Saturday, September 6, 2014

Non-profit Organization Uses Social Media to Battle Peru's Illegal Wildlife Trade

A capuchin monkey in a cage

It has recently been reported that a Peru-based non-profit organization called Neotropical Primate Conservation (NPC) is using a public campaign through social media and press releases in order to track down and rescue victims of the country's growing illegal wildlife trade. According to the organization's co-founder and project director Noga Shanee, the organization has registered 47 complaints from fourteen states in Peru concerning hundreds of animals illegally advertised in markets, kept as pets, and used as tourist attractions. In addition, the NPC is also attempting to assemble information on wildlife routes and movements in Peru. Furthermore, its campaign intends to highlight problems concerning Peru's illegal wildlife trade which has received insufficient attention from the country's government and other NGOs. Ms. Shanee indicated that the main problems in battling the wildlife trade are lack of resources and qualified rescue personnel, very slow justice system, and lack of public awareness. She further added that people are afraid to directly file complaints fearing that they would get into trouble with their friends and neighbors. However, social media has allowed people to anonymously report illegally kept wildlife. In addition, NPC is known to collect information covertly and file the complaints in the NGO's name. One example of this came earlier this month when the NPC team rescued two endangered Peruvian spider monkeys from a circus in the town of Bagua based on a clue on Facebook. The monkeys were in an extremely lamentable state - they were badly malnourished, had been tied up in the sun without adequate food or water, and lost most of their teeth. Equivalently, several other unnamed tip-offs helped disclose locations of animals kept illegally in markets, tourist centers, restaurants, roadside circuses, and even private homes. For example, the campaign resulted in seizures of over 200 animals from a market in Peru's Bellavista Province. Among the commonly traded animals are parrots and monkeys. A survey carried out by Ms. Shanee between 2007 and 2011 indicated that primates were the second-most targeted animals in northeastern Peru with an estimated 85 percent captured alive for the pet trade.
One of the two Peruvian spider monkeys rescued from a circus in Bagua, Peru.

It is amazing to see how a conservation organization committed to helping put a stop to the ongoing illicit trade of wildlife uses social media as part of its efforts to save countless numbers of animals being illegally kept as either pets or tourist attractions. Members of the NPC are using a public campaign via social media and press releases to address the issues concerning Peru's illegal wildlife trade, which has been growing for several years. But what is truly intriguing about this campaign is that it makes it easier for people to anonymously report cases of the illegal wildlife trade without fearing any repercussions from their friends, neighbors, or any close associates. This is especially true in Peru where an extremely slow justice system along with lack of public awareness, resources, and experienced rescue personnel has made it an ideal place for the illegal wildlife trade to flourish. However, there are also other tropical countries in Central and South America and other parts of the world such as Africa and Southeast Asia where the wildlife trade is flourishing due to the same factors that Peru has been experiencing. This is why it is extremely crucial that conservation groups based in those countries employ tactics similar to what NPC is doing, in order to put a stop to the illegal wildlife trade.

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