabric”, since this activity is in the hands of organized crime.
In China, in addition to the totoaba, “the mafia has expanded to cover the illegal trade in jaguar teeth, bones and claws,” which is severely affecting the population of that species in Mexico and other Latin American countries, he said.
According to the researcher, in Mexico, organized crime has reached “poor communities that legitimately need money”, and can offer “ten pesos for an eagle, a parakeet or an orchid and they like this resource very well.”
While criminal groups can obtain large profits from the sale of the species in the national and international market.
Organized crime saw the opportunity, two six years ago, to diversify its illegal activity. “With Felipe Calderón, the illegal wildlife trade shot up much more and continues to grow in each administration,” because the capacity of Semarnat and Profepa “is small,” he said.
“They do not have the personnel, they do not have the budget, they do not have the presence on the ground and that makes those who are dedicated to this illegal activity feel completely unpunished,” he said.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ for MEXICO in North America lists 246 critically endangered species and 405 endangered species. Mexico’s critically endangered species include the Adler’s Mottled Treefrog, Admirable False Brook Salamander, Angel Island Mouse, Axolotl (Mexican Salamander), California Condor, Central American River Turtle, Imperial Salamander, Imperial Woodpecker, Margarita Island Kangaroo Rat, Nelson’s Small-eared Shrew, Puebla Deer Mouse, Recurved Crusted Coralroot orchid plant, San Jose Brush Rabbit, and Short-crested Coquette bird, and Zapotec Salamander. Endangered species include the Acultzingo Pygmy Salamander, Artichoke Cactus, Boulder Star Coral, Cardboard Palm cycad plant, Dennis’ Chirping Frog, Dickinson’s Lady’s Slipper flower, Horned Guan bird, Oaxaca Hummingbird, Paulson’s Knobtail dragonfly, and Sea Otter, Thick-billed Parrot, and Zempoaltepec rodent.