In a precedent-setting legal development, Mexican authorities have arrested six suspected totoaba traffickers under charges of Organized Crime and Crimes Against the Environment.
A press release issued by the Mexican Attorney General’s Office states that the arrests were made during a series of coordinated raids on November 11, carried out to enforce warrants issued earlier in the year.
The six individuals arrested are suspected members of a transnational criminal organization involved in the trafficking of totoaba swim bladders. The court has granted authorities two months to continue the investigation, during which time the suspects will remain in jail.
This case marks the first time these charges, which carry a possible prison sentence, have been applied in Mexico.
The totoaba is a large species of sea bass endemic to the waters of Mexico and protected under international law. Poachers catch totoabas for their swim bladders, which are often referred to as “the cocaine of the sea” due to the high price they demand on the Chinese black market.
Totoaba poaching is the primary cause of the decline of the critically endangered vaquita porpoise, the world’s most endangered marine mammal, which exists only in a small region in Mexico’s Upper Gulf of California.
There are sadly fewer than 20 vaquitas remaining in the wild.
The gillnets poachers use to catch totoabas often span several hundred feet in length and form invisible barriers under the sea. Vaquitas, which are approximately the same size as totoabas, become entangled in the deadly illegal nets and drown. Whales, dolphins, sharks, and sea turtles also fall victim to these illegal nets.
Sea Shepherd has been working with Mexican authorities to deter poaching and remove the illegal gillnets that threaten the survival of the vaquita since 2015.
To-date, Sea Shepherd’s Operation Milagro (Spanish for “miracle”), has removed over 1,200 pieces of illegal fishing gear from the Vaquita Refuge, a UNESCO-recognized and federally-protected area in which gillnet fishing is banned.
“Sea Shepherd applauds the vision and leadership of the Mexican Attorney General’s Office and other authorities for investigating and prosecuting the environmental crime of smuggling totoaba bladders as transnational organized crime,” said Peter Hammarstedt, Sea Shepherd’s Director of Campaigns, in a statement. “While Sea Shepherd ships and crew work to confiscate illegal gillnets at sea, Mexican prosecutors are using every tool in the legal toolbox to successfully net suspected poaching ringleaders on land.”
The post Six Trafficking Arrests Made In Mexico For The Illegal Poaching Of Protected Totoaba; The Main Reason For The Decline Of The Critically Endangered Vaquita Porpoise appeared first on World Animal News.
In a collaboration between government authorities, the scientific sector, local communities and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), a juvenile jaguar has been successfully released back into the wild after being critically injured following a vehicle strike near Chetumal, Mexico, on June 11th.
The injured jaguar was transferred to the Payo Obispo Zoo to begin the rehabilitation process where he was monitored and cared for by an extensive multi-disciplinary team that later named him ‘Covi.’
Upon examination, it was discovered that Covi, estimated to be approximately 18 months old, had sustained a fracture to his left shoulder blade and additional lacerations to his body. Though his prognosis was still good, critical to Covi’s recovery was the team’s ability to monitor and care for him (following the fracture) with minimal human interaction, made possible by a network of cameras and the use of spacious enclosures to promote more natural behavior.
“This was the first case of rescue, rehabilitation, and release of an injured jaguar in the region, a major conservation success on multiple levels,” Joaquin de la Torre Pence, IFAW’s Regional Director for Latin America told WAN. “Achieving rehabilitation with minimal human interaction was a critical way to prepare the jaguar for reintroduction back into the wild. As jaguars are considered an endangered species with populations experiencing significant decline in many of their natural habitats. This rescue and release was indeed a memorable milestone for the conservation of this species.”
An advisory group was set up to monitor the rehabilitation process, including: National Alliance for Jaguar Conservation (ANCJ), the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA), the State of Quintana Roo Attorney for Environmental Protection (PPA), the Biodiversity and Natural Protected Areas of the State of Quintana Roo (IBANQROO), and IFAW.
The group determined that the jaguar could indeed be released back into the wild once he began exhibiting signs of a full recovery. In conjunction with the National Commission for Natural Protected Areas (CONANP), it was decided that the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve would provide the most suitable release location given its abundant prey, access to water, low risk of human conflict, and the general support of the local Xhazil Ejido community.
The day of the release
In the dawn hours of September 22nd, the medical team, which included Dr. Erika Flores, IFAW’s Emergency Response and Animal Rescue Coordinator for Latin America, prepared Covi for the 85-mile journey to the Sian Ka’an Reserve. A small team was in place to film the event. Medical tests were conducted and the young male was darted and fitted with a satellite collar that would be used to track future movements after him release. He was then placed inside a wooden crate prepared for transport in IFAW’s Animal Rescue vehicle, escorted by other vehicles representing all authorities involved in the rescue.
Upon reaching the outskirts of the release area, the team transferred the jaguar to an all-terrain truck to continue the nearly 10-mile journey on muddy roads to the entrance of the reserve. Taking turns in groups of six, the team set out on foot to carry the crate another 400 yards deeper into the jungle to the release site, where a pulley and rope release system was set up to ensure a safe release distance. Biologist and team leader Roger Braga, Director of Payo Obispo Zoo, pulled the rope that signaled the animal’s release. Slowly, Covi emerged and calmly began walking towards the jungle and disappeared.
A monumental success for jaguar conservation
“The release of this jaguar was a milestone example of coordinated collaboration between Federal, State, and Municipal authorities, along with a committed local community and NGOs like IFAW,’ said Flores in a statement. “As a team, we all understand the conservation value of this young jaguar, because we know individual animals matter. We are delighted to have played a role in this successful reintroduction back into the wild where he is now able to thrive once again.”
The population of jaguars in Mexico is estimated at only 4,000 individuals. According to National Alliance for Jaguar Conservation, the population of jaguars in the Yucatán Peninsula is the largest and healthiest given the abundance of prey and other biological conditions. The jaguar faces serious threats resulting from habitat loss and fragmentation, vehicle strikes, conflict due to proximity with humans and domestic animals, as well as the persistent threat of the illegal wildlife trade.
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The post IFAW Along With Local Partners Release Rescued Jaguar Back Into The Wild After Being Hit By A Car In Mexico appeared first on World Animal News.