We work with environmental authorities, national policymakers, legal professionals, national and international organizations, as well as the media to combat illegal wildlife trade and deforestation fueled by biomedical research and unethical wildlife tourism by improving law enforcement and using legal tools to expose corruption at the Colombia-Peru border.
TRAFFICKING FOR BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH
Entropika makes use of night monkeys (Aotus spp.), the only nocturnal primate in the neotropics, as a flagship species for habitat conservation. For years, these endemic and charismatic animals were unsustainably harvested from the wild for malaria research due to permits approved by the regional environmental authority.
Not only did these permits drastically decrease already vulnerable populations and promote illegal trade from Peru, they also caused the destruction of their habitats through deforestation since trees around nests are cut down to capture the monkeys.
For more than 10 years, we have conducted census fieldwork in several indigenous communities, private reserves, and state-owned land to estimate the status of wildlife populations. It is currently the most complete database of large-vertebrate mammals available for the area. Our census data on primates is available on the Global Biodiversity Information Facility’s website.
This participatory research provided baseline information for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) assessment of Nancy Ma’s night monkey in Colombia and Peru. The IUCN has since made the decision to upgrade the category of threat for this species from Least Concern to Vulnerable in its Red List of Threatened Species.
The results of our census fieldwork were also used by the Colombian National Park System to define some of their conservation priorities and to raise awareness in indigenous communities whose territories overlap Amacayacu National Park on unsustainable hunting of game species and its impact on food security.
Entropika filed several lawsuits that ultimately succeeded in curbing the illegal trafficking of night monkeys by impeding trapping permits from being issued. However, corruption in the local government still puts this achievement at risk.
TRAFFICKING FOR TOURISM
Local communities at the Colombian-Peruvian border are neglected by central governments who do not invest in the economic development of this region, leaving them with few options to meet basic needs (e.g. food security, health, education). The local economy is mainly dependent on the tourism industry, usually led by unsustainable mass tourism operations, which provides one of the only employment opportunities for decent work available to local and indigenous people.
Due to the Amazon’s ecological diversity, many tourist attractions feature captive wild animals, and some allow tourists to pose for photos with the animals in what we call “selfie tourism.” Animals who are taken from the wild and exploited as photo props live in unnatural surroundings, have poor diets, and have frequent physical contact with humans, experiencing stress, injury, and early death.
When animals die, they are replaced with more taken from the wild, over time reducing wild population numbers, especially of threatened and endangered species. Animals who have lived in captivity rarely can be released back into the wild, creating a genetic bottleneck for local populations.
Although the effects of mass and selfie tourism on Amazonian wildlife has not been quantified, in 2017 Wildlife Animal Protection reported that 61% of wildlife used in tourism attractions in the Amazon region are CITES listed species, and 21% of them are classified as Threatened by the IUCN. Entropika’s investigation on the use of wildlife for tourism at the Colombian-Peruvian border reports the exhibition of 26 species; the most commonly seen species are birds, sloths, primates, caimans, turtles, wild cats and manatees.
In December 2018, Entropika organized a wildlife confiscation operation in Puerto Alegría, a Peruvian community that kept various wild animals captive for photo props with tourists as part of Colombian mass tourism packages. Some individuals were handled by more than 50 tourists a day. Environmental authorities rescued 22 animals and took them to rescue and rehabilitation facilities in Iquitos, Peru.
This operation set a precedent in the area, motivating local authorities to be more active in cracking down on illegal wildlife tourism, and local tourism agencies no longer promote selfie tourism destinations. Entropika works closely with Peruvian communities to replace the income lost from animal extraction through sustainable economic alternatives such as low-impact, nature tourism.
STRENGHTENING LAW ENFORCEMENT FOR COOPERATION AGAINST WILDLIFE CRIME
In 2018, we organized a tri-border workshop with law enforcement organizations and officials from Brazil, Peru and Colombia in efforts to strengthen institutional capacities and improve interagency collaboration to effectively apprehend wildlife poachers and deliver confiscated animals to approved rescue facilities.
This workshop was the first step in our goals to cross-train the border patrol police in the international trade permits issued by each country, develop a tri-border intelligence-sharing network, and create a wildlife enforcement task force, and highlights the importance of collaboration between civil society and criminal justice practitioners at border areas to curb illegal trade.