Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Earth Science News .

Subscribe free to our newsletters via your

Inside America's battle on wildlife trafficking
Miami (AFP) Feb 27, 2016

Carlos Pages knows how to take precautions before he opens a crate; the last thing the wildlife inspector wants is to find a deadly cobra loose -- again -- at Miami International airport.

He's one of a team of US Fish and Wildlife Service inspectors whose job is to root out anything irregular or illegal, both in the trade of live animals and animal products.

"We have cases when we've opened up the box before and there is a mamba loose in front of us. In that case, it's a hazard for all of us," Pages tells AFP, referring to the deadly snake of African origin.

This time could be dangerous, too.

So Pages and a few colleagues carefully, painstakingly open a large crate, using special tools that keep whatever may be in a box of live reptiles -- eight King Cobras and a number of frilled lizards -- at a safe distance.

"Whenever we do an inspection, we want to make sure there's nothing illegal that's mixed in with the venomous animals as well," explained Pages.

Trained as a reptile expert, he still spends his days with a team of workmates inspecting all manner of animal shipments -- from live fish to rhinoceros -- in a freight warehouse adjacent to the airport.

After getting a peek at the inside of the box with a tiny camera, the inspectors forge ahead with the business at hand: using a long tweezer type tool, they start opening the burlap bags, each containing one cobra.

Then they attach a glass cylinder to each one with tape so they can get a good look at their cold-blooded guests without risking a bite.

It may seem a strange shipment, but as far as the wildlife inspectors are concerned, everything is in order, and the animals are sent on their way. In Florida, it is legal to keep poisonous snakes, if you have a license.

- Massive illegal trade -

Not every inspection comes up clean and problem-free. Far from it.

In fact, in fully one in three shipments, inspectors identify irregularities, according to the USFWS spokesman for the US southeast Tom MacKenzie.

They run the gamut from inadequate documentation; to an extra animal in the shipment; to a surprise member of an endangered species; to parts of endangered animals (such as ivory handicrafts), which are seized.

It is incredibly tough work, largely because the scale of the mission is enormous.

Miami has a team of 10 inspectors, for a city that receives 13,000 shipments declared as wild animals each year and is a key crossroads for the animal trade in the Americas, according to MacKenzie.

Since Miami has many flights to Latin America, across the United States, and to Europe and beyond, many of the rare animals converge here by plane.

"One of the biggest challenges is doing as much as we can with what we have. And our tools are improving," Pages said. "But we are always trying to catch up with the illegal importers and exporters, they are always a little bit, a step ahead of us. And we are trying to catch up with them as much as we can."

MacKenzie stressed that the market in wildlife is massive -- way beyond people's imagination.

"The illegal wildlife trade is second only to drugs (in the US), it is a multibillion dollar business, that's the illegal aspect, and there is the legal aspect, that is also equally expensive," he said.

Adding to the pressure, his team is scrambling to avoid allowing illegal and potentially destructive species into the United States. These can potentially threaten native ecosystems, especially in Florida, which is suffering from a proliferation of invaders from Burmese pythons to lionfish and Argentine tegu lizards.

- Not cowhide boots -

The creative imagination of animal traffickers never ceases to amaze Sylvia Gaudio, another inspector on the team. She points to a table full of confiscated items: the shell of a Nicaraguan turtle, big cat skins, ivory handicrafts, a giant dried and preserved spider.

"This was a commercial shipment of leather boots, it was declared as regular cow leather," she said, indicating a load of odd-looking boots.

"One of our inspectors noticed there was something unusual about them, and when we took a closer look we realized they were crocodile boots" covered in ordinary leather to hide their provenance.

Some traffickers even have a special belt they use to stash tiny, illegally-traded birds, Gaudio said.

Many are brought in from Cuba and many die on the way. But those that do not fetch big money, she explained. That is, if the wildlife inspectors don't get them first.

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
Darwin Today At

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Humans speeding up evolution by causing extinction of 'younger' species
Vancouver, Canada (SPX) Feb 25, 2016
Just three years after crayfish were introduced to a B.C. lake, two species of fish that had existed in the lake for thousands of years were suddenly extinct. But it's what took their place that has scientists fascinated. New research from UBC shows that when humans speed up the usually slow process of evolution by introducing new species, it can result in a lasting impact on the ecosystem ... read more

Brazil police charge seven in Samarco mine deaths: reports

MH370 lawsuits gain pace as two-year deadline nears

Aid finally getting to Fiji cyclone victims

Nuclear water: Fukushima still faces contamination crisis

New research introduces 'pause button' for boiling

Real or virtual - can we tell the difference

New catalyst makes hydrogen peroxide accessible to developing world

Breakthrough in dynamically variable negative stiffness structures

Water-cleaning chemical made 'on-demand' with new group of catalysts

New prediction tool gives warning of rogue waves

Sea-level rise past and future: Robust estimates for coastal planners

Climate change speeds up gully erosion

OGC requests information to guide Arctic Spatial Data Pilot

Australian icebreaker runs aground in Antarctica

Study of tundra soil demonstrates vulnerability of ecosystem to climate warming

Ice age blob of warm ocean water discovered south of Greenland

New wheat genetic advancements aimed at yield enhancement

China's Jack Ma buys French vineyard

PM tells drought-stricken Thailand to cut rice production

Scientists draw first European earthworm map

Fiji eyes more cyclone aid as toll hits 44

Fiji cyclone death toll rises to 42: official

Cyclone death toll hits 29 as Fiji eyes long clean-up

Christchurch commemorates devastating quake

Voice of China: Beijing seeks African friends and influence

Kenya army says it killed Shebab intelligence chief

Three soldiers get life for I.Coast military chief's murder

Saving the wildlife 'miracle' of Congo's Garamba park

Easter Island not destroyed by war, analysis of 'spear points' shows

Neanderthals and modern H. sapiens crossbred over 100,000 years ago

Neanderthals mated with modern humans much earlier than previously thought

Modern 'Indiana Jones' on mission to save antiquities

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement