With just a week to go before the World Cup finals kick off in Sao Paolo, the Brazilian government has warned visitors against the purchase of animals as ‘souvenirs’ of their trip.
While the majority of media attention is focussed on allegations of human rights abuses and unfinished stadia during the build-up, guidelines have been issued advising that anyone caught buying animals or specific products derived from animals will face a fine of up to $2300 and a one year prison sentence. Items on the list include iguanas, parrots, monkeys, spiders and scorpions as well as jewellery and crafts made with feathers, teeth or leather.
Animal trafficking is believed to be the third most profitable illegal trade in the world after drugs and weapons and according to the US State Department, some two to five million wild birds are trafficked annually, as well as snakes, crocodiles, mammals and insects. Approximately 1.52 million animals are exported from Brazil with Europe a prime destination, and with up to 600,000 people expected to visit the country over the three weeks of the tournament, it’s not unreasonable to assume there will be a spike in demand as people seek an exotic memento of their trip.
While efforts to reduce illegal animal trading are always welcome, the extent to which the guidelines will be enforced remains to be seen. A recent Channel 4 investigation revealed that the sheer size of Brazil is a major problem for the police in terms of monitoring illegal hunting of animals and their subsequent trade and the money involved – a Lear’s Macaw can fetch up to $90,000 dollars on the market – ensures that supplies will never run short.
Reducing demand is the only realistic hope of hitting the trade. By increasing awareness of the suffering and cruelty involved in removing an animal from its natural environment and smuggling it to another country, Brazil is taking a step in the right direction. It’s a tiny step, but an important one that can and will be magnified by others doing the same.
It’s all eyes on Brazil for the next month. By spreading the word, you can help ensure they don’t miss anything at all.