June 16, 2009

Columbia’s Animal Exports Industry Increases Despite Regulation

More than 1,200 Columbian companies have begun earning revenue by exporting an unusual resource "“ local insects, reptiles and fish.

According to Columbia's Export Promotion Fund, many small companies see the nation's rich biodiversity as a way to earn money.

Exports reach as far as the US, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.

However, this new practice is not being well received by environmentalists, and it also faces tough obstacles imposed by illegal traffickers.

"After decades in which Colombia lost unique species to illegal trafficking, and in which they were exposed to mistreatment due to the clandestine nature of the trade, companies like ours began to think about raising them and exporting them legally, which has turned out to be a good business," German Viasus, who runs the beetle exporting firm Tierra Viva, told AFP.

"We export beetles mainly to Japan, where they are admired and treated with respect and devotion, but we've begun to receive orders from the United Arab Emirates where one of the sheikhs is a fanatic about these marvelous exemplars and made an initial order for 1,000," he said.

Vanesa Wilches runs Alas de Colombia, meaning "Wings of Colombia," which exports butterfly cocoons in clear glass casings.

"The language of love is universal and we find that people in love in any country are fascinated by colorful butterflies," said Wilches.

"So, we offer the cocoon so that the lovers can watch the larva grow and then they can free the butterfly as a symbol that seals their love," she said.

Alas de Columbia has earned nearly $75,000 each year for the past five years, Wilches told AFP. Customers from the Netherlands, Britain, France and the US look to the company for exported butterflies.

However, Maria Sanchez, the coordinator of the Environmental Police, said that officials have been cracking down on species exports.

Police in Columbia confiscated more than 54,000 exotic animals last year.

"Despite campaigns to raise awareness, rural populations continue to sell species without regard for climate, which results in many of them dying in captivity," Sanchez told AFP.

"They are bought and sold in popular markets without any kind of restraint or control."

Image Courtesy Wikipedia