WWF-Canada helps Mexican wildlife trade inspectors protect crocodiles | WWF-Canada

WWF-Canada helps Mexican wildlife trade inspectors protect crocodiles

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© Greg Stott/WWF-Canada
While WWF-Canada is dedicated to building healthy, sustainable communities at a local and national level, team members are always eager to collaborate with partners to solve global challenges. WWF’s identification expert Ernie Cooper spends most of his time in WWF-Canada’s office in Vancouver representing TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network that is a joint program of WWF and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

In August, Ernie traveled to the city of Leon in the State of Guanajuato, Mexico to teach wildlife trade inspectors from the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (PROFEPA) how to identify reptile skins and the products made from them.

“These sorts of workshops are always gratifying,” Ernie says. “The officers are enthusiastic and keen to learn, and I know that my teaching will really assist them in doing their jobs, which will in turn assist efforts to ensure that international wildlife trade is sustainable and legal.”
The international trade in reptile skins is worth millions of dollars and utilizes millions of animals annually. In 2004, the legal trade of reptile skins and parts globally involved some 629,000 Reticulated Pythons, 400,000 Tegu Lizards and 1,540,000 alligators. The impact of high demand and unsustainable hunting can decimate wildlife populations. For example, in the 1950s, Morelet’s 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.

“Fashion plays a key role in demand and trade in reptile skins,” says Adrian Reuter, TRAFFIC North America’s Mexico Representative. “If particular species’ skins are currently in vogue with fashion industry leaders in France, Italy or elsewhere, their wild populations can quickly be affected.”

During the two-day reptile skin workshop, Ernie provided training to around 30 percent of the inspectors of PROFEPA’s Seaports, Airports and Borders Program—giving them the skills to spot illegally traded reptile products, and he says that it gives him a chance to hone his skills, too.

“After 21 years of working on the identification of wildlife products, I am still like a kid in a candy store when I have the opportunity to examine different items or learn new techniques,” he says.