Crocodile hides in inspectors’ sights
Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico, 21st August 2009—wildlife trade inspectors from Mexico’s Federal Environmental Protection Agency (PROFEPA) are being taught how to identify reptile skins and the products made out of them as part of a project that aims to improve the conservation of natural resources and ensure sustainable use.
“The international trade in reptile skins is an attractive business that generates high profits but has the potential to severely impact the conservation of the species involved,” says Adrian Reuter, TRAFFIC North America’s Mexico Representative.
In the 1950s, Morelet Crocodiles almost disappeared from the wild in Mexico because of excessive trade in their skins, but populations have recovered significantly thanks to a 1970s ban.
“We hope to avert such conservation crises by ensuring those charged with regulating the reptile trade are adequately trained in identifying the species being traded and detecting trafficking,” says Reuter.
The international trade in reptile skins is worth millions of dollars annually. In 2004, the registered trade of reptile skins and parts globally, involved some 629,000 Reticulated Pythons, 400,000 Tegu Lizards and 1,540,000 alligators.
“Fashion plays a key role in demand and trade in reptile skins,” says Reuter. “If particular species’ skins are currently in vogue with fashion industry leaders in France, Italy or elsewhere, their wild populations can quickly be affected.”
In recent years the number of reptile skins in trade globally has decreased, but it is unknown whether this is due to a reduction in demand or a decline in the populations of many species.
Around 30% of Mexico’s inspectors of PROFEPA’s Seaports, Airports and Borders Program are being trained by reptile expert Ernie Cooper of TRAFFIC North America’s Canada office, to provide them with the necessary knowledge, skills and tools to ensure trade in reptile species in is compliance with relevant national and international regulations, like those under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
“PROFEPA has also been developing its capacity to monitor the wildlife trade in recent years, with new equipment for its 72 offices to allow electronic tracking of transactions, reconditioning of its inspection facilities and standardizing its data to allow better public policy decisions,” says Francisco Navarrete Estrada, PROFEPA’s Director of Wildlife and Phytosanitary Inspection in Seaports, Airports and Borders.
The two-day workshop takes place on 20 and 21 August in Leon, Guanajuato, a centre for the reptile skin manufacturing trade in Mexico and internationally, and is being supported by the British Embassy in Mexico.
* The training of inspectors to identify animal skins helps strengthen the capacity of signatory countries to CITES and other international agreements to protect species at risk from trade.
* The workshop is part of a project implemented by TRAFFIC North America, with the support of the United Kingdom under the Sustainable Development Dialogue and through the UK Embassy in Mexico. It is in close collaboration with the Attorney General for the Protection of the Environment (PROFEPA) under a Memorandum of Agreement with WWF Mexico and TRAFFIC. This project aims to contribute to prevent and combat illegal national and international trade of plants and animals from the wild, and strengthen the capacities of authorities in charge of enforcing wildlife related laws and regulations in Mexico, with an emphasis on wildlife trade and the implementation of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).