In EcuadorA brutal new fashion among drug traffickers
Like the late Colombian cocaine baron Pablo Escobar, Ecuadorian drug lords set up illegal home zoos as a symbol of their social status.
In May, Ecuadorian police discovered the distressing sight of two endangered cats on a tree trunk surrounded by a cage. They were detained at a property owned by Wilder Sanchez Farfan, a suspected drug lord linked to the Mexican Jalisco New Generation cartel and wanted in the United States. He was arrested in Colombia in February.
Apart from jaguars, police also found parrots, parakeets and other exotic birds at his farm, believed to have been imported from China and South Korea. According to Darwin Robles, head of the environmental protection unit of the Ecuadorian police, the phenomenon is relatively new and coincides with an increase in drug trafficking in the country in recent years.
Power and purchasing power
Police seized more than 6,800 wild animals in 2022 and nearly 6,000 in 2021, making it one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. Ecuador, split between Colombia and Peru, has become a hub for drug trafficking from being a major producer of cocaine.
The jaguars and birds found on the “El Gado” property were taken to rehabilitation centers. In most cases, their return to their natural habitat is impossible. Police also found turtles, snakes, furs and animal heads among other smugglers’ possessions.
“Owning an animal is a symbol of (social) status…it demonstrates an individual’s rank within a network” Organized CrimeAFP A representative of the Wildlife Conservation Society in the United States. The official asked not to be named for fear of reprisals from smuggling gangs.
For example, owning a spotted cat is usually the first step, but owning a jaguar is more valuable – as are large possessions, luxury cars, works of art, jewelry, or surrounding yourself with large-breasted women, illustrates this. Manager. In Ecuador, wildlife trafficking is punishable by up to three years in prison, much less than in neighboring countries.
After Escobar was shot dead by Colombian police in 1993, his personal collection of flamingos, giraffes, zebras and kangaroos were kept in zoos. But the herd of hippos, left to its own devices and breeding uncontrollably, has become an invasive species and a real headache for authorities responsible for environmental protection.
At the Doveri Wildlife Hospital in Kyoto, feral cats, monkeys, porcupines, parrots and owls are treated as victims of trafficking. Many of them are malnourished or injured. According to clinic staff, only one in five recover sufficiently to return to their natural habitat. Many do not survive the test. Others, unable to survive in nature, end their days in shelters. Traffickers do not realize the harm they are doing, the head of WCS underlines. “If you have a monkey in your house, it means that you have pushed back a hunter to kill your family.”
Alado Ilalo Gardens in Quito is one of the shelters that welcomes animals that cannot be reintroduced into the wild. “We have animals whose wings and claws have been cut off and who are deeply psychologically damaged,” explains Cecilia Guana, who cares for the center’s parrots and other birds, “with no future but to stay in cages in places like this.”
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